Kemper spent five years at Atascadero after he murdered his grandparents in 1964 at the age of 15. He recalled with pride the job he’d held there as head of the psychological testing lab at the age of 19 and working directly under the hospital’s chief psychologist. He said:
“I felt I definitely could have done a lot of good there, helping people return to the streets … I could have fit in there quicker than anybody else…
“After all,” he explained, “I grew up there. That used to be like my home.
“Basically, I was born there, you know. I have a lot of fond memories of the place … And I don’t know anybody else who has,” he added with a rueful laugh.
It was there that he became a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. During his trial, he wore his membership pin in his lapel, apparently with pride.
Because of his intelligence and ability, he apparently was a valuable aide in psychological testing and research. “I helped to develop some new tests and some new scales on MMPI… You’ve probably heard of it … the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory,” he said with a chuckle. “I helped to develop a new scale on that, the ‘Overt Hostility Scale’… How’s that for a…” He groped for a word.
“Ironic?” I suggested.
“Ironic note,” he agreed. “There we go, it was an ironic note that I helped to develop that scale and then look what happened to me when I got back out on the streets.”
Source: Excerpt from an interview by reporter Marj von Beroldingen for Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974 / Photo: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
Edmund Emil Kemper Sr. and his wife Maude Matilda Kemper were both murdered by their grandson, serial killer Edmund Kemper III, on August 27, 1964, at their ranch in North Fork, California. They were his first victims.
Maude Matilda (nee Hughey) Kemper was born on November 19, 1897 in Topeka, Shawnee County, in Kansas. She was the sixth of seven children to her parents Henry McClellan Hughey and Violet Elizabeth (nee Dodge) Hughey. Her family moved to Los Angeles in 1910.
That’s where she met Edmund Emil Kemper Sr. a few years later, and married him on June 7, 1914. She was 16 and he was 21. They had three sons: Edmund Emil Kemper Jr. (1919-1985); Robert (1921-2018); and a third son whose name might be Raymond.
Edmund Sr. was a farmer before enlisting in the Army in 1917, and serving during the First World War. He was the third of six sons to his parents Frederick Augustus Reinhardt Kemper and Bertha Anna Haas. After the war, he worked as an electrician for the California State Division of Highways.
Maude and Edmund Sr. lived on an isolated farm in North Fork, Madera County, California, in 1963, when their oldest son, Edmund Jr., visited them with his second wife and his son Edmund III during the Christmas holidays. After the celebrations, Edmund Jr. left his son with his parents. Edmund Jr. explained his decision in 1964:
“His personality had changed so much that I was worried about him being here with my present wife, who tried very hard to be a real friend to him. I saw him one day in a brooding mood and his eyes looked like a sleepwalker. In several talks I had with him toward the last he seemed fascinated by death and war. Tried to watch Weird Tales on TV which I suppressed.”
Of his father, Kemper said, “he didn’t want me around, because I upset his second wife. Before I went to Atascadero, my presence gave her migraine headaches; when I came out she was going to have a heart attack if I came around.”
It was because of that, Kemper said, that he was “shipped off” to his paternal grandparents to live in “complete isolation” on a California mountain top with “my senile grandfather” and “my grandmother who thought she had more balls than any man and was constantly emasculating me and my grandfather to prove it. I couldn’t please her… It was like being in jail… I became a walking time bomb and I finally blew…”
Edmund Sr. and Maude’s ranch in North Fork at the time of the murders
Kemper hated living on his grandparents’ farm, but he had great admiration for his grandfather. Some people who knew Kemper believed his grandfather was the only person he ever really loved: “Well, I’d heard stories about when he [his grandfather] was younger. He was a pretty fierce guy. He was an original cowboy. He carried a .45 on his hip. He was a tough guy wrangler, and my father had told me that he back-handed him clear across the kitchen one night when he got, I guess, smart with him.”
As for his grandmother, she was a strong woman, who reminded Kemper of his own mother. She wouldn’t let him bring any friends home or get into any social activities in school. He couldn’t watch cartoons and she screened any TV shows he watched. Kemper said: “She had placed herself in the position of being, in essence, my warden. And she said if you ever want to go live with your father again, you had better do what I say.”
