Abigail Folger (August 11, 1943 - August 9, 1969)
Folger was an American coffee heiress and a victim of the Charles Manson murders.
in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, August 11, 1943. Her parents were
Peter Folger, Chairman and President of the Folger Coffee Company, and Inez Mejia,
the daughter of a prestigious California land grant family. She is the great-great-granddaughter
of J.A. Folger, the founder of Folgers Coffee. Her Catholic parents divorced in
1952 when Abigail was still young, after her mother ended the marriage on the
grounds of extreme cruelty. In 1960 her father married again, to his 34 year old
private secretary Beverly.
Growing up in San Francisco, Abigail was raised
in the closed tradition of San Francisco society. As a young girl she was interested
in art, books, and poetry. She spent much of her time painting and writing poetry
when she had the time to do so. Besides her interests in painting and poetry,
Abigail was very talented in playing the piano. Close friends and family called
Folger attended the Santa Catalina Catholic School for Girls in Monterey, California,
near Carmel. While there, she was well known and well liked as a model student
who graduated with honors in June 1961. She then matriculated at Radcliffe College
in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the fall of 1961. During her stay at Radcliffe
she became an active member of the college's Gilbert and Sullivan Players, a musical
theatre group. Abigail starred in two of its productions, starting with "The
Sorcerer" in April 1963 where she played the part of one of the town's villagers.
In December 1963 she starred in "The Gondoliers" as the pretty Contandine.
Abigail graduated with honors from Radcliffe College in 1964.
While a freshman
in college she became a debutante on December 21, 1961 at the Saint Francis Hotel
in San Francisco, where she made her 'official' debut into San Francisco's high
society. Her debutante ball was one of the highlights of the social season with
Folger wearing a bright yellow Christian Dior gown, that she had purchased in
Paris, France, the previous summer.
After graduating Radcliffe, she enrolled
in the fall of 1964 at Harvard University (also in Cambridge, MA), where she did
graduate work and received a degree in Art History. After graduating in the spring
of 1967, she took a 40-hour a week job at the University of California Art Museum
in Berkeley, California as a publicity director. While employed there, Abigail
was said to have done a beautiful job organizing the fine art museum council.
September 1967, Folger decided to move away from California in order to 'find'
herself and to probe the other side of life. She didn't stay in Berkeley for long;
she soon made the move to New York City, where she got a job working for a magazine
publisher. She eventually left for a job at the Gotham Book Mart on 47th Street.
While living in New York, she lived less than splendor by choice. As the daughter
of the name which meant coffee millions, Folger's annual income from her inheritances,
after taxes, was $130,000 a year.
It was at a bookstore party in December
1967 where she met Polish author Jerzy Kosinski, who was married to American steel
heiress Mary Hayward Weir. Hayward Weir ran in the same rich circle as Folger
and it was she who introduced Kosinski to Abigail. In early January 1968, Kosinski
introduced Abigail to his friend, aspiring writer Wojciech Frykowski, at a party
and the two hit it off. Frykowski had been living in the U.S. for one month at
Wojciech was not then fluent in English, but like Abigail, he
was fluent in French. Abigail gave him a tour of New York, began to teach him
English, and a romance soon blossomed. He moved into her New York City apartment
and she soon found herself supporting him financially.
From April to May
1968, Abigail became a political volunteer for the ill fated presidential campaign
of New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Folger donated both some of her time and
plenty of her money to the Kennedy campaign. She believed strongly and shared
in Kennedy's political views, but the dream soon came to an end for both Abigail
and Robert, with his brutal assassination in Los Angeles in early June.
August 1968 both Folger and Frykowski decided to move to Los Angeles, California.
Wojciech wanted to pursue his writing career while Abigail wanted to get involved
with a new welfare project that was currently under way. Together, Abigail rented
a car, and she and Wojciech drove across the country.
In Los Angeles Abigail
Folger found a hilltop home to rent at 2774 Woodstock Road for her and Wojciech
in Laurel Canyon and bought herself a 1969 yellow Firebird. Their neighbor across
the road was singer Cass Elliott of the rock group the Mamas and the Papas, whom
the couple quickly befriended. Through Wojciech, Abigail met the Polanskis, Roman
and Sharon. Through the Polanskis, Abigail and Wojciech were introduced to Jay
Sebring. The five quickly began to hang out together and were known to be a part
of 'the beautiful people' crowd in Hollywood.
Like her mother Inez, who
was active doing charity work with the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in San
Francisco, Abigail continued to be involved with volunteer work. She registered
as a volunteer social worker for the Los Angeles County Welfare Department in
September 1968. Earlier in the spring and summer of 1968, Abigail attended fundraisers
set up by her mother to aid the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic around the
same time many of the Manson family women were being treated there. Back in Los
Angeles, Abigail spent long days in the ghettos doing her job as a volunteer social
worker with children, waking up at dawn each day.
In December 1968, Abigail
Folger invested $3,500 in Sebring International, Jay Sebring's hair care products
On March 15, 1969, Abigail, Sebring, and Wojciech attended the
catered housewarming party of the Polanskis at 10050 Cielo Drive. Over one hundred
guests such as Jane Fonda, Roger Vadim, Peter Fonda, Tony Curtis, Warren Beatty,
Michael Sarne, Michelle Phillips, John Phillips, and Cass Elliott attended. There
was a brawl of sorts at the party involving four uninvited male friends of Cass
Elliott's. One of these men stepped on Polanski's agent's foot and a fight broke
out. Polanski got angry and threw all four men out of the party. The next day,
Polanski left for London, to begin work on a new film.
work as a social worker soon began to take a toll on her and she became depressed.
