With his so called 'family' of followers around him, Manson quickly became more powerful. Before the summer of 1967 was out, Manson and eight or nine of his enthusiasts, fitted out an old school bus in hippie style and took to the open road. They roamed as far north as Washington State, then southward through Los Angeles, Mexico, and the southwest. Returning to the Los Angeles area, they lived in Topanga Canyon, Malibu and Venice - western parts of the city and county.
The events that would culminate in murder were set in motion in late Spring 1968, when, by some accounts, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, picked up two hitchhiking Manson women and brought them to his Pacific Palisades house for a few hours. Returning home in the early hours of the following morning, Wilson was greeted in his own driveway by Manson, who emerged from the house. Inside the house, Wilson discovered 12 strangers, mostly women. Over the next few months, as their numbers doubled, the Family members who had made themselves part of Wilson's Sunset Boulevard household cost him approximately $100,000. This included medical bills for treatment of gonorrhea and $21,000 for the destruction of one of his cars they had borrowed. Wilson would sing and talk with Manson, whose women were treated as servants to them both.
Wilson introduced Manson to acquaintances of his, one of which was Rudi Altobelli, who owned a house he would soon rent to actress Sharon Tate and her husband Roland Polanski. In August 1968 Wilson and his manager cleared the Family members from his house. By this time Manson had established a base for the group at Spahn's Movie ranch, not far from Topanga Canyon. The evictees joined the rest of the family there.The Family were joined at Spahn Ranch by Charles Watson, who had met Manson at Dennis Wilson's house.
Manson was obsessed by the Beatles and on hearing their recently released album 'White Album', claimed it told a story in code, that supported his own theories predicting racial tension between whites and blacks and predicted the blacks would soon rise up in rebellion in America's cities. On a bitterly cold New Year's Eve, the Family members gathered outside around a large fire and were told by Manson that the turmoil he had predicted was also predicted by the Beatles. In early January 1969 the Family relocated not far from the Spahn Ranch. There Family members prepared for the impending apocalypse which, around the campfire, Manson had termed "Helter Skelter," after the song of that name. By February, Manson's vision was complete. The family would create an album whose songs, as subtle as those of the Beatles, would trigger the predicted chaos.
On March 23, 1969, Manson entered, uninvited 10050 Cielo Drive, which he had known as the residence of Terry Melcher. This was Rudi Altobelli's property, where Melcher was no longer the tenant, as of that February, the tenants were Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. Not finding Melcher there, Manson returned to the property that same evening. There he came across Altobelli who assured Manson that Melcher had moved to Malibu. Manson Left. As Altobelli flew with Tate to Rome the next day, Tate asked him whether "that creepy looking guy" had gone back to the guest house the day before.
By June, Manson was telling the Family they might have to show the blacks how to start "Helter Skelter". Manson asked Watson to raise money for the conflict, Watson defrauded a black drug dealer named Bernard "Lotsapoppa" Crowe. Crowe threatened to wipe out everyone at Spahn ranch. Manson countered on July 1 1969,by shooting Crowe at his Hollywood apartment.
On July 25, 1969, Manson sent Family members, Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins to the house of acquaintance Gary Hinman, to turn over money Manson thought Hinman had inherited. The three held the uncooperative Hinman for two days. Beausoleil then stabbed Hinman to death ostensibly on Manson's instruction. On August 8, Manson told the Family members, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter. That same night, Manson directed Watson to take Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patrica Krenwinkel - to "that house where Melcher used to live" and "totally destroy everyone in it, as gruesome as you can." When the four arrived at Cielo Drive, Watson climbed a telephone pole and cut the phone line. It was now around midnight and into August 9, 1969. They backed their car down the hill that led to the house and walked up to the property. They climbed a bushy embankment and dropped onto the grounds. Just then, headlights came their way from inside the grounds. Telling the women to lie in the bushes, Watson stepped out, gave a command to halt, and shot the driver, 18-year-ols Steven Parent to death. Whilst Kasabian kept watch, Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel entered the house through a screen removed by Watson. A friend of Polanski's, Wojciech Frykowski awoke on the living room couch, Watson kicked him in the head. When Frykowski asked him what he was doing there, Watson replied, "I'm the devil and I'm here to do the devil's business." Three other occupants of the house were found and brought to the living room. They were Tate, eight and a half months pregnant; her friend and former lover Jay Sebring, a noted hairstylist; and Frykowski's lover Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune. Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks with a rope he brought with him, slung over a beam. As Sebring protested, Watson shot him. Frykowski broke free of Atkins, who stabbed him in the leg, and fought his way out of the front door onto the porch, only to be struck over the head by Watson's gun, multiple times. Watson then stabbed him repeatedly before shooting him twice. Inside the house Folger had escaped from Krenwinkel and fled out a bedroom door to the pool area. She was pursued by Krenwinkel who stabbed her and finally tackled her. She was dispatched by Watson, her two assailants had stabbed her twenty eight times. Back in the house, Atkins, Watson, or both, killed Tate, who was stabbed sixteen times. Tate pleaded to be allowed long enough to have her baby, she cried "Mother ...mother ..." until she was dead.
The Tate murders had become news on August 9, 1969, after the Polanskis' housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, arrived for work that morning and discovered the murder scene.