Born on December 18, 1948, Edmund Emil Kemper III turns 74 today. He is still incarcerated at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, CA.
We often receive messages from our dear followers asking news about Kemper’s health and current situation. We don’t have direct access to him. He apparently now lives in the G tower at Vacaville, which is where the hospice is located. This is from an unconfirmed source who knows someone who works there. As Kemper suffers from different medical conditions (diabetes, heart problems, etc.), it might not be surprising that he now lives in hospice.
Pictured above is Ed Kemper (center) during his 1973 trial. On his left is his lawyer, Jim Jackson, and to Kemper’s right is County sheriff’s deputy Bruce Colomy who accompanied Kemper during his trial and who Kemper considered as a father figure, although they were practically the same age.
Photo by Pete Amos / Source: Murder Capital of the World bay Emerson Murray, 2021 / Ed Kemper Chronicles Facebook page
Ed Kemper: “I wouldn’t blame [Mullin], I was in a jail cell right next to him for months and I was in prison up in the hole here, in the lockup unit, for going on three years with him. About two-and-a-half years, and at one point, I got him a job in the kitchen. I was already on the kitchen crew and the sergeant pulled me aside and asked me to talk to the guys about him coming on the crew, because he’d alienated a lot of the guys and they were afraid there’d be violence. So, I talked to them and there was no problem, so they brought him out to the crew. He worked a few months and he goes to the main line. I’m still sitting in the hole saying, “Geez, what happened here?”
“You know; I knew Herbie. I don’t call him “Herbert Mullin.” And of course, I don’t call myself Edmund Emil Kemper III either… I never heard that in my life until I was locked up for murder, right? But little Herbie was, when I met him in Redwood City Jail, okay? Our first meeting was I bumped him out of the priority cell, where they could look from the office and see through the steel door, the glass in the door and see him, physically. Or they could watch the monitor and watch him. He got bumped next door. There was a shower in the priority cell. You never had to leave the cell. For him to shower from the other cell, he had to go out in the main area, they had to lock everybody in one of the … uh, I guess you call them “tanks.” They moved 15 guys, 30 guys, out of the tank into the activity area. They’d walk him around into their tank. He’d shower. He’d come back out and all the way over there and all the way back there. They’re cat-calling him. They’re calling him names. They’re yelling, because he caused them great interruption in their day. Right? He resented that. He got bumped out of the priority cell into a non-shower cell. I got the shower cell. Right?
“So, he wasn’t too friendly at first. I’d say, “Excuse me, Mr. Mullin.” I say, “Do you have a bar of soap? There’s no soap over here.” He took it all with him. He had no need for it, but he took it with him. He’d say, “yes” and l’d say, “Well, can I use a bar of it?” He said, “No.” I‘d say “Oh, I got one of these little shits here…” and what it is, that he’s a little wimpy guy that hates big guys because he always feels intimidated by them. Right? And that’s how we started out.
“So, I started thinking about that and I went back to my old relationships in therapy and group therapy in Atascadero and Youth Authority and stuff and I’m saying, “Okay, well we can deal with this. “So, I started. I said, “Well, I have to be kind to him.” So, I found out something he liked. He loved Planter’s Peanuts. Little bags of peanuts. Shelled peanuts. So, I bought 20-30 bags of them. I didn’t care for them myself. I offered him some one day. We were both on camera 24 hours a day. So, I said, “Herbie, would you like some peanuts?” And he’d say, “Yeah!” And I said, “Oh, I got to him, right down to the inner core there.” “Yeah!” This little childhood thing comes out and it says, “Oh, here!” And he was fascinated by this thought of “Gee! He’s just giving me some peanuts and I didn’t do anything for them. I don’t know him. I’m not being nice to him. Why would he be giving me some peanuts?” So, he comes over to the bars. We can’t even see each other, and I reach out with these peanuts around the side, and I see this little hand come out and I thought of it almost as a little monkey paw. It’s what it seemed like. So innocent. This little hand comes out, starts to reach for the peanuts, and then he hesitated. He pulls back and I thought, ‘Oh, geez, he’s defensive. He’s thinking I’m gonna grab his hand and rip his arm off or something. I’m this great big guy, right?
“So, without saying anything, I just reached around and I laid them on the bars and then pulled my hand away: He took them and he enjoyed them and all of that and I’d say later, I’d say, “Gee, uh, Herbie, did you eat all those peanuts?”
“He’d say, “Oh, no, I still got some left.”
