08 September 2013

The Kemper Case


by Leigh Lundin

If I were to blame someone for my interest in a life of crime, it would be my Aunt Rae, Rachel Kemper. She devoured mysteries leaving them for this impressionable child to read– Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr… she seemed to prefer male authors. By the time I was ten, I would discover the detective stories of Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and of course Agatha Christie.

John Kemper
John Kemper
My cousin, John Kemper, has also been doing detective work in libraries and on the internet, researching our ancestors, a passion of our mothers and grandmother. John is exacting and meticulous. If he can’t nail down each and every particular, a questionable link won’t fly with him.

He turned up the fact at least one ancestor floated over on the Mayflower, Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins is the only person to appear in both Jamestown and Plymouth. A contentious hard-head with authority issues (yes, the bloodline tells), he damned near got himself hanged for mutiny in Bermuda. Shakespeare may have modeled the character Stephano in The Tempest after our Stephen.

After Jamestown, this true adventurer signed up to come to the New World a second time, bringing his family to what would become Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Indeed, Hopkins contributed majorly to the success of Plymouth.

In choosing to battle Indians rather than live with and learn from them, the Jamestown colony provoked a disaster, worsened for the Indians by the arrival of a despicable historical character, Lord De la Warr (Delaware), with a genocidal mandate to wipe out Indians altogether.

The surname Kemper is considered either a Dutch-German place name from the Kempen regions or a Germanic occupational name meaning peasant farmer or hemp grower, the latter of considerable interest to some. It may also be an English corruption of the French Camp or Champ from the Latin Campus, a military field.
In Plymouth, Hopkins and Indians cooperated. Before leaving England, Hopkins had purchased gifts and offerings for the natives. The Pilgrims repaid Indians for caches of corn they’d discovered and filched upon arrival. The colony tried and executed at least one man for killing an Indian. Hopkins’ house became a regional meeting place between Indians and the Europeans. The result was a peace and partnership that lasted half a century.

But wait, there’s more!

Years ago, I remember mailings from a company that promised to research one's royal lineage and produce a book, complete with history, heraldic symbols, and the opportunity to buy wall plaques and coffee mugs with your coat-of-arms. Turns out they had ways of surmising royal connections for just about everyone. The book, titled something like The Snerdsbottoms of America, turned out to be generic, mostly a history of heraldry itself, great houses of Europe, and finally a few paragraphs about the Snerdsbottom family, their supposed connection to the Duchy of Snerdly, and their "painstakingly researched" coat-of-arms. That and a £5 or €10 ticket will get you into Versailles or the Tower of London to view your Crown Jewels.

Plantagenet
Plantagenet Coat-of-Arms
1198-1340
It turns out we’re also descended from another rascal, Edward III, son of the failed Edward II. Thus we bear the burden of the Battle of Bannockburn, the Hundred Years War, not to mention the death of Jean d'Arc and that whole French Templar debacle. Ah, the chains of history.

I may not be a monarchist, but everyone likes to think they have royal blood, don’t they? Excuse me for a moment whilst I polish my brassy snob appeal.

But how meaningful is such a claim? Those who follow my articles know I enjoy math puzzles, so let's assume thirty generations of descent, and if you graph the numbers on n children to the 30th power or n30, it becomes obvious you, you, possibly you and millions of other people can brag of their distant royal ancestry. It's called 'pedigree collapse', a phrase I picked up from John and apparently discussed in a Stephen Fry QI episode. But for an instant or two, we can enjoy those few strands of regal DNA.

When Good Kempers Go Bad

A column on crime wouldn’t be complete without villainy. I’m not talking about an unfortunate character in the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (glad I didn't see either), but I couldn’t help but admire a girl so taken with the character’s name Kemper, she tenderly named her baby after him. I hope that’s the last we hear of him in this context.

John also researched Edmund Emil Kemper III and determined, much to his relief, that Edmund Emil is not related. This Kemper is the sort of character the television program Criminal Minds focuses on– bad childhood, badder adulthood. He was one sick… well, rather than the word that comes to mind, let's say malefactor.

With high IQ and low resistance to his mother’s depravations, Edmund’s become a poster boy for the belief murderers aren’t born, they’re made. His older sister threw him in the deep end of a pool and may have tried to push him under a train.

The word ‘necrophilia’, literally ‘love of corpses’, isn’t capable of expressing the depth of Edmund’s sickness and frankly neither am I. Suffice to say it’s a stomach-churning read. The only positive note after ten murders– three of them relatives– he realized he was one sick, well, miscreant and turned himself in to police. Until that point, authorities hadn’t a clue who the perpetrator was.

Thus I’m happy to report, thanks to the laudable work of John Kemper, we’re not related to Mr. Edmund Kemper III.

10 comments:

Dixon Hill said...

Leigh, I think ya' dodged a bullet on that one! LOL

--Dix

Louis A. Willis said...

Leigh, read this post on my iPad with my morning coffee, and man, as Dixon says, you dodged the bullet on the Edmund dude. I was hoping I knew somebody with royal blood. Oh, wells...

Leigh Lundin said...

(grin) I'm relieved Edmund Kemper hasn't said he dodged a bullet not being related to us.

By the way, thanks to a reader for the tip about QI. I don't recall that episode, which is available on-line. The show is funny and intelligent.

A Broad Abroad said...

(whispering)Not so fast, Dix and Willis. Have you seen his height and the size of his... intellect?

Anonymous said...

Years ago I used to date a great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II. He actually was a lovely person ... when I introduced him to my mother, he kissed her hand and said "Enchante" till she swooned! LOL

Leigh Lundin said...

Anon, curse those foreigners! We don't stand a chance against their romantic schmoozing.

ABA (laughing) I think I'll just keep quiet. Did your mum like the article?

Anonymous said...

There's an old saying about choosing your grandparents wisely. Maybe it works!

Anonymous said...

I always knew you were a royal pain, Leigh!

Anonymous said...

Ah yes I can spot the royal air, the adventurer and peacemaker in you,Leigh. But Pocohontas? My imagination is being drawn and quartered by too many scenarios not any of which I'd mention in this forum. I won't say if that's a reflection of my strange sense of humor or motivation from the source. (Smile)

C. S. Poulsen said...

Ah yes I can spot the royal air, the adventurer and peacemaker in you,Leigh. But Pocohontas? My imagination is being drawn and quartered by too many scenarios not any of which I'd mention in this forum. I won't say if that's a reflection of my strange sense of humor or motivation from the source. (Smile)