Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

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REVIEW: Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer

**French translation of the review follows**

Publisher’s presentation:

Ed Kemper, 6’9”, 280 pounds, is an American serial killer nicknamed “the Ogre of Santa Cruz”. Cannibal and necrophiliac, he has been convicted of eight murders including that of his own mother. It is with him that the term serial killer and the methods of profiling were first used.

Writer Thomas Mosdi (author of the Succubes book series) and illustrator David Jouvent (The Dragons of the Red City) retrace the journey of the serial killer who inspired the character of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, in a graphic novel that is both exciting and terrifying.

Review:

I was really looking forward to reading Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer (Under a serial killer’s skin) to see how this story that Kemper followers know so well would be told. Not being a comic book reader, I really liked this graphic novel, which is well told and beautifully drawn and colorized. 

Indeed, the drawings are superb and present the facts realistically without overdoing it. The California of the 1970s is credibly represented with warm colors and images that evoke well this seaside resort that is Santa Cruz. The attention to detail in the boxes is impressive. David Jouvent is very good at drawing the Kemper character, his face, his stature. The general treatment is not particularly gory, we can feel the respect for the victims and their families.

As for the narrative thread, it is skillfully constructed around an incident that occurred during Kemper’s trial in 1973 when a doctor administered Methedrine, a methamphetamine drug that made Kemper delirious for several days and made him see his life with great lucidity and realize the horror of his crimes. [see this post for details about this incident].

This narrative structure allows to tell the story entirely from Kemper’s point of view through a narration, as if we were in his head and could hear his thoughts, his inner voice, helping us to better understand his psychological journey. The story takes a non-linear look back at key moments in Kemper’s life, such as the abuse at the hands of his mother, the murder of his grandmother, his stay at the Atascadero psychiatric hospital and the kidnapping of Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa. The story also allows us to go into Kemper’s delirium and to rub shoulders with his demons and fantasies (severed heads, zombie victims, his mother as a snake, etc.). 

This graphic novel is aimed at an informed audience who, ideally, already knows a little bit about Ed Kemper’s story. For readers less familiar with his case, it may be difficult to realize the magnitude of his crimes, and to differentiate between his fantasies and reality. The crimes are not shown, nor is the trial. Some victims, such as Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu and Sara Hallett, are mentioned in passing without telling what happened to them. 

Only one regret: it would have been nice, for a few of the flashback scenes, to insert dialogue between Kemper and other characters, like with his mother for example, to see Kemper in action and not just in reflection.  

In short, a graphic novel that I enjoyed thoroughly but I know won’t please everyone. Some people may find this kind of book unhealthy, but I believe that it’s relevant to look into a criminal’s mind and dark soul to try to understand what motivates someone to commit such extreme acts. 

**Version française de la critique**

Présentation de l’éditeur :

Ed Kemper, 2m10, 130 kilos, est un serial killer américain surnommé « l’Ogre de Santa Cruz ». Cannibale et nécrophile, il a été condamné pour huit meurtres dont celui de sa propre mère. C’est avec lui que l’on a utilisé pour la première fois le terme de tueur en série et les méthodes du profiling.

Le scénariste Thomas Mosdi (auteur des Succubes) et le dessinateur David Jouvent (Les dragons de la cité rouge) retracent le parcours du tueur en série qui a inspiré le personnage d’Hannibal Lecter dans Le Silence des Agneaux, dans une Bd à la fois passionnante et terrifiante.

Critique :

J’avais très hâte de lire Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer pour voir comment serait racontée cette histoire que les amateurs de Kemper connaissent bien. N’étant pas une lectrice de bande dessinée, j’ai beaucoup aimé cette Bd, qui est bien racontée et superbement dessinée et colorée. 

En effet, les dessins sont magnifiques et présentent les faits de façon réaliste sans en faire trop. La Californie des années 1970 est représentée de façon crédible avec des couleurs chaudes et des images qui évoquent bien cette station balnéaire qu’est Santa Cruz. L’attention portée aux détails dans les cases impressionne. David Jouvent réussit particulièrement bien le personnage de Kemper, son visage, sa stature. Le traitement général n’est pas particulièrement gore, on sent le respect pour les victimes et leurs familles.

