Ed Kemper’s Mommy Issues

If ever there was a cautionary tale of parenting gone wrong it, is the story of Edmund Kemper and his mom. Due to his high IQ, he was a maniacal hunter and had excellent insight as to the motivation for his crimes. Known as the “Co-Ed killer” , Kemper was responsible for 10 murders between the years of 1964 and 1973. His first victim’s were his paternal grandparents whom he murdered in cold blood simply because he wanted to see how it felt. After several years of stalking and killing random co-eds , Ed Kemper finally turned himself in to police, only after killing his mother. Interviews with Kemper have revealed what we have come to expect… Mommy issues.

Clarnell Elizabeth Kemper gave birth to Edmund on December 18,1948. At birth, Kemper was 13 lbs and continued to be much larger than his peers throughout his life. At his full height, Kemper measured 6 feet 9 inches and appeared menacing. Apparently, Clarnell felt this way as well. She began locking him in the basement for the night at the age of ten , as she did not trust him to be alone with his sisters. Abusive???? Maybe, but early behaviors indicated that Edmund could not be trusted.


Beginning in early childhood, the dark fantasies began to take over his life. He enjoyed playing with his sister’s dolls , removing their hands and heads. The underlying themes to his play involved danger. According to Kemper his favorite game was “gas chamber”. He also enjoyed peeping into the windows of his second grade teacher.

Kemper took pleasure in terrorizing his family from an early age. He reportedly buried the family cat while it was still alive. When the cat was dead, he dug up the body and cut off its head. Little Edmund placed it on a sharp stick and displayed it for all to see. Three years later, Kemper killed another family cat when he thought it was showing more affection to his sister.

Having killed his grandparents at the age of fifteen, Edmund was placed in Atascadero State Hospital. Doctors there diagnosed him as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The structure of the hospital provided a much-needed security for Ed. He was even intrusted to become an assistant to the doctors at the facility. During this time, Kemper had access to the files and notes which provided him the ability to mask his insanity. Kemper spent six years at the hospital then he was released.

It was strongly recommended that Kemper not return to the care of his mother. However, that is just what happened. They continued their tumultuous relationship, often fighting so loud that the neighbors could hear. Even after moving away, Kemper claims he could not escape his mother’s criticism as she would frequently call and visit.

Kemper’s frustration resulted in further retreat to his fantasies. He perfected the art of picking up hitchhiker and remaining innocuous right up until the moment he attacked and killed them. Kemper’s double life of “good guy” by day and monster by night was still not enough to quell his inner contempt for humanity. Eventually, he had to face is mother.

On April 20, 1973 Clarnell arrived home from a night out and went into her room. Edmund entered her room and was met with a cold remark. He left the room and waited for her to fall asleep. He then attacked her with a claw hammer. He also slit her throat with a knife and proceed to decapitate her. Perhaps the most disgusting act perpetrated was committing a sex act with his mother’s head. He placed her head on a shelf and yelled at it for one hour while throwing darts as if it were a dart board.

When this did not satisfy his rage, Edmund removed her tongue and larynx and ground them in the garbage disposal. He mashed it into mush. He then decided to invite his mom’s best friend, Sally Hallett, for dinner and a movie. When she arrived, Kemper strangled her and stuffed her body into the closet with the remainder of his mother. He left the scene in Hallett’s car.

Waiting for the news to break on the radio proved too much for Kemper and he decided to call the police and confess. The police were not responsive and asked him to call back later. He waited in his car for the police to arrive. He was arrested and convicted of eight counts of first degree murder.


During the subsequent imprisonment, Edmund Kemper has been forthright in discussing his past misdeeds. He appears to be a calm, self aware and even likable. Because of his high I.Q. and willingness to talk, he is perhaps the most documented serial killer in U.S. history. It is important to recognize that Kemper is simply telling his own side of the story. When discussing the murders of the co-ed hitchhikers, he often paints a picture of compassion stating he killed some of them so that they would not have to witness what he was going to do to their friend.

It’s clear that the life of Edmund Kemper was doomed to failure. Kemper blamed his problems on a terrible relationship with his critical, alcoholic mother. Although I agree that the mother -child relationship can be a contributing factor to mental illness, it is safe to say that Ed Kemper’s particular problems are a combination of abuse and genetics. Perhaps, if his mom had sought help for him sooner. (Like before he killed his grand parents) he might have been rehabilitated. Instead she paid the ultimate price.