His grandfather bought in a .22 and taught him how to shoot it. Kemper spent hours in the bushes shooting at birds, gophers and other small animals to annoy his grandmother who didn’t want him killing animals. He disposed of the remains carefully. Edmund Sr. eventually took away the rifle at the behest of Maude, who didn’t see the point in killing things just for the sake of killing them. This punishment infuriated Kemper, as the weapon served as an outlet for his growing aggression.
From David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi’s Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020
Confined at home, Kemper’s anger started to simmer, and he began to transfer his hatred for his domineering mother to his domineering grandmother.
Kemper laughed as he recalled an incident with his grandmother when she left him home alone one day but took his grandfather’s .45 automatic with her in her purse, because she was afraid he might “play” around with it in her absence. His grandparents were going to Fresno on a monthly shopping trip. He recalled: “I saw her big black pocketbook bulging as she went out the door and I said to myself, ‘Why that old bitch, she’s taking the gun with her, because she doesn’t trust me, even though I promised I wouldn’t touch it.’” He said he looked in his grandfather’s bureau drawer and “sure enough the gun was gone from its usual place… I toyed with the idea of calling the chief of police in Fresno and telling him ‘there’s a little old lady walking around town with a forty-five in her purse and she’s planning a holdup’ and then give him my grandmother’s description. How do you suppose she would have talked herself out of that?”
Maude began to fear the grandson she had inherited. Possibly because she was the object of Kemper’s deadly glares, she sensed he was plotting against her.
Kemper’s mother, Clarnell Strandberg, reacted in 1964: “Pressure [on Kemper] must have been building. [Maude] wrote how happy he was with his gun and dog and ‘great authors and school’ and it wasn’t until the tragedy that I was told by the father that he was beginning to worry and frightened them with his moods. I wish I had known.”
On August 27, 1964, Kemper’s grandfather was running errands at the grocery store and the post office. His grandmother was working on a short story for Boy’s Life Magazine, “Fire in the Cannon,” in the kitchen. Kemper was sitting at the kitchen table with her. They started to argue after he stared at her with the horrifying expression she had observed before. Enraged, Kemper stormed off and retrieved the confiscated rifle that his grandfather had given him for hunting. He decided to go rabbit hunting and went outside to fetch is dog, Anka, on the porch. His grandmother uttered her last words: “Oh, you’d better not be shooting the birds again.” He stopped to look in through the screen window. He had fantasized about killing her before. She was facing away from him. He raised his rifle aimed at the back of her head, and fired through the screen. Maude slumped forward on the table where she’d been typing. He shot her twice in the head and once in the back. He then wrapped her head in a towel and dragged her body to the bedroom, went to get a knife and stabbed her three times so hard, the knife bent double: “I didn’t think she was dead and I didn’t want her to suffer any longer.”
From David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi’s Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020
His grandfather soon returned home and Kemper went outside to greet him. Edmund Sr. nodded, smiled and waved to his grandson as he began unloading food and supplies from the truck. Kemper returned the greeting and sneaked up closer to his grandfather: “When he turned, I placed the rifle about thirty inches from the back of his head and shot him. Kemper later explained that he didn’t want his grandfather to see what he had done to his wife of fifty years and that he would be angry with Kemper for what he’d done.
Kemper dragged is grandfather’s body to the garage and washed the blood from his hands with a garden hose. He also tried to clean the blood near the truck.
Edmund Sr.’s truck on the day of the murders
Back inside the house, Kemper had a passing thought about undressing his dead grandmother and exploring her body sexually to satisfy his carnal curiosity, but he shook it from his mind as being too perverted.
He was unsure of what to do next, so he phoned his mother, who told him to sit tight while she called the Madera County Sheriff. Kemper also called the police to make sure they would come. When the police arrived, Kemper was sitting calmly on the front porch. The reason he gave for his actions: “I just wanted to see what it felt like to shoot Grandma.”
