In Ed Kemper’s 1980 parole hearing, we learn that he suffers from an allergy to metals: “I have a medical order for a medical bed, for the extra length. I have an allergy to metals that’s been determined since last May to be an allergy to free nickel, which is a catalyst which, I understand, is used in a lot of alloys — almost all of the alloys in prison. In other, words, I’m allergic to being in prison, to slip it down to a very simple statement – handcuffs included.”
Source: Ed Kemper’s April 30,1980 parole hearing / Photo from the book Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
These images were recently sent to us by a fellow researcher who has been in contact with the man appearing with Ed Kemper in the photos. Kemper and this man (who wishes to remain anonymous) were friends and co-workers at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. Taken in the 1980s, these pictures show a ceremony where Kemper is presenting an award and a certificate to his friend.
The man shared some of his memories about Ed Kemper:
“I do have memories about Ed. We worked side by side… well, together for years. He was the…I forgot the title, but he was like the boss. There was one guy under him, all the readers, and me. I worked in the back recording. See, Ed was kind of obsessed with getting as many hours in there as possible, effectively lowering your hourly pay. We were VOV, Volunteers of Vacaville, Blind Project, but Ed and the other guy and myself were paid, like, 30 bucks a month or something. So, his thing was if you worked a thousand hours that month you weren’t making much per hour. Anyway, I really enjoyed what I was doing there so I didn’t mind being there all the time.
“And there was no ‘free-staff’, no cops, nobody, maybe a few readers in insolated booths, and I had a good sound system, huge speakers, and copies of every cassette I could find, and Ed and I would crank our tunes and work, joke, whatever. We had breakrooms with couches and I would wrestle with his giant ass. He had me on a couch, folded in half, because as much as he joked about his weight and size, I don’t think he realized it. I was gasping, you know, Ed you’re gonna break me in half, before he got off me, and he was kinda bummed that he could have really hurt me. Which was always the reason we couldn’t live together. He asked me to move in, offering me the preferred lower bunk, and all I could think about was 340 pounds of Ed above me so I declined. You know, all in all, I liked the guy. He was extremely friendly, just so incredibly articulate, respectful, I never once saw the psycho side of him. We even spoke about his past…a lot, and he was so matter of fact about it, never emotional or upset.
“I’m just glad to be able to provide something that maybe wasn’t there before. It’s strange because I knew him as well as anybody, probably better than most, but I never saw him as anything but big ol’ Ed.
“And I know what you’re referring to regarding him no longer wanting to do interviews. This was when I was there, late 80’s. He was in like 60 Minutes with…oh boy, memory is failing me… Bundy or somebody, and when we watched it on TV, it wasn’t the same interview. They had taken all his replays out of context and made him look like an idiot. I remember him being very upset about it, saying that was it, no more.
“As for his music, I just remember that we had about the same tastes. Ohohih… he really liked Harry Chapin (Cats in the Cradle) because I had it on cassette and reel to reel and he was going to wear it out.
(Asked a question regarding Kemper’s ceramic mug hobby)
“You know, I remember him making them because he had a lot of followers and it seemed like he wanted to make one for every letter and/or package they sent. He got a lot of mail and was in the visiting room all the time and it seemed kind of excessive that he wanted to make and send one to each and every one of them. Sorry, I wasn’t involved in the hobby program at CMF and what I do remember is vague. I was aware of it but that’s about it.
“One thing that I found odd about him. As you know, Ed’s a big boy, 6’9” and 340 lbs when I knew him. You would think that a man that big in prison might have an attitude or be violent and dangerous. Not even in the least. I never saw anything like that. In fact, late one night I was in the back cleaning and erasing cassettes to be reused, I’m sitting on a tall stool when he walked in. Now in prison you never want to be accused of being an informant or working with the uniform staff, or acting as/wanting to be a cop. Well Ed’s whole life, at that point, was dedicated to the Project. He loved the program, he loved his job, he felt that he was a big part of it, which he was.
