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Edmund Kemper

Notable Quotable
“I remember there was actually a sexual thrill . . . You hear that little pop and pull their heads off and hold their heads up by the hair, whipping their heads off, their body sitting there. That’d get me off.”
—Edmund Kemper, talking about playing with his sister’s dolls when he was a little boy



Everybody likes to experience new feelings, particularly teenagers, simply because they haven’t experienced much. They want to feel what it’s like to kiss someone they like, to fall in love, to drive a car. At the age of fifteen, Edmund Emil Kemper killed his grandparents because, he said, he wanted to know what it felt like.



During the 1970s, Edmund Kemper prowled Santa Cruz, California, and added some more folks to his kill list: specifically six coeds, his mother, and his mother’s best friend. And he did unholy and stomach-wrenching things to the bodies.

A Killer's Childhood
Kemper’s background was what one sees over and over again in serial and mass murderers’ childhoods: chaos and abuse. His parents were cruel in the extreme, physically and verbally. A day didn’t go by that one or both of them didn’t verbally flay Kemper for his inadequacies or punish him in some way. One example from his childhood serves as a horrific illustration: As a punishment, his mom made Edmund kill his pet chicken, and then his dad made him eat it. Later Edmund was to say that he cried bitterly about it.

As a young boy, Edmund gave hints that the treatment by his parents was creating a deranged personality in him. He had a habit, for example, of taking his sister’s dolls, decapitating them, and amputating their legs and arms. After a while, dolls weren’t enough: Dogs and cats that lived in Kemper’s neighborhood would suffer the same fate as his sister’s dolls.

Edmund Kemper’s size would have allowed him to play noseguard in the National Football League. He was 69 and weighed 280 pounds. Nor was this flab; at one point during his heyday, he hung around a bar in Santa Cruz called the Jury Room, across the street from the courthouse. This was a bar patronized by lots of police officers—some in search of the so-called Coed Killer—and Kemper used to delight patrons by grasping two-hundred-pound officers by the elbows and hoisting them aloft.

He did not appear harmful, either. He wore glasses and had a face that was quite ordinary. Indeed, he appeared professorial. The one physical trait that apparently bothered him was the small size of his penis. Says John Godwin in his book Murder U.S.A.: The Ways We Kill Each Other, “Kemper was driven by manic sex urges but saddled with a crippling sense of inferiority. He had a small penis, which on him looked minuscule, and was quite inept as a lover.”

As well as being physically imposing (except for his penis, apparently), Edmund was smart: It was perhaps this cunning that let him walk the streets despite having killed his grandparents.

After those murders, for five years he was in the Atascadero Hospital for mental treatment. When he turned twenty, no fewer than nineteen doctors there pronounced him sane and released him. Kemper was a good listener, and he likely listened to whomever he could to learn what responses and behavior evidenced a healthy personality. It’s easy to imagine a guy as smart as Kemper spouting such appropriate responses and aping healthy behavior to fool the experts.

The Coed Killer
Santa Cruz is a lazy California town known mostly for the University of Southern California, a campus loaded with pretty young girls. Coeds started disappearing in the fall of 1970, and when they reappeared, they weren’t all there. As John Godwin says in Murder U.S.A., “The bleached skull of Mary Ann Pesce lay in a wooded mountain ravine; the torso of Cynthia Schall, minus arms and legs, was washed up on a Monterey Beach; the bodies of Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu - their heads and both of Alice’s hands missing - were uncovered by road workers in Alameda county. Occasionally unidentifiable scraps turned up: a woman’s hand without fingers; a female pelvic bone, one breast.” Later authorities would learn that Kemper was a cannibal as well as a necrophiliac, which accounted for the missing body parts.

With the exception of one case, in which he raped a girl as she lay dying, he would have sex with his victims only after they were dead. However, Kemper was more prone to engage in sex with parts of the body. A favorite sexual activity of Kemper’s was to take a victim’s head into the shower with him and use it to masturbate.

Kemper made sure all the circumstances were right before he would select a victim - generally, he would pick up coeds in his car as they hitchhiked down Ashby Avenue. He used maps to plot places where he would take his victims, and he had a supply of plastic bags with him for the body parts that he would cut off and use for his bizarre pleasures. Kemper would describe later the intense sexual pleasure he derived from devouring large hunks of flesh from his victims (Albert Fish spoke of the same pleasures).

