The final episode of Season 1! We figured we should go BIG. So, Emily heads to Santa Cruz to tell the story of Edmund “Big Ed” Kemper, the Co-Ed Killer. Then Rachel heads toward Island Time and visits the Galapagos Island, specifically to tell the story of… The Galapagos Affair! Hopefully, you’re horrified.
Edmund Kemper – The Co-Ed Killer
Today, we are heading to Santa Cruz because this is the location where the majority of today’s story took place. Six of the ten murders in my story took place in the Santa Cruz area and my oh my is this going to be a ride pun intended, which you will understand in about 30 seconds. Because today, after hearing your story of Ed Gein, I was inspired to finally dig in and tell the story of… our other favorite Ed: Edmund “Big Ed” Kemper.
Are you ready? Let’s ride.
Now, Ed Kemper is basically a household name – at least for anyone listening to this podcast, it probably is. He is notoriously known as one of history’s most horrible serial killers and I definitely knew the vast majority of this information before starting my research, but I had never watched any of the interviews with him. And so I finally did while I was writing this story, and those videos… they just gave me chill up the spine, if I’m being honest. The man was horrible, his murders were gruesome, and the absolute calm, matter-of-fact way that he thinks about the things he’s done is perhaps the most frightening of all.
And because all of these quotes are available – I figured we would dig into this story as guided by Ed himself.
Here’s quote #1:
“I remember there was actually a sexual thrill — you hear that little pop and pull their heads off and hold [them] up by the hair. Whipping their heads off, their body sitting there. That’d get me off.”
This is a quote from Ed Kemper in reference to his childhood. So let’s start there.
Born on December 18, 1948, in Burbank, California. His full name was Edmund and his troubling behavior started at an early age – as many serial killers’ do. His mother, Clarnell Elizabeth Kemper, was an alcoholic who possibly suffered from borderline personality disorder and his father, Edmund Emil Kemper the II, was a WWII vet. He also had two siblings, an older sister, Susan, who was five years older than him, and a younger sister, Allyn, two years younger than him.
SO, we all know that Kemper, like Ed Gein, struggled with momma issues – and according to Ed, she was ruthlessly mean, especially when she was sauced, to both him and his father. Apparently, she regularly berated Ed’s dad for his “menial job” as an electrician. And she refused to coddle her son – even as a small child that needed love and care – because she claimed she was worried it would “turn him gay.” In this super volatile environment, Ed began to develop dark fantasies early on. Before he was even 10 years old, he would spend time decapitating his sisters’ dolls – hence the quote that kicked us off.
Another really crazy thing… he forced his sisters to play disturbing games — like “electric chair” and “gas chamber.” And no he didn’t – say – strap his sibling to a chair or lock them in a small room… he actually asked his sisters to pretend to march him to his death. Crazy right?
So, let’s move on to another quote from Ed. Quote #2:
“If I kiss her, I’d have to kill her first.”
This is in reference to the time when he was stalking his second-grade teacher while carrying his father’s bayonet. Apparently, he had a crush on her and when his sister Susan found out she teased him about it saying that he wanted to kiss the teacher. The “I’d have to kill her first” was Ed’s reply to that sentiment.
At the age of 10, some of this behavior started escalating to actual violence. First, his family life shifted because his father finally got fed up with Clarnell and left. This was in 1957 and it was then that Clarnell moved the family to Helena Montana and young Eddie killed both of the family’s cats with a machete. He even buried one of the cats alive and later dug it up and decapitated it. Why these freaks always have to mess with Cats specifically I don’t know and I don’t care for it
Now, without Edmund Sr. around, Clarnell began to fully focus her aggression on her teenage son. She apparently made him sleep in the basement, because she thought that he might hurt his sisters – which retrospectively may have been a solid instinct. But she also regularly berated and insulted him, she told him things like “no woman would ever fall in love with you” and “you’re massive, how could anyone love you” which is harsh!
At the age of 14, Ed had enough. He ran away from home that year to go live with his father. He was certain it would be a better life for him, but after he arrived, he eventually learned that his father, who had remarried and had another son, was not quite as happy to see him as he’d hoped. His dad did welcome him for a while, but after a while decided to send Ed to live with his grandparents perhaps with the hope that he would get straightened out.
Ready for quote #3?
She “thought she had more balls than any man and was constantly emasculating me and my grandfather to prove it.”
Yep, moving in with Grandma and Grandpa did not calm Eddie down or make him feel warm and loved like most visits to the grandmas house do. Instead he experienced more of a “big bad wolf in grandmas clothes” kind of encounter. Or so he says.
