Theodore Robert "Ted" Bundy (November 24 1946 – January 24 1989) was an American serial killer and rapist who murdered numerous young women across the United States between 1974 and 1978. His total number of victims is unknown. After over a decade of vigorous denials, Bundy eventually confessed to over 30 murders. Bundy is often considered the prototypical American serial killer — indeed, the term 'serial killer' was coined in order to describe him.
Bundy is believed to have been a sociopath. He is usually described as an educated, handsome and charming young man despite the brutality of his crimes. Typically, he murdered young women and girls by bludgeoning them, and sometimes by strangulation. He is also believed to have raped many of his victims, in addition to mutilating and molesting their bodies after their deaths.
Bundy was born on November 24 1946, in Burlington, Vermont. His mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell, was a young department store clerk. His father's identity has never been authoritatively established. For the first nine years of his life, Bundy and his mother lived with his maternal grandfather (who, according to some family members, was mental illness/mentally unstable and prone to violence) in Philadelphia. To avoid the Social stigma|stigma of an illegitimate pregnancy, many neighbors and friends were told that Eleanor's parents had adopted Bundy, and that he was actually Eleanor's younger brother. According to some sources, Bundy may have believed his mother was actually his older sister throughout most of his childhood and adolescence. On at least three occasions during his early childhood, Bundy is alleged to have appeared at his aunt's bedside, smiling as he brandished several knives and laid them beside her on the bed.
Bundy and his mother eventually moved to Tacoma, Washington, where Eleanor's uncle Jack taught music at the University of Puget Sound. Not long thereafter, she married Johnny Culpepper Bundy, a hospital cook from North Carolina, whom she met at a church social function.
Bundy was a good, if not spectacular, student at Woodrow Wilson High School, and was active in the local Methodist Church and the Boy Scouts of America Boy Scouts. However, as he told Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, authors of The Only Living Witness, he had no natural sense of how to get along with other people. "I didn't know what made people want to be friends," he told the authors. "I didn't know what made people attractive to one another. I didn't know what underlay social interactions." Bundy remained shy and introverted throughout most of his high school and early college years.
Bundy's criminal activities began at an early age, before he was even out of high school. He was a compulsive thief, a shoplifting/shoplifter, and on his way to becoming an amateur con artist|con man, and also claims to have indulged in voyeurism and window-peeping as a young teenager.
Bundy described the part of himself that, from a very young age, was fascinated by images of sex and violence, as "the entity," and kept it very well hidden. (It should be noted, however, that by the time Bundy was talking about "other selves" he was trying to appeal his death sentence.) Later, friends and acquaintances would remember a handsome, articulate young man. Bundy worked and campaigned for the Washington State Republican Party as an adult. He also worked as a volunteer at a Seattle suicide crisis center, alongside fledgling crime reporter Ann Rule who, ironically, wrote articles on the "Ted" murders that, unbeknownst to her, her young friend was committing. Years later, Rule would write a biography on Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me.
Bundy had one serious relationship with a college freshman whom Rule referred to by the pseudonym "Stephanie Brooks." She ended the relationship, fed up with what she described as Bundy's immaturity and lack of ambition, and they separated for a period of roughly two years. He eventually came back into her life, courted her once more, and then proposed, an offer she accepted. Two days later, he unceremoniously dumped her by ceasing to return her phone calls. It was shortly after this final breakup that Bundy began a homicidal rampage lasting three years.
Rule theorized that "Stephanie" formed the archetype for Bundy's preferred victim: young, white, female, with long dark hair parted in the middle.
While some Bundy experts, including Rule and former King County detective Robert D. Keppel, believe Bundy may have started killing as far back as his early teens (an eight-year-old girl from Tacoma, Ann Marie Burr, vanished from her home when Bundy was 15), his earliest confirmed murders were committed in 1974, when he was 27.
Shortly after midnight on January 4, 1974, Bundy entered the basement bedroom of Joni Lenz, an 18-year-old student at the University of Washington, and bludgeoned her with a crowbar while she slept. Bundy also removed a steel rod from Lenz's bed frame and sexually assaulted her with it. She was found the next morning, in a coma, lying in a pool of her own blood. Lenz survived the attack, but suffered permanent brain damage.
Bundy's next victim was Lynda Ann Healy, a senior at the University of Washington. On January 31, 1974, Bundy broke into Healy's basement room, knocked her unconscious, dressed her in jeans and a shirt, wrapped her in a bed sheet, and carried her away. A year would pass before her decapitated remains were found in the mountains east of Seattle.
