If you are interested in knowing more about the Blind Project in which Ed Kemper participated for many years, this archive recently surfaced on YouTube.
The Volunteers of Vacaville was founded in 1960 to teach inmates at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville Braille transcription, Brailler repair, and reading for audio books. This 1983 clip from KCRA’s “Weeknight” show, produced by and featuring Steve LaRosa, features serial killer Ed Kemper being interviewed and reading “Star Wars.”
Thank you to the Center for Sacramento History for releasing this archive, and to Diana for her great find.
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
There isn’t much information on the site, but they say it will be the definitive account of the life and crimes of serial killer Edmund Emil Kemper III. To be released in 2021. It’s most probably a book. We’ll be on the lookout!
As for this rare photo, it looks like it was taken in the early 1980s at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, in the cafeteria or in a visitors’ room. It might be that Kemper was having a meal with people from the American Foundation for the Blind in prison, an organization linked to the Vacaville Blind Project, in which Kemper was involved as a reader and a coordinator for many years.
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!
The state parole board refused to set a release date for convicted mass
murderer Edmund Kemper on Thursday, but commended him for his good behavior and
The three-member board ruled unanimously that the 32-year-old Kemper was
not ready to have a parole date set because his crime staggers the imagination,”
the Associated Press reported.
The board, however, did commend Kemper for his good behavior in prison
and his work with a program which records books for the blind. It also noted he
had made progress in his therapy sessions.
Kemper, who stands 6-feet-9, was convicted in 1973 of eight counts of
murder for the slaying of his mother, her best friend and six co-eds.
During the trial, Kemper said the killings were his way of acting out homicidal and sexual fantasies from his early childhood. Kemper mutilated the bodies of most of his victims and also engages in sex with them.
During the two-hour hearing at the California Medical Facility at
Vacaville, Kemper agreed he was not ready for parole, according to Assistant District
Attorney John Hopkins.
His appointed attorney, Steve Bedient of Sacramento, said Kemper would
be asking for a release date in the future, however, “because of his progress
in therapy,” Hopkins said.
Kemper, who wore prison garb and sported a close-cropped haircut, said
he was gaining a better knowledge of himself through therapy.
He said he was reaching a better understanding of how he had both “love
and hate feelings” for his mother, Hopkins said.
He also said he realized the women he had killed were surrogate victims –
“they all led to the ultimate killing of his mother,” Hopkins said.
Kemper told the board that his old attitudes were “all woring.”
He said: “I have a very clear mind and unfortunately I was even foolying
myself,” according to AP accounts of the hearing.
Kemper, who lived with his mother in Aptos and buried the head of one of
his victims in the backyard, said to this day, however, he has never been able
to resolve the murder of his grandparents within himself. Kemper murdered his
grandparents when he was 15.
But he said little else about his grandparents’ deaths and refused to discuss details of his killings.
Kemper told parole officers Thursday: “My grandparents are still rotting
in their graves. I am making attempts to resolve the hurt and hate in my family.
They still don’t want to have anything to do with me.”
The panel asked if he had cannibalized or had sex with female victims
after he killed them.
“What I was doing was perverse by anyone’s standards,” he said.
Kemper said he was driven to the murders out of hate for his mother and
to make “a social statement.”
Prison records said Kemper was attracted to coeds at the University of
California campus at Santa Cruz. He said his mother taunted him about the young
women, holding them up as models of what he could never has as a wife.
He told the board his goal in life was “non-violence – within himself
and with respect to others,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins opposed setting a release date for Kemper. “I would agree with
Mr. Kemper that he is not ready for release on parole,” he said.
Kemper appeared to be more calm at this year’s hearing than in past parole hearings, said Hopkins. He appeared subdued and did not complain about the presence of several reporters as he had in past years.
Here’s another ceramic mug that Ed Kemper made at the CMF in Vacaville in 1978. It’s a half mug. Really pretty and nice to the touch.
As written on the face of the mug, “Tony” is Tony Palmiero (also Palmerio), a film writer and producer who was in charge of making a film about Kemper in the late 1970s. Kemper was very involved with Tony in making it as close to the real story and the truth, but funding was cut to the movie. Kemper was mad and decided to make two halves of a mug stating “Budget cuts are hell” in regards to the cancelling of the film.
I don’t know if Kemper made the two halves. On the certificate of authenticity prepared by Kemper, he says that the project was not completed and that he retained the half mug until 1991 when he gave it to a friend.
This ceramic mug is part of my collection of true crime collectibles.
“Imperfect criminal justice systems execute the innocent along with the guilty — Kemper’s case does not fit that rubric. However, Kemper’s execution would have done nothing to change the unpardonable acts of his past, while it would have precluded every decent, useful and beautiful that he has done in prison. Considering the lives of his victims, Kemper’s execution could not fairly have been called an injustice, but considering the life he has led in prison, it would have been a mistake. However, it is Kemper’s remarkable art work that, ultimately, confirmed my faith in the futility of the death penalty.