Apparently, Ed clashed with his grandmother on numerous occasions and this made him super angry. Once again, he felt like he was living with a woman he couldn’t please and like he was basically in jail – which of course made me think of Stepbrothers… “This house is a PRISON!”
Except, instead of putting his balls on his grandma’s drumset, Ed killed her
On August 27, 1964, when he was just shy of 16 years old, Ed sat with his grandma Maude at the kitchen table, going over proofs from a children’s book she was writing. Apparently, according to Ed’s recounting of the story – she looked up and noticed Ed had an odd look on his face… it unnerved her so much that she told him to stop it. After a moment, Ed picked up his gun and whistled for his dog, saying he was headed out to shoot some gophers. Maude warned him not to shoot the birds, and returned her attention to her work.
At this point, Ed turned around and exits the house. For a while he watched her through the screen door. Then when her back was to him he raised his rifle and took aim at her head. He fired once, and Maude slumped at the table. Then he fired twice more, hitting her in the back. Then, he wrapped her head in a towel and dragged her by the head into the bedroom. Within a few minutes, his grandpa got home from the grocery store. And as he began to unload the truck Ed took aim and shot him in the back of the head as well.
Now, apparently he killed his grandmother out of anger. But he killed his grandfather so that he wouldn’t find out that his wife had been murdered and maybe die of shock. Like, the way Ed puts it it was like his murder of his grandpa was a mercy killing. Now, since he was only about 16 at the time and probably didn’t have much option other than to call momma dearest and confess. So, that’s what he did.
Unfortunately, being 16 had another positive consequence for Ed. Because, for the cold blooded murders of his grandparents … Ed was then sent to the criminally insane unit of the Atascadero State Hospital. There, doctors determined that Kemper had paranoid schizophrenia — as well as a very impressive IQ of at least 145. Which is no Spencer Reid 187, but is considered “highly gifted” (not quite genius level, but very the step just below). Random – have you ever done an IQ test? (I have taken a few over the years. Always get about the same results. Took one this morning just out of curiosity and got the same basic results as usually which is usually somewhere between 127 and 143 – just shy of Edmund Kemper level smarts. Damn!)
Anywho, despite the crimes he committed, Ed Kemper only stayed in the hospital for a few years and then went before the parole board to be released. Fun fact: there were no psychologists or psychiatrists on the parole board that released him, and no follow-up psychiatric care for him. SO, on his 21st birthday in 1969, he strolled right out of there – a free man with an expunged juvenile record.
Of course, he didn’t have anywhere to go so he went to live with his mother, who was then working as an administrative assistant at the University of California in Santa Cruz.
Let’s move on to Quote #4:
“At first I picked up girls just to talk to them, just to try to get acquainted with people my own age and try to strike up a friendship. One side of me says, ‘Wow, what an attractive chick. I’d like to talk to her, date her.’ The other side of me says, ‘I wonder how her head would look on a stick?”
Free again, Ed said that he initially tried to live a normal life. First he needed a job, so he decide law enforcement was the best route for him. Which baffles me.
Unfortunately, he was denied a job as a state trooper — because he was deemed too large at 6’9″ and 300 pounds — and apparently the height limit was 6’ 8”. Which seems like an odd restriction to put on the job… but, as a backup, Kemper decided to take up an available position at the Department of Transportation.
This gave him a lot of time on the road and as he drove around California, Kemper noticed lots of women hitchhiking. This was the 70s, hitchhiking was very, very common. So, he started to give them rides – as his quote said, at first just to learn how to talk to people. But this steadily progressed.
He said that each time he would inch a little bit closer to what he was really wanting to do. He called it a daring kind of thing. First there wasn’t a gun. He would just drive them. Then he would take them to a vulnerable place, where there aren’t people watching, where he could act out if he wanted to, but he would say, ‘No, I can’t.’ And then he progressed to keeping a gun in the car, hidden. And his craving, started to overwhelm him. He actually picked up over 100 girls without incident.
But he couldn’t suppress the urge to kill forever and in 1972, Kemper let his inhibitions run wild. On May 7th, he picked up two Fresno State students, 18-year-old Mary Ann Pesce and 18-year-old Anita Luchessa, near Berkeley, California.
Kemper brought the women to a wooded area nearby, initially intending to rape them. He took one of the girls out of the car and tied the other girl up in the backseat. Then he took the first girl out into the forest and stabbed her. Then he came back for the second. He referred to it as a “horrible experience.”
