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.

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.