Because of powerful forces beyond his control, Edmund Kemper is too high-risk to be on the street, but in 41 years of incarceration, he has been a model prison-citizen, an effective functionary and a very interesting artist, whose ceramic designs have amazed me and astonished my friends for almost 35 years. The cup Kemp mailed to me, almost 35 years ago, continues to delight me every day.
NOTE: Above is my photograph of an amazingly intricately-glazed, slip cast cup. It was made on the dock near my home in the South of France. Below it is my photograph of Ed Kemper making that cup, in his house in California State Correctional Facility — Vacaville.“
Photographer Joey Tranchina who visited ed kemper at the cmf in vacaville in the fall of 1979
Source: Excerpt from My Life Tumbled – Photographer Joey Tranchina’s Blog on Tumblr – July 12, 2014
George Couper, an art teacher who worked at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville during the 1980s, tells of the time he spent with Ed Kemper: “I had a coffee-table book of Chartres Cathedral that Ed liked to look at. We had conversations… No, he had long conversations… Boring, really boring in an interesting way…”
Mr. Couper also discusses Cameron Britton’s portrayal of Kemper in Mindhunter: “Cameron Britton plays Ed Kemper better than Ed Kemper plays himself. The resemblance isn’t just in size and mustache… That would be easy… Make-up and props. It’s in the body language, voice modulation, movements and phrasing… The focus in those black-holes for eyes.”
Chartres Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres), is a Roman Catholic church in Chartres, France, about 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Paris. Mostly constructed between 1194 and 1220, it stands at the site of at least five cathedrals that have occupied the site since Chartres became a bishopric in the 4th century. It is in the Gothic and Romanesque styles.
The following article was published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, on May 2, 1979. Due to a decision by the state Parole Board, only one reporter from this area was allowed to be present at Edmund Kemper’s parole hearing Tuesday. That reporter was Marj Von B of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, who filed this report.
Kemper first became eligible for parole in 1979. He was denied parole that year, as well as at parole hearings in 1980, 1981, and 1982.
killer Ed Kemper, imprisoned in 1973 on eight first-degree murder counts, will
not be freed next year, a state prison parole board decided Tuesday. Kemper,
30, was found to be “unsuitable for release at this time,” but the
board’s decision did not seem to dismay him.
told the three-member board at the conclusion of a three-hour hearing at the
Vacaville State Medical Facility, “I’d have refused to be considered for
parole, but I didn’t want to be provocative.”
he had stated to the board he felt his release on parole was not “feasible,
legal or moral,” saying he had been sentenced to prison by Santa Cruz County
Superior Court Judge Harry F. Brauer “for the rest of your natural life.”
addition, Kemper said, “I don’t want to set a precedent of being a person
two-times released after multiple murders. I don’t want to ever hurt anybody
killed his grandmother and grandfather when he was 15, and was sent to
Atascadero State Mental Hospital and then to the California Youth Authority,
where he was paroled in 1970.
during the hearing, in which he was represented by a lawyer, Steve Bedient of
Sacramento, Kemper seemed bent on personally straightening out the state’s
recorded version of his crimes.
of the hearing procedure was the reading of a summary of his criminal history
into the record by the chairman, Ruth Rushen.
was a recitation of brutality, sexual depravity and violence, detailing the
killing of six young women, Kemper’s mother and one of her best friends.
to a confession made to police alter his surrender, Kemper said he had sexually
assaulted the coeds after killing them, and then had dismembered their bodies,
disposing of them in sites in Santa Cruz and other adjacent counties.
Mrs. Rushen read on, in a strange contrast, birds chirped in a tree outside the
windows of the second story prison conference room.
Santa Cruz District Attorney Art Danner was asked to add his comments for the
record, and he noted that the material related by Mrs. Rushen did not reflect
the fact that “parts” of one of the bodies of Kemper’s victims had
been cannibalized by the defendant.”
Danner said, did it reflect that Kemper had “mutilated” parts of his
mother’s body “by putting it into the garbage disposal.”
refuted the confession, saying that in telling the police the lurid details, “In
my unwise and immature judgment, I thought I was building a case supporting my psychiatric
plea (of not guilty by reason of insanity).”
disclaim any sexual misconduct during any of my crimes,” he said
emphatically. “I made those statements when it was understood that I was
to be the only witness at my trial.”
he added, “I am not a cannibal. That’s unsubstantiated and only claimed by
every hunter knows, I could get physically ill or die from eating an animal or
person in that state,” Kemper argued.
his account of the murders, Kemper said, he had been trying to “go to
Atascadero” instead of state prison. “I was trying to get myself
locked up for good.”