He said that when he came back for the second girl, he opened the door to get her and she saw the blood on his hands and gasped and he said he immediately thought that he didn’t want her to judge him or know exactly what happened and so he said, “your friend got smart with me. I hit her and I think I broke her nose, you better come help.” But he didn’t hit her. He killed her. And now he was about to do the same to her friend.
He detailed this in an interview and was talking about how the roommate believed this and got out of the car and came with him and at first she didn’t even realize what was happening when he attacked her. Which is the saddest, most devastating thing to think about the horror that woman had to experience in her last moments.
Ed even went on to talk about how horrible it was for him and how he lost his wits. He talked about how he stuffed her in the trunk of the car and she wasn’t dead yet, but was obviously dying, and then he put his hand in his pocket and couldn’t’ find his keys and was like omg, I locked them in the trunk of the car! And started yanking on the trunk trying to get it open and when that didn’t work he started to run away and tripped because the gun he had in his pants fell down and tripped him and that’s when he was like “ok, Ed, calm down. Get your shit together. Check all your pockets.” And that’s when he finally found the keys and realized he was “ok.”
In his new, calm state he drove to his house in Alameda and on the way, a cop stopped him for a broken taillight!! Probably from when Ed was freaking out trying to get into the trunk… but the cop did not search the car. If he had, he would’ve found the bodies of Ed Kemper’s victims inside. Kemper did claim that if the officer decided to do a routine check and looked in the trunk, he would have killed him on the spot.
Kemper also said that there were at least three instances after the murders in the first 24 hours that he should have gotten caught. He didn’t really elaborate, but he said that there were three people or groups of people who saw him do something that scared them but they looked the other way and minded their own business.
Once home, Kemper raped the bodies. He also photographed them. And he claimed in his statements after the fact that as he removed parts from them, he took more photographs and paused from time to time to savor the erotic moments of possessing them so completely. He said that he also engaged in sexual acts with the severed parts. Then he dismembered them, placed the body parts into plastic bags, and disposed of them. Ed Kemper’s victims were hidden somewhere in a ravine near Loma Prieta Mountain. Of course, he also raped the heads of the victims one more time for good measure. Because, you know, as he said…
“The head trip fantasies were a bit like a trophy. You know, the head is where everything is at, the brain, eyes, mouth. That’s the person.”
From there, Kemper continued his murder spree, killing again on September 14, 1972. Like with his first murders, Kemper picked up a hitchhiker, 15-year-old Aiko Koo, who had missed her bus to dance class.
What’s especially sad is that by now, this is a noticeable pattern. Coeds are going missing while hitchhiking and the papers are reporting on how they are pretty sure these are related and telling people not to get into any cars with anyone that doesn’t have a university sticker on their car because they need to be safe. Well… Kemper’s mom worked at the college. So, his car had a sticker.
Remember that ridiculous key story? Well, during the murder of Aiko Koo, this actually happened! Before he had killed her he accidentally locked himself out of his car but was able to persuade the young teenage girl to let him back inside. He then choked her unconscious, raped her, and killed her.
After stuffing Koo’s body in his trunk, Kemper recalled looking down at his latest kill with pride. He said that he “admir[ed] [his] catch like a fisherman.”
Kemper soon began to risk getting caught — just for an additional thrill. He hung out at a bar called the Jury Room, which was popular with police officers. There, he made friends with local cops, who called him “Big Ed.” Kemper enjoyed being so close to the people trying to catch him.
And even though Kemper moved back with his mother in 1973, he murdered three more college students he picked up around the nearby campus.
He’s a quote to start that conversation:
“I went on down a ways and slowed down; then I remarked on the beautiful view; and I hesitated for several seconds; but I had been moving my pistol from down below my leg in my lap; finally I picked it up and pulled the trigger. As I fired, she fell against the window. The other girl panicked. I had to fire through her hands. She was moving around and I missed twice.”
So, obviously, that quote is about two of the three final coed victims. The first was named Cindy Schall, who accepted a ride with him on January 7, 1973. Again, he drove to a secluded area and shot her quickly. He wasn’t interested in torture, he just wanted a body to handle. Plus, now he was living with his mother again, and he took the corpse home to dismember her in the bathtub. He kept her overnight in his room and then beheaded her, burying the head in the backyard and throwing the body parts over a cliff, but they quickly washed up onto the beach. Still, he knew they could not tie it to him. He’d removed the bullet from the head. And he was right. No one suspected him.