“But he also wore blue. So, he comes in talking about so and so wasting time at work, stealing tapes, office supplies, things like that. I said something regarding him not being a cop, stop acting like one. He said something that apparently hit a nerve and not thinking, I reacted. With me sitting on that tall stool, we were close to the same height, with him right behind me, I spun around and backhanded him. I immediately started shaking, thinking this giant can rip my head off. Ed pouted a little bit, got all dejected, and walked the other way. I really thought he was going to cry. I guess he’s only psychotic with college age females and older people like his grandparents, mother, etc. Not once did I ever see this. I would probably think about that.
“Haha! I just remembered something… I had a pet mouse. In my cell, he ran around free on top of the lockers. I had a wheel and a house and a maze of shoestrings hanging all over with socks hanging on them. He would cruise all over the shoe string highway, and the socks were a place to hide. Which is neither here nor there but I thought it was pretty cool. Well, we got Ed a mouse, too. At work we had them in like a glass fish aquarium filled with sawdust and wood chips, so we didn’t see much of them. So, we go to check on them or take them out or something, and we can’t find Ed’s mouse. We dug thru the wood and found his tail and hind legs. Turns out my mouse was a cannibal. I know, digging pretty deep for that one. That’s why I’m a plumber.”
Source: thanks to Diana S. for the photos and stories!
In this excerpt from his May 1979 parole hearing, Ed Kemper discusses managing violence as well as his sexuality in prison.
INMATE KEMPER: “I don’t want to start a precedent at being a second-time released multiple murderer. I have absolutely no plans of ever hurting anybody again in my life.
To do that is to circumvent and call a failure and a lie everything positive I’ve done the last six years.
I told staff when I came here [at Vacaville], I will not hurt anybody again. I don’t want to hurt anybody again.
They told me I was unrealistic; they told me that was impossible because of my size. That would be one problem with inmates here. Another problem would be my crime. And between the two of them combined, it was impossible for me to stay out of violent encounters either as a victim or as an aggressor.
I have not hit anybody since I’ve been here. I may have been struck since I’ve come here, but there has not been a fight, and I’ve not been locked down because of being struck.
I don’t see that as a defeat of the projections of the CDC staff; I see that as them looking at things very stereotypedly.
If I had no control over my life whatsoever, or what some things I do have a chance of ghanging, then I could agree with them. But if I did agree with them back then, then I’d still be pushing a broom down in the hole — feeling lucky.
I’ve done some tremendously nice things since then for other people. I don’t live luxuriously in here. My cell is rather — I have it equipped for doing the things that I enjoy doing, but it is rather austere. There’s nothing ornate about it; there’s nothing really comfortable about it. And I don’t lounge around in the yard. I do not have a homosexual queen in this place — which isn’t a condemnation of people around here doing that. There is no sexual provision for me for the rest of my life as best I can tell.
The only alternate to that would be a family visiting-type thing — the trailer visits here — and the only eligibility I have for that would be for my sisters. And I don’t really see them as volunteering for that kind of behavior — you know, getting into the trailers and spending a night or two. And I can’t condemn them for that. So, I have to resolve the fact that I am going to be neuter for the rest of my life.”
Sources: May 1st, 1979 Ed Kemper parole hearing / Photo @Joey Tranchina
It was rumoured that Ed Kemper had spent some time at Folsom State Prison at the beginning of his incarceration, in 1973-1974. In this excerpt from his May 1979 parole hearing (the first one he accepted to attend since he had been imprisoned), Kemper sheds light on why he didn’t get to go to Folsom Prison and how it was decided by doctors that he would stay at the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville, where he has been living since November 1973.
INMATE KEMPER: When I came into CDC on November 9th, 1973, I was classified Category A, “emergency psychotic” and a high violence potential, maximum custody, without having seen anybody. There was no psychiatric evaluation at all.
I was taken immediately from Receiving after being processed. I was taken to psychiatric isolation in S Wing on the third floor. I stayed there for five weeks. During that time, I had a tremendous difficulty in dealing with the depressions I was feeling from being taken from a very high-profile situation in jail — the court, the press, the flashbulbs, the lawyers — to a total isolation where I didn’t talk to anybody unless I was being fed or medicated – and then very briefly. I had trouble accepting and getting along with that. I felt very suicidal at that time – because it was very hard on me. And I saw — I didn’t know what prison was like; I didn’t know that I didn’t have that going for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to live. And at that time, I was also on suicidal watch.
