There is a lesson dedicated to Ed Kemper, “Learning From a Killer: The Kemper Tapes”, where Douglas shares never-before-heard clips with Ed Kemper, known as the “Coed Killer,” who murdered college students, along with his mother. Douglas’ interviews with Kemper set him on a path to understanding that all criminal minds exemplify three personality traits: manipulation, domination, and control. Douglas challenges you to identify these traits in people you know to avoid being manipulated.
From Charles Manson to the Yorkshire Ripper, Son of Sam to the Monster of Florence, John Douglas tests his wits against the best criminal minds of his generation.
Edmund Kemper is, by his own lights, a man of superior intellect and no small achievements. He boasts of once having been America’s youngest fully-fledged civic booster; a twenty-year-old Christian living what he calls a “Jesus-first” life.
But that distinction is just an ironic footnote in Kemper’s vitae. He is a legend for far more weighty reasons, and he implores his visitor to please, just please, get the story right.
“I did not butcher people,” Ed Kemper, now 41 years old, insists with the petty certitude of a grammarian arguing over nuance. “Decapitation is not butchering. The papers and the magazines had me butchering my victims. But I only dismembered two bodies. They were all decapitated; all but my mother’s friend. Why? Why didn’t I just pop some teeth out, or crunch some bones up? I was starting to branch out in my thoughts about how to do things and get away with it. The psychological trip was, the person is the head. For some reason, someone looks entirely different with no head. I noticed that.”
“I’m on an honesty thing the last five or six years; except when people get into my car. I didn’t tell ‘em I was gonna kill ‘em. I couldn’t quite handle that … Are you interested in what I was taking the heads off with? It wasn’t a saw, not even a hack saw: a buck knife.”
“I got my high on the complication of the thing; the meticulous way I ironed out potential problems before they even started… Hatpins! Mace! The more weapons the girls had, the safer they felt, the more chances they’d take, the easier it was for me. Unless it’s a policewoman with a gun in her hand, aimed at me, I’ve got her exactly where I want her. The first two victims [Pesce and Luchessa] were convinced the FBI and the CIA and Interpol were going to come looking for ‘em two hours after they were missing. Both of ‘em had money. Ritzy families. Real important. ‘Boy, if I don’t call daddy, we’ll be missed.”
In an interview room at Vacaville prison in California, John Douglas, an energetic man not particularly suited to the sedentary, just sits there for a change and listens. There is little choice. Kemper talks fast, like someone trying to finish a long story before he runs out of the door. But Kemper is going nowhere.
Kemper is a giant of a man, 6’9” and 302 pounds, and as the words spew out, his voice betrays macabre enthusiasm while an intermittent giggle gives away his self-consciousness. These are awful stories. Over a span of maybe half-a-dozen years, Kemper killed ten people: his grandparents, his mother, her best friend, and six hitchhiking students. He chopped their heads and hands off, ate parts of them, and, in his nagging mother’s case, propped up her severed head on the kitchen table, ranted and raved at it, ripped out the larynx and ground it up in the waste disposal. “Mom didn’t give a fuck. She was using us for her own little comforts.” Nice guy.
Maybe it’s a stretch of the imagination to see Kemper as the pride of the Junior Chamber of Commerce chapter at the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane, California. But then he was much younger and the shrinks thought there was still hope; at that time, he’d only hacked up his grandparents.
As Douglas listens to this serial killer offhandedly describe the young women he stalked and murdered after his release from Atascadero, the word that comes to Douglas’s mind is nothing to be proud of, but at least he is being honest with himself. Douglas spells it out: “p-u-s-s-y”. A coward. The word refers to Edmund Kemper, not to those who are dead, although Douglas has called murdered girls by that cruel name, too, when he thought doing so would please a murderer enough to make him relive the thrill of the kill.
Which is what Douglas wants.
The dead cannot speak, but their killers can, and Douglas has probably talked to more of them than any other man alive.
Sources: Excerpts** from the article “In at the Kill”, by John A. Jenkins (as published in GQ (Britain), February 1991) / Image from 1989 closed-circuit interview for the FBI Academy
**The order of the excerpts has been modified for a better understanding of the content.
Stéphane Bourgoin, whose books about murderers have sold millions, says he invented much of his experience, including training with FBI
An online investigation has exposed French author Stéphane Bourgoin, whose books about serial killers have sold millions of copies in France, as a serial liar.
