My Relationship with Ted Bundy

I’m involved in an abusive relationship with a dead man. Let me clarify that statement. I am constantly thinking about, imagining, and reading about a violent serial killer. His ice blue eyes and wavy brown hair call forth feelings of both compassion and revulsion. I am both drawn to and repelled from this handsome charmer, moonlighting as a bloodthirsty necrophile. Ambivalence lingers as I contemplate the dirty deeds of Theodore Robert Bundy, even twenty-eight years since his execution in Florida’s electric chair at age 42.

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What a smile!

 

As if we were lovers, my thoughts often turn to him as I imagine the things we share in common. We both grew up in the Methodist church, were involved in scouting activities, and we were withdrawn and shy in high school. Despite being raised on the opposite sides of the country (he in Washington state and me in North Carolina), I’ve always felt a connection to Ted’s family upbringing and working class family. His mother clearly loved him, as did mine, and his siblings looked up to him.

As the eldest children in our families, we both understood the pressure placed on us. The first child always feels they’re treated as a guinea pig as their parents learn what boundaries to put on them. Parents always give only so much rope to test the waters in those early years. However, when Ted was sneaking out and peeping in his neighbor’s windows as a teenager, I was happily tucked in my bed at night. The thought of violence towards another individual couldn’t have been further away from my mind.

Conversely, the time I spend imagining how Bundy would have related to certain events and where he buried the still-missing bodies of so many women, it takes its toll on other relationships in my life. My husband notices when I seem far away and friends can tell when I’m less than involved in our conversations. Some people distance themselves when they hear about my interest in serial killers, and Bundy specifically. Explaining his acts of depravity and unsavory proclivities discourage some acquaintances from getting to know me better. Even when I am determined to envelope myself completely in social interactions, my mind drifts back to the memory of a certain cold stare in Ted’s interview with Dr. James Dobson.

Bundy Dobson

January 23, 1989: The day before his execution

 

Despite being averse to everything he did, including the political party he joined as a teenager, I am still drawn to the image of Bundy as a smart, driven law student with a quick wit and one-hundred watt smile. The relationship I have with this long deceased man is dysfunctional at best and morbid at worst, though I don’t see it ending any time soon. He will continue to haunt me through the years to come, and his words and deeds will hold me in his thrall.

Anniversary: Old Sparky Strikes Ted Down 

Twenty-eight years ago, Ted Bundy was executed by electric chair for the murder of 12 year old Kimberly Leach, whose body was found under a collapsed hog shed. On Tuesday, January 24th, he was declared dead at 7:16 A.M. After making his final statement “I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends,” a black hood covered his head and he was filled with 2000 volts of electricity. A crowd of approximately 500 people formed outside of Raiford Prison in Florida and cheered when his death was announced. Prosecutor George Dekle, who prosecuted Bundy in the Leach case had this to say about the event: “The thing that kept going through my mind was the awful crime scene I saw 11 years ago. I kept saying to myself that is where it started and this is where it ends.” Police officers keeping the peace outside of the prison stated they wish they “could be the one flipping the switch” and commented that they felt no compassion for the killer whatsoever. Bundy was 42 at the time of his death and lived longer than any of his victims. 

Ted Bundy: The Politician

As the United States comes to the end of yet another sensational presidential election, it’s important to remember that often many members of our political system hide parts of themselves from the public. How many scandals have disgraced someone we thought trust-worthy? We read articles about various well-respected women and men who weren’t at all what they seemed. Ted had a similar affliction. 

One well-known fact about Ted Bundy is that he was a dedicated Republican. He was active in local politics and aspired to political office.  Bundy was a perfect example of a modern Republican. He aspired to wealth, professionalism, happiness, and sought to reap the rewards of being a part of the elite. He was clean cut during an era where many young people were growing long hair and eschewing the status quo. That never appealed to Bundy. He wanted to reap the rewards he felt he deserved and refused to share them with anyone. Ted also dreamed of marrying a beautiful co-ed who would reflect well on his position in whatever career he chose. Conservative women were well-groomed and Ted Bundy found that incredibly attractive.   

Though generally unable to succeed in group activities, Bundy excelled in politics due to his charming, yet aggressive nature. His behavior represented the attitude valued by his peers in the republican party. One reason he chose to study law was that many of his peers in local politics were law students. 

