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Sins of the mother

Scott A. Bonn Ph.D.

Despite his relative youth upon capture, Kemper had actually committed his first two murders nearly a decade earlier. Kemper was an extremely intelligent child but he engaged in psychopathic behavior early on. For Kemper, this behavior included the torture and killing of animals, which is a common childhood practice among nearly half of all serial killers.

During childhood, Kemper was physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic mother, Clarnell, who was divorced from his father. Clarnell frequently locked her son in a dark basement alone at night.

Not surprisingly, Edmund grew up to hate his mother and at the age of 14 ran away from home in search of his father in Van Nuys, California. After locating but being rejected by his father, young Edmund was sent to live with his paternal grandmother and grandfather in North Fork, California. Kemper claims that his grandmother, similar to his mother, was very abusive and he disliked her intensely.

In 1964, at the age of 15, Edmund shot his grandmother in the head allegedly just to see what it felt like. He then killed his grandfather, too, because he believed that his grandfather would be angry at him for killing his grandmother. Kemper was subsequently committed to the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane. To his chagrin, he was released into his mother’s care in 1969 after less than five years of confinement and treatment. His juvenile criminal record was expunged.

As a young adult, Kemper stood six-foot-nine and weighed 280 pounds. He frequently thought about killing his mother by 1970 but was not yet ready to do so. The prospect of killing his mother without first perfecting his murder skills on others was too overwhelming for Kemper.

Between May 1972 and February 1973, Kemper embarked on a series of six shocking serial murders in which he picked up hitchhiking female students along the highway and then transported them to rural areas where he would kill and then decapitate them, and have sex with their corpses. He collected their dismembered heads in his apartment and would later have sex with them also.

Similar to other infamous serial killers such as Dennis Rader and the Zodiac Killer, Ed Kemper sought public recognition and acclaim for his murders. This led him to socializeand drink in a bar called “The Jury Room” with the very law enforcement officers who unbeknownst to them were pursuing him. His law enforcement friends began calling him “Big Eddie.”

Kemper finally realized his ultimate fantasy and killed his mother with a claw hammer and strangled her best friend on Good Friday 1973. After having sex with his mother’s decapitated head, Edmund Kemper casually telephoned the local law enforcement authorities to confess what he had done.

The police initially refused to believe him, thinking that their friend “Big Eddie” was just pulling a prank on them. After several follow-up calls and the disclosure of information that only the “The Co-ed Killer” would know, Kemper finally convinced the police that he was the man they sought. He was quickly arrested without incident and charged with eight murders in the first degree. Kemper was found guilty and given a life sentence because there was a stay on the death penalty in the U.S. at the time of his conviction.

Given his homicidal obsession with his mother, one might wonder whether killing her exorcised the demons that had tormented Ed Kemper throughout his life and finally provided him with a twisted sense of closure. As it turns out, the answer to this question is simultaneously chilling and fascinating.

Kemper was asked by a Cosmopolitan magazine reporter during a prison interview how he felt when he saw a pretty girl after killing his mother. He said, “One side of me says, I’d like to talk to her, date her. The other side says, “I wonder how her head would look on a stick.”

Edmund Kemper remains housed among the general prison population at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California.

The inglorious atrocities of Edmund Kemper demonstrates just how loathsome the actions of a serial killer can be. Although the abuse he suffered during childhood was tragic and terrible, and while it offers some insights into his criminal pathology, Kemper’s odyssey of murder, dismemberment and sexual perversion still defies comprehension.

No hyperbole is required for his crimes to shock and horrify the public, yet the facts of Kemper’s murders are often misrepresented or exaggerated in their retelling by the entertainment media. There are numerous books, films, puzzles, poems, calendars and games that hyperbolize his story of murder and mayhem.

For example, he was portrayed as demonic freak in a slash and gore book titled The Lonely Head-Hunter: Ed Kemper and he has appeared as a supernatural monster in comic books. There is an Ed Kemper gothic horror necklace and locket for sale on the Internet. The 2008 horror film Kemper: The Co-Ed Killer is almost entirely devoid of facts.

As a result of his inaccurate and sensationalized depiction in the entertainment media, Kemper has been transformed into a cartoonish monster in the popular culture—similar to Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I discuss the motivations, fantasies and habits of notorious serial killers, including the “Son of Sam” and “Bind, Torture, Kill” based on my personal correspondence with them, in my new book “Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers.” To order it now, click: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1629144320/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_B-2Stb0D57SDB

Dr. Scott Bonn is professor of sociology and criminology at Drew University. He is available for consultation and media commentary. Follow him @DocBonn on Twitter and visit his website DocBonn.Com

 

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It was always odd to have to look at their faces with their signature fake smiles, going out of their way to announce what a “happy and normal family” they were.  Not sure who they were trying to convince besides themselves – The ultimate shit show that I’m embarrassed to say I wanted to be a part of, thinking it was real, when in reality the only real was the shame, secrecy, and cruelness.