Bourgoin is the author of more than 40 books and is widely viewed as a leading expert on murderers, having hosted a number of French television documentaries on the subject. He has claimed to have interviewed more than 70 serial killers, trained at the FBI’s base in Quantico, Virginia, and that his own wife was murdered in 1976, by a man who confessed to a dozen murders on his arrest two years later.
But in January, anonymous collective the 4ème Oeil Corporation accused him of lying about his past, and Bourgoin has now admitted to the French press that the wife never existed. He also acknowledged that he never trained with the FBI, never interviewed Charles Manson, met far fewer killers than he has previously claimed, and never worked as a professional footballer – another claim he had made.
“My lies have weighed me down,” he told Paris Match last week in his first interview about the accusations. “I have arrived at the balance-sheet time.”
The wife he had said was murdered never existed, he admitted, saying that she was drawn from a young woman called Susan Bickrest, who he briefly met in a Florida bar. In 1975, 24-year-old Bickrest was murdered by the serial killer Gerald Stano, who later admitted to killing 41 women and was executed in 1998.
“It was bullshit that I took on,” Bourgoin told Le Parisien. “I didn’t want people to know the real identity of someone who was not my partner, but someone who I had met five or six times in Daytona Beach, and who I liked.”
Bourgoin told Le Figaro that he felt he needed psychological counselling, and that “all these lies are absolutely ridiculous, because if we objectively take stock of my work, I think it was enough in itself”. He said he had exaggerated and lied about his life because he had always felt he was not really loved.
“I am profoundly and sincerely sorry. I am ashamed of what I did, it’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
Here at edmundkemperstories.com, we have regularly posted excerpts from L’Ogre de Santa Cruz, Mr. Bourgoin’s book about Ed Kemper. As we know for a fact that Mr. Bourgoin interviewed Kemper in 1991, as seen in videos available on YouTube, and that his book is heavily based on said interview, we will continue to post excerpts from the book here on our blog, as we consider it a credible source. That being said, Mr. Bourgoin has claimed that he has more than 400 hours of interview with Kemper. We don’t believe that to be true. We don’t think that the California Medical Facility (CMF) would have given such a long access to one of their inmates, especially since Kemper at that time was working full time at the CMF, and when you do the math, that would mean 10 weeks X 40 hours/week…
Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that Holt McCallany, the brawny, silver-haired actor who plays special agent Bill Tench [based on FBI Agent Robert Ressler] in David Fincher’s Mindhunter, is mildly obsessed with serial killers. To prepare for the true-crime Netflix series’s second season, McCallany tried to reach out to the real Ed Kemper, a six-foot-nine killer who murdered 10 people—including his mother and grandparents. (He’s played in the show by Cameron Britton.) But Kemper never responded. So McCallany went to the California Medical Facility, where Kemper is housed. “When I got there, what I discovered is that Kemper has kind of given up on life,” the actor said. “He’s confined to a wheelchair. Do you know what I mean? He doesn’t really take visitors. He doesn’t bathe himself anymore. It’s very sad.”
FBI criminal profiler John Douglas talks about his first meeting with Ed Kemper in his book Mindhunter:
“The first thing
that struck me when they brought him in was how huge this guy was. I’d known
that he was tall and had been considered a social outcast in school and in the
neighborhood because of his size, but up close, he was enormous. He could
easily have broken any of us in two. He had longish dark hair and a full
mustache, and wore an open work shirt and white T-shirt that prominently
displayed a massive gut.
It was also apparent before long that Kemper was a bright guy. Prison records listed his IQ as 145, and at times during the many hours we spent with him, Bob [Robert Ressler] and I worried he was a lot brighter than we were. He’d had a long time to sit and think about his life and crimes, and once he understood that we had carefully researched his files and would know if he was bullshitting us, he opened up and talked about himself for hours.