Between January and June of 1974, Bundy stalked and killed at least eight young women in Washington State alone, a spree that culminated in July with the abduction, in broad daylight, of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund from Lake Sammamish State Park near Seattle. Bundy had a remarkable advantage as his facial features were attractive, yet not especially memorable. In later years, he would often be described as a chameleon, able to look totally different by making only minor adjustments to his appearance, e.g., shaving or changing his hairstyle.
That autumn, Bundy moved to Utah to attend law school in Salt Lake City, where he resumed killing in October with the murder of Melissa Smith, the 17-year-old daughter of Midvale, Utah, police chief Louis Smith. Bundy raped, sodomized, and strangled Smith. Her body was found nine days later.
Next was Laura Aime, also 17, who disappeared on Halloween. Her remains were found nearly a month later, on Thanksgiving Day, on the banks of a river.
First trial and Bundy's escapes
In Murray, Utah, on November 8, 1974, Carol DaRonch]] narrowly escaped with her life. Claiming to be Officer Roseland of the Murray Police Department, Bundy lured DaRonch into his car where he then attempted to slap a pair of handcuffs on her. Fortunately for DaRonch, he only got one wrist. She wrenched her door open with the other hand, rolled out of the car onto the highway and escaped with contusions to the head given to her via a blunt instrument which Bundy had taped underneath the car seat. Bundy was later arrested on August 16, 1975 when the Volkswagen he was driving was identified as the abductor's car. Following a week-long trial, Bundy was convicted of DaRonch's kidnapping on March 1, 1976. He was sentenced to one to 15 years in Utah State Prison. Colorado authorities, however, were pursuing their murder cases.
On June 7, 1977, in preparation for a hearing in his murder trial, Bundy was transported to the Pitkin County, Colorado, courthouse. During a court recess, he was allowed to visit the courthouse's law library. Bundy then jumped out of the building from a second-story window and escaped. The two-story fall injured Bundy's ankle, which caused him to remain in the area, and he was recaptured a week later. Back in jail awaiting the start of his trial, Bundy escaped again. He somehow acquired a hacksaw and, over time, sawed a square hole in the ceiling of his cell in the Glenwood Springs, Colorado, lockup. On the night of December 30, 1977, Bundy climbed out of the hole, managed to walk right out of the jail's front door (the jailer was out for the evening) and reach the main hallway. Bundy stole a car in the parking lot and drove off.
Bundy goes to Florida
With around $500 in cash given to him by his friends during jail visits, Bundy bought a one-way plane ticket and flew TWA from Denver to Chicago the night he escaped. He then caught an Amtrak train to Ann Arbor, Michigan, then stole a car which he ditched in Atlanta before boarding a bus for Tallahassee, Florida. There, in the early hours of Super Bowl Sunday in January 1978, he bludgeoned to death two sleeping women, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman, and seriously wounded two others inside their Chi Omega sorority house.
On February 9, 1978, Bundy traveled to Lake City, Florida. While there, he abducted and murdered 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, throwing her body under a small shed. She would be his final victim. Shortly after 1 AM on February 15, Bundy was stopped by a police officer in Pensacola, Florida. When the officer called in a check of Bundy's license plate, the orange VW he was driving came up as stolen. Before long, Bundy was identified and taken to Miami, Florida, to stand trial for the Chi Omega murders.
Conviction and execution
Bundy's second trial for the murder charges was held from June 25 to July 31, 1979. Despite his five court-appointed defense lawyers, Bundy wanted to represent himself as his own legal counsel. After being convicted, Bundy was sentenced to death by Judge Edward Cowart. During this second trial, while Bundy was acting as his own attorney, he married former coworker Carole Ann Boone in the courtroom as the trial was being conducted. During his incarceration, Bundy received hundreds of fan letters from female admirers.
Judge Edward Cowart said, when sentencing Bundy to death:
- "It is ordered that you be put to death by a current of electricity, that current be passed through your body until you are dead. Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself. It's a tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity as I've experienced in this courtroom. You're a bright young man. You'd have made a good lawyer, and I'd have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went the wrong way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don't have any animosity to you. I want you to know that. Take care of yourself."
In October 1982, Boone gave birth to a girl. Eventually, however, Boone moved away, divorced Bundy, and changed her and her daughter's surname.
In the years Bundy was on death row (at Florida State Prison), he was often visited by Special Agent William Hagmaier of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Sciences Unit. Bundy would come to confide in Hagmaier, going so far as to call him his best friend. Eventually, Bundy confessed to Hagmaier many details of the murders that had until then been unknown or unconfirmed.