I’m still trying to sort out and find a coherent way to convey my thoughts  – thoughts that have been swirling in my head after finishing watching Mind Hunter, the Netflix drama based on the true story of Special Agent John E. Douglas of the FBI who pioneered the science of profiling serial killers.  No, my abuser is not a serial killer, although I think he gets off being cruel, just as his mother does. What has my wheels turning are the similarities between his mother and the mothers of these monsters, and the role they played in creating un empathetic humans, unable to feel and see past their own pain.  Ed Kemper has an IQ of 135, a smart guy one finds himself liking.  It is frightening to think those qualities are what made him a serial killer, and the only reason the killings stopped was because he turned himself in.  That’s how much insight this guy had.

I’m scattered, I know, but this has clicked in a crazy way that I’m still trying to sort and process – It was chilling to hear the traits Kemper described his mother to have as they are one with the woman who gave birth to my abuser.

I remember shortly after having met her for the first time she called her son, my “boyfriend” an “asshole.” No joke. The first time I spent thanksgiving with them, his mother yelled at him because he didn’t want her grandson, my abuser’s youngest son, to wear the pants he had chosen. She went ballistic! Crazy. Volatile. Yelling. Screaming. Name calling, and crying all because he wouldn’t make his son change his pants to what she demanded. He gave in because that’s their pattern.

If that wasn’t bad enough his ex wife, within 5 minutes of meeting me, used a tragic event that he had already shared concerning their kids, to show how “dysfunctional” the abuser was and why I should break up with him.  It was shocking to hear her use such a tragic event to try and hurt him.

I expected the nastiness from the ex wife, but his own mother, to belittle him in such a way was appalling. Naturally I was upset because at the time, my experience in the early stage of the relationship was different. Or I should say, I chose to make excuses for the abusive behavior that I had experienced.  Looking back I didn’t realize I was being gaslighted, making me believe the reality he needed me to believe so he could avoid facing his demons and his insecurities. It’s hard to say I conned myself into believing he was different with me because…well, he told me I was different and I believed him.  I believed everything he said because I loved him like I had not loved any other and I didn’t think people like him existed. It hurts more than words can express how it felt to be treated like trash when all I wanted was him to show he sincerely cared and was concerned about what he had done to me.  Instead he yelled, screamed, lied more and tried to train me according to what his therapists had instructed him to do based on his version of the truth that made him out to be the saint but that’s what makes him a covert narcissist.  He’s charming, good looking, and very credible. He showed me who he was when he refused to learn about the physical and mental damage that he had done.  Had he done so he wouldn’t have acted in such a way.  He would have understood the seriousness of the actions he took on December 21.  He couldn’t and will never be able to because he doesn’t have the capacity to feel and empathize.  That’s how his mother raised him.  She humiliated him as a child, telling him to suck it up.  Gaslighted him into believing whatever truth she needed for him to believe.  He wasn’t strong enough, he wasn’t resilient enough to understand the effects of how she treated him and how it impacted how he behaved in relationships.

I’m rambling  trying to make sense of it all.  Trying to understand how someone who can tell me he loves me as much as he did, treat me in such a way..  I have to continually remind myself of the facts because I just want him to get what he did so we can grow old together, but that will never happen because he is a scared child and still believes all the things his mother told him he was. I don’t know where I’m going with all this…ED Kemper and who his mother was – that’s who abuser’s mother is.  Nasty. Heartless.

Ed Kemper was at least able to admit what a monster his mother was.  Vince, my abuser,  can’t bring himself to admit how evil she is. He characterized her as “very emotional,”but the woman I experienced was abusive, manipulative and controlling, often using guilt to push her agenda. She enjoyed saying hurtful things, not only to me, but to her own kids.  She  couldn’t stand not being the center of attention.   Her ability to shed a tear at the drop of a hat in order to shift the focus of any conversation to how it was hurting her grew old fast for me, but not her kids. He couldn’t face how frighten of her he was.  This is a man who is an executive, managing over 50 people and he didn’t have the balls to tell his mother how inappropriate it was for her to call him names to his new girlfriend, during their first meeting.  It was the same with his ex, both controlling, lying, manipulative and domineering yet played damsel in distress, using the kids to control.  It was a shit show all right.  A shit show that became predictable fast.  All that said, I now need to understand why I pick people like him and why I stayed when my gut told me to get out 11 months after meeting him.

What he expressed on his blog tugged at my heart, but I know nothing has changed.  He’s busy fooling himself because he’s fragile and can’t face his pain  Things will remain the same until he stands up for himself and treats himself with respect, go deep in therapy, with a real psychologists who he wont be able to control and manipulate.  Until then, everything he says are just empty words…beautiful words that mean nothing.

 

 

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