The following is the first excerpt from an essay written by Christine Falco for Dary Matera’s book, Ed Kemper – Conversations with a Killer (2021, Barnes & Noble/Sterling). Other excerpts will be published in upcoming weeks.
French actor Gérard Depardieu remembers this anecdote in his book “Monster”:
“I knew a potter in Berry: when it pissed him off to make plates, always the same ones, he would take his clay and make a monster. A huge monster. A terracotta monster. And he would say, “I do this because it has to come out! I have plenty of them inside me!”
He was right.
We have to let our monsters out if we don’t want them to eat us up.”
Walk on the Dark Side
My name is Christine Falco and I’m the creator and main runner of the Edmund Kemper Stories (EKS) blog. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write this essay about one of my subjects of fascination and I extend my warmest thanks to Dary Matera. and his editor, Barbara Berger of Sterling Publishing.
The EKS blog is about American serial killer Edmund Kemper’s life and crimes. Our goal is to document the Co-Ed Killer case with as much accuracy and details as possible. Our fact-based presentation of his early life, his crimes, his trial and his life in prison is told with the help of newspaper archives, magazines, books, films, TV reports and shows, interviews, legal documents, photographies, etc. We also show how Ed Kemper’s story has influenced many artists (painters, writers, graphic artists, musicians) who have created original artwork inspired by or featuring the Co-Ed Killer. We hope to become a reference for anybody who is interested in Kemper’s case. Needless to say that we do not condone Ed Kemper’s crimes nor do we support any form of violence against women. Our heart is always with the victims of Ed Kemper.
Some of the first questions people always ask me are: why dedicate a blog to a serial killer of women? Why Kemper in particular?
The starting point for me is a lifelong fascination with the dark side of human nature.
Early on in my life, I became fascinated with the “monster” that lives in all of us, wanting to understand why some people give in to theirs, snap and resort to criminality, to violence.
My great-uncle on the Italian side of my family, Guerino Mastroluca, was a henchman for one of Montreal’s mafia families in the 1940s and 1950s. He apparently never killed anyone but he did hurt many people with a knife as he threatened and intimidated them during his “visits”. He was in and out of prison for a while and not long after his last release, he “disappeared”. Nobody knows where he went, or what happened to him. In 2018, a few weeks before her death, my 99-year-old aunt, Guerino’s niece, Lina, gave me a small wooden box. In it was uncle Guerino’s knife and a small cross from the terra catacombes in Rome, Italy. She had kept this box all that time. Knowing my interest for true crime memorabilia, she thought I was the best person to take over the preservation of these items which are part of our family’s history. I was honored, and of course I accepted the responsibility.
As some other members of my family came in and out of a life of crime [related mainly to drugs and money], it instilled a worried family climate to which I was quite sensitive as a child. I remember some evenings where strange men visited my father. They sat around the dinner table for several hours drinking cognac and talking in low voices in Italian. Then they would exchange firm handshakes with my father and leave. I asked my father a few times why these men visited him, but he answered each time by saying it wasn’t anything a young girl should concern herself with. I learned many years later from my mother that these men wanted to buy my father’s printing company for money laundering purposes, but my father ultimately turned down their offer because he didn’t want to get his family involved in this world.
My mother was definitely an influence in my building fascination with the dark side. An avid consumer of crime novels and films, she was very protective of my younger sister and I when we were kids, and often warned us about “the maniacs out there.” Luckily, nothing ever happened, but I often wondered about these “maniacs”: Who were they? What did they look like? How many were they? To hear my mother talk about them, they were monsters who did terrible things to people, to children. I imagined demonic creatures, somewhere between man and animal.
I had my first look at a “maniac” on August 10, 1977 when David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, was apprehended. He had been terrorizing the residents of New York City since 1975, where he killed six people and wounded ten. That night, I saw him on the TV news: two policemen were holding and bringing him inside the police station, and he was all smiles! He looked happy to have been caught. Here he was, a short, bulky postal worker, who seemed nice and friendly. He didn’t look like the demon I had imagined. I was just six years old and I was stunned and fascinated: maniacs were ordinary-looking people.
On July 3rd, 1979, tragedy struck in my hometown of Montreal when two teenagers were killed on the Jacques-Cartier bridge that evening as they were returning home from a concert at the La Ronde amusement park. Chantal Dupont (15) and Maurice Marcil (14) were raped and beaten by Gilles Pimparé and Normand Guérin (both 25), and then thrown off the bridge. They both drowned. The killers were arrested a few days later. They had also attacked other people on the bridge in the weeks prior to these murders, looking for money as they were out of work. Again, two ordinary looking guys. This story had quite an impact in Quebec at the time and still to this day, people remember it. I had nightmares about it for several years as I had realized there are bad people out there… It’s part of Montreal’s most famous monster stories.
Another story that impacted me in my youth was that of John Hinckley Jr. who tried to kill President Reagan in 1981 in order to impress actress Jodie Foster. Hinckley became obsessed with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which disturbed protagonist Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) plots to assassinate a presidential candidate. Hinckley developed an infatuation with Jodie Foster who plays Iris, an underage prostitute, in the film, and began to stalk her while she was studying at Yale University. I was already a fan of Miss Foster back then and I was impressed by the fact that a man would be willing to go that far to get a woman’s attention. That an obsession could be this strong. Was it love? Was it lust? Was he crazy?
