Abigail Folger was one of the five victims of the Manson Family's "Tate murders."
Twenty-five-year-old Abigail Anne Folger might never have been at 10050 Cielo Drive at all if not for her boyfriend, Wojciech “Voytek” Frykowski.
He was an acquaintance of star-studded film director Roman Polanski’s from back in Poland. But although it was Frykowski who brought Abigail Folger into the Hollywood circle, Folger was already a famous persona in her own right: she was the daughter of Peter Folger, chairman of the Folger Coffee Company, and she was the heir to his fortune.
The violent murder of a prominent heiress at the hands of the crazed Charles Manson cult would surely have been enough to fill the front pages for weeks on its own. However, such was the fame of the other victims that Folger’s own story was almost totally eclipsed.
Abigail Folger Before The Murders
Abigail Folger was born on Aug. 11, 1943, and would die just two days before her 26th birthday. Born into an über wealthy and Catholic family, Folger’s early life was one of tradition and high-society training. She was a debutante and a model student who graduated from Harvard University with an art history degree.
She worked for the University of California Art Museum in Berkeley, then left for New York where she worked at a book store and then as a social worker in the ghettos. It was in New York in 1968 when she met Voytek Frykowski, who was new to America. He claimed to be an aspiring writer. The two communicated mostly in French as his English wasn’t very good.
That August, they drove from New York to Los Angeles and rented a house in the Hollywood hills. In some of LA’s roughest neighborhoods — Watts, Pacoima — Folger volunteered as a social worker.
But Folger and Frykowski had a tempestuous relationship. After moving into 10050 Cielo Drive on April 1, 1969, to house-sit for Polanski and his wife, the Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, they argued constantly.
Perhaps their turmoil stemmed from Frykowski’s abuse of Folger’s money. According to Manson Family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, the official police report stated that “he had no means of support and lived off Folger’s fortune.” It also might have come from their drug abuse: Frykowski regularly used cocaine, mescaline, marijuana, and LSD, and Folger was reportedly high that last time she talked to her mother on the phone.
Folger’s therapist thought that as of her final appointment that summer, she was ready to leave Frykowski. But she would never get the chance.
Abigail Folger Is Murdered
On August 8, 1969, Tate had been home for three weeks after visiting Polanski, who was preparing to direct a film in London. Tate was eight and a half months pregnant, and her husband asked Frykowski and Folger to stay at the house with her until he returned home.
At around 10 p.m., Folger phoned her mother in Connecticut to let her know she had booked a flight to San Francisco the next morning. Shortly after, Folger put on her nightgown and started to read in one of the guest rooms. Frykowski fell asleep on the couch.
Frykowski was then startled awake by a strange man pointing a gun into his face. He asked who the man was to which the stranger replied: “I am the Devil and I’m here to do the Devil’s business.”
The next morning, the Polanski’s housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, ran screaming from 10050 Cielo Drive. “Murder! Death! Bodies! Blood!” she cried as she pounded on the neighbors’ doors.
When the police arrived, they found that the Hollywood home had been turned into a human slaughterhouse. Eighteen-year-old Steven Parent, who was visiting the property’s caretaker, was slumped over in the front seat of his car at the entrance of the property, shot four times.
Police were further horrified to find the word “pig” written in the victims’ blood on the front door.
Inside lay the bodies of Sharon Tate and her friend and ex-boyfriend Jay Sebring. Tate had been stabbed 16 times. A rope was tied around her neck, slung over a rafter, and the other end of the same rope was attached to Jay Sebring’s neck. Tate was in her pajamas.
Sebring had been stabbed and beaten over the head. Out on the lawn was Abigail Folger. She had tried to flee when she was cut down. The nightgown she was wearing was so soaked in blood that it was nearly impossible to tell the now-crimson garment had originally been white. The five-foot-five young woman had been stabbed 28 times.
Frykowski, further out on the lawn, had numerous head wounds. He was stabbed 51 times and shot twice.
An investigator on the scene recalled: “I’d worked homicide for five years and seen a lot of violence. This was the worst.”
The Manson Family
It would be months before the Los Angeles Police were finally able to catch the murderers, who killed another couple, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the very night after murdering Abigail Folger.
The LAPD remained baffled and the community terrified as the killers remained on the loose. The case finally broke when in October of 1969 police raided the Manson family’s ranch in Death Valley and arrested several of its members for auto theft and possession of stolen property.
Among those arrested was a Susan Atkins, who, while imprisoned, bragged to one of her cellmates about murdering Sharon Tate. Atkins told her cellmate how “[Folger] looked at me and smiled and I looked at her and smiled” right before Watson stabbed her in the stomach. The cellmate recalled how “there was not a shred of sympathy on [Atkins’s] part for the victims,” and went to prison authorities, who in turn alerted the police.
It turned out that although Manson claimed the Tate murders were intended to instigate an apocalyptic race war, the supposed reality was that they may have been little more than the bloody end of a petty grudge.
A failed musician, Manson was bitter about not receiving a record deal from producer Terry Melcher, who had previously lived at 10050 Cielo Drive. Manson family members Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel were dispatched with the order to “totally destroy everyone in that house, as gruesome as you can.”
For many, Charles Manson represented the embodiment of the counterculture’s worst excesses. The disturbingly charismatic man recruited young men and women — usually from relatively privileged families — who were drawn to the hippie ideals of the 1960s, then “manipulated and completely overpowered them, forcing them to partake in group sex, drugs, and ultimately, slaughter.”
The Manson name is now, as Bugliosi once stated, “a metaphor for evil.”
The People vs. Charles Manson began in June 1970 and concluded in January of 1971 when the jury determined Manson and family members Atkins, Krenwinkel, Watson, and Leslie Van Houten — who helped commit the LaBianca killings — guilty of murder.
Although all five defendants were originally sentenced to death, the sentences were commuted to life in prison after California’s 1972 in People v. Anderson. Manson spent the rest of his days behind bars and died in November 2017 at the age of 83.
As for Abigail Folger, her body was returned to San Francisco and her funeral was held on the morning of August 13, 1969, at a church that had been built by her grandparents. Following a Catholic mass, Abigail was entombed inside the Main Mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.