You often hear discussions of brain trauma when listening to true crime podcasts or watching true crime shows but, did you understand what was being discussed? If you are interested in learning more about the human brain and the importance of each part of this beautifully complex organ, this blog is for you!
The human brain – it can do magic. The brain is the control center of the nervous system - accepting and transmitting chemical and electrical signals. These signals allow us to see, hear, speak, move, love, understand, and ultimately – live. The brain’s complexity is utterly astounding. I remember reading somewhere that the human brain has more molecular switches than all of the computers, routers, and Internet connections on the planet. Wow, right?
So what does the brain do, exactly? That is a loaded question, do a little research on the Internet and it will seem like we know TONS. In reality, we don’t know what we don’t know. I will tell you that the “10% brain use” myth is precisely that: a myth. So back to the question “…what does the brain do, exactly?” Well, the answer depends upon the area of the brain being discussed. The thing that makes us different from other animals is our cerebrum – where higher thinking happens. The brain (part of the CNS) is the control center of the nervous system accepting and transmitting chemical and electrical signals. These signals allow us to see, hear, create language, move, love, understand, and ultimately – live. The brain is an incredibly complex organ that scientists are still working to decipher.
The nervous system is divided into two parts; the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The Central Nervous System includes the brain and the spinal cord. The Peripheral Nervous System includes the somatic (body) and autonomic divisions.
It is hard to believe that the sweet little face of a very young Jeffrey Dahmer would someday be the face of the Milwaukee Cannibal. His parents, Lionel and Joyce, seemed to be the typical American family of the 1960s; dad worked and mom stayed home to take care of the house and children. Lionel was a highly intelligent, driven, workaholic. As a child, Lionel had been obsessed with fire but he was able to harness his obsession into a love of chemistry. Joyce was the daughter of a violent alcoholic who seemingly suffered from a number of mental health issues including substance abuse. The couple married in 1959 and soon realized how little they had in common.
Jeffrey grew up in a volatile household under the care of a mother who was unable to emotionally bond with her son. As a young boy, Jeffrey underwent a double hernia surgery which, reportedly, changed the once exuberant boy into a shy and introverted one. Jeffrey likely had Asperger's Syndrome (one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders), a disorder that typically will manifest sometime between 2 and 4 years old.
Dahmer developed an obsession with the entrails of dead animals, an obsession that would become fused with his sexuality as he entered puberty. He had trouble fitting in with peers and eventually realized that he was homosexual (not an accepted "life-style" in the 1970s).
Above are photos of Jeffrey's high school graduation, a few photos with his father and brother, his army basic training portrait, and a photo of Jeffrey and Lionel after Jeffrey had been incarcerated.
Dahmer was arrested a couple of times prior to 1991. Once was for indecent exposure and another was for molesting a young Laotian boy. He went on to kill at least 17 boys and young men between the years of 1978-1991. Listen to my three part series to hear more about the Milwaukee Cannibal.
You will notice that there are 2 victims included in the above flyer that have not been 100% linked to Dahmer.
Edmund Emil Kemper, III (the Coed Killer) claimed a total of 10 victims between 1963 - 1974; 3 family members, 1 family friend, and 6 coeds. Ed was born on December 18, 1948 in Burbank, CA. to parents Edmund Emil Kemper, Jr. (EE) and Clarnell Strandberg Kemper. Ed's father was a WWII vet and an incredibly passive man and his mother was overbearing and domineering.. Ed's childhood was fraught with confusion, anger, violence, and abuse. Ed’s parents had a very toxic and tumultuous marriage; Clarnell would regularly ridicule and belittle EE in front of the children, effectively emasculating him with her cruelty. There was a great deal of physical and verbal abuse in the Kemper house. The effect of this constant turmoil between his parents had lasting consequences; the least of which was a distorted view of male/female relationships. Childhood exposure to violence between parents coupled with a lack of sexual education (sex was a taboo topic in the Kemper house) can obscure the line between sex and violence. Kemper may have inadvertently seen his parents engaged in sex. The blurring of violence and sex in children can be devastating. In fact, Dr. Davidson Abrahamsen (who was a leading authority on violence in American) postulated that children interpret sex between parents as a violent act in which his father is hurting his mother. “To the child’s mind sex, the primal scene, is a bloody crime which, because it is a secret, he is forbidden to watch”. So, when a child sees his parents having sex, the child often interprets this as violence, especially when there is no sex education in the home. Margaret Cheney, in her book “The Coed Killer: A Study of the Murders, Mutilations, and Matricide of Edmund Kemper, III” speculates that Ed may have been exposed to some sort of heterosexual over-stimulation. Psychologists would later remark that Ed had an insatiable interest in sex. The effect on young Ed was profound and he began to have morbid, sexual fantasies at a very early age. The couple separated when Ed was just 6 years old but, his father had been absent because of his job for a couple of years prior.
Clarnell Kemper managed to make her son both hate her and love her. Posthumously diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, she knew how to manipulate her son and what's worse is that she knew how to press his buttons. She called him a weirdo and made fun of his size. MOTHER OF THE YEAR!
As a teenager, Ed was sent to live with his paternal grandparents (Edmund Emil Kemper & Maude Matilda Hughey Kemper) and subsequently murdered them when he was 15 years old. For his crime, Ed spent 5 years at California's Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane. Here he lived among adult male, mentally disordered, sex offenders. Obviously an excellent environment for a teenager diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, right? An especially great place for a teenager with morbid sexual urges. When he was released from Atascadero, the one piece of advice his doctors gave him was to never speak to his mother again. Instead, he was paroled to her. From 1969 - 1972, Ed attempted to live a normal life but, eventually, he allowed his dark fantasies to take over.
In 1972, Ed Kemper began his murderous reign. Over the course of 10 months, he murdered 6 young coeds. When this did not satiety his need to murder, he realized it was his mother he really wanted to kill. On April 20 & 21, 1973, Ed murdered his mother in a very gruesome manner. He then invited her best friend over and murdered her as well.
Once in custody, Ed could not stop talking; to the police, to reporters, to counselors, to anyone who would listen. He blamed his relationship with his mother and his inability to communicate effectively with the opposite sex for his horrific crimes.
If you are interested in learning more about Ed Kemper's psychology and the biological factors that may have contributed to his murderous drive and abhorrent paraphilias, listen to my 3-part podcast series.