Pour ce qui est de la trame narrative, elle est habilement construite autour d’un incident qui s’est produit pendant le procès de Kemper en 1973 alors qu’un médecin lui a administré du Methedrine, une drogue méthamphétamine qui a fait délirer Kemper pendant plusieurs jours et lui a fait voir sa vie avec une grande lucidité et réaliser toute l’horreur de ses crimes. [voir ce post en anglais pour les détails sur cet incident.]

Cette structure narrative permet de raconter l’histoire entièrement du point de vue de Kemper par une narration, comme si on était dans sa tête et que l’on entendait ses pensées, sa voix intérieure, nous aidant ainsi à mieux comprendre son cheminement psychologique. L’on fait ainsi des retours en arrière non linéaires où l’on revisite les moments clés de l’existence de Kemper, tels l’abus aux mains de sa mère, le meurtre de sa grand-mère, son séjour à l’hôpital psychiatrique d’Atascadero et le kidnapping de Mary Ann Pesce et Anita Luchessa. Cela permet aussi d’aller dans le délire de Kemper et de côtoyer ses démons et fantasmes (têtes coupées, victimes zombies, sa mère en serpent, etc.)  

Cette Bd s’adresse à un public averti qui, idéalement, connaît déjà un peu l’histoire d’Ed Kemper. Pour les lecteurs moins familiers avec son histoire, il peut être difficile de se rendre compte de l’ampleur de ses crimes, et de faire la différence entre ses fantasmes et la réalité. Les crimes ne sont pas montrés, ni le procès. On évoque au passage certaines victimes, comme Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu et Sara Hallett, sans raconter ce qui leur est arrivé. 

Un seul regret : il aurait été bien, pour quelques-unes des scènes de flashbacks, d’insérer des dialogues entre Kemper et d’autres personnages, comme avec sa mère par exemple, pour voir Kemper en action et pas seulement en réflexion.  

Bref, une Bd que j’ai beaucoup appréciée mais qui, je le sais, ne plaira pas à tout le monde. Certaines personnes peuvent trouver ce genre de livre malsain, mais je crois qu’il est pertinent d’étudier l’esprit et le côté sombre de l’âme d’un criminel pour essayer de comprendre ce qui motive une personne à commettre des actes aussi extrêmes.

Sources: All images were taken from the following Facebook pages: David Jouvent’s personal page and Ed Kemper Chronicles / English title is our translation.

Interview with David Jouvent

**French translation of the interview follows**

David Jouvent is the illustrator of the graphic novel Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer (Under a serial killer’s skin), published in French in September 2020. We asked him a few questions about the creation of this unique work.

EKS: Why did you create an album about Ed Kemper? Where did you get the idea? What was your inspiration?

DJ: The idea originally came from Jean-Luc Istin who, in 2009, had created a collection on serial killers for Soleil. He came across my work while viewing the book of my colorist Axel Gonzalbo. As he was looking for someone to draw a one-shot on Kemper… and as I had set up a project with Thomas Mosdi… things happened very naturally. To put it in context, at the time, Big Ed was totally unknown to the general public. Only a handful of insiders knew about him and there were very few articles on the net and even less pictures!! This obviously changed dramatically with the success of the Mindhunter series. My references in terms of serial killers came from Thomas Harris’ work, Psycho (by Hitchcock) and Chris Carter’s Millenium series (which I liked very much) with Lance Henriksen where there was a lot of talk about serial killers in season 1.

David Jouvent at work

EKS: How was the collaboration between Thomas, Axel and you during the creation of the album?

DJ: First of all, we exchanged a lot of documentation of all kinds… I wanted to make sure that the places and atmospheres of the times fit together perfectly. For me, it is essential to be credible in my visuals, so that the reader has no doubt when he sees a telephone or inadequate vegetation (the vegetation in California is not the same as in Alaska!) As an anecdote, I had pushed the vice to the point of reproducing in detail the broken headlight of his car or the exact plate number! (laughs) Without forgetting the sticker of the university where his mother, Clarnell, worked…

EKS: You made some narrative choices for the script, such as excluding the trial and the murders of his grandfather, Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu and Sara Hallett (they are mentioned, but not shown). How did you decide what was to be shown or not shown?

