This photo and famous Kemper quote are from the upcoming book Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, which will be released in May 2021. It covers the crimes of the three active serial killers in the Santa Cruz region in California in the early 1960s, that of Edmund Kemper, Herbert Mullin and John Linley Frazier. The stories are all told through direct quotes from the murderers themselves, people from their families and those who were involved in their respective cases.
I had the chance to read an advanced copy and this book is simply terrific. Many new information and details about the Kemper case. Direct quotes from his mother, his father and his older sister are quite revealing. Many new pictures of Kemper during the trial and a never-seen-before mugshot of young Kemper. Kemper researchers will be thrilled by this book as it enriches his story quite a lot. We will do an official review when the book comes out this Spring.
A few weeks before Ed Kemper murdered his mother in April 1973, Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Sergeant Michael Aluffi was instructed to confiscate a gun illegally in the possession of an Aptos man. His name was Edmund Emil Kemper III and the address was 609A Ord Drive.
The instructions had resulted from a routine bulletin from the California Department of Criminal Investigation and Identification, which said that Kemper had purchased a .44 magnum revolver in Watsonville and falsely sworn that he had never been in prison.
The notice did not give any details of Kemper’s first two murders [of his paternal grandparents], listing only court disposition of the case and his prison record.
Aluffi drove to the apartment, but found no one at home. As he was walking away from the apartment door, a yellow Ford pulled into the parking space beside his unmarked vehicle. A large, brown-haired young man and a small young blonde girl were in it. It was Kemper and his fiance.
Kemper discussed the event in his 1984 interview for the documentary “Murder – No Apparent Motive”:
Journalist: Some police department actually came to your house to pick up a handgun.
Kemper: The sheriff’s representatives, one of the detectives was upset because he heard I had a .44 magnum pistol and was a convicted mental patient and killed. He came to take the gun away. They were staking out the wrong house across the street and I’m playing around with a car, standing next to the gun in the trunk. They come over and asked, “Excuse me, sir. Do you know who lives in this house across the street?” Well, that house was 609 Harriet. He crossed back over to this side, 609 Ord, and they were looking for me and didn’t even know that was me. Bad news. Well, at any rate, we walk in the house and have them ask my mother about this other house, and I’m saying, “Hey, which 609 are you looking for?” They said, “Are you Ed Kemper?” “Yes,” and it goes on and I needed to find out what they were looking for, the murder weapon, the .22 automatic or the .44 magnum, and I don’t want to advertise that I’ve got a whole bunch of guns. So, I made a comment just to divide between the two and I suggest, “quite a little gun, isn’t it?”
He reported, “.44 magnum, I hope so.” Okay, because that loaded .22 was under the front seat and guarantee me an arrest right on the spot and the .44 was in the trunk. I forgot that. I took them in the house. We went into my bedroom and the closet doors open and I have a high-powered rifle with a scope on it with some other stuff in the house.
You had some other stuff in the house, yes?
Yeah, I had the personal effects of the last two coeds that had been murdered about two months before, right next to the guns in the closet in a box.
Could he have seen it?
No, but when he arrested me for having all those guns and went through the closet looking to see if there were any pistols or anything else, he wouldn’t have… couldn’t have helped notice a purse, a book bag and coed ID inside of those belonging to their two latest murder victims. I back up and I say, “Oh, excuse me. I just remembered something,” and instantly he responds to what I’m saying. My hand moves, back we go outside, and he’s still thinking, “Boy, this is a really nice and helpful guy here.”
Sources: Excerpt from book “Sacrifice Unto Me” by Don West, 1974, Pyramid Publishing / Excerpt from the interview from “Murder – No Apparent Motive” (1984)
This photograph shows Ed Kemper’s mother’s car as he left it after killing her. He parked it on a different street in their neighbourhood so that people would think that she wasn’t home.
Kemper talks about it in his confessions in 1973 following his arrest: “So, I drank some beer I think that afternoon, Saturday, and was sitting around the house. I had some time during Saturday also, took the keys to my mother’s car and drove it out to an area not far from our home, but a street that I knew our family and friends wouldn’t be driving up. I parked my mother’s car there, locked it up, took the keys home and I think I left them there, I’m not sure, I may have taken them along.”
