Who Is Sharon Tate
Sharon Marie Tate Polanski was a breathtaking and talented model and actress of American origin. In the 1960s, Tate appeared in fashion magazines as a cover girl and a model and also played multiple small roles on television. Her debut film, Barabbas, came out in 1961, followed after five years, by Eye of the Devil, an occult-themed film that catapulted her fame. However, Tate’s most remembered work was, undoubtedly, in Valley of the Dolls where she played the character of Jennifer North that earned her a Golden Globe nomination. A few other films followed, and her last film was released posthumously.
Heartbreakingly, the name Sharon Tate more often invokes the story of her tragic death than the story of her career. Please be informed of a trigger warning for accounts of some unadulterated violence in the following piece and please proceed with caution.
Her Tragic Death in Tate Murders
The Manson Family
On the 9th of August 1969, an eight-and-a-half month pregnant Tate and four others were murdered in their home by the Manson Family. The Manson “family” was a cult and desert commune led by an ex-convict Charles Manson. The cult consisted of around 50 members of which most were young middle-class women radicalized by the cult leader’s teachings. The “family” used a lot of hallucinogens like LSD and were infamous for their highly unconventional “hippie” lifestyle and, eventually, also for their violent tendencies.
Motive and the Plan
Late in the night somewhere between the 8th and the 9th of August 1969, Manson directed Linda Kasabian, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Charles “Tex” Watson to go to record producer Terry Melcher’s former home in Los Angeles, that had recently been taken possession of by Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski, and kill everyone present there. The motive was revealed to not be about the people but instead about the place and its former owner. Manson had at one point unsuccessfully tried to get a record deal out of Terry Mulcher and picked his house to attack, due to this personal vendetta. Manson, undoubtedly, must have been in a compromised state of mind though, because Mulcher was no longer even living on the property.
The unfortunate people present in the home at the time were Roman Polanski’s friend Woytek Frykowski, Frykowski’s girlfriend Abigail Folger, a close friend of the couples’ Jay Sebring, a friend of the caretaker there, Steven Parent, and, of course, a very pregnant Sharon Tate, herself. The killings were allegedly planned to incite a race war, but this is a highly contested explanation of the events that unfolded on the night of the incident! The same group of murderers went on to commit another gruesome murder in Los Angeles the following night; the victims of the second murder being Leo and Rosemary LaBianca who were also safely within the confines of their own home.
The Failed Cover-up
The killers wrote “Rise” and “Death to Pigs” on the wall with blood. The murdering of rich white people and making it appear to be the doing of black people was the plan that Charles Manson orchestrated to allegedly start a race war. That didn’t work too well but these murders sent shock waves all through Hollywood as many actors and actresses started to fear for their lives inside the safety of their own homes and shed light on the counter-culture that had been growing out of Hollywood influence!
The group of deranged killers was arrested on unrelated charges of theft and later connected to these terrible homicides when Susan Atkins bragged to a cellmate about the Tate-LaBianca murders. The killers were charged with the death penalty that got converted into a life sentence when the state of California abolished capital punishment in the year 1972.
The group that was murdered on the night of the incident seemed to have had an awkward and ominous encounter with Charles Manson himself, before the gruesome killings. He seemed to have been on the property earlier, looking for the previous owners of the residence and poking his head in places he wasn’t wanted. When he was told off, perhaps it set him on the path to be responsible for the horrible tragedy. There is evidence that suggests it wasn’t the first time he was on the property and there were repeat instances of trespassing.
Sharon’s husband, Roman Polanski was out of the country at the time, shooting a film. He flew in after the caretaker found the bodies in the morning after the incident.
One of the victims, Steven Parent, who was unlucky enough to have driven down to sell a clock to the estate’s caretaker that morning, was shot in the car seat by the savages. The others were stabbed to death with Sharon Tate sustaining sixteen stab wounds, five of which were fatal. What makes this murder all the more disturbing is the fact that Sharon was full-term pregnant and due any day. The butchers also wrote “Pig,” in their victims’ blood. Tate’s and Sebring’s bodies were found inside the house with ropes tied around their necks connecting them whereas Frykowski and Folger were found dead on the front lawn.
Tate seemed to have argued with her husband earlier that day when it seemed he would have to delay his flight back home and not make it back in time for the birthday Sharon Tate had planned for him. The couple’s eight-month marriage has been quite a controversy when it was later revealed that Roman was excessively controlling and involved in some serious sexual misconduct with a 13-year-old minor and even confessing to multiple counts of statutory rape. He fled the United States after serving 42 days in prison and has resisted attempts to be extricated back and face the repercussions of his actions.
Sharon Tate's Baby
The most horrifying bit about Sharon Tate’s story is her baby being murdered with her just a few days before being born. Many friends and family members report that Tate was very much ready to settle down and have a family. This shot at making a house a home was brutally stolen from her by this horrendous act of violence.
Sharon’s unborn son, posthumously named Paul Richard Polanski after his grandfathers, was buried in his mother’s arms in her final resting place in Culver City, California.
What Happened To Susan Atkins?
Susan Atkins went on trial for the Tate-LaBianca murders in June 1970. She testified that she had stabbed Tate. The disturbing reason given for the act was that she was "sick of listening to her, pleading and begging, begging and pleading.” Atkins’ testimony was not the most credible and the courts were well aware of this as she frequently contradicted well-established facts. She claimed that Manson directed them to admit to the murders without being given any directions.
Throughout the trial, Atkins and her co-defendants disrupted proceedings and showed both a lack of remorse for the victims and a lack of concern for their own life and wellbeing, a classic case of cult mentality. They sang songs of their leader, Manson, while being led to the trial. All four defendants were sentenced to death in 1971 and Atkins was transferred to California's death row in April of 1971. However, shortly after the state of California abolished the death penalty and their sentences were converted into life imprisonment.
Atkins was later released on illness and compassionate release requests. Many people take issue with this because Atkins married twice while serving her sentence and even got granted conjugal visits. Many believe that the court was too lenient in also granting her parole given the nature of her violent crimes and her complete lack of remorse. Susan Atkins died in September of 2009 in a Women’s facility in Chowchilla and her cause of death was listed as natural causes.
The story of Sharon Tate’s gruesome, senseless murder alongside her four friends and acquaintances is chill-inducing and deeply disturbing. The circumstances that led up to the horrible act are also vague and random at best. The terrible end of a beautiful and talented actress and model is surely something disturbing and disquieting. It raises important questions in one’s head about the true nature of good and evil, the ethics of capital punishment, and, perhaps, also the sheer randomness with which terrible things sometimes happen to undeserving and unsuspecting people for no apparent cause. Sharon’s story is painful but sets big waves in victim activism and the family is known to have responded to an unthinkable tragedy in a shockingly positive way by creating advocacy out of their pain.