After – well, excuse me, not during the first the five-week period.
I left the — after the five-week period, the staff determined that I could be returned and ordered to the Reception Center for processing. I stayed there two weeks behind the screen in T Wing; it’s a secure housing. After two weeks of processing, it was determined by — on paper, — that I would either be placed in California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo or this mainline setting [CMF].
Dr. Alvin Groupe, capital G-r-u- — G-r-o-u-p-e, the Chief Psychiatrist for In-patient Services, which included Seguin Unit and S Wing, determined that he would take me back into the CMF Program under the Seguin Unit program, working toward the mainline.
When I returned to the Seguin Unit, I was put in a secure housing cell, six days later taken to screening, and I was recommended to be taken to Folsom — to the Adjustment Center in Folsom Prison, with an alternate of San Quentin Adjustment Center.
I had talked to no one, psychiatrically, counselling or otherwise during that six-day wait. I have a feeling that it would have been the same day if I had got there a day earlier.
I was returned to S-3, which is isolation. The day after that I was taken down to W Wing, “the hole”, the jail house to await transfer. During that wait, I attempted suicide.
It had been dismissed by several psychiatric staff as a show. I didn’t know what I was showing for, because I hadn’t been through the system before. I don’t know that they didn’t want me to go ahead and kill myself anyway — to save money.
I spent almost all of my canteen ducats buying a very small piece of metal —
PRESIDING MEMBER RUSHEN: Okay. You tried to commit suicide. Then what happened?
INMATE KEMPER: I tried to commit suicide with drugs and cut. I was returned to isolation, not the hospital. I was comatose for three days.
When I woke up, I was taken to the floor lieutenant’s desk, Lieutenant Steele’s court, the lieutenant’s court to stand a hearing on a CDC 115 for self-mutilation. And it’s the only rules violation report that’s ever been filed on me –
PRESIDING MEMBER RUSHEN: Recovered then. Now, is there anything else?
INMATE KEMPER: We passed over it; we didn’t really cover it.
The man found me guilty. I was kept there for five more weeks. At the end of that time, it was determined that the CFR, Sacramento did not want me leaving the California Medical Facility, and I was told by Dr. Groupe that I was going to go down to W-1 and live there. I was going to be there for a long, long time. And I was upset because I was going to be transferred [to Folsom].
I went to W-1. I sat down there for two months. The program administrator, Mr. Vineyard, who is now a representative on your Board – – he came down to me and we made a therapy contract, unofficially. He didn’t like me living down there where I lived in a cell for 23 hours a day, and exercised in a cage for one hour a day — as being my housing and treatment. And I promised him that I would not act up in a violent way; I would not get anybody up there in any trouble for taking a chance with me, because at that time nobody was willing to take a chance with me — at all. And I don’t blame them; there was no real grounds to do that — according to what was observable in the records in my past history.
Sources: May 1st, 1979 Ed Kemper parole hearing / Photo @Joey Tranchina
This photo of Ed Kemper when he was a young boy appears in the First Blood documentary series from 2022. The second photo shows Kemper’s unblurred face. This is the first photo we have found of Kemper at a very young age.
A&E’s First Blood examines some of America’s most notorious serial killers through the prism of their first known kills to reveal what drove them to the moment when violent fantasy and curiosity became a devastating reality.
Source: First Blood documentary series (2022, episode 5)
Frontier Town Chapel Scene of Susan Hughey Kemper Irving R. Swanson Wedding
The chapel at Frontier Town was the setting for the wedding of Susan Hughey Kemper and Irving R. Swanson. Standards of white chrysanthemums and pink gladioli, tied with pink ribbon, decorated the sanctuary. The Rev. Roland S. Rasar officiated at the double ring rites in the presence of 30 relatives of the couple.
The bride is the daughter of Mrs. Edmund Emil Kemper, Jr., of Helena and Edmund Emil Kemper Jr., of North Hollywood, Calif. Her husband is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick E. Swanson of Big Timber.