Sources: Ancestry / Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974, by Marj von B / Murder Capitol of the world, 2021, by Emerson Murray / Ed Kemper’s 2017 parole hearing / Ed Kemper – Conversations with a killer, 2021, by Dary Matera / Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020, by David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi
Sara “Sally” Taylor Hallett was Ed Kemper’s last victim. She was Kemper’s mother’s best friend and a colleague of Clarnell’s at UCSC. Born on October 19, 1913 in Washington, Hallett had two sons, Edward and Christopher Hallett. Kemper murdered Hallett in his mother’s apartment on Easter weekend in 1973. She was 59 years old.
After killing and decapitating his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, early on the Saturday morning before Easter, Ed Kemper spent much of the day drinking. That evening, he telephoned his mother’s close friend, Sara Taylor Hallett, saying he wanted to surprise his mother and take her and Ms. Hallett to dinner that night.
Kemper prepared for Ms. Hallett’s murder by distributing weapons around the apartment but in the end, none of them would be necessary. Soon after the phone call, Ms. Hallett arrived: “I came up behind her and crooked my arm around her neck, like this,” Kemper said, bending his powerful arm in front of himself at chin level. “I squeezed and just lifted her off the floor. She just hung there and, for a moment, I didn’t realize she was dead … I had broken her neck and her head was just wobbling around with the bones of her neck disconnected in the skin sack of her neck.”
Later that night, Kemper attempted to have intercourse with Ms. Hallett’s body.
He fled the next day in her car.
Kemper said he had to kill a friend of his mother’s “as an excuse.” In other words, Kemper said he had to provide a reasonable story for friends of his mother’s to explain her absence. If she were away on a trip with a friend, Kemper reasoned, nobody would be concerned about her absence.
At his 2017 parole hearing, Kemper gave an alternate explanation as to why he murdered Sally Hallett. He said it was revenge for ruining his mother’s holiday. The two women were supposed to go to Europe together for four weeks, but Hallett backed out at the last minute. Clarnell went on the trip by herself. At some point, during the hearing, Kemper referred to Hallett as his mother’s “lover”, but: “When [my mother] got back, she tried sharing those vacation moments with Sally, and Sally got very loud with her and rude, and told her ‘I don’t want to hear about that. I didn’t even go on that vacation, why are you bringing this up?’ So, she – that cut off that release. So, here I am at the house having heard this from my mother and she’s frustrated and I said ‘I’d like to know, I’d like you to share with me.’ So, she went and got all of her travel logs and the papers and stuff from the places that she went and she started systematically sharing this stuff with me, and then all of a sudden, she stops and she looks at me in this strange way, and she said, ‘I’m not gonna let you pity me.’ And she just walked away from the whole thing. And I said, ‘Hey, I wanted to hear this stuff…’
“I had told myself that if my mother ever dies over this stuff that I did, [Hallett]’s going with her. That’s one trip she’s not gonna miss. She’s not gonna back off on that one… I swore an oath to it. I was angry at the time… I haven’t sworn many oaths in my life and everyone that I have sworn I followed through with.”
Sources: “The Co-ed Killer” by Margaret Cheney, 1976 / “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973 / “Coed Sex Murders Detailed by Chang”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von Beroldingen, October 23rd, 1973 / Front Page Detective Magazine, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Ed Kemper’s 2017 Parole hearing
There were moments, prior to her death, when Kemper felt like punishing his mother. Kemper told investigators he had killed his mother to spare her the suffering and shame that knowledge of his crimes would bring. He said: “There were times when she was bitching and yelling at me that I felt like retaliating and walking over to the telephone in her presence and calling the police, to say, ‘Hello, I’m the coed killer,’ just to lay it on her.”
Kemper’s testimony in court revealed his desire to punish his mother did not end with the fatal hammer blow. He cut off his mother’s head, “put it on a shelf and screamed at it for an hour … threw darts at it,” and ultimately, “smashed her face in,” he recalled for the horrified court. [Kemper supposedly performed irrumatio with his mother’s head, but that story is not verified.]