Adding to her depression was the knowledge that the children that she worked with
in the poor areas of Los Angeles, such as, Watts, were deprived. The suffering
got under her skin, she would later admit. Around this time Abigail bought herself
a Dalmatian puppy, which she named Tom.
On March 23, 1969, an odd incident
occurred at 10050 Cielo Drive. That afternoon Abigail and Wojciech went over to
the Polanskis home for a going away dinner party for Tate, who was leaving for
Rome the next day. Sebring was there as well as Tate's friend Shahrokh Hatami,
an Iranian photographer. Rudi Altobelli, the owner of the Cielo home, had attended
the party briefly but soon returned to his guest house to pack for his upcoming
trip to Europe. The odd incident involved a strange looking man who had appeared
on the property, as the occupants of the house sat in the dining room, which faced
the front of the residence. Hatami felt uneasy about this stranger roaming the
Polanski estate, looking at people he did not know, so he left the house to confront
the man. From the front porch, the party inside could be seen through the large
dining room windows. Hatami asked the stranger if he could be of assistance to
him. The stranger said he was looking for someone by the name of Terry Melcher,
a name Hatami did not recognize. Hatami made it clear to the stranger that this
was the Polanski residence, and suggested that perhaps the person he was looking
for lived in the guest house. Later, this stranger was identified to have been
On April 1, 1969, while Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski were
away in Europe filming movies, Abigail and Wojciech moved into the Polanskis Cielo
Drive home in Benedict Canyon at Polanski's request. At the same time their Woodstock
Road home was being occupied by Wojciech's friend, Polish artist Witold-K, who
had arrived in the United States the previous December. A day earlier Abigail
had quit her job as a social worker. It was at this time that Abigail's relationship
with Wojciech began to crumble. Constantly fighting, the pair began to sink lower
into their world of experimentation with drugs.
During the month of April
and continuing through most of May 1969, Abigail became a political volunteer
for the campaign of Tom Bradley, a black councilman running for mayor of Los Angeles.
She contributed both her time and a fairly large amount of her own money to the
Bradley campaign. The defeat of Bradley to Sam Yorty in late May was due to a
racial smear campaign and it left Abigail feeling both bitter, and disillusioned.
This led Abigail to become very involved with the civil rights cause, to which
she contributed both her time and money. She continued this cause until the summer.
May 1969, Abigail and her mother Inez, attended the San Francisco opening of Jay
Sebring's newest shop at 629 Commercial Street. Abigail enjoyed the champagne
reception and found herself mingling with such guests as Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward,
Doris Tate, and her husband Paul Tate (Sharon's parents).
In June 1969,
Abigail and her mother Inez, took a vacation together in New York.
8, 1969, Folger and Frykowski learned that Sharon Tate would be returning to the
U.S. later that month. The couple then began to move most of their clothing from
Cielo Drive to their own home on Woodstock Road. They informed Wojciech's friend,
Witold-K, that they would be soon returning to live in their home after Tate's
On July 20, 1969, Tate returned to California from London, and
asked Abigail and Wojciech to remain on Cielo Drive with her until her husband
Roman Polanski arrived on August 12. That day Abigail, Wojciech, Sharon, Jay,
along with Tate's parents and two younger sisters, all watched the moon landing
On Wednesday, August 6, 1969, film director Michael Sarne
invited Folger, Frykowski, and Tate over for a dinner party at his rented Malibu
beach house. After dessert had been served, Tate began to not feel well, so it
was decided that Frykowski and Folger drive Tate home.
On Friday morning,
August 8, 1969, Abigail and Wojciech ran some errands together. Folger purchased
a lightweight bicycle around 2pm from a shop on Santa Monica Boulevard and arranged
for it to be delivered to Cielo Drive later that afternoon. She and Wojciech then
drove back to the Polanskis home and had a late lunch with Tate and her friends,
Joanna Pettet and Barbara Lewis, on the front lawn patio. The late lunch was served
to the party of five by Winifred Chapman, the Polanskis housekeeper. Shortly after,
around 3:45pm, Abigail left Cielo Drive in her 1969 yellow Firebird in order to
keep an appointment she had later that afternoon. Frykowski left minutes later
himself, in Tate's rented 1969 red Camaro, to unload a box at the couple's Woodstock
That evening, just after 9pm, Abigail, Wojciech, Jay Sebring,
and Sharon Tate went out to a Mexican restaurant called the El Coyote to have
a meal together. Returning home, Wojciech fell asleep on the couch while Abigail
was in her room reading. Abigail's mother called her at 10pm that night to verify
their weekend plans. Abigail was scheduled to fly the 10am United Airlines shuttle
Saturday morning to San Francisco, in order to celebrate her birthday on the 11th.
Her mother Inez would join her later as she was coming in from Connecticut, after
spending time with some of her friends. The Charles Manson followers then broke
into the house in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 9, 1969, and killed
Abigail Folger's body was returned to San Francisco, and
taken to Crippen and Flynn Mortuary in Redwood City,CA, the funeral home handling
the arrangements. Her funeral was held on the morning of Wednesday, August 13,
1969, at Our Lady of the Wayside Church in Portola Valley, California,CA, a church
that had been built by her grandparents, the Mejias, in 1912. Following a Catholic
requiem mass, Abigail was then entombed inside the Main Mausoleum at Holy Cross
Cemetery in Colma, California.
After the death of Abigail Folger, investigators
would report that her estate was worth $530,000. She had left no will.