Abigail Anne Folger (August 11, 1943 – August 9, 1969) was an American coffee heiress, debutante, socialite and member of the prominent United States Folger family. She was the great-great-granddaughter of J. A. Folger, the founder of Folgers Coffee.
Folger was born in San Francisco, California. 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. 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 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 the previous summer.
After graduating from Radcliffe, she enrolled in the fall of 1964 at Harvard University (also in Cambridge, Massachusetts), where she did graduate work and received a degree in Art History. After graduating in the spring of 1967, she took a job at the University of California Art Museum in Berkeley, California as a publicity director. While employed there, Abigail's main job was to organize the fine art museum council.
New York City
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 chose to live well beneath her means. 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 wealthy 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 United States for one month at the time.
Folger and Wojciech
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 time and money to the Kennedy campaign. Abigail believed strongly and shared in Kennedy's political views, but the dream soon came to an end with his 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. Abigail rented a car, and she and Wojciech drove across the country.
In Los Angeles, Abigail found a two-storey hilltop home to rent at 2774 Woodstock Road for her and Wojciech in Laurel Canyon and bought herself a 1968 yellow Firebird. Their neighbor across the road was singer Cass Elliot of the rock group The Mamas & 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.
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, Nancy Sinatra, Michael Sarne, Michelle Phillips, John Phillips, and Cass Elliot attended. 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. She would later admit that the suffering affected her deeply. 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 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 help. 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 as Charles Manson.
10050 Cielo Drive
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 experimental drug use.
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 large amount of her own money to the Bradley campaign. The defeat of Bradley by Sam Yorty in late May was due to a racial smear campaign, and it left Abigail feeling both bitter and disillusioned. This led her to become very involved with the cause of civil rights.
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).
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 back 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 at 10050 Cielo Drive with her until her husband Roman Polanski arrived on August 12. On July 20, Abigail, Wojciech, Sharon and Jay, along with Tate's parents and two younger sisters, all watched the moon landing on television.
On Friday morning, August 8, 1969, Abigail and Wojciech ran some errands together. Folger purchased a yellow lightweight bicycle around 2 pm 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, Gibby left Cielo Drive in her 1968 yellow Pontiac 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 El Coyote. 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. Despite being seriously injured, Abigail managed to escape the house only to be overcome on the lawn just outside. She was stabbed twenty-eight times.
Abigail Folger's body was returned to San Francisco, and taken to Crippen and Flynn Mortuary in Redwood City. Her funeral was held on the morning of Wednesday, August 13, 1969, at Our Lady of the Wayside Church in Portola Valley, a church that had been built by her grandparents, the Mejias, in 1912. Following a Catholic requiem mass, Abigail Folger was entombed inside the Main Mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.