In 1984, Bundy contacted former King County, Washington, homicide detective Robert Keppel and offered to assist in the ongoing search for the Green River Killer by providing his own insights and analysis. Keppel and Green River Task Force detective Dave Reichert traveled to Florida's death row to interview Bundy. Both detectives later stated that these interviews were of little actual help in the Green River investigation; they provided far greater insight into Bundy's own mind, and were primarily pursued in the hope of learning the details of unsolved murders that Bundy was suspected of committing but had never been charged with, let alone tried or convicted.
Bundy contacted Keppel again in 1988. With his appeals exhausted and execution imminent, Bundy confessed to eight officially unsolved murders in Washington State, for which he was the prime suspect. Bundy also hoped to manipulate the confessions into another stay of execution, as Keppel reported that he frequently gave scant detail and promised to reveal more and other body dump sites if he were given "more time," but the ploy failed and Bundy was executed on schedule.
The night before Bundy was executed, he gave a television interview to Dr. James Dobson, head of the Christian organization Focus on the Family. Bundy claimed that consumption of violent pornography helped "shape and mold" his violence into "behavior too terrible to describe." Bundy said that he felt that violence in the media, "particularly sexualized violence," sent boys "down the road to being Ted Bundys." According to Hagmaier, Bundy also contemplated suicide in the days leading up to his execution, but eventually decided against it.
The morning of his execution, Bundy enjoyed a last meal consisting of steak, fried eggs, hash browns and coffee. Some accounts from prison guards later stated that, in the minutes leading up to Bundy's execution, he had to be forcibly dragged from his cell for preparation.
At 7:06 AM on January 24, 1989, 42-year-old Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair by the State of Florida for the murder of Kimberly Leach. His last words were, "I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends." Then, a voltage of over 2,000 volts was applied across his body for less than two minutes. He was pronounced dead at 7:16 AM.
Movies based on Ted Bundy
Three TV movies and one direct-to-video film have been based on Bundy's life.
- The Deliberate Stranger mini-series aired in 1986 and starred Mark Harmon as Bundy.
- Directed by Matthew Bright, Ted Bundy was released straight to video in 2002. Michael Reilly Burke starred as Bundy.
- The Stranger Beside Me aired on the USA Network in 2003, and starred Billy Campbell as Bundy and Barbara Hershey as Ann Rule.
- In 2004 the A&E Network produced an adaptation of Keppel's book The Riverman, which starred Cary Elwes as Bundy and Bruce Greenwood as Keppel.
- Ted Bundy was mentioned in the lecture given by Dr. Helen Hudson in the movie Copycat, but the killer never actually copycatted the murders themselves.
- For his novel The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris based the character of Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb in part on Bundy. (His other inspirations were Gary M. Heidnik, Edmund Kemper, and Ed Gein.) Like Bundy, Bill would put his arm in a sling, approach the women he intended to murder by asking them for help, and then incapacitate them. There is also speculation that Harris based the character of Hannibal Lecter on Bundy's jailhouse interviews with Robert Keppel.
- In American Psycho, Christian Bale who portrayed serial killer Patrick Bateman makes frequent references to Bundy.
- The Janes Addiction song "Ted, Just Admit It" on their 1989 album Nothing's Shocking features sound bites of Ted Bundy speaking.
- KoRn lead vocalist, Jonathan Davis owns Bundy's old VW car as part of his serial killer memorabilia.
- Macabre wrote a song called " the ted bundy song" which appears on their 1993 "sinister slaughter" album.
- The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, W.W. Norton, 2000, hardcover, 456 pages, ISBN 0393050297 Updated 20th anniversary edition
- Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger by Richard W. Larsen, 1980, hardcover, ISBN 0130891851
- The Phantom Prince by Liz Kendall
- The Only Living Witness by Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, Authorlink 1999, 344 pages. ISBN 1-928704-11-5
- The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer by Robert Keppel, 1995, hardcover, 448 pages, ISBN 0094722102
- Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer by Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aywnesworth
- Defending the Devil: My Story as Ted Bundy's Last Lawyer by Polly Nelson
- Ted Bundy at CrimeLibrary.com
- Find A Grave Entry
- Ted Bundy at charliemanson.com
- Ted Bundy's final interview with Dr. James Dobson
- Ted Bundy (the film) at imdb.com
- The Stranger Beside Me at imdb.com