DJ: The important thing (and the concept) was to speak from Ed’s point of view, how he saw things, so there was no room for the representation of the victims! If only out of respect for their families. Exit all that is gore, we were not there to make vulgar sensationalism. Just to put ourselves in this man’s skin for a moment, and try to catch a glimpse of his motivations and feelings. If this can give some kind of explanation to his (incomprehensible) actions, because we all ask ourselves this question: “how can one reach such extremes?”.

EKS: The structure of the narrative is in flashbacks with as a starting point the moment when Kemper is delirious in prison following an injection of medication that makes him revisit the events of his past. This allows you to tell the story from Kemper’s point of view and walk through his narrative. How did you come to structure the story in this way?

DJ: Indeed, this anecdote was blessed bread!! It’s more of a question to ask my screenwriter (laughs)!

EKS: For the drawings and colors, what were your aesthetic inspirations?

DJ: The idea was to give an atmosphere reminiscent of California and the 1970’s… warm colors, in a dominant sepia.

EKS: Are you working on a new project right now? If so, can you tell us a few words about it?

DJ: I have a fantasy western project based on Native American legends… but, the context is not very favorable at the moment… more to follow.

EKS: Thanks David!

**Version française de l’entrevue avec David Jouvent**

David Jouvent est le dessinateur de la bande dessinée Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, parue en français en septembre 2020. Nous lui avons posé quelques questions au sujet de la création de cette œuvre unique. 

EKS : Pourquoi avoir créé un album sur Ed Kemper? D’où t’es venue l’idée? Quelle a été ton inspiration?

DJ : L’idée provient au départ de Jean-Luc Istin qui, en 2009, avait créé une collection sur les tueurs en série chez Soleil. Il était tombé sur mon travail en visionnant le book de mon coloriste Axel Gonzalbo. Comme il cherchait quelqu’un pour dessiner un one-shot sur Kemper… et que j’avais monté un projet avec Thomas Mosdi… les choses se sont faites très naturellement. Pour remettre dans le contexte, à l’époque, Big Ed était totalement inconnu du grand public. Seule une poignée d’initiés connaissait et l’on trouvait très peu d’articles sur le net et encore moins de photos !!! Cela a évidemment fortement changé avec le succès de la série Mindhunter. Mes références en termes de tueurs en série étaient issues de l’œuvre de Thomas Harris, Psychose (de Hitchcock) et la série Millenium (que j’affectionnais beaucoup) de Chris Carter avec Lance Henriksen où il était énormément question de tueurs en série dans la saison 1 !

EKS : Comment s’est déroulée la collaboration entre Thomas, Axel et toi pendant la création de l’album?

DJ : Nous nous sommes d’abord beaucoup échangés de la documentation de toutes sortes… je tenais à ce que les lieux et ambiances des époques collent parfaitement. Pour moi, il est essentiel d’être crédible dans mes visuels, que le lecteur n’ait pas de doute en voyant un téléphone ou une végétation inadéquate (la végétation de la Californie n’étant pas la même qu’en Alaska !) Pour anecdote, j’avais poussé le vice jusqu’à reproduire dans le détail le phare cassé de sa voiture ou le numéro de plaque exact ! (rires) Sans oublier l’autocollant de l’université où travaillait sa mère, Clarnell…

EKS : Vous avez fait certains choix narratifs pour le scénario, comme par exemple, vous avez exclus le procès ainsi que les meurtres de son grand-père, Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu et Sara Hallett (ils sont mentionnés, mais pas montrés). Comment avez-vous choisi ce qui allait être montré ou non?

