10 Historically Pivotal Murders


Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate, circa 1965 Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Sharon Tate, circa 1965 Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The deaths of Sharon Tate and her friends at the hands of the Manson Family, a cult centered on Charles Manson, is one of the most brutal and shocking murders in American history. In the summer of 1969, Tate was young, beautiful, a Hollywood it-girl, and an icon of the bright, idealistic side of the hippie counterculture. Charles Manson, the man who ordered her murder, was a cult leader and prophet of a violent apocalypse. Believing that he had decoded secret prophecies in Beatles songs, Manson predicted what he called Helter Skelter, a catastrophic race war from which he would emerge as the supreme ruler. In order to bring about this scenario, he believed he needed a provocative crime that would be blamed on militant African-American groups like the Black Panthers, and that the ensuing violence would turn into an all-out war.

On Aug. 8, 1969, members of the Manson Family cut Tate's phone lines, climbed the hill to her house, and began systematically murdering Tate and her friends. Most famously, one member of the Manson Family cryptically wrote "pig" on the front door in Tate's blood. Tate had been eight months pregnant at the time. They continued with their murderous spree the following night at the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, both of whom died.

In many ways, the Tate-LaBianca murders marked the end of the hippie dream, which was already moving into the disillusionment of the Vietnam War as Manson's twisted vision showed a stark counterpoint to the idealism and optimism of the Summer of Love two short years previous.