The irony in my life is that several years later, in my early 20s, I also had to deal with a stalker, a fellow university film student and roommate who had become infatuated with me. This went on for several years and it finally stopped when my partner threatened to go to his house with a baseball bat to “talk”. My link with the Hinckley case is very strong as I can identify with Foster’s position, and because Taxi Driver, my all-time favorite film, plays into a theme that is one of my subjects of fascination, that of the outcast who is alienated from society and cannot establish normal relationships with people. And how he eventually lashes out at society. What’s his tipping point?
In my teenage and young adult years, as I started to gain more freedom, I quickly came to know to be wary of men. Inappropriate gropings on the subway to school or ungentlemanly comments on the street as you walk home… Most women have experienced similar attacks on their body. I’ve had my share of #MeToo moments in my life, like this time during university where I barely escaped being raped by another student at a party, or during college where I went into a donut place at 3 am with three girlfriends after a night of partying at the discotheque and being surrounded by a group of men groping us and blocking the exit… Confronting their leader at the door, meeting with him eye-to-eye… Getting my hand on the door handle, pushing it, breaking free… The four of us running away so fast, scared to death, almost unhinging our hips… The fear, the adrenalin rush… Although you are scared, you feel enthralled to get away, because you are alive…
As a teenager, I watched a lot of horror movies, thrillers, war films and crime stories. This eventually sparked my interest for famous killers. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in the early 1990s and the media amply covered the trial. Dahmer exercised both fascination and repulsion on the public, and on me. How could such a handsome young man be such a gruesome murderer?
I wanted to know about others. I read up on Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos and the Zodiac. While researching famous serial killer cases at the municipal library, I first came upon Edmund Kemper’s story in Margaret Cheney’s book, The Co-Ed Killer. Kemper’s story, as horrifying as Dahmer’s, hit home with me. His crimes, mostly perpetrated against young women (I was about their age at the time I discovered the case), defied comprehension and showed total disregard for human integrity and dignity. But like with Dahmer, I found myself being fascinated by the dichotomy of Kemper’s character: a young man who had all the appearances of a gentle giant had committed the most violent and hateful crimes.
In 2017, Ed Kemper came back in the public eye, as a character was based on him in the Netflix series Mindhunter. The character became instantly popular and triggered a new generation of “fans”, amateur researchers, groupies, social media pages and blogs dedicated to the case. My fascination for his story was renewed as well and I started back up on the research. In the age of Internet, it has proven a lot easier to find new information and new content, thanks in part to the findings of amateur researchers. Ed Kemper, during his years of incarceration, has been quite generous with details and insights about his life and crimes, giving many interviews to journalists, writers, filmmakers and to FBI agents wanting to document his case to better try to understand it. The idea of creating a blog where all information about the Kemper case would be collected and gathered to try to form a precise picture of what really happened started to take shape in my mind. I felt (and still do) compelled to tell his story in a fair manner as there are many falsities being spread on the Internet.
I have made a career of being a film producer. Producers like to tell stories and are always on the lookout for good ones. Cinema is about action and emotion. What is the character doing? What is he feeling? How is he evolving? This way of thinking is how I approach life as well. Actions speak louder than words and we can learn a lot about someone through their behavior. Kemper’s story has all the right elements to make it cinematic: a complex hero (or antihero in this case), a clear antagonist (his mother), a dreamy location (California beach town), gruesome sexually motivated crimes, and a perpetrator willing to talk in minute details about his crimes.
A few years ago, I took a further step in my fascination for the “monster” and became a collector of true crime memorabilia. I mostly collect items related to Ed Kemper, although I do collect other criminals as well, such as David Berkowitz and John Hinckley Jr. I see myself as a hunter and gatherer. Like previously discussed, some criminal cases have marked me at different times of my life and I want to know and have as much as I can about them. I want to own a piece of those stories, I want to be able to grasp them physically somehow.
In Kemper’s case, I came upon a lot of personal objects he had given to a friend, an inmate who was incarcerated during some time at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville where Kemper is imprisoned. These items, such as books and ceramics, are all connected to positive things Kemper has been involved with while in prison, like his participation in the early 1980s to the FBI’s studies of serial killers (as seen on Mindhunter), and his artistic creativity (he has crafted many ceramic mugs and he also had close relationships with writers, like Leonard Wolf). I also own some jewelry and photos of his. These personal objects help me go beyond the “monster” facade and see his humanity.
So, why dedicate a blog to a serial killer of women? Why collect murderabilia? Why Kemper in particular?
Maybe I’ve been fascinated with monsters all my life because they speak to mine. Maybe Kemper’s monsters in particular speak to mine because they represent my biggest fears. Maybe like the French potter in Gérard Depardieu’s story, I collect and blog about Kemper because my monsters have to come out. I have to let them out if I don’t want them to eat me up, like they did Kemper. (…)
 Gérard Depardieu, “Monstre”, le cherche midi, 2017
 Walker Publishing Company, 1976