Escorted by Brother
Given in marriage by her brother, [Ed] Guy Kemper, the bride wore a street-length, white sheath dress styled with scoop neckline and full, lace overskirt attached at the waistline with two pearls. She wore matching lace mitts, gathered at the wrist with seed pearls, and carried a white Bible topped with baby pink roses and shattered carnations tied with white streamers.
The bride’s shoulder-length veil of silk illusion cascaded from a circlet of pearls. Her jewelry, a single pearl pendant, was a gift of the bridegroom.
Sharon McDowell was maid of honor. Her gown of blue was similar in design to the one worn by the bride. She chose dyed-to-match shoes and a small pink headpiece of flowers and veiling. She carried pink carnations tied with white lace.
Mrs. Kemper chose a navy-blue shantung dress with peplum for her daughter’s wedding. The mother of the bridegroom chose an emerald green satin sheath dress. Each wore pink accessories and a pink corsage of roses and carnations.
Ray Swanson acted as best man for his brother. Harvey Jung, cousin of the bride, seated the guests.
Mrs. Tate Peek played traditional nuptial music on the chapel’s antique organ before and during the ceremony. Two candelabra, holding white candles decorated with sprays of lily-of-the-valley and white streamers, decorated the table for a reception dinner in the Frontier Town dining room.
The five-tier wedding cake, decorated with white roses and white bells, was topped by two white satin bells ringed with pearls and shot with tulle. Elnora Jung, aunt of the bride, cut and served the cake. Sylvia Newburn of New York had charge of the guest book and assisted Mrs. Jung with the gifts.
Reside in Bozeman
Since returning from a wedding trip to Glacier Park, the newlyweds reside in Bozeman, where the bridegroom is employed by Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co. He is a Navy veteran.
For traveling, the bride chose a navy blue and white suit with navy blue cummerbund, blue jewelry, white accessories and a red corsage.
The bride, who attended North Hollywood High School and Helena High School, was employed at St. Peter’s Hospital prior to her marriage.
Wedding guests included Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Swanson, Michael and Cherie, and Mr. and Mrs. Duane Kirkpatrick, Douglas and David, all of Livingston. Swanson and Mrs. Kirkpatrick are a brother and sister of the bride-groom.
Prior to her marriage, the bride was honored at a miscellaneous shower given by Miss McDowell at the home of Mrs. Jung.
Source: The Independent Record, Helena, Montana, Sunday, July 23, 1961
Ed Kemper and his older sister Susan Swanson discussed the Santa Cruz murders and Herbert Mullin in April 1973 before Kemper’s arrest: “Guy [Kemper’s nickname] and I discussed them one day when mom and I went to the university to borrow a movie projector so I could show a movie I had brought from home [in Montana]. There was something said about Mullin firing his attorney because he had long hair, and I asked Guy if he thought Mullin had done the co-ed slayings too. He said he didn’t because none of them were similar in any way to how his victims had been shot–then the subject was dropped. The first weekend I was there, Guy went to Turlock and picked up [Kemper’s fiancée] and brought her to mom’s. We went to San Francisco that weekend Mom, I, [Kemper’s fiancée], and Guy, and along the road he mentioned that down there, pointing to the right, was where they had found two girls propped up against something I don’t remember the exact area. We drove along the coast highway, but this was a hilly section inland, just a bit. I believe it was just south of San Jose. Another time, I commented on the girls hitchhiking and mentioned they weren’t too bright, considering what happened and the particular ones I mentioned were really dressed shabby. He said it was strange because some of the co-eds killed were very attractive girls, not hippie looking at all. I think this was mentioned at the same time the conversation about Mullin was discussed on the way to the university. The subject changed. He didn’t say or do anything strange or comment any more than anyone might comment because of what had been happening.”
“One day when we were driving from Aptos along the beach toward Santa Cruz, just sightseeing, [Kemper] pointed off toward the beach and mentioned that a girl’s head was washed up along there -no more was said, and he brought it up.”
“Several times while we were riding around while I was there he would notice a girl and really stare, not just look or glance, and I teased him that he’d better get out of that habit when he gets married or [Kemper’s fiancée] would sure get jealous. He said she’s used to it or something along that line and most of these girls were dark skinned, possibly Mexican heritage, with black hair and medium build, tending toward heavy. He also commented that he sure likes those big butts- again I just passed it off and went on to other talk.”
