Abigail Folger (August 11, 1943 – August 9, 1969). Born in San Francisco, California, on August 11, 1943, Abigail Folger was an American coffee heiress and a victim of the Charles Manson murders.
Abigail Folger was an American coffee heiress and a victim of the Charles Manson murders.
Abigail Folger was born 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 her ‘Gibby’.
Abigail 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.
Abigail 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.
In 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 to 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 the time.
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.
In 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.
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.
In 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 for men. 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.
Meanwhile Folger’s 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 Charles Manson.
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.
In 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. One month laster on July 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 arrival.
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 television.
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, outside on the front lawn patio area.
The late lunch was served to the party of five by Winifred Chapman, the Polanskis housekeeper. Shortly after, around 3:45pm, Abigail left the Cielo Drive residence 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 Road home.
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 everyone inside.
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.
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