Born on December 18, 1948, serial killer Edmund Kemper turns 72 years old today. He is still incarcerated at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, where he has been living since his conviction in 1973.
Edmund Emil Kemper III is the second of three children and the only son born to Edmund and Clarnell Kemper. Kemper bitterly recalls that his father was not around much when he was young and that his parents separated completely when he was 9, after which his mother moved the family from California to Montana. As a result of the move, Ed almost never saw his father. This greatly embittered him, and he blamed his mother entirely. As a child, Kemper was physically and socially awkward, always the largest boy in his class. He ultimately grew to 6 feet 9 inches and weighed 280 pounds. He was a loner who dwelled in the world of science-fiction and the occult for escape. His mother once wrote, “I was deeply worried during the years about the lack of a father relationship, and so I tried everything I could to compensate for that.” According to Ed, this meant she felt a need to punish and ridicule him in order to “make him a man.”
Source: Murder and Madness by Donald T. Lunde, 1976, San Francisco Book Company / Image taken from documentary The Killing of America by directors Leonard Schrader and Sheldon Renan (1981)
HLN’s Very Scary People recently dedicated an episode to Ed Kemper’s case (S02E08). It features an unseen interview recorded in June 1979 with Kemper commenting on some of his favorite books that he read for the Vacaville Blind Project, such as “Charlotte’s Web”, “Stuart Little” and “Trumpet of the Swan”. We also see him in action as he is recording the “Star Wars” book, imitating C-3PO: Behave yourself, R2! You’re going to get us into trouble!
In the summer of 2018, I went to Santa Cruz, California, and visited places that were important in Ed Kemper’s story. Of course, I went to see the house where he lived with his mother and where he murdered her and her friend, Sally Hallett.
The house is located in Aptos at 609A Ord Road (ground floor), but it appears under 609 Harriet Avenue on Google Streetview. The two streets meet, and the other house is behind Kemper’s. It’s a bit unclear and I remember that Kemper had mentioned in his 1984 interview for No Apparent Motive that the police had confused the two addresses when they came to take away his .44 magnum gun in 1973.
It’s located in a really lovely and quiet residential neighbourhood. When you come from the highway, you pass through a wooded area before getting to the residential area. Kemper’s house stands out as it is one of the only ones on the street that has two floors. There are a lot of trees and flowers in the neighbourhood.
I was hoping to see the inside of the house. As I was gathering my courage to go ring the doorbell, a SUV arrived and parked in the driveway. A woman and her young daughter came out and headed for the 609A door. I approached the woman and told her why I was there. She was aware of Kemper’s story. I asked if it was possible to see inside the house. She said no, but that it was ok to take pictures outside. She said that a lot of people come to see the house.
The house has been regularly for sale since the murders. It is currently off the market, as it sold in May 2019 for more than 1,5 million dollars USD.
Photo sources: Edmund Kemper Stories / realtor.com
“I didn’t go hog-wild and totally limp. What I’m saying is, I found myself doing things in an attempt to make things fit together inside. I was doing sexual probings and things, I mean, in a sense of striking out, or reaching out and grabbing, and pulling to me. But appalled at the sense that it wasn’t working, that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, that isn’t the way I want it. You see what I’m saying? And yet I get, during that time, I become engaged to someone who is young, and is beautiful, and very much the same advantages, and very much the same upbringing, and Disneyland values. And, uh, she’s very much the reason I surrendered.”
ed kemper about getting engaged during his crime spree
“Three months after I was out, I was back into the fantasy bay. – My first date was an absolute disaster. It wasn’t her fault, you know. And I didn’t blame her even then. I’m saying – it was a terrible tragedy but boy was it – she never talked to me again, it was awful. Wasn’t sexual or [gr…] I was just such a dork, taking her to a John Wayne movie and at Denny’s. It was terrible. I’d never been on a date! At 16 that was cool, you know?! I’d never been on a date! You know? I was locked up since I was 15, but I can’t tell her that, ‘Oh gee, don’t mind me,’ you know. She got kinda hung up on my looks or whatever, I mean, she’s a gorgeous young lady, pure class, and she saw something there that wasn’t there, and boy, did she find out quick.”
Ed Kemper about his first date after his release from atascadero in 1969
Source: The Killing of America (documentary directed by Leonard Schrader)
“As I’m sitting there with a severed head in my hand talking to it, or looking at it. And I’m about to go crazy, literally. I’m about to go completely flywheel loose and just fall apart.
I say, ‘Wow, this is insane.’ And then I told myself, ‘No it isn’t, you’re saying that and that makes it not insane.’ I said, ‘I’m sane and I’m looking at a severed… Wait a minute, wait a minute, I’d seen old paintings and drawings of Viking heroes and talking to severed heads and taking them to parties, old enemies in leather bags. Part of our heritage.
That’s just me back then. In 1972, and ‘73. Unable to live with the fact that I just stabbed to death and cut the throat of an innocent young woman.”
ed kemper, about his victims’ severed heads, in the 1981 interview for the documentary “the killing of america”