He went even further and cut her tongue out, as well as her larynx, and placed them in the garbage disposal. However, the garbage disposal could not break down the tough vocal cords and ejected the tissue back into the sink. Kemper found it rather ironic: “That seemed appropriate. As much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years.”
Sources: “I was the hunter and they were the victims”: Interview with Edmund Kemper, Front Page Detective, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Serial Homicide – Book 1 by RJ Parker, 2016 / Intercorpse – Necrophilia: sexual attraction towards corpses including sexual intercourse, by RJ Parker, 2019
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.
Kemper wears a bandage on his wrist after attempting suicide with a pen. (Getty Images)
“[Reporter Marj von B] gave me a pen that day, it was a cast aluminum ballpoint pen, and I took it back to my high-security jail cell up in Redwood City. I was really slammed down tight: a two-man cell by myself. They have a camera on me 24-hours a day. The lights are on-two sets of these four-footers-it’s bright as day 24-hours a day, and I was there for five months, and I get strip shook leaving the cell and strip shook coming back in. I brought the pen in with my legal papers, and a few months later in the middle of the trial, I smashed the pen on the floor with my boot, sharpened it-got a sharp edge on the metal-and slashed my wrist. I was bleeding all over the place. It was very messy and very exciting, and everybody was dragging me off to the hospital and I got sewed up. I got shot up with industrial strength mace. They had about a quart of it and they just gassed me with that whole thing and dragged me off to the hospital.” […]
“At one point I could see every aspect of my life, my crimes, who I was, how I really felt about things without any defensive or protective accoutrements. It was fascinating to me: I was semi-conscious-actually, I was conscious, I just couldn’t get up and move around a lot, and at the end of the two hours, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep on with this. I hadn’t gotten to the crimes themselves, I was kind of oriented around other things related to my life. I asked to continue on, and the doctor didn’t want to, so I insisted. They were using an IV and shot me up with another two-hour batch of this stuff, and as soon as he was done with what he wanted to do, he got up and left.”
“He had an appointment and it had gone longer than he had planned on it so he had to leave and my lawyer had to go. So, I’m stuck with these two deputies and a registered nurse watching me until I come down off of this stuff. Well, when the doctor left, he decided to give me a shot of medicine to snap me out of this, and I asked him what it was, and he said it was Methedrine-hospital-grade speed. I’ve asked doctors since then, both medical doctors and psychiatrists, if that was an appropriate action, and they said absolutely not. They should have left me sleep it off. It is suggested that the doctor knew full well it would put me through hell. It amplified everything I was feeling, it got me really down, and for two days after that they were trying to scrape me off the ceiling-they couldn’t even talk to me. I was raving and ranting. They had to put me in a strip cell because I refused to go back to my regular cell. There was television available there. I had canteen. I had some food items, but I wouldn’t accept it.” […]
Kemper as seen in his 1991 interview with Stéphane Bourgoin.
“Under the influence of those drugs, I was seeing what I did through other people’s eyes, not through mine; as someone else would view it-pure horror-how someone with nothing to do with violence in their life would see it. It was an awful experience. Within hours of coming down off that stuff two days later, I wasn’t making comments like that, [my] defenses were back in place-they were a bit ruffled. It had been an eye-opening experience because it gave me some perspectives on my case that I would never forget-some anxieties on my case that I would never forget-and all I can give you to gauge it by is that when I went into that hospital, the nurse came out-she was the typical battle-axe, professional nurse, been on the job for twenty years… great woman… with the wheelchair, severe stern face, and she’s looking at me with razor blades.”
“I’m in the chair and she wheels me inside. Five hours later when I come out of there, she’s wheeling me out and as I’m getting into the car, I’ve got this tortured look on my face. I’ve been crying and tearing at myself. She looks at me with this very compassionate look, and she says, “Good luck.” She got a good look at what was really inside. She was already aware of the evil I was capable of and the horror that happened in the case, and then she saw a lot of my real feelings. With her knowledge of chemicals and medicine and treatments, she knew I wasn’t faking. So, from her I got good luck and she was serious. I’ve never seen her since, but ironically, the deputies that were stuck with me that day, they figured ‘he’s so outraged right now, let’s just keep him here until he calms down a bit, then we’ll take him back to jail.’”