On February 5, after a horrendous argument with his mother, Kemper went out again. That’s when Rosalind Thorpe and Allison Liu disappeared from campus. He picked up Rosalind first, and her presence in the car apparently reassured Allison, who willingly got in. The quote I just shared about shooting through the hands was about Allison and Rosalind. Here are some more horrible details.
He hit her in the temple, and he aimed again and fired. But she was still alive as he approached the university gate. (This part of the story varies according to different accounts.) One account indicates that she was already dead, but another describes her breathing loudly and moaning. Two young men were at the security gate, but when they saw Kemper’s university sticker, they waved him through. The two women were wrapped in blankets, and one of them was in the front passenger seat. He told some interviewers later that he explained to the guard that these girls were drunk and he was trying to get them back to their dorms. The guard apparently accepted the story, and Kemper decided that he was as good as invisible: “It was getting easier to do. I was getting better at it.”
He took the girls’ bodies to his mother’s home and dismembered and beheaded them with his mother nearby and neighbors around. He was aware that a neighbor only had to walk by and look in the window and see what he was doing in order to catch him. But no one did. The next morning, he deposited the limbs in the ocean and around the hills, then he buried the severed heads in his mother’s garden and left it facing toward her bedroom. According to him, he did this because his mother “always wanted people to look up to her.”
Speaking of mother dearest… here’s a quote from Ed about momma. Quote #5:
“[My victims] represented not what my mother was, but what she liked, what she coveted, what was important to her, and I was destroying it.”
So, he obviously strongly dislikes his mother and living with her again probably just brought him right back to his childhood. So, the two of them started right back in on battles and screaming matches. Sometimes they even got violent.
At this point, according to the Ed who was in prison later, retrospectively, he was starting to realize that needed to control his urges. He tells the story of the time when he picked up to co-eds and wanted to see if he could resist killing them. So apparently they were saying to go one way and he knew the campus was the other way – and the way they were saying to go was actually toward where the other co-eds were murdered.
He was like “omg they are going to take themselves to their deaths!” and so he actually insisted that he go the way he knew was toward the campus and took them to campus and dropped them off and they were fine. But he knew that he needed to end this. That his mother needed to die and HE needed to die or more girls were going to die.
Everything culminated on April 20, 1973. Now this is SO creepy to hear him talk about because when he tells this next story to the FBI, he starts crying. And it seems so real, but I just have to imagine it is just part of his psychopathy to be able to play that way, right?? IDK, so he says that he knew that he was going to kill his mother a week before he actually did.
That night, she went to a party and got drunk and came home and he went into her room and she was laying in bed reading a paper and she looked up and said “Oh gosh, I suppose you’re going to want to sit up and talk all night, now.” And he said, “no. just wanted to say goodnight” – and the whole time he knew he was going to kill her that night.
While he was telling this story he talked about how she berated him that very night and said “you know for seven years I haven’t had sex with a man because of you. My murderous son.”
Kemper bludgeoned his mother to death with a claw hammer while she was sleeping. He claims he got physically ill right after killing her… but that then he then decapitated her and raped her severed head before using it as a dartboard. Or as he says in interviews “Humiliated her corpse.” He also screamed at the head for an hour straight.
He also said that he murdered his mother out of love… but, he also cut out her tongue and larynx and placed them in the garbage disposal. But the mechanism couldn’t break up the tissue properly and spit her remains back into the sink.
Ed later quipped that that seemed pretty appropriate because she had bitched and screamed and yelled at him so much over the years.
Even more shocking, AFTER HE WENT OUT FOR DRINKS WITH HIS COP BUDDIES… he then invited his mother’s best friend, Sally Hallett, over to the house. With a convoluted idea about a cover story — Kemper thought that he could say that his mother and her friend went on vacation together — Kemper murdered Hallett and stole her car.
He actually left a note for the police – assuming that they would find the bodies soon – and it said:
“Appx. 5:15 A.M. Saturday. No need for her to suffer any more at the hands of this horrible ‘murderous Butcher.’ It was quick — asleep — the way I wanted it. Not sloppy and incomplete, gents. Just a ‘lack of time.’ I got things to do!!!”
He then drove to Pueblo, Colorado, certain that he would soon see the two murders in the news.
But, he didn’t hear anything for a while… and I’m of the opinion that this probably pissed him off. He, like so many other killers, wanted the notoriety! But, here’s an explanation from Ed. Quote 6:
“It wasn’t serving any physical or real or emotional purpose. It was just a pure waste of time… Emotionally, I couldn’t handle it much longer. Toward the end there, I started feeling the folly of the whole damn thing, and at the point of near exhaustion, near collapse, I just said to hell with it and called it all off.”
