Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Disbelief Can Kill.

When I say disbelief can kill, I'm not speaking metaphorically. I'm thinking of Aiko Koo.

She was a fifteen year old hitchiker who made the terminal mistake of accepting a ride from Edmund Kemper, the "Coed Butcher," on September 14, 1972. He drove to a deserted spot and showed her a gun. It should have been clear what was going on, and what the stakes were. But disbelief must have offered its siren song.

Kemper got out of the car and locked himself out of it. "She could have reached over and grabbed the gun," he said later, in an interview, "but I think she never gave it a thought." She wanted so much to think this wasn't really happening. She must have wanted to think of it as a delusion, a mistake, a joke.

She unlocked the door and let him back in.

Let me repeat that.

She unlocked the door and let him back in.

Her remains were not found until the following May.

Edmund Kemper had a high IQ, and despite his large size, an ingratiating manner. The day after he killed Aiko Koo, Kemper was questioned by two psychiatrists, since he was still on parole for killing his grandparents. He'd enrolled at a community college where he'd made good grades. He'd become drinking buddies with local police officers. No one knew about his extra-curricular activities. So the two psychiatrists declared him no longer a danger to society and he was a free man.

It's somewhat understandable that a bright person who had become adept at hiding his true nature fooled psychiatrists and cops. He was on his best behavior with them. He wasn't in front of Aiko Koo. She had every reason to believe he meant her harm, but she didn't want to believe it.

We are all confronted with unpleasant facts. We know, intellectually, that not facing unpleasant facts allows them to become more unpleasant. Yet, all too often, we don't face them anyway.

Usually it is not as clear as the situation in a out-of-the-way spot in a California September. There is wiggle room, there are extenuating circumstances, there are abundant rationalizations for us not to face unpleasant facts. Facts are rarely as unpleasant as they were for Aiko Koo, not as stark.

Yet... and yet...

She unlocked the door and let him back in.

That is the power of disbelief.

And it could kill you. Metaphorically, or otherwise.


  1. leigh5:26 PM

    How does one lock oneself "out" of a car? And do we trust the narrative of a Psychopathic killer?

    Could it have been his ingratiating manner?

    Do you think he was nice to the waitstaff?

  2. Anonymous1:55 PM

    Who the hell are you WereBear? I was a classmate of Aiko's, let her rest in peace.

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  5. This is an old post, but I'd like to respond to it just the same. Your assessment of Aiko Koo's behavior on the night she was abducted & savagely murdered by Kemper is a load of sanctimonious twaddle. It's all too easy for you, or anyone, for that matter, to play Monday morning quarterback decades later without even attempting to factor in all the variables that were in play that tragic, long-ago night.

    The early seventies was a very different time. The culture, specifically the youth culture, was much more permissive in many ways than it is today. The sight of teenaged & college aged kids hitchhiking on the side of America's highways & byways was a very common one.

    Unfortunately for Aiko Koo, living her entire life as she did in a large, liberal college town like Berkeley, Ca, she was probably inundated with images of young people hitching rides left & right from an early age without consequence. Mind you, this is not an attempt to excuse her hitchhiking, but rather an attempt to provide you with a little sorely needed cultural & historical context. Something your post uniformly lacked.

    In addition, the world that Aiko Koo lived & grew up in was one before serial killers were turned into pop icons by our lowbrow & crass media & movie industries. In fact, the term "serial killer" hadn't even been coined yet.

    While it is certainly true that serial killers like The Boston Strangler & The Zodiac Killer committed their bestial crimes during Aiko's tragically short lifetime, it's highly unlikely that she would've viewed such fiends as a direct consequential threat resulting from her hitchhiking.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there's the simple & undeniable fact that she was only a 15 year-old child who was undoubtedly disoriented & scared absolutely shitless by her encounter with a hideously oversized & thoroughly grotesque psychopath.

    It's easy for you to pretend (with the benefit of hindsight, of course) that if you were 15 year-old girl who barely stood above 5" tall up against a 6'9" gargoyle like Kemper, that you'd somehow manage to think clearly & keep your composer & make all the right decisions to enable you to carry the day. The simple, sad reality is if you had gotten into Kemper's car that night instead of she, you'd be the one plucking a harp today, not her.