“I said, “Well, I got plenty more, go ahead and enjoy them.” So, what I did, I started giving him bags of peanuts, and he had this horrible habit. There’s guys back in the tank, and he and I are in these cells facing them through three bars. Three sets of bars. I can’t see him and he can’t see me. I don’t know where on the set of bars he is. The set of bars (stretches out his arms wide) is nine feet wide and eight or nine feet high. When he would get to acting up, he’d sit there hours writing and writing at this little desk and the other guys were ignoring him, so that night they’re watching Saturday Night Live, you know, with all of this rock music playing and stuff and they’re enjoying it. He’d get up and make this real loud speech about how bad television is for you and why you shouldn’t watch it. All the things it’ll do to you. And they’re having fits. They’re trying to throw things at him and they can’t get at him. They’re raging. They’re mad, because he’s destroying the one thing they really enjoy and he’s just having a ball doing this. He’ll sit for hours all day writing this two-hour speech, exactly as long as it takes to watch the show.
“So, he’d also sit over there and sing these horrible songs. He couldn’t sing a lick at all. He’s singing these horrible songs and one time I was in the car coming back to Redwood City and the cop go so upset at this singing he’s doing at the back of the station wagon, he turns around with his can of mace and says, “I had it, get out of the way, Kemper. I’m saying. “Hey, wait a minute! You’re going to get me with that stuff.” They’re just trying to mace the guy in the back of the car because he won’t shut up! He’s trying to get him to shut up, and the guy just ignored him. He had this way of really getting on people’s nerves. So, he’d pull these little stunts, these horrible songs and the speeches and things and I say, “Herbie, why do you do stuff like that?” He says, “I have a right to do what I want to do, too.” And then “Yeah, okay, right.”
“So, I started this, they call just real basic behavior modification therapy, okay? I had a little bit of psychology study. I worked in the psych testing area in Atascadero. I knew some of these things. So, I set up a very basic and very essential-just bare minimum-behaviour mod experiment.
“Behaviour modification, right? You reward them when they’re good. You punish them when they’re bad, and if you’re absolutely accurate in when you do these things, quick punishment when they do bad and quick reward when they do good, supposedly this is supposed to attack you at a subliminal level. A subconscious level. And you don’t have a lot of control over your reactions. That would improve your behaviour, essentially and then have these great elaborate experiments, like in Youth Authority when I went through where they try these things. So, what I did was when he was bad, I’d get a cup full of water in a Styrofoam cup and I’d reach around and throw it on him. It’s embarrassing and it also gets his papers wet, and, you know… so we got this cat and mouse game. When he was good, I’d give him peanuts and I tried gas him when he was bad. It’s called “gassing.” You throw this water on him, and he’d duck all over the house. I couldn’t figure out where he was at, so I kept missing him.
“So, what I did is I waited one day till I knew he was asleep or I suspected he was. I called one of the guys over to the bars from the place in the back, the tank and I went like this (Kemper pretends he is sleeping with his folded hands beneath his face for a pillow]. I says (he holds his hands out in a mime-gesture to ask ‘what is he doing?’) He reads it and says (nods yes]. I says, “Sshh.” I called him over to the bars and I said, “Hey, I want to work something out where I can get Herbie with these cups of water and he can’t figure out how I’m doing it.” I said, “I just thought of a way.” He says, “What’s that?” And I said, “I want you to set up a grid on the bars where you’re at, put a little piece of string, or a little piece of plastic, or a little something he won’t notice. Count over how many bars there are on his cell, on his cell front, and from the wall go over that far on you’re set and set up boundaries. Then, when I give you a signal, that will be a hand signal, very casually walk over, don’t look at me, just casually walk over and drape yourself on the bars where he’s at so I’ll know. If he’s back away from the bars, go back that far and position yourself so it’s a grid. It’s a targeting grid. So, he would do this, and Herbie would hear me turn the water on or maybe I’d have some already set up, and I would reach through the bars and I blasted him. I got him every time.
“He couldn’t figure out how all of a sudden, I got so accurate. It was without fail. I’d get him with that water. Wham! You know, it’s embarrassing and everybody’s laughing back there and “Good shot, Ed!” And all that stuff, and then I’d ask him if he’d do something, or “Hey, can we do this” or whatever, you know, and he’d participate in something with me. I’d give him peanuts. When he’s bad, he gets blasted with water. This went on for two or three weeks.