DJ : L’important (et le concept) était de parler du point de vue d’Ed, c’est sa vision des choses, donc, la représentation des victimes n’y avait pas sa place ! Ne serait-ce que par respect pour leurs familles. Exit tout ce qui est gore, nous n’étions pas là pour faire du sensationnalisme vulgaire. Juste se mettre dans la peau de cet homme un moment, et tâcher d’entrevoir ses motivations et ressentis. Si cela peut donner une forme d’explication à ses actes (incompréhensibles), car on se pose tous cette question : “comment peut-on arriver à de telles extrêmes ?”

EKS : La structure du récit est en flashbacks avec comme point de départ, le moment où Kemper délire en prison suite à une injection de médicaments qui le fait revisiter les événements de son passé. Cela vous permet de raconter l’histoire du point de vue de Kemper et de vous promener dans son récit. Comment en êtes-vous venus à structurer le récit ainsi?

DJ : Effectivement, cette anecdote était du pain béni !!! C’est plus une question à poser à mon scénariste (rires) !

EKS : Pour les dessins et les couleurs, quelles ont été vos inspirations esthétiques?

DJ : L’idée était de donner une ambiance qui rappelle la Californie et les années 1970… des couleurs chaudes, dans une dominante sépia.

EKS : Travailles-tu sur un nouveau projet de BD en ce moment? Si oui, peux-tu nous en dire quelques mots?

DJ : J’ai un projet de western fantastique basé sur des légendes amérindiennes… mais, le contexte n’est pas très propice en ce moment… à suivre.

EKS : Merci David!

Sources: All photos were taken from the following Facebook pages: David Jouvent’s personal page and Ed Kemper Chronicles / English title is our translation.

New Kemper interview from 1979

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!

Watch the “Star Wars” excerpt here:

Source: HLN Very Scary People S02E08

French serial-killer expert admits serial lies

Photograph: Eric Fougere/Corbis via Getty Images

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.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Le Parisien on Tuesday, he went further, describing himself as a mythomaniac. “I completely admit my faults. I am ashamed to have lied, to have concealed things,” Bourgoin said.

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…

Source: The Guardian, French serial-killer expert admits serial lies, including murder of imaginary wife, May 13, 2020

Ed Kemper’s first date

“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)

Ed Kemper and John Wayne

Edmund Kemper grew up like almost any other red-blooded American boy, which is to say, in a home where the parents quarrelled a great deal, separated, reunited, eventually were divorced, and where the mother wound up both caring for the children and working at a full-time job. He grew up worshipping Hollywood actor John Wayne, whose image intertwined and blurred in his mind with memories of the beloved father who had abandoned him.

On January 25, 1950, John Wayne “The Duke” put his footprints & fist print in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The prints are still there.

Raised by a terrible mother, who didn’t hesitate to lock him in the cellar when he was a child, Edmund Kemper became very shy and isolated himself more and more. He dreamed of revenge, he thought of morbid games in which death and mutilation played an essential part. Aware of his inadequacy, he admired his absent father and actor John Wayne.

“John Wayne was very much like my father,” said Edmund Kemper, both physically and in his behavior. My father was a big guy who spoke loudly. Like John Wayne, he had very small feet. When I first went to Los Angeles, I immediately went to put my feet in the footprints of John Wayne, who are immortalized in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. I was proud to see that my feet were bigger than his.”

Sources: The Co-Ed Killer, Margaret Cheney / Serial killers : Enquête mondiale sur les tueurs en série, Stéphane Bourgoin / Thanks to Catrin Elen Williams for the John Wayne pictures on Facebook

Del Mar movie theater

Ed Kemper often went to see movies at the Del Mar theater in Santa Cruz. Kemper has mentioned that he enjoyed films very much, such as John Wayne movies, war films and police thrillers.

Built in 1936, and located on Pacific Avenue, the Del Mar Theatre is an art deco triplex featuring a grand auditorium, tasty local snacks, organic popcorn (with real butter!) and weekly Midnight Movies. The theatre shows a wide variety of independent and foreign language films, as well as the best big-budget Hollywood movies, with state-of-the-art presentations in a welcoming community atmosphere. Extensively renovated and restored in February 2002, it has been operated by Landmark Theatres since December 2015.

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