His attitude was
neither cocky and arrogant nor remorseful and contrite. Rather, he was cool and
soft-spoken, analytical and somewhat removed. In fact, as the interview went
on, it was often difficult to break in and ask a question. The only times he
got weepy was in recalling his treatment at the hands of his mother. (…)
We ended up
doing several lengthy interviews with Kemper over the years, each one
informative, each one harrowing in its detail. Here was a man who had coldly
butchered intelligent young women in the prime of their lives. Yet I would be
less than honest if I didn’t admit that I liked Ed. He was friendly, open,
sensitive, and had a good sense of humor. As much as you can say such a thing
in this setting, I enjoyed being around him. I don’t want him out walking the
streets, and in his most lucid moments, neither does he. But my personal
feelings about him then, which I still hold, do point up an important
consideration for anyone dealing with repeat violent offenders. Many of these
guys are quite charming, highly articulate, and glib. (…)
Quite clearly, some types of killers are much more likely to repeat their crimes than others. But for the violent, sexually based serial killers, I find myself agreeing with Dr. Park Dietz that “it’s hard to imagine any circumstance under which they should be released to the public again.” Ed Kemper, who’s a lot brighter and has a lot more in the way of personal insight than most of the other killers I’ve talked to, acknowledges candidly that he shouldn’t be let out.”
Source: Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (1996) by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker / Photo: Getty Images
John Edward Douglas (born June 18, 1945)
is a retired special agent and unit chief in the FBI. Douglas is a renowned expert on criminal and behavioral profiling, and is a prolific and
best-selling author on the subject. Among his publications are Mindhunter:
Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (1996) and The Cases that Haunt
Us (2001). He continues to be in considerable international demand, both as
a public speaker/lecturer and as an expert consultant to police departments,
law enforcement agencies, and to prosecuting attorneys.
During his tenure with the FBI, Douglas earned a reputation as a widely known expert on criminal personality profiling. He has been touted as one of the pioneers of modern criminal investigative analysis, and is credited with conducting the first organized study in the United States regarding the methods and motivations of violent serial criminals. As part of that research project, he interviewed such notorious killers as James Earl Ray, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, David Berkowitz, Edmund Kemper, Sirhan Sirhan, and Charles Manson.
John Douglas describes the
world of the criminal profiler as arduous, filled with lengthy periods of
reading and studying case files, investigator’s notes, autopsy and crime scene reports, examining crime scene
photographs, pouring over eyewitness statements, police reports, and, if
possible, victim’s statements. When the perpetrator’s identity is unknown,
these forensic scientists seek patterns in the evidence that suggest the offender’s behavior and character style.
They use their composite information to develop a profile of the unknown
subject (UNSUB) that may be used to narrow the search for possible suspects.
Over time, the Investigative Support Unit became known as “The Mind Hunters,” with John Douglas being the chief Mind Hunter. This elite FBI Unit was involved in some of the most notorious and high-profile serial and sadistic murder investigations in American history: the San Francisco Trailside Killer, the Atlanta Child Murderer, Robert Hansen (who hunted and killed prostitutes on his property in Alaska), the Tylenol Poisoner, and the Green River Killer. John Douglas has been described as a profiler who is adept at understanding the way criminals think, getting inside their minds, understanding the workings of both the predator and his prey (the vast majority of serial and sadistic killers are male). Douglas uses this information, along with examination of the crime scene, to create a profile of the perpetrator, and to attempt to predict his future behavior. Upon the criminal’s apprehension, Douglas’ profile could be used to aid in structuring the processes of interrogation and prosecution. John Douglas is both a pioneer and a legendary figure in the forensic science world of criminal profiling.
has been the inspiration for several fictional characters in film and
television series, such as:
Jack Crawford, a major character in the Thomas Harris novels Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal, Douglas claims was based on himself. (Robert Ressler, Douglas’ mentor at the FBI disputes this in his book Whoever Fights Monsters: “Some people still in the BSU have also taken to claiming that they were the models for the FBI characters in the book and movie The Silence of the Lambs, though Harris has stated that the characters are entirely his own and not based on any particular individuals.”) Harris himself has never definitively stated who Crawford is based on. In all likelihood, Crawford is at least an amalgamation of Ressler and Douglas, if not others.
2015, creators of the TV show Criminal Minds confirmed that the characters of
FBI profilers Jason Gideon and David Rossi were based on Douglas.
