In Ed Kemper’s 1980 parole hearing, we learn that he suffers from an allergy to metals: “I have a medical order for a medical bed, for the extra length. I have an allergy to metals that’s been determined since last May to be an allergy to free nickel, which is a catalyst which, I understand, is used in a lot of alloys — almost all of the alloys in prison. In other, words, I’m allergic to being in prison, to slip it down to a very simple statement – handcuffs included.”
Source: Ed Kemper’s April 30,1980 parole hearing / Photo from the book Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
These images were recently sent to us by a fellow researcher who has been in contact with the man appearing with Ed Kemper in the photos. Kemper and this man (who wishes to remain anonymous) were friends and co-workers at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. Taken in the 1980s, these pictures show a ceremony where Kemper is presenting an award and a certificate to his friend.
The man shared some of his memories about Ed Kemper:
“I do have memories about Ed. We worked side by side… well, together for years. He was the…I forgot the title, but he was like the boss. There was one guy under him, all the readers, and me. I worked in the back recording. See, Ed was kind of obsessed with getting as many hours in there as possible, effectively lowering your hourly pay. We were VOV, Volunteers of Vacaville, Blind Project, but Ed and the other guy and myself were paid, like, 30 bucks a month or something. So, his thing was if you worked a thousand hours that month you weren’t making much per hour. Anyway, I really enjoyed what I was doing there so I didn’t mind being there all the time.
“And there was no ‘free-staff’, no cops, nobody, maybe a few readers in insolated booths, and I had a good sound system, huge speakers, and copies of every cassette I could find, and Ed and I would crank our tunes and work, joke, whatever. We had breakrooms with couches and I would wrestle with his giant ass. He had me on a couch, folded in half, because as much as he joked about his weight and size, I don’t think he realized it. I was gasping, you know, Ed you’re gonna break me in half, before he got off me, and he was kinda bummed that he could have really hurt me. Which was always the reason we couldn’t live together. He asked me to move in, offering me the preferred lower bunk, and all I could think about was 340 pounds of Ed above me so I declined. You know, all in all, I liked the guy. He was extremely friendly, just so incredibly articulate, respectful, I never once saw the psycho side of him. We even spoke about his past…a lot, and he was so matter of fact about it, never emotional or upset.
“I’m just glad to be able to provide something that maybe wasn’t there before. It’s strange because I knew him as well as anybody, probably better than most, but I never saw him as anything but big ol’ Ed.
“And I know what you’re referring to regarding him no longer wanting to do interviews. This was when I was there, late 80’s. He was in like 60 Minutes with…oh boy, memory is failing me… Bundy or somebody, and when we watched it on TV, it wasn’t the same interview. They had taken all his replays out of context and made him look like an idiot. I remember him being very upset about it, saying that was it, no more.
“As for his music, I just remember that we had about the same tastes. Ohohih… he really liked Harry Chapin (Cats in the Cradle) because I had it on cassette and reel to reel and he was going to wear it out.
(Asked a question regarding Kemper’s ceramic mug hobby)
“You know, I remember him making them because he had a lot of followers and it seemed like he wanted to make one for every letter and/or package they sent. He got a lot of mail and was in the visiting room all the time and it seemed kind of excessive that he wanted to make and send one to each and every one of them. Sorry, I wasn’t involved in the hobby program at CMF and what I do remember is vague. I was aware of it but that’s about it.
“One thing that I found odd about him. As you know, Ed’s a big boy, 6’9” and 340 lbs when I knew him. You would think that a man that big in prison might have an attitude or be violent and dangerous. Not even in the least. I never saw anything like that. In fact, late one night I was in the back cleaning and erasing cassettes to be reused, I’m sitting on a tall stool when he walked in. Now in prison you never want to be accused of being an informant or working with the uniform staff, or acting as/wanting to be a cop. Well Ed’s whole life, at that point, was dedicated to the Project. He loved the program, he loved his job, he felt that he was a big part of it, which he was.
“But he also wore blue. So, he comes in talking about so and so wasting time at work, stealing tapes, office supplies, things like that. I said something regarding him not being a cop, stop acting like one. He said something that apparently hit a nerve and not thinking, I reacted. With me sitting on that tall stool, we were close to the same height, with him right behind me, I spun around and backhanded him. I immediately started shaking, thinking this giant can rip my head off. Ed pouted a little bit, got all dejected, and walked the other way. I really thought he was going to cry. I guess he’s only psychotic with college age females and older people like his grandparents, mother, etc. Not once did I ever see this. I would probably think about that.
“Haha! I just remembered something… I had a pet mouse. In my cell, he ran around free on top of the lockers. I had a wheel and a house and a maze of shoestrings hanging all over with socks hanging on them. He would cruise all over the shoe string highway, and the socks were a place to hide. Which is neither here nor there but I thought it was pretty cool. Well, we got Ed a mouse, too. At work we had them in like a glass fish aquarium filled with sawdust and wood chips, so we didn’t see much of them. So, we go to check on them or take them out or something, and we can’t find Ed’s mouse. We dug thru the wood and found his tail and hind legs. Turns out my mouse was a cannibal. I know, digging pretty deep for that one. That’s why I’m a plumber.”
Source: thanks to Diana S. for the photos and stories!
In this excerpt from his May 1979 parole hearing, Ed Kemper discusses managing violence as well as his sexuality in prison.
INMATE KEMPER: “I don’t want to start a precedent at being a second-time released multiple murderer. I have absolutely no plans of ever hurting anybody again in my life.
To do that is to circumvent and call a failure and a lie everything positive I’ve done the last six years.
I told staff when I came here [at Vacaville], I will not hurt anybody again. I don’t want to hurt anybody again.