Yep. Kemper ended up calling the police – specifically one of his cop buddies – from a phone booth. And he confessed to everything.
At first, the police didn’t believe that “Big Ed” could be a killer. But Kemper soon began to describe things that only the Co-Ed Killer could know.
Kemper was arrested and later convicted of eight counts of first-degree murder. Kemper attempted suicide twice and even requested lobotomy and the death penalty, but was ultimately given seven concurrent life sentences instead.
During his early years behind bars, Kemper willingly participated in a number of interviews with reporters and law enforcement officials. Before long, he was even meeting with the FBI to discuss his heinous crimes and why he committed them — in a chillingly objective conversation. In fact, his testimony about his state of mind during his murders was integral to law enforcement’s understanding of how serial killers operate.
I watched a video of one of Ed Kemper’s interviews with John Douglas and Robert R. Ressler (aka Jason Gideon and David Rossi haha) and here are some of the things he shared about serial killers:
- It would be a guess, but there are far more than 35 serial killers operating out there
- Reason for killing: Scared to death of failing at male female relationships. Wasn’t impotent. But didn’t know how to have a relationship. (Mhmmm…)
- The thought of killing would overwhelm him so much that it felt like he was on drugs
- The more he killed the more cocky he got. Once he decapitated two women already dead, but he did the decapitation, on the ground out front of his mothers house. The neighbors had their window facing where he was doing it and the window was open. He was so close to being caught.
- He said in one interview that he thought maybe he cut heads off of people because his father chopped the heads off of their pet chickens when he was a kid and his mom made him eat the heads. But also acknowledge that it was much deeper than that and took years of formulating a fantasy.
- He talked in the interview about one time walking up the stairs to his apartment carrying a camera bag of one of his victims and the victims head was in the bag and he passed a young couple on the stairs and they smiled and nodded at him. They had no idea and he said he was well aware of the two realities – their reality and his – and the vast difference and distance between them.
- He hung out with cops because he wanted to poke around and find out if they knew anything or if there were speculations about how they were dying.
- Claimed watching TV helped him learn how to not get caught. Knew not to talk about the crimes too much or initiating conversations about it too much. That he wanted to go to the memorial services of his victims but he knew better thanks to TV.
- He fully believes that the six women who died at his hands were his mother’s fault.
- He even said that if “his parole had been successful” and he would have resisted the urges to kill… he’d be married with children and be headed toward his first grandchildren. Which is a HORRIBLE thought.
Edmund Kemper was imprisoned at the California Medical Facility alongside other notorious criminals like Charles Manson and Herbert Mullin. Kemper, who is now 72 years old, still resides in that same prison to this day.
In recent years, the Co-Ed Killer has garnered a reputation as a model prisoner. Now, Ed Kemper is in charge of scheduling other inmates’ appointments with psychiatrists and has spent over 5,000 hours narrating audiobooks of stories like Dune and Star Wars.
But some people who knew Kemper personally have doubts that he has changed at all. “It’s laughable,” said Kemper’s half-brother, who goes by an alias to protect his identity. “[Kemper] is a complete sociopath.”
“He could look you straight in the eye telling you how sorry he is for everything he did while at the same time plotting your demise and you’d never even have a clue.”
The Galapagos Affair
Our journey begins with Dore (Dora) Strauch. She is a bored German housewife who also happens to have MS. And she makes a mistake that we’ve all made before in college – she falls for a douche who quotes Nietzsche…. A lot. Friedrich Ritter. He’s a doctor… but actually he’s the kind of doctor who is a dentist. Which, no shade, but dentists are not trained in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis and also I wouldn’t want to be all Novocained up and then have some guy be quoting Nietzsche.
Anywho, these two crazy kids decide to leave Germany behind in 1929 to get away from all the people, including Friedrich’s wife and Dore’s husband… and also they weren’t fans of Hitler, so at least they have that going for them.
So on the 4th of July, 1929, they set sail for the Galapagos Islands. It took them a couple of months to get there, and they had to spend a month in Amsterdam to wait for a ship that would sail them to the islands. I didn’t know this, but apparently there were already quite a few people living on the island of Santa Cruz. I honestly thought that it was only Charles Darwin and the turtles out there. But Dore and Friedrich decide they don’t want to be where the people are, and they settle on the island of Floreana. They set up a little camp and called it “Friedo” – a combination of their names… which… puke.
