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
With Season 2 of “Mindhunter” coming out on August 16, here are some props from Season 1, related to Ed Kemper’s character.
These items were obtained through a Netflix prop liquidation sale held at the studios where “Mindhunter” Seasons 1 & 2 were filmed in Warrendale, Pennsylvania. All items were sold “As is, Where is” and no certificates of authenticity were provided.
These items are part of my collection of true crime-related collectibles.
A custom-built hospital room set piece as seen in Season 1, Episode 10, when Holden pays Ed Kemper a visit after his suicide attempt.
A lot of four greetings cards sent to FBI agents Holden and Tench by serial killer Ed Kemper in Season 1, episode 10. He sent them various cards after their visit with him. Each card has a message from Kemper, most likely written by someone from the props department.
Netflix revealed new images today from season 2 of Mindhunter, which will start airing on August 16, 2019. And good news for Kemper “fans”: his character is back for the new season. These exclusive images show him in the prison chapel talking with FBI agents Holden and Bill. Is he talking about his religious conversion in prison? We’ll soon find out!
The show will also feature another serial killer case we are interested in, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz who terrorized New York City in 1976-1977.
Actor Cameron Britton talks about the intense last scene from ‘Mindhunter’, from the last episode of Season 1, in this excerpt from his interview for the Hollywood Reporter:
Question: And then in the finale you actually get to strike. You get to move, you get to be physical. When you knew that you had that opportunity to actually embody the threat that this guy possesses, what did you want to make sure you conveyed above all else?
Britton: Once he’s up and cornered Holden, I wanted a level of clarity you hadn’t seen in that scene yet. He’s sort of semi out of it in that hospital scene, so when he jumps up I wanted you to see how clear his focus was. There was this really interesting line to sort of find of making the audience not sure if he’s making a point by intimidating Holden or if this is genuine. Is he actually considering taking this man’s life? That was really fun to play in the first few takes. Fincher would call “action” and I was just coming at him practically foaming at the mouth. And Fincher let me get a few takes out and then he came in and said, “Man, that’s too much. We can’t sync it with the rest of the performance that you’ve been doing. He’s too intense and animated.” But getting that out allowed me to then take it back and go back to the gathered calmness, but still the undertone that you can tell he’s excited, if you will. As long as you feel like, “Oh he’s in shall we call it, work-mode.” It’s the same guy, it’s the subtlest switch. He has the same sort of pace and demeanor but there’s just a little something extra that feels like, “Oh, this is him when he’s in hunt-mode.” And I love Mindhunter because as much as that’s terrifying, if you step back, you realize we just watched a ten-hour thriller that ends with a hug. And it’s still effective. That was sort of the hope for the show is that you can scare people without any gore, or any violence. I think all a serial killer needs is a camera and a chair and it’s gonna be unnerving.