Just a Boy and his Mother: Ed Gein

Historically, it is the mom who is blamed when things go wrong with her son. Perhaps it is because the devotion of a mom is perceived to be the most primitive of bonds. If a child goes astray it must be a lack of discipline or love at home. The accepted belief today is that a combination of biological predisposition and lack of support at home that cause maladaptive relationships. However, it is still commonly accepted that a boy’s most powerful influence in his attitudes towards women, is his relationship with his mother.

Although Ed Gein was not technically considered a serial killer, he is notable because his story inspired the moviesPsycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The police in Plainfield, Wisconsin had no idea what was in store when they began to search Gein’s home in search of a missing woman, Bernice Worden. Not only did they find the butchered body of Worden, there was an entire house filled with various body parts. Gein had created several masks and reupholstered furniture with human skin. In the kitchen, there were bowls made from human skulls. As police searched each room it seemed that the gruesome discoveries would never end. When police reached a door that had been sealed shut, the anticipation was excruciating. Inside was the bedroom of Gein’s mother, completely untouched. It has been kept as a shrine after her passing.

When researching this case, it is easy to focus on the outlandish discoveries made in the home. Many report that it was the abnormal relationship with his mother that was the cause of Ed’s behavior. Augusta Gein is described as an overbearing, strictly religious person. She often lectured her sons on the evils and temptations of the world. Ed’s father was an abusive alcoholic who would often fight with Augusta. Because Ed Gein was socially isolated, his bond with his mother was his entire world.

According to Gein, after the death of his mother, he began to dig up bodies of middle aged woman. He created a suit of skin. This in someway allowed him to feel closer to his deceased mother. Eventually, Ed graduated to murder and admitted to killing two women. Ed Gein was diagnosed as schizophrenic and remained in a psychiatric facility for the remainder of his life.

It’s my opinion that Augusta Gein was disproportionately blamed for her son’s behavior. She was a woman who acted as the head of the household in a time when this was out of the ordinary. Augusta ran a business and tried to educate her son’s in a way she felt was morally responsible. Perhaps this did contribute to the disturbing thoughts and attitudes of her son, however, the schizophrenia was the determining factor in my opinion. I was also impressed while researching the case, the lack of information about Ed Gein’s father. His emotional “absence” is surely just as big a factor as Augusta’s domineering ways.

Ted Bundy

It all began in 1989. I was a “tween” before the phrase was coined. The evening news was broadcasting a tailgating atmosphere outside the execution of Ted Bundy. Bystanders held signs and cheered waiting for the moment to arrive.

Of course I had no idea of the atrocities he had committed. I was just upset by the behavior of the crowd. It was shameful, I thought. That’s when my mom decided it would be a good idea to let me in on the story of Ted Bundy.

A few years later she gave me a copy of Ann Rule’s popular book, “Stranger Beside Me”. Needless to say, I read that book within the next 24 hours. For a week I was terrified to even walk to the bathroom at night. I lay awake just replaying the scenes in my head. What had happened to Ted Bundy that created the monster he became? Was he just born evil or were there circumstances that set him on his destructive path? More importantly, how could I stop this from happening again ?

The Evolution of the Unimommer

After my introduction to the true crime genre, I was hooked. I read anything I could find related to serial killers and their victims. John Wayne Gacy, the Gainesville Ripper and the Green River Killer haunted my mind. What drove these people and how did they hide in plain sight from the rest of us?

This of course led to an interest in psychology. Child development to be exact. Back in those days, people believed that who you would become was determined by the time you were five-years-old. I began studying theories of attachment, temperament and development and eventually settled into a career as an Early Childhood Educator.(Logically) Of particular interest to me was Carl Jung’s idea of the shadow. The idea is that we all have a darker side which we repress in order to conform to societal expectations. With very young children the shadow is not so far in the dark. They are impulsive and self-centered and often do not attempt to hide these traits. I tend to believe that serial killers are just people who have not properly integrated their “shadow” .

After having my own children, I was keenly aware of my role in socializing them in a way that would integrate their ” shadow” in a healthy way. I began developing my own “parenting manifesto” and developed a paranoid attitude towards the outside forces which could influence my children into the darkness. In a sense I became isolated in my own cabin in the woods.

Eventually, I realized that isolating myself was not the answer. How could my children learn to socialize appropriately if they were not exposed to others? We are currently happy and healthy and enjoy time with friends and family. However, after filling my head with all the true crime I could find, the Unimommer is still there.