Thanks to author Emerson Murray for providing this information. He is currently writing a book on the Frazier-Mullin-Kemper crimes in Santa Cruz during the early 1970s, Murder Capital of the world, to be released in 2021.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few days away from the U.S. elections, a look at Ed Kemper’s strange link to the Republican party, as he received a letter from the Committee to re-elect President Nixon thanking him for volunteer work in the 1972 campaign.
On April 30, 1973, Kemper, after his arraignment in Superior court on eight counts of murder, startled reporters when he showed them the form letter on White House stationery. The First Family’s picture was on the front of it and the “thank you for campaign effort” message inside along with the mimeographed signatures of the President and his family.
Kemper’s Santa Cruz address was on the envelope. It bore a Washington postmark dated April 26, two days after Kemper was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado. Kemper’s attorney, Jim Jackson, could not shed much light on this rather unusual development:
Jackson: It was mailed to him apparently. It came yesterday.
Reporter: Did he have an active role in the campaign, do you know?
Jackson: He voted against Mr. Nixon. (laughs)
Reporter: Against Mr. Nixon?
Jackson: That’s what he told me.
Reporter: And how would he get this letter?
Jackson: You have to ask the Committee to re-elect the President.
In the early 1970s, Allyn Kemper did some modelling for the Drug Abuse Preventive Center (DAPC), as recounted in this Santa Cruz Sentinel article:
Yellow – the color of sunshine, is Moonbeam’s choice for this two-piece hostess skirt and vest worn with a Hawaiian print blouse by Allyn Burke [Kemper’s sister had taken her first husband’s (Patrick Burke) name]. She’ll be one of the models tonight at the fashion show which benefits the Drug Abuse Preventive Center. Place is the Elks Club; time is 7:30 and tickets will be available at the door. Fashions, for both men and women will be shown with the shops to include the Moonbeam, Glad Rags, the Lime Tree and Hackbarth’s.
Allyn Burke hopes to care for poultry, if the DAPC gets a farm.
Sources: Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 11, 1971 and June 16, 1972 / Photos by Manie Grae Daniel
Ed Kemper had a dark fantasy life as a child and teenager: he performed rituals with his younger sister Allyn’s dolls that culminated in him removing their heads and hands. Some of his favorite games to play as a child were “Gas Chamber” and “Electric Chair”, in which he asked Allyn to tie him up and flip an imaginary switch, and then he would tumble over and writhe on the floor, pretending that he was being executed by gas inhalation or electric shock.
Sources: “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters”, Vronsky, Peter (2004) / Wikipedia Ed Kemper page / Photo of Allyn Kemper (18 years old) from the Soquel High School yearbook, 1969
Testifying as the first defense witness in Ed Kemper’s trial, Allyn Kemper, 22, revealed under cross examination that both she and her mother thought Kemper might have been involved in the death of Cynthia Schall.
Allyn Kemper testified that she asked her brother directly whether he had anything to do with the killing – one of eight of which he is accused.
“No,” she quoted him in response, “but I was afraid you might be suspicious because of that cat thing. My mother has already asked me about it, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring it up again because it will just stir things up.”
The “cat thing” Miss Kemper explained, involved an incident when the family lived in Montana and her brother decapitated the family cat with a bayonet.
Under questioning by District Attorney Peter Chang, she also related that she herself was almost killed by Kemper.
That, too, happened in Montana. Kemper, she explained, had always had an interest in guns, and one day as she walked through the living room she heard a click.
As she turned, she said, a bullet from Kemper’s .22 rifle whizzed by her ear and buried itself in a bookcase.
“Oops!” she quoted her brother. “I thought it was empty.”
Sources: “Kemper tapes relate grisly details”, The San Francisco Examiner, October 31, 1973, by Don West / Photo of Allyn Kemper (17 years old) from the Soquel High School yearbook, 1968