But alas, these two little travelers start a garden – they’re vegetarians on principle. Also, one thing you’ll notice about Friedrich is that he often doesn’t smile showing his teeth in pictures – and that’s because he does not have any. That’s right. He pulled out his own teeth before the trip to see if the wilderness would toughen up his gums. YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS SHIT UP. And, because there were no dentistry tools on the island, Dore’s teeth quickly rotted out too. But good old Friedrich pulled them out with gardening tools for her. Oh, and don’t worry, because Friedrich had a pair of steel dentures that he kindly shared with Dore, so they could take turns eating their vegetables.
They both work on the island to build a home, but Friedrich makes a bunch of snarky comments about how Dore can’t work as hard as he does, and it definitely penetrates into her brain, because she journals about how strong Friedrich is. Remember, Dore has MS. But don’t you worry, because Friedrich says that the power of thought can cure it. And apparently, Nietzsche says “to live is to suffer – to survive is the to find some meaning in the suffering.”
Can you hear me rolling my eyes?
Spoiler alert: They start bickering. Friedrich journals that he doesn’t want to start viewing Dore as frail and cowardly like other women.
Obviously, Dore is not getting emotional support from Friedrich, so she forms a real strong bond with this burro. This bitch is lonely – there is video of her dancing with this burro; like, he’s on his hind legs and they are slow dancing, middle school style. Friedrich is annoyed with this and, remember, they are literally each other’s only human companion. Dore starts journaling that she would like to see LITERALLY ANY OTHER HUMAN PERSON, “even a cannibal – even a blood-thirsty buccaneer.”
But I think these two might have been the original influencers. Friedrich is writing letters and the media is eating it up, calling them the “modern day Adam and Eve.” So even though they fucking hate each other, everyone thinks they are living their best lives. Eventually, a research crew comes out to do some studying of animals on one of the other islands, but they are curious about Friedrich and Dore, so they invite them out to their research base. They play German music on their ship to help them feel comfortable and Dore is so moved that she cries. Friedrich doesn’t know how to interact like a regular human so he gives a lecture on the “psychological unity of music.” They both journal about the experience afterwards, with Dore saying she will miss her new friends and Friedrich saying he hates society.
Let’s jump forward to August of 1932. Heinz and Margret Wittmer are inspired by news articles they’ve read about the healing powers of the Galapagos and the modern-day Adam and Eve. Heinz has a 13-year-old son from a previous marriage named Harry, and Harry has had some health issues, so the family scrapped and saved everything to move to Floreana Island and start a new life. The Wittmers thought that they would be welcomed with open arms – and Margret is pregnant, and since Friedrich is a doctor (dentist), they thought he would be able to help with her medical care. But Friedrich and Dore see them as intruders. Dore journals that Margaret looks like a housewife, which to her is the sickest of burns. And also, this new family, the Wittmers, THEY DON’T EVEN READ NIETZSCHE.
So Friedrich and Dore are like, screw you guys, you can live in these old pirate caves on THAT side of the island… over there… away from us.
Then, in October of 1932, more shit hits the fan. Baroness Eloise Wagner de Bousquet makes a grand entrance. She is riding a donkey, holding a gun, and flanked by two young men – Phillipson and Lorenz, her architect and engineer, respectively. And also they are her lovers. She breezes in like a true feminist and announces that she will be building a hotel. They will be living in the Wittmer’s orange field until construction is finished.
To introduce herself to Friedrich and Dore, she plops herself down and demands some tea. She starts to tell them that Floreana is going to be the new Miami – a tropical haven for rich tourists. Obviously, this enrages Friedrich who hates everyone. Dore journaled that the baroness was “vulgar and offensive.” AKA, she is our people.
The next month, a couple of Norwegian dudes come over to Floreana from Santa Cruz to hunt, which I guess was a pretty regular occurrence – I was a little confused on the details here, but I think maybe they got permission from the governor to be there? Anywho, the baroness was not having it – she shows up with her revolver and scares these Norwegians away, particularly Christian Stampos, who killed a calf, telling them it was her island, they shot her calf, and in fact, everything on this island belongs to her. He ran up to Dore and Friedrich with his clothes torn and looking scared shitless – I’m not sure if she shot him, but she for sure scared him.
The drama continued in December when Margret goes into labor. She sends for Dr. Dentist Ritter, but he’s all, “nah bro.” And then she’s a champ. She is in labor for 72 hours and at some point, she blacks out. Finally, Friedrich can be bothered to show up – he operates on her – I’m assuming some sort of c-section – and baby Rolf was born. Friedrich’s version of congratulating the couple on the birth of the first baby is to tell them not to make Rolf’s bed too soft because he’ll end up being lazy. Fun fact – at least when this documentary came out, Rolf was still alive and he speaks Spanish, which was unexpected to me considering his parents were German.