They told me I was unrealistic; they told me that was impossible because of my size. That would be one problem with inmates here. Another problem would be my crime. And between the two of them combined, it was impossible for me to stay out of violent encounters either as a victim or as an aggressor.
I have not hit anybody since I’ve been here. I may have been struck since I’ve come here, but there has not been a fight, and I’ve not been locked down because of being struck.
I don’t see that as a defeat of the projections of the CDC staff; I see that as them looking at things very stereotypedly.
If I had no control over my life whatsoever, or what some things I do have a chance of ghanging, then I could agree with them. But if I did agree with them back then, then I’d still be pushing a broom down in the hole — feeling lucky.
I’ve done some tremendously nice things since then for other people. I don’t live luxuriously in here. My cell is rather — I have it equipped for doing the things that I enjoy doing, but it is rather austere. There’s nothing ornate about it; there’s nothing really comfortable about it. And I don’t lounge around in the yard. I do not have a homosexual queen in this place — which isn’t a condemnation of people around here doing that. There is no sexual provision for me for the rest of my life as best I can tell.
The only alternate to that would be a family visiting-type thing — the trailer visits here — and the only eligibility I have for that would be for my sisters. And I don’t really see them as volunteering for that kind of behavior — you know, getting into the trailers and spending a night or two. And I can’t condemn them for that. So, I have to resolve the fact that I am going to be neuter for the rest of my life.”
Sources: May 1st, 1979 Ed Kemper parole hearing / Photo @Joey Tranchina
It was rumoured that Ed Kemper had spent some time at Folsom State Prison at the beginning of his incarceration, in 1973-1974. In this excerpt from his May 1979 parole hearing (the first one he accepted to attend since he had been imprisoned), Kemper sheds light on why he didn’t get to go to Folsom Prison and how it was decided by doctors that he would stay at the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville, where he has been living since November 1973.
INMATE KEMPER: When I came into CDC on November 9th, 1973, I was classified Category A, “emergency psychotic” and a high violence potential, maximum custody, without having seen anybody. There was no psychiatric evaluation at all.
I was taken immediately from Receiving after being processed. I was taken to psychiatric isolation in S Wing on the third floor. I stayed there for five weeks. During that time, I had a tremendous difficulty in dealing with the depressions I was feeling from being taken from a very high-profile situation in jail — the court, the press, the flashbulbs, the lawyers — to a total isolation where I didn’t talk to anybody unless I was being fed or medicated – and then very briefly. I had trouble accepting and getting along with that. I felt very suicidal at that time – because it was very hard on me. And I saw — I didn’t know what prison was like; I didn’t know that I didn’t have that going for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to live. And at that time, I was also on suicidal watch.
After – well, excuse me, not during the first the five-week period.
I left the — after the five-week period, the staff determined that I could be returned and ordered to the Reception Center for processing. I stayed there two weeks behind the screen in T Wing; it’s a secure housing. After two weeks of processing, it was determined by — on paper, — that I would either be placed in California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo or this mainline setting [CMF].
Dr. Alvin Groupe, capital G-r-u- — G-r-o-u-p-e, the Chief Psychiatrist for In-patient Services, which included Seguin Unit and S Wing, determined that he would take me back into the CMF Program under the Seguin Unit program, working toward the mainline.
When I returned to the Seguin Unit, I was put in a secure housing cell, six days later taken to screening, and I was recommended to be taken to Folsom — to the Adjustment Center in Folsom Prison, with an alternate of San Quentin Adjustment Center.
I had talked to no one, psychiatrically, counselling or otherwise during that six-day wait. I have a feeling that it would have been the same day if I had got there a day earlier.
I was returned to S-3, which is isolation. The day after that I was taken down to W Wing, “the hole”, the jail house to await transfer. During that wait, I attempted suicide.
It had been dismissed by several psychiatric staff as a show. I didn’t know what I was showing for, because I hadn’t been through the system before. I don’t know that they didn’t want me to go ahead and kill myself anyway — to save money.
I spent almost all of my canteen ducats buying a very small piece of metal —
PRESIDING MEMBER RUSHEN: Okay. You tried to commit suicide. Then what happened?
INMATE KEMPER: I tried to commit suicide with drugs and cut. I was returned to isolation, not the hospital. I was comatose for three days.
When I woke up, I was taken to the floor lieutenant’s desk, Lieutenant Steele’s court, the lieutenant’s court to stand a hearing on a CDC 115 for self-mutilation. And it’s the only rules violation report that’s ever been filed on me –
PRESIDING MEMBER RUSHEN: Recovered then. Now, is there anything else?
INMATE KEMPER: We passed over it; we didn’t really cover it.
The man found me guilty. I was kept there for five more weeks. At the end of that time, it was determined that the CFR, Sacramento did not want me leaving the California Medical Facility, and I was told by Dr. Groupe that I was going to go down to W-1 and live there. I was going to be there for a long, long time. And I was upset because I was going to be transferred [to Folsom].
I went to W-1. I sat down there for two months. The program administrator, Mr. Vineyard, who is now a representative on your Board – – he came down to me and we made a therapy contract, unofficially. He didn’t like me living down there where I lived in a cell for 23 hours a day, and exercised in a cage for one hour a day — as being my housing and treatment. And I promised him that I would not act up in a violent way; I would not get anybody up there in any trouble for taking a chance with me, because at that time nobody was willing to take a chance with me — at all. And I don’t blame them; there was no real grounds to do that — according to what was observable in the records in my past history.
Sources: May 1st, 1979 Ed Kemper parole hearing / Photo @Joey Tranchina
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.