David Fincher’s patient, almost essay-like Netflix show Mindhunter is driven by a series of long-playing interactions with monstrous serial killers. The first major one is also perhaps the show’s most indelible: The hulking, conversational sociopath Edmund Kemper, who, in between joking asides and bites of pizza, details exactly why and how he decapitated a series of women and had sex with their corpses, including his own mother. It is, obviously, a fucked-up show, made all the more fucked-up by how endearingly Kemper is portrayed by actor Cameron Britton.
As a recently unearthed 1987 article from the Los Angeles Times notes, the unredeemable sociopath is a longtime charmer. The article details a blind couple who, shortly before getting married, traveled to California Medical Facility State Prison to pay their respects to the prisoners there who participated in a decades-long project recording audiobooks for the visually impaired. Midway through the story, Kemper shows up:
“Their visit here is so special for us. We get letters of thanks from our blind patrons, but they never come inside the prison to meet us,” said Edmund E. Kemper III, 38, the inmate who runs the program.
Kemper, a confessed mass murderer, has read onto tape cassettes more books for the blind than any other prisoner. He has spent more than 5,000 hours in a booth before a microphone in the last 10 years and has more than four million feet of tape and several hundred books to his credit.
Two large trophies saluting Kemper for his dedication to the program, presented by supporters outside the prison, are on display in the Volunteers prison office, which has eight recording booths, two monitor booths and a battery of sophisticated tape duplication equipment.
“I can’t begin to tell you what this has meant to me, to be able to do something constructive for someone else, to be appreciated by so many people, the good feeling it gives me after what I have done,” said the 6-foot, 9-inch prisoner.
The obvious questions, then: What did he record, and where is it? Some old Reddit threads discuss this in passing, and a defunct site set up for the audiobook project details at least 17 of Kemper’s many recordings. There are some pulpy westerns, romance novels, book four of Frank Herbert’s Dune saga, a novelization of the Star Wars trilogy, and a Robin Cook potboiler. The page immediately starts autoplaying his reading of the massively popular tale of incest and familial abuse Flowers In The Attic, which has been helpfully preserved below:
The show conveys Kemper as a knowing, conniving figure, a central acolyte in a larger, almost apocalyptic movement of nihilistic serial killers. There may be 5,000 hours of him reading out there somewhere, but 45 seconds of him is terrifying enough for now, thanks.