What Was Ed Kemper's Childhood Really Like?

Every tragic story has a tragic beginning, and that sentiment is immediately clear while perusing serial killer Ed Kemper's downright creepy upbringing. Also known as the Coed Killer (notably portrayed in Netflix's Mindhunter), Kemper killed six young women in the area around Santa Cruz, CA as well as several members of his family from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

Edmund Kemper was born on December 18, 1948 to Edmund Emil Kemper II and Clarnell Kemper in Burbank, California. Little Ed's relationship with his alcoholic mother was strained from a very young age, as she reportedly blamed all of her problems on her son. 

Following his parents' divorce when he was 9 years old, Ed moved to Montana with his mother and two sisters. At the age of 10, she forced Ed to sleep in a basement away from his sisters, in fear that the boy would eventually hurt the girls, per Biography. Whether or not Clarnell knew the extent of young Ed's dark fantasies, time has certainly proven that mother knows best.

You don't want a playdate with this kid

Kemper's childhood is definitely not your average coming-of-age story: Ed's favorite childhood activities included playing with dead animal parts and decapitating his sisters' dolls. He would make his sisters play a game called "gas chamber", in which he would ask one of the girls to blindfold him and seat him in a chair, where he pretended to die a painful death.

At age 10, Kemper buried the family cat alive, and proceeded to dig up the body, decapitate it and mount its head on a spike, according to Crime and Investigation. He butchered the second family cat with a knife at age 13. According to author and professor of forensic psychology Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Kemper stated later in life that he got satisfaction from successfully lying to his parents about the kills, via Crime Library.

After a period of being bounced around between his mother in Montana and his father, Ed was eventually sent to live with his paternal grandparents in California.

A visit to grandma's gone horribly wrong

Ed's grandparents lived on a farm in North Fork, California where the young teenager began shooting small animals for fun. But his rage only built up when his grandparents eventually confiscated the rifle: on August 27, 1964, 15-year-old Kemper shot his grandmother after an argument, promptly shooting his grandfather when he returned home. Ed called his mother and informed her of the horrific incident, who eventually phoned the police. Kemper would later be quoted as telling the police that he shot his grandmother "to see what it felt like."

The teenage murderer was admitted into the California Youth Authority system for his crimes, where it was determined he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and demonstrated an unusually high IQ. Kemper was sent to Atascadero State Hospital -– a maximum security prison for convicts with mental illness –- and was released at the age of 21.

All grown up

It goes without saying that his 1969 release does not mark the end of Ed Kemper's dark and twisted story. The young adult promptly moved back in with his mother after his release, where he worked a variety of jobs and attended community college with the goal of becoming a state trooper. Kemper was eventually rejected from the position due to his weight (being 300 pounds and standing at almost 7 feet tall will get you the name "Big Ed"). Unable to find work, the 21-year-old began pursuing other pastimes, notably taking an interest in the large number of young women hitchhiking in the area.

Kemper went on to murder six female hitchhikers in 1972, only to kill his mother and her best friend one year later. He was found guilty on eight counts of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1973. 

And yes, Kemper is still alive and has been enjoying his life in prison. In fact, he's been waiving parole hearings for 35 years. Apparently he's having a blast making ceramic mugs.