Source: Book “Murder Capital of the World” by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo: Yearbook, University of Southern California, 1964
When Ed Kemper was arrested in August 1964 after murdering his grandparents, his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, and his older sister, Susan Swanson, were interviewed by doctors and social workers from the Atascadero State Hospital where Kemper was imprisoned for the next five years.
Clarnell Strandberg: “She [Kemper’s older sister, Susan] was always responsible for and protective of Guy [Kemper’s nickname] while I worked. Sometimes protected him from my discipline out of misguided love. He and Sue were close until she began to mature and then Allyn, my fourteen-year-old daughter and he had a close relationship-however his needs were building and hers were normal and gregarious and outgoing and she had friends he resented.”
Susan Swanson: “As far back as I can remember, Guy has wanted to be by himself, he has seemed to be happier when there was only family. He never seemed too interested in participating in activities with other children. We seemed fairly close at times, but if something didn’t go Guy’s way he would get awfully mad, not as if he were spoiled and throwing a tantrum but mad at everyone… All kinds of things would bother him, like the way my kids would cry or when my little girl would be drooling or spitting I would never hear the end of it from Guy. Sounds of a constant coughing or crying or heavy breathing would really upset him.”
Source (text and photo): Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
Some time in March 1973, Ed [Guy] Kemper and his mother went off-roading in a jeep and Clarnell injured her shoulder. Kemper’s sister, Susan Swanson, came and stayed with Kemper and his mother on April 1:
“A little vacation and also it would be a good time to go down and help mom with her stuff that she couldn’t handle with her broken shoulder. So, it was kind of a two-way visit. So, I went down the first of April and I came home on the 19th. In fact, I missed all this by forty hours, which was very shattering to me. It was a beautiful nineteen days. [Kemper killed his mother on April 21st]. During the days, Guy would sleep an awful lot, he would get up maybe at noon or two o’clock. Either that, or I understood him to be going off with friends during the day, like target practicing or something. He might leave oh, around noon or something and come back around dinner time or whatever. Some days, he’d just kind of hang around the house or be gone for a couple of hours and then he and I would do things during the day. I would take mom to school to work and then I’d come back and kind of clean up the apartment while Guy was asleep and then when he’d wake up we’d either go do something or he’d go do something and I would just, you know, drive around or sightsee, or whatever. In the evening, I would pick mom up from school and Guy most always was gone in the evening. He would go to the Jury Room a lot or go to the show, or… as far as the accuracy, whether he was really there or not, I don’t know; but he was gone in the evenings a lot, and would get home quite late- two or three in the morning. And he drank quite a bit, of beer. For breakfast, he had two large cans of beer and he seemed to be able to hold beer quite well. I mean, it would take quite a bit before you would notice any signs that he had been drinking. I never saw him drunk. I never saw him staggering. I never saw him slurring his speech or anything.
“I’ve never taken lessons in judo or karate, but I have picked up a few little things, I’m fascinated with the tournaments, watching the art. I wanted to show [Kemper] this new throw that I had just picked up on television. Well, being 6’9″, or whatever, I’m 6’1″, or 6’1/2” myself, and not any weakling, and I was going to show him how the throw goes and I couldn’t even waver him on his feet and he says, he’s standing there with his hands on his hips saying, “What are you doing? What are you trying to do?”
“I said, “Oh, I’m going to throw you.” You know. We clowned around and made little fake karate chops and say, if I came around a corner or something and he was coming around at the same time, kind of like a surprise, not to surprise each other, but just bumping into each other coming around the corner, we’d go POW POW, and a few little phony karate things and the most scary thing right now is he would make a motion like he, with his hands in a karate chop, had lapped off my head and then held his hands out like he caught it. And laughed. And I would laugh. Because it seemed so funny, you know, this karate business, ho ho, and we were just playing around with it all the time. And this motion especially now, just this WHAP, and make his hands like he’s catching my head–and I’d laugh. I can’t believe this now.”
Source: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo: Ancestry, Yearbook, University of Southern California, 1963