WARNING: Graphic images ahead. Proceed at your own risk.
On the morning of August 9, 1968, 49 years to the day, Winifred Chapman, maid to director Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate, went running down the driveway of 10050 Cielo Drive, screaming, “Murder, death, bodies, blood!” Chapman had been the first to witness the brutal slayings of six people inside the now infamous house, including Tate and her unborn child, at the hands of the notorious hippie murder cult known as the Manson Family.
We all know the story of the Tate-LaBianca murders. But what do we know about arguably the most renown “murder house” in the country, tucked away at the end of a dead-end street in Los Angeles? Former occupant Candice Bergen described the house as “a fairytale place… a Never Never Land far from the real world where nothing could go wrong.” But unfortunately, things did go wrong. Very wrong.
J.F. Wadkins, who built the house in 1941 on a 3.3 acre plateau in Beverly Hills, drew inspiration for the residence from the French countryside. It was originally purchased by French actress Michele Morgan for $32,000. When Morgan returned to France sometime between 1944 and 1945, the home was purchased by Dr. Hartley Dewey and his wife Louise, who rented the home and its guest house to the likes of Baroness de Rothschild and silent film actress Lillian Gish.
In 1963, the home was sold and purchased by Hollywood business agent Rudolph Altobelli, whose list of high-profile clients included Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. Like the Deweys, Altobelli also began renting out the house. In 1966, music producer Terry Melcher moved in.
Here is where things begin to get interesting. Melcher was well-known in the music industry at this time. He began his career as a performer but eventually became involved with producing, composing and songwriting. He had a close relationship with The Beach Boys, particularly Dennis Wilson, the group’s drummer.
It was through Wilson that Melcher was first introduced to Charles Manson. Manson once accompanied Wilson when he dropped Melcher off at his residence at the time: 10500 Cielo Drive (so keep in mind, Manson was completely aware of where Melcher lived). Those who are not familiar with the story of Charles Manson may be surprised to learn he was an aspiring musician, and he saw his connections with Wilson and Melcher as a possible “in.” However, despite allowing Manson to audition for him on multiple occasions, Melcher eventually refused to sign Manson, something that deeply angered him.
After Melcher and his girlfriend Candice Bergen moved to Malibu, Altobelli rented the home to up-and-coming director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. Tate had even affectionately referred to the Cielo Drive house as “the love house,” obviously unaware of the far different reputation the house would soon have.
Shortly after midnight on August 9, 1969, Manson followers Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel ruthlessly murdered the following people at the Cielo Drive residence: 18-year-old Steven Parent, celebrity hairstylist and Tate’s friend Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polanski’s friend Wojciech Frykowski, and of course, the pregnant Tate, just weeks away from her due date.
Although the 1969 murders are by far what the house is most known for, its story didn’t end there. Altobelli sold the property in 1988 to investor John Prell for $1.6 million, several hundred thousand dollars less than his original asking price of $1.99 million. The house sold again in 1991 for $2.25 million.
In 1992, the main house was rented to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame for $11,000 a month. Allegedly, Reznor claimed to not have known the house had been the site of the murders until reading the lease agreement.
Regardless of whether or not Reznor had sought out the house on purpose or not, he took advantage of the home’s sinister history and named the studio “Le Pig Studios” (the word “Pig” had been written on the front door of the house in the blood of the cult’s victims). It was at the Cielo Drive house that Reznor recorded the albums The Downward Spiral and Broken EP. Marilyn Manson also recorded Portrait of an American Family in the house.
In December of 1993, Reznor decided “there was too much history in that house for me to handle” and he moved out. Shortly after, in 1994, the house was demolished, making Reznor its last known occupant. Despite the demolition, the house lives on. Reznor could not resist taking a piece of the house before its destruction: the front door where the word “Pig” that had inspired his studio name was written. The door now has a new life as the front door of Reznor’s new studio, Nothing Records, in New Orleans.
A new house has since been built on the property, but the address has been changed to 10066 Cielo Drive. However, the house that once stood in its place still haunts the quaint, dead-end street of Cielo Drive.