Anywho, let’s jump forward to January of 1933. Remember those scientist friends who played the German music on the boat? They come back for a follow-up for their research, and they decide to stop and see their buds on Floreana. They are greeted by a sign that seems to be written in red lipstick that essentially says, “Welcome to paradise,” which was written by the baroness. These scientists document their experience on Floreana.
They say that the baroness and her lovers “live in filth.” They are impressed with Margret Wittmer’s homemaking skills, and they state that everyone is excited because the scientists have supplies for them. Overall, their observations are that the baroness is charming, the Wittmer family is killing it at island life, and Friedrich and Dore are not as awesome at working the land as they thought they would be, so they seem to be jealous of everyone else.
A few months pass, I’m assuming painstakingly slowly, and in May of ’33, the governor of Galapagos comes down to Floreana to investigate the baroness on behalf of Christian Stampos, the dude who shot the calf. Nothing really comes of this, as the baroness is super charming, except that the governor tells her she can have some more of the Wittmer’s land instead of just chilling in those pirate caves. The baroness names this land “Hacienda Paradiso.”
At this point, the modern-day Adam and Eve were old news, and all of the media sources are reporting on the baroness. It’s like a game of telephone – apparently, she has twelve lovers, not two. She is sensationalized and even ends up acting in a silent film.
Now, there are clips of this film in the documentary. The Baroness plays a piratess, and she has some bad bitch energy – you can clearly see her breasts through her shirt, and she’s rocking the non-shaven armpit look. Apparently, she also slept with pretty much everyone on set. Baaaaadddd bittttccccchhhhh.
After the silent film, Lorenz starts to get a bit of island fever. He’s got a big secret to get off his chest. He approaches Heinz and Margret and tells them that the baroness is not even a baroness. She’s just some French bitch – she was a dancer, living in an unhappy marriage, and when she met Lorenz, the two of them decided to open a boutique (financed entirely by Lorenz by the way).
They hired Phillipson as a salesman. But since they’ve been on Floreana, Lorenz went from the man with the power to everyone’s bitch. The baroness and Phillipson make Lorenz do the chores that everyone hates and he is not here for it. But, he’s conflicted, because apparently the three of them are also having mind-blowing sex. Heinz and Margret are already not huge fans of the baroness, but after hearing how they are treating Lorenz, they are even more in the camp of thinking she’s the worst.
Tensions are only heightened in March of 1934, when there is a drought. A bad one. It’s 120 degrees in the shade – the stream dries up, there is no vegetation, and all the animals die. It’s like when Scar takes over in the Lion King up in there. Everyone is struggling to keep their gardens growing, but it’s hitting the baroness especially hard.
Listen, we can’t be good at everything, and sometimes you can be awesome at sex but shitty at survival. Also, the ships that had been coming to looky-loo at the islanders and bring supplies stopped coming during the draught. It is not a good time. And one day, Lorenz runs from Hacienda Paradiso to seek asylum with the Wittmer family, because he says that the baroness and Phillipson have started physically abusing him. But he keeps going back to them. The baroness will show up at the Wittmer’s cave, ask him to come back, and he goes; but then every night he comes back to the Wittmer’s for dinner, crying at their table.
Heinz Wittmer is PISSED. He’s got some big dad energy and seems to feel a lot of true empathy for Lorenz. Also, he’s not a huge fan of the baroness anyway. Heinz asks Friedrich to help him figure out how to help Lorenz, but Friedrich is kind of like, “meh,” not my circus not my monkeys.
Later that month, Dore’s journal says that she hears a scream, but then nobody comes to get her, so she doesn’t investigate. She thinks it might just be the heat playing tricks on her.
Girl. There are literally only a handful of other people on the island. Maybe check it out?
Anywho, the next day, Heinz Wittmer doesn’t come to visit Dore and Friedrich, which is weird, because he comes every week on the same day. But the day after that, Margret and Lorenz come over to Friedo and tell Dore and Friedrich this weird story. Margret and Lorenz say that the other day, when Lorenz was out with Heinz, the baroness and Phillipson show up at the Wittmer’s cave saying that some of her friends sailed in, and they are going to head to Tahiti with them. She’s not worried about Lorenz not being with them, because he can stay on Floreana to look after her things, and maybe she’ll send for him from Tahiti. “Au revoir” or whatever. And then they get on a boat and they were gone.
