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