Subject: Edmund Kemper, the Co-ed Killer
I have always been the kind of woman who was going to join a book club in her 30s. Same as being a cat lady, same as being a bit of an old maid, though I managed to escape that title by becoming a sassy divorcee. And now I am in two book clubs, though for a short while, I was a member of three book clubs. Needing to fill the void left by leaving the third one, when a friend of mine started a true crime research club, I knew that was going to be the perfect fit.
Our first research subject was assigned and we were warned that it was a fairly grisly tale. Our subject was Edmund Kemper, the co-ed killer, who gave rides to hitchhiking co-eds in California in the 70s, drove them to secluded locations, and murdered them and defiled their corpses in incredibly specific and intricate manners. From listening to a true crime podcast (hat tip to Sword and Scale) about the murders and their motivations to watching interviews of Kemper on youtube, two things were immediately clear. One: Edmund Kemper blamed his behavior on his mother. Two: Kemper was always the kind of man who was going to grow up to brutalize women, once the neighborhood’s pets weren’t enough to sate his cruel curiosities. Too bad he couldn’t just join some book clubs, to reign in his murderous rages.
As a young girl, I used to dream of owning my own house. I can’t remember if I imagined buying a home with a husband, or if it seemed like something I could just do myself. Like Virginia Woolf wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” And I always wrote fiction, from the time I first learned how to write. Sometimes inventing little stories at night was the only way I could get to sleep. They expanded from things I wished I hadn’t been too timid to say when challenged to things I would eventually say, barely provoked and rarely one to hold her tongue. Fictitious amusements I turned to truths.
At night, locked in a basement in his mother’s house, Edmund Kemper was consumed with thoughts of revenge, with murder. It was clear to him from an early age that the women in his life were his problem, by his own words, that living in a matriarchal household was what drove him to his crimes. The first person he killed was his grandmother, whom he found to be overbearing. He shot her and then killed his grandfather, to save him the trouble of finding his wife murdered. Edmund Kemper committed his first murder as a teenager and was released back into the custody of his mother, the worst possible place for him, and the best place to hone his taste for revenge.
As an adult, my dream of owning my own home was partially fueled by a need for a space of my own, free from the annoyances of upstairs neighbors and a basement that seemed intent on killing me from beneath. My upstairs neighbors would stomp at all hours and didn’t seem to know about indoor voices. They also had what seemed like a seriously unhealthy obsession with Game of Thrones which I always attributed to the idea that these seemed like the type of dudes who’d have no issue fucking their own sisters. Even in their most irritating moments, I never once fantasized of killing them. Never once occurred to me. I could imagine it now, from the comfort of my basement living room, of giving them a death worthy of the most hated Lord in all of Westeros. But I don’t really want to.
When Edmund Kemper fulfilled his ultimate fantasy of killing his mother, he then killed her best friend whom he decided wouldn’t be able to cope with life without her closest ally. Not long after that, he turned himself in. The fantasy complete, his taste for killing was still not sated. After all, the real crime to him was that no one knew he was responsible for it. And once they did, he couldn’t stop talking about it. It was that old adage that once you get what you want, you don’t want it anymore. Desire being a circle, always, never having a finish line. Always approaching infinity, a Moebius strip, bright like a spotlight.
Like when any dream is achieved, my biggest wish fulfilment of the year, my first home, has rewarded me with a whole new set of concerns. Like how to fix the dishwasher, when it’s connected to the most malfunctioning and seemingly useless household device ever: the garbage disposal. It was the one item in the house I didn’t really want when I purchased the place, and I have been researching how to remove the annoyance of it from my kitchen sink. Not a deal breaker, just another thing to desire to change.
There are certain things, when you get your own home that are a given. Freely walking naked from room to room. Picking out the most evil characters from your Harry Potter postage stamps when mailing your mortgage payment. And so on. When you live alone, as a woman, there are certain things that seem like a good idea. A baseball bat and a knife in the bedroom, in case of intruders. A bar to keep a sliding door in place, should someone try to break in. Vicious attack cats that would probably hiss and then go hide under something or sidle up and be the invader’s new best friend.
There are things I have learned about garbage disposals that seem pretty obvious, like what you shouldn’t put in them. I am not sure what the previous owners of the house put in the garbage disposal, but it seems like they didn’t adhere to the very simple rules of what not to throw away. Because of this, the dishwasher tends to back up into the sink, and then not drain properly.
To keep your garbage disposal in good working order, every so often, feed it lemon peels. The citric acid will help break up the detritus and will help to prevent the disposal from getting clogged.
I don’t think the previous owners of my house knew about that. And I definitely don’t think they knew about Edmund Kemper. I didn’t, either, until Ladies Murder Club. But then, as I got deeper into my research, I realized I had heard of him, but knew him as the Co-Ed Killer, a cautionary tale most college-aged women have heard about the dangers of hitchhiking. Rule number one being: don’t. Full stop.
They said when Edmund Kemper’s killing spree culminated in the murder of his mother, her vocal cords were too tough for the garbage disposal.
Garbage disposals don’t come with that warning, that if you murder your nagging, overbearing, cruelly abusive mother, do not put her vocal cords down the disposal. They warn you about egg shells, greases, celery, and coffee grounds, and even bones. With the warning of bones, you would think the context clue was there, not to dispose of vocal cords, either. But I suppose when you’re a psychopath that has normalized murder and torturing women as part of your routine, you don’t worry yourself over details like this.
They said when Edmund Kemper’s mother’s vocal cords were ejected back upwards through the garbage disposal, that he found it incredibly appropriate since she never did seem to be able to shut up.
You should also not put fruit pits, potato peels, corn husks, or artichokes down the garbage disposal. The context clue here is what foods should not go down into the disposal.
Edmund Kemper was said to have cooked pieces of his victims into a casserole. Perhaps he simply enjoyed fine dining on his victims’ remains, or maybe he was just the type of person who didn’t like to see anything go to waste.
But of course, Edmund Kemper is a psychopath, up for parole again this year. But even Edmund Kemper knows he is not safe for this world, so he does not appeal for his own release, but rather advocates for keeping the world a safer place with him behind bars.
To keep your garbage disposal clean and functioning properly, you can send down some ice cubes to help break detritus from the blades. You can even make lemon juice or vinegar ice cubes and send those through for an added amount of biodegradable cleansing. It is recommended that you label the ice cube trays so you don’t give yourself a surprise vinegar ice cube in your Coca Cola. Though I imagine the lemon cubes wouldn’t be so bad in a Coca Cola acid bath.
To keep yourself from ending up in a casserole or from being rejected by a garbage disposal, there are some important steps to follow:
1. Don’t be a woman. You’ll find this will solve a lot of your being murdered problems.
2. Don’t hitchhike or accept rides from strangers. This includes Lyft and Uber. Probably.
3. If you fail step one and end up being a woman anyway, remember that being murdered is always your fault, and never the fault of a psychopath. At least according to Edmund Kemper, who blames his mother’s murder on her, as well as the deaths of those who he butchered and mutilated before her.
When you own a house and live alone, regardless of your gender, you might not feel safe there. You might not be safe there, but you probably won’t know that until it is too late. Me, I am going to figure out how to fix or possibly remove this damned garbage disposal. And hopefully, that won’t involve accidentally severing an appendage and really hopefully, it won’t mean purposefully having bits of myself shoved down it if an intruder decides that seems like a good place to dispose of my body. Maybe I should post a list next to the disposal switch that says what not to put down there. Like eggshells, grease, and human remains.