In snaring his prey, an official parking sticker from the college aided Kemper, allowing him to use the college parking lots. Any student hitchhiker would naturally assume that the person driving the car was not dangerous - after all, they went to school together, right? Indeed, even after a number of girls had been killed and coeds had been warned not to hitchhike, the parking sticker worked: Unsuspecting girls got into his car. Kemper said that at the height of the coed killings he even discussed the murders with girls he picked up - they would talk about who might be doing it and why. He reported that he gave these coeds a free ride - for some reason he never killed any of the girls with whom he discussed the case.

Kemper followed the classic pattern of the serial murderer: He worked from fantasy to fact. For a long time he would fantasize about capturing women, holding a gun on them, and then having his way with them. Ever so gradually, he began to act out parts of it. First he put the gun under his seat when he was driving alone; then he put it there when he picked up a hitchhiker and fantasized about what he was going to do to the girl; and finally he pulled out the gun - fantasy and fact became ghoulishly and murderously one.

A rather savage irony is that the officers in the Jury Room bar unwittingly helped him kill. They gave him a pair of handcuffs and a realistic-looking police training badge. John Godwin reports that Kemper used the handcuffs to shackle the girls who put up resistance. It was a vicious turn of events that must have given more than one cop a sleepless night.

Blood Brothers
In 1972, a couple of years after the mass murderer John Linley Frazier killed five members of a family in cold blood in Santa Cruz, California, two separate serial murderers, Edmund Kemper and Herbert Mullin, began stalking that town at the same time. The combined victims of the three would reach twenty-six. These statistics would prompt District Attorney Peter Chang to say of Santa Cruz, “We must be the murder capital of the world right now.”
Matricide
Then Kemper did something that apparently had a profound effect on his unconscious mind: He killed his mother. Later he would state (in the documentary Murder: No Apparent Motive) that he realized his true rage was toward his mother. He felt that once he resolved this that he would be able to stop killing symbols of his mother. In fact, after his mother’s murder he picked up a couple of girls and, instead of taking them to some lonely area to kill them, simply dropped them off where they wanted to go.

When he described the killing of his mother in the documentary, he wept. He said he had actually loved her, difficult as that was to imagine. He stated that he did not “come out from under a rock,” nor was he “born to a mule”; he came out of his “mother’s vagina.”

Kemper said that the last night of her life, his mother, whom he lived with at 609 Ord Street, was doing her usual emasculation job, diminishing Kemper more and more. Her last words to him before she went to sleep were, “I guess you’ll want to stay up all night talking.”

When she fell asleep, Kemper snuck up, raised a ball-peen hammer high, and brought it down on her skull, breaking it like an eggshell. Then he beat her savagely to make sure she was dead. Kemper cut off her hands and her head with his pocketknife, then cut her larynx out and ground it up in the garbage disposal. Of this act he said, “Now she won’t be able to bitch at me anymore.”

He stuffed the headless, handless corpse in a clothes closet and then made a call to his mother’s best friend, a Mrs. Halleck. He explained to Halleck that he was going to have a surprise party for his mother and invited her over. That evening Halleck came over and Kemper promptly strangled her to death and cut her head off. Some party.

Kemper then left the area for Colorado, where he did something profoundly important: He called the police and told them that he was the serial murderer they were looking for, that he had killed his mother and her best friend. He told the police, “Pick me up and put me in jail now or I will kill more.” Kemper’s demand was taken seriously, and it wasn’t too long before they picked him up and brought him back to Santa Cruz. He was ultimately tried and sentenced to life imprisonment, serving the time in the prison hospital, a kind of mental ward within the prison.
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3 comments:

  1. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great
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  2. Santa Cruz is not the home of University of Southern California but University of California Santa Cruz.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You really should correct the USC/ UC Santa Cruz error. These cities are so far apart (6 hours on a good day) that the rest of the narrative simplydoesn't make any sense. Ex: Monterey is a city very close to Santa Cruz, but 6 hours from USC. It's a very distracting error.....and I have the feeling that USC would appreciate the correction. Hint hint.

    ReplyDelete

 
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