was trying to seal my fate, and the state in presenting its case botched it…
I have ample opportunity now to save myself in the courts.” Kemper said.
then he continued, “I’m not going to avail myself of them.”
also denied that he recently sought court permission to have psychosurgery to
help him get out of prison later. Kemper said, “I asked for multi-target
neurosurgery in the hope of gaining relief from any kind of homicidal
court denied his request.
if he was “still having urges to kill people,” Kemper said, “No.”
he explained, “I felt as if I had one foot in the coffin and one on a
He said he was afraid that “if some time I had a bad day and a prison officer or technician had a bad day and was provocative or insultive, I might smack his head up against the wall, and I would die in CDC (California Department of Corrections).”
referred to a state law which demands the death penalty for the murder of a
prison guard or official.
then he said mildly, “I am not known for a very short temper. I am a
in a sort of aside to himself, Kemper, who works as a clerk in a prison
psychotherapy ward, said, “I’ve had nine diagnoses in my time, I wonder how
many of them are valid?”
also appeared offended at a statement in a psychiatric report that he had shown
no remorse for all the killings.
feel very strongly about what I’ve done,” he said. “I do feel remorse
in what I’ve done.”
when pressed for a reason behind his killings, Kemper always seemed to return
to his relationship with his mother.
hate her — guts,” he said in a rare explosive moment during the hearing.
said he had turned to killing the six women because he was “feeling
persecuted and destroyed by my mother.”
it was his childhood hatred of his mother that led him to kill his
grandparents, too, he revealed.
he explained, “I’m not blaming my mother, I’m saying I hate my
the coed murders, Kemper said he was “sick of killing,” but murdered
his mother knowing that would “blow the whistle.”
said, “If she died they (the police) were going to get me, and if they got
me for her, they would get me for the others.”
denied he killed his mother’s friend to make persons think the two women were
away together for a weekend and give him time to flee before an investigation
of their disappearance.
Incongruously he said, “I killed her because she had hurt my mother very grievously.”
board members also talked with Kemper about his adjustment to prison life.
to prison reports he is “doing an outstanding job” as a therapy
clerk, has no disciplinary problems and “gets along with the staff and his
was asked by board member Craig Brown why he got along well in Vacaville and
other institutions “and in the community you become violent?”
when I am in a structured situation, I can get help when I need it,” Kemper
replied. But on the streets, I felt rather forgotten and sometimes I felt
loquacious Kemper later expounded on his life in prison saying, “I was
convinced when I came here, I would soon be dead.”
the last six months have been the best of my life. I’ve learned to live with
myself and with God. I believe I have an obligation to myself and the people
also spoke with pride of his work in recording books on tape for the blind and
the handicapped, which recently won him a public service award.
Danner warned the board not to be complacent about Kemper.
the kind of complacency he wants,” Danner said, “the kind that was seen at
Atascadero where he was released to kill again.”
district attorney said, “Mr. Kemper poses such an unreasonable risk and danger
to society, he is now unsuitable for release and probably will remain so for
the rest of his life.”
a 30-minute deliberation in private, the board called Kemper, the lawyers and
the press back into the room and announced its decision.
Rushen outlined the reasons for denying the parole.
she said, Kemper’s crimes “contained elements of such extraordinary violence
that it was incomprehensible to think that he should be released at this time.”
He had a previous record of violence, and although his juvenile record was
sealed, “he stated several times during the hearing that he had killed his
His violent and bizarre conduct after the crimes, which included mutilation and
defiling of the corpses of the victims, showed a total disregard for the
dignity and worth of a fellow human being… and this included the victims and
The psychology reports do not support suitability for release.
Rushen noted that the latest report on Kemper, dated in March of this year
diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic in a state of “good remission.” But she
added the report said that there was no way to predict the possibility of his
violence in the future if he is released.
greeted the decision with a smile and thanked the board.
to an initial outburst and his demand that the press and one reporter in
particular, be barred from the hearing, Kemper said, “I would like to apologize
for my untoward and abusive behavior, although it’s probably better than some
you’ve had in here,” he added with a chuckle.
with a wave of his hand, the six-foot, nine-inch inmate, known as “Big Ed,” ambled
down the long hall and was admitted into the locked area of the prison
Several years after Edmund Kemper had been incarcerated
(at Atascadero), a parcel arrived at the home of psychiatrist Dr. William
Schanberger, who’d been friendly with teenage Edmund.
“I received in the mail this cup from Ed Kemper. Ed
said that it took him about a year to make, and it’s very, very complex. It’s
like a battered cup. And on the cup is written also: “I beg your pardon,” and
on the bottom: “I never promised you a rose garden.” Meaning to be, I think, a
very serious apology.”
Images from the documentary Born to Kill – The Coed Killer