“He actually got away from the bad behaviour when he said, “Hey! I want to sing!”I says, “Well, hey guys in the back, do you mind if he sings?”
“Oh, we don’t want to hear that shit, man!”
“I said, “Hey you want to hear it now or do you want to hear it tonight when you’re watching the show?”
“So, go ahead, Herbie, sing.”
“He’d sing for 30-40 seconds, and then get bored and say, “Gee, | don’t want to do this anymore.” You know? Because the fun was gone out of it. But the point is, I got a handle on his behaviour, and the cops are watching this. The deputies are on camera watching me. I mean, they’re on the monitors watching every move I’m making. Right? And they’re fascinated. They’re watching this thing go back and forth with me and Herbie. They’re not involving themselves. They’re just watching it, and after a while, one of them come in and said, “Herbie is completely cooperative now. He’s not messing around.” Because, I’ve been … as we’re talking, these little frictions out between he and I, I’m showing him some insights into why people don’t like him, and showing some insights into what his behaviour is causing in them and he had realized by that point that it was just he’s reacting to how people are reacting to him. It’s just a self-perpetuating thing, and it was the only way he could get out his negative feelings. I said, “Well, why don’t you pose on the positive. Focus on the positive instead and the negative will go away.” I don’t think anybody ever did that with him before, because he responded real well to it, and later when we were up here in the hole together, and we weren’t even supposed to be together, they didn’t want us together. But we were up in the hole together. I was the only guy be could talk to.”
Source: 1991 Interview with Ed Kemper by Stéphane Bourgoin / Book Kemper on Kemper, by Peter Scott Jr., 2020
Ed Kemper: “I would pose little comments or questions aimed at [Herbert Mullin] as we’re sitting up there on the tier, on the concrete floor, sitting against the wall talking to one another [at the CMF in Vacaville]. I would say, “How did you feel, you know, when you bought that little Saturday Night Special. 22? Did you ever go out shooting with that? You know, just target shooting?”
[Mullin] says, “Well, not much.”
“I say, “Well, try this on. You loaded it up, you went out. You set up bottles, you set up cans. You set them around in little areas right around close and practice shooting them real fast.” And he looks at me all shocked, he says, “How do you know that?” I said, “Because that’s what I used to do. Those were people, those weren’t cans and bottles and you never told anybody.” So, he got all fascinated about how I was able to read his mind and stuff. I wasn’t. I saw a kindred spirit there, somebody who was doing something very similar to what I was doing as a child. He went to mental institutions and he went through these processes where these doctors told him what was wrong with him, and these doctors treated things that they decided were wrong with him and he just sat back very passively and went through these treatments and they had almost no effect on him because he didn’t dare say what was really going on in his head.
“Because, they would cast him off somewhere. He’d be totally separated from the human race and there were certain things he and certain things I enjoyed in being in the human race and being part of the human race we weren’t willing to let go of. So, that was that little desperate hanging on. So, here comes these professionals saying, “Oh this is what’s wrong with you little lad and this is what’s wrong with you and we’re gonna fix this up,” and “Okay, okay I’m well and yeah.” He goes out and buys a gun and starts killing people, and I talk about what happened when he killed those people.”
“Oh, they fell dead.”
“No, they did this, they did that, they gurgled and that some of them kept moving like you hadn’t even shot them and you shot them again.”
He says, “How did you know this? You weren’t there!”
I says, “I know.”
“I never told anybody that!”
“I know. I was there on my own trip. I know what happened.”
Source: 1991 Interview with Ed Kemper by Stéphane Bourgoin / Book Kemper on Kemper, by Peter Scott Jr., 2020
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.
This never-seen-before mugshot of Ed Kemper is included in the trailer for “Mind of a Monster,” an Investigation Discovery podcast about the Kemper and Herbert Mullin cases. The first two episodes from a total of six are out now. This mugshot was probably taken in the last three years.
The first episodes are interesting. In episode 1, Kemper’s younger sister, Allyn, in an exclusive 1973 interview with psychiatrist Donald T. Lunde, warns about how Kemper and their mother will clash when he returns to live in Santa Cruz with their mother when he is released from Atascadero in 1969. Allyn tells her mother: “Don’t get emotionally involved.”
In episode 2, Kemper explains to psychiatrist Donald T. Lunde that he felt scared when committing his crimes, that he didn’t realize the seriousness of what he had done until after it was done, that he didn’t black out, and that “my sense of values were rather different.”
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.
“[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.” […]
“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