“But I didn’t calm down. I just kept going on and on, and at one point I asked the deputies to handcuff me to the rails of the bed because I was afraid I would rip my eyes out. I was really acting up, and he had known me for a few months and he didn’t want to do that. He said, “Oh, come on Ed, that’s not really necessary.” I said, “Man, you better put them on, or I’m going to tear that goddamn gun belt off and blast you, and I might beat you to death with it.” So, he comes over with the cuffs. He was a little offended by that… so he came over with the cuffs and started putting them on my wrists and I just went through some incredible convulsion and I just yanked him clear across the bed. He had the other hand cuffed already. Zing! Off he goes, he’s hanging onto this handcuff and at that point he cuffed me up real quick and finished and I already had my leg irons at the foot of the bed and I was just yanking those rails up and down with my wrists. That was very painful with handcuffs on. We went like that for a few hours and finally they said, “We got to get him back to jail, he’s not going to change in the near future.”
Sources: Interview with Stéphane Bourgoin, from “Serial Killers” (1991) / Kemper on Kemper by Peter Scott Jr. / Photo from Getty Images
The testimony by Ed Kemper yesterday was no exception from the preceding grim testimony. With questioning from his lawyer Jim Jackson, he recalled his childhood fantasies which started out innocently and wistfully, later to become daydreams of murder and sex.
He said his first fantasy was that his “mother and father would be loving together and caring for their children.”
According to Kemper, it was a fantasy that never came true. Instead, there was “much violence, hatred, yelling and screaming” between his father and mother who separated and were divorced when he was around seven years old.
Kemper said he felt rejected and unloved by his mother and his father as well, though he indicated he yearned for a good relationship with his father.
He spoke of his mother as “alcoholic,” and said she once had beaten him with a heavy belt and buckle when he was a small child and told him not to scream, “because the neighbors will think I’m beating you.”
This was at the age of nine, and Kemper said after that he was afraid of her and began to have a recurring fantasy about sneaking up on her and hitting her in the head with a hammer.
Later, in Atascadero [where he was incarcerated for five years after the murder of his grandparents], Kemper’s fantasies turned to sex as well as murder. He said his final fantasy was, “I killed someone, cut them up and ate them… and I kept the head on a shelf and talked to it… I said the same things I would have said had she been alive, in love with me, had she been caring of me.”
Asked by Jackson if he ever told anyone at Atascadero about the fantasies, Kemper replied, “No, I would never got out if I had told psychiatrists I was having fantasies of sex with dead bodies and in some cases eating them I would never have gotten out ever.”
He paused and then said, “Wow! That’s like condemning yourself to life imprisonment, and I don’t know many people who do that.”
The young defendant, who worked for psychologists testing other inmates at Atascadero, said, “I hid it from them. They can’t see the things going on in my mind. All I had to do to conceal it from them was not talk about it.”
Source: “Kemper explains why he murdered coeds”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, November 1st. 1973 / Images from trial: Bay Area TV Archive
“It was all coeds and it would only be if they were a possible candidate for death, which would mean they were young, reasonably good-looking, not necessarily well-to-do, but say a better class of people than the scroungy, messy, dirty, smelly hippie-type girls I wasn’t at all interested in. I suppose they would have been more convenient, but that wasn’t my purpose.”
“My little social statement was I was trying to hurt society where it hurt the worst and that was by taking its valuable members or future members of the working society, that was the upper class or the upper middle class…”
“I was striking out at what was hurting me the worst, which was the area, I guess deep down, I wanted to fit into the most and I had never fit into and that was the group, the in-group.”
edmund kemper about picking up coeds as his urges to kill came not only from a strong sexual instinct but also a desire to strike back at society, according to his taped statements, played for jurors in his mass murder trial.
Source: “Kemper wanted to hurt society by taking its ‘valuable members'”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, October 26, 1973