A screenplay adapted from the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit was picked up by Netflix. Mindhunter stars Jonathan Groff, who plays the character Special Agent Holden Ford, a lead character based on Douglas.
Source: Wikipedia / World of Forensic Science COPYRIGHT 2005 Thomson Gale
A unique piece: This is the book written by John Douglas, Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess and Allan Burgess, following the interviews they conducted with 36 serial killers, including Ed Kemper, in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s an encyclopedia that classifies the elements of crime, and the many different criminal profiles. This is the copy of the book that Douglas gave Kemper as a gift when it was published, and Kemper gave it to one of his friends in 1995. It is signed by both Douglas and Kemper.
This book is part of my collection of true crime collectibles.
Robert Kenneth Ressler (February 21, 1937 – May 5, 2013) was an FBI agent and author. He played a significant role in the psychological profiling of violent offenders in the 1970s and is often credited with coining the term “serial killer.” After retiring from the FBI, he authored a number of books on serial murders, and often gave lectures on criminology.
Robert Kenneth Ressler was a criminologist in private practice and the Director of Forensic Behavioral Services International, a Virginia based consulting company. Mr. Ressler was an expert in the area of violent criminal offenders, particularly in the area of serial and sexual homicide. He was a specialist in the area of criminology, behavioral analysis, crime scene analysis, homicide, sexual assaults, threat assessment, workplace violence, and hostage negotiation.
He was a twenty year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serving sixteen years in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit as a Supervisory Special Agent and Criminologist, retiring in 1990. He innovated many of the programs which led to the formulation of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Mr. Ressler became the first Program Manager of the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) in 1985.
In addition to having been an Instructor of Criminology while at the FBI Academy, his academic affiliations included Adjunct Faculty at the University of Virginia, Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice and he was a Clinical Assistant Professor in Psychiatry in Georgetown University’s Program on Psychiatry and Law. He was a visiting instructor with the Department of Forensic Pathology at Dundee University, Dundee, Scotland.
He was awarded the 1991 Amicus Award by the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the 1995 Special Section Awarded the Section of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and two Jefferson Awards in 1986 and 1988, by the University of Virginia. Mr. Ressler was a member of The International and American Academies of Forensic Sciences, The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Homicide Investigators Association, the Vidocq Society and other professional organizations.
He originated and directed the FBI’s first research program of violent criminal offenders, interviewing and collecting data on 36 serial and sexual killers resulting in two text books, Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives(1988) now in its 3rd edition and the Crime Classification Manual (1992) which was published in its 3rd edition in 2013. He also coauthored his autobiography, Whoever Fights Monsters (1992), Justice is Served (1994), and I Have Lived In The Monster (1997). Mr. Ressler’s books and real life experiences have been the inspiration for many books authored by Mary Higgins Clark and other authors and the films, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, Copycat, and The X Files.
He has lectured at and been a consultant to law enforcement agencies, universities, writers, television networks, and corporations in the U.S. and abroad. He appeared on many major television and radio networks and has been featured in numerous printed media articles in major newspapers and magazines, worldwide.
Mr. Ressler served ten years with the U.S. Army and was active duty during the Vietnam era. He served in the military police and as an investigator with the Army Criminal Investigation Division Command Headquarters in Washington D.C. He retired at the rank of Colonel with 35 years of distinguished service.
Supervisory Special Agent and Criminologist Robert K. Ressler, from the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, famously told the story of his third meeting with Ed Kemper:
Twice before, I had ventured in the Vacaville prison in California to see and talk with him, the first time accompanied by John Conway, the second time by Conway and by my Quantico associate John Douglas, whom I was breaking in. During those sessions, we had gone quite deeply into his past, his motivations for murder, and the fantasies that were intertwined with those crimes. (…) I was so pleased at the rapport I had reached with Kemper that I was emboldened to attempt a third session with him alone. It took place in a cell just off death row, the sort of place used for giving a last benediction to a man about to die in the gas chamber. (…)
After conversing with Kemper in this claustrophobic locked cell for four hours, dealing with matters that entail behavior at the extreme edge of depravity, I felt that we had reached the end of what there was to discuss, and I pushed the buzzer to summon the guard to come and let me out of the cell. No guard immediately appeared, so I continued on with the conversation. (…)
After another few minutes had passed, I pressed the buzzer a second time, but still got no response. Fifteen minutes after my first call, I made a third buzz, yet no guard came.