This story had a lot of holes. Remember, there had not been a boat coming to Floreana in a hot minute. Also, Lorenz immediately asked Friedrich and Dore if they wanted to buy some of the baroness’s things, because he wanted to get money to get the f of the island. They went to Hacienda Paradiso, and saw that everything was in disarray, but that the baroness hadn’t taken anything with her to “Tahiti,” including her good-luck charm and most prized possession, “A Portrait of Dorian Gray,” which was still sitting on her bedside table.
Dore starts journaling about how shady all this shit is. She thinks the baroness and Phillipson were murdered, but knows she needs to keep her mouth shut or it could happen to her as well.
It finally rains at the end of April, and Lorenz is itching to get off that island. He leaves a note on a post, presumably the same one that used to hold the baroness’s lipstick-sign, hoping that a ship will come and take him back to Germany.
It’s months before a boat comes. Finally, on July 10, 1934, a ship comes. It’s a Norwegian guy named Noggerud, who I want to say was a fisherman, and a journalist named Blumberg – the latter of whom wanted to come to write a story on the baroness and is very disappointed that no one knows where she is… they’re all… maybe in Tahiti?
Lorenz is stoked. Not only are there people there, but also he heard about a big ship coming to Santa Cruz that had recently delivered supplies, so he thinks this is going to help him get back to Germany. He begs Noggerud to sail after that ship, but Noggerud is not here for it. The water is looking rough from all of the storms, and the next day is Friday the 13th, and Noggerud is a little spicious. But Lorenz bribes Noggerud, and the two of them set sail. And then they are not heard from again. Later, the Floreana crew hears that Noggerud and Lorenz crashed a ship on another tiny island of the Galapagos – Marchena – and this is really horrible – their mummified bodies were found and it was clear the duo had died of starvation and dehydration.
We’ve now arrived in November of 1934. Dore’s journal entries start to get pretty romanticized about Friedrich, even though at this point I’m going to editorialize that the couple had nothing but distain for one another. She wrote that Friedrich had fulfilled his life’s work – he’s done writing all his papers, he’s quoted all the Nietzsche, and he can die a happy man. They aren’t even fighting anymore.
Meanwhile, in Margret’s journal, she’s all, “they’re fighting all the time!!!” She wrote that they were struggling hard, because Dore fed their animals some bad chicken, and all their livestock died.
On November 24, 1934, Dore journaled that she and Friedrich got so hungry that they accidentally ate that bad chicken that she had boiled. Don’t you worry, because she ate way more chicken than Friedrich did but for some reason, he got really really sick. So. Weird.
She says she sat by Friedrich’s side, stroking his hair, taking care of him in his last moments. At dawn, he asked Dore to read Nietzsche to him. He said to her, “mark these lines and remember me.” Then he started puking and his tongue swelled up, but he looked at her with love in his eyes and died peacefully.
… At least that is Dore’s story. Margret also journaled about Friedrich’s death. She said that he was clearly in pain, and that he thought meat poisoning was pretty ironic because he was a vegetarian, and never ate meat except for this one poisoned chicken. His tongue was swollen and he couldn’t speak, but he did grab a pen and paper and wrote “I curse you with my dying breath,” shooting straight daggers out of his eyes at Dore. She’s all…. “shhhhhhhh….” And gave him more morphine.
After Friedrich died, Dore decided to get back to Germany – she grabbed Friedrich’s writings and swore to publish his manifesto. It’s what he would have wanted, she said. Of course, this never happened – apparently she tried but no one wanted to publish that bullshit. However, newspapers did end up publishing one of Friedrich’s letters about the baroness’s disappearance. It essentially said that Lorenz (and maybe Heinz) killed the baroness and Phillipson, but regardless Heinz and Margaret knew more than they were letting on about their disappearance.
In 1935, Dore did end up getting her own book published: Satan Came to Eden: A Survivor’s Account of the “Galapagos Affair.” She died from MS in 1943.
The Wittmers ended up moving to Black Beach, another part of Floreana, and they flourished. They built a small hotel for tourists. Harry Wittmer tragically died in a boating accident in 1952. Heinz Wittmer died of natural causes in 1962. Rolf is still alive and founded a tour boat company on the island – and his younger sister, Floreanita, operates the family’s hotel on Black Beach. Margret Wittmer, taking a note from Dore, got her own book published in 1959 called “Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos” After this book came out, she refused to ever speak again of the Galapagos Affair. She died in 2000 at the age of 95.
No one ever heard from Baroness Eloise or Phillipson again. Their bodies were never found.
“A closed mouth admits no flies.” – Margret Wittmer.