A look of apprehension must have come over my face despite my attempts to keep calm and cool, and Kemper, keenly sensitive to other people’s psyches, picked up on this.
“Relax, they’re changing the shift, feeding the guys in the secure area.” He smiled and got up from his chair, making more apparent his huge size. “Might be fifteen, twenty minutes before they come and get you,” he said to me. (…)
Though I felt I maintained a cool and collected posture, I’m sure I reacted to this information with somewhat more overt indications of panic, and Kemper responded to these.
“If I went apeshit in here, you’d be in a lot of trouble, wouldn’t you? I could screw your head off and place it on the table to greet the guard.”
My mind raced. I envisioned him reaching for me with his large arms, pinning me to a wall in a stranglehold, and then jerking my head around until my neck was broken. It wouldn’t take long, and the size difference between us would almost certainly ensure that I wouldn’t be able to fight him off very long before succumbing. He was correct: He could kill me before I or anyone else could stop him. So, I told Kemper that if he messed with me, he’d be in deep trouble himself.
“What could they do– cut off my TV privileges?” he scoffed.
I retorted that he would certainly end up “in the hole” – solitary confinement – for an extremely long period of time.
Both he and I knew that many inmates put in the hole are forced by such isolation into at least temporary insanity.
Ed shrugged this off by telling me that he was an old hand at being in prisons, that he could withstand the pain of solitary and that it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, he would be returned to a more normal confinement status, and his “trouble” would pale before the prestige he would have gained among the other prisoners by “offing” an FBI agent.
My pulse did the hundred-yard dash as I tried to think of something to say or do to prevent Kemper from killing me. I was fairly sure that he wouldn’t do it but I couldn’t be completely certain, for this was an extremely violent and dangerous man with, as he implied, very little left to lose. How had I been dumb enough to come in here alone?
Suddenly, I knew how I had embroiled myself in such a situation. Of all people who should have known better, I had succumbed to what students of hostage-taking events know as “Stockholm syndrome”- I had identified with my captor and transferred my trust to him. Although I had been the chief instructor in hostage negotiation techniques for the FBI, I had forgotten this essential fact! Next time, I wouldn’t be so arrogant about the rapport I believed I had achieved with a murderer. Next time.
“Ed,” I said, “surely you don’t think I’d come in here without some method of defending myself, do you?”
“Don’t shit me, Ressler. They wouldn’t let you up here with any weapons on you.”
Kemper’s observation, of course, was quite true, because inside a prison, visitors are not allowed to carry weapons, lest these be seized by inmates and used to threaten the guards or otherwise aid an escape. I nevertheless indicated that FBI agents were accorded special privileges that ordinary guards, police, or other people who entered a prison did not share.
What’ve you got then?”
“I’m not going to give away what I might have or where I might have it on me.”
“Come on, come on; what is it – a poison pen?”
“Maybe, but those aren’t the only weapons one could have.”
“Martial arts, then,” Kemper mused. “Karate? Got your black belt? Think you can take me?”
With this, I felt the tide had shifted a bit, if not turned. There was a hint of kidding in his voice – I hoped. But I wasn’t sure, and he understood that I wasn’t sure, and he decided that he’d continue to try and rattle me. By this time, however, I had regained some composure, and thought back to my hostage negotiation techniques, the most fundamental of which is to keep talking and talking and talking, because stalling always seems to defuse the situation. We discussed martial arts, which many inmates studied as a way to defend themselves in the very tough place that is prison, until, at last, a guard appeared and unlocked the cell door. (…)
As Kemper got ready to walk off down the hall with the guard, he put his hand on my shoulder.
“You know I was just kidding, don’t you?”
“Sure,” I said, and let out a deep breath.
I resolved never to put myself or any other FBI interviewer in a similar position again. From then on, it became our policy never to interview a convicted killer or rapist or child molester alone; we’d do that in pairs.
Source: Whoever Fights Monsters – My twenty years tracking serial killers for the FBI, by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman, 1992