In 1968, he worked at the Seattle office of Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign and attended the Republican National Convention in Miami. In 1972, Bundy worked for Governor Dan Evans’ re-election campaign. He later worked for the chairman of the Washington State Republican party who found Bundy to be “a believer in the system.” By the time his trip to California for the Republican party, Bundy had been molded into a standard Republican party member. He was on the brink of a political career and could have been the next Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz had his penchant for murder not led him astray.

Ted’s 70th

Today is the day on which Ted Bundy would have turned seventy years old, had he not been executed or died prematurely. If he had managed to outwit police and continued killing, imagine how many more women would be dead. If we consider he killed approximately 30 women (by his admission) over the course of four years, it’s quite fathomable he might have murdered hundreds of women over four decades! Though his chances of not getting caught would have been small, the sheer magnitude of that estimate is simply incomprehensible. 

Ready for presents

Despite his ambition & dedication to killing defenseless young women, it would have been harder & harder for him to fit in on college campuses as he aged. Also, his looks would have invariably faded. Fewer women would have fallen for his “whoops, I dropped my books routine.” Could Bundy have adapted to the changes in the environment around him enough to stay under the radar?

Another thing to consider is the advances in technology and how forensics have evolved since his capture in 1978. Until 1986, DNA analysis wasn’t understood and bite mark evidence would have been even more conclusive in his trials in Florida. Also, police departments are far more likely now to share their evidence with other agencies in an effort to capture criminals quicker and more efficiently.


Though his various victims weren’t so lucky, the rest of the world is better off that Bundy was caught back in 1978. Frankly, very few serial killers stop killing and Bundy had no intention of ending his true passion in life. Here’s to moving beyond his 70th birthday without the loss of another young woman’s life to his brutality.

The Compete FBI File of Ted Bundy

This is a thorough collection of FBI documents related to Bundy’s arrests, escapes, and crimes. Though some pages are hard to read and some information had been redacted, this is a worthwhile purchase. You can find a copy of this book and many other volumes of serial killer statistics at the Serial Killer Calendar Web site listed on the right side of this blog. 

Bundy’s Father Figures

It’s true that Ted Bundy was both drawn to and repelled by women. Clearly his relationship with his mother and other female relatives influenced his preferred victim type. However, the male role models in Bundy’s life were just as influential in how he identified himself in relationship to the women around him. Through analyzing the men in his life, we can endeavor to better understand Bundy’s motives and needs.

The first and probably most influential man in Bundy’s life was his grandfather, Samuel Cowell. Since his mother was an single mother and unwed motherhood was frowned upon in 1946, Ted’s grandparents took on the outward role as parents in Bundy’s life and his mother took a more secondary position. It has been suggested that Ted clung to his grandfather and shadowed him everywhere. In Samuel Cowell, he found a leader. Unfortunately, Samuel was a violent bigot who often experienced hallucinations and talked to himself when no one else was in the room. As we can see, there was already a potential for violent behavior (and possible mental disorder) being exhibited for the young child. Bundy’s aunt told crime writer, Ann Rule, that when he was 3, she woke up to find herself surrounded by knives as she lay on her bed. A cherubic Ted was standing nearby with a grin on his face. The violent gene in his brain was already switched on.

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Sam Cowell and a young Ted at the beach.

The fact that Bundy was illegitimate became a big deal when he hit his teenage years. I believe he acted out at times partially because he had to learn about his real father on his own. He was horrified because this didn’t fit his dream of becoming rich and famous. He wanted to be the perfect specimen and felt the world owed him. It’s plain to see the narcissistic personality disorder diagnosis he would later receive by a court-appointed psychiatrist was already in play by high school.

Ted’s great-uncle, Jack Cowell, became a mentor to him when his mother moved him to Tacoma, Washington in the early 1950’s. Mr. Cowell was a neighborhood piano teacher who was independently wealthy. Bundy looked up to him and wanted to emulate his lifestyle. He sometimes dreamed of being Jack’s child and growing up on the fancy side of town. When Bundy was 14 years old, an 8 year old girl in his neighborhood went missing. He was suspected of killing her when it was later determined that the missing child, Ann Marie Burr, was one of Uncle Jack’s piano students. Though Bundy later denied being involved in her murder, he made comments to the effect of having sexually abused and dumping Ann Marie’s body shortly before his execution. He was never linked to her murder since her body has never been found, but it does raise the question of his brutality at a young age.

Ted saw himself in his fantasy world as a strong, husband and father. He had worked for the Republican party and looked every bit the successful business man. Through a fortuitous hobby as a thief, he managed to obtain some of the finer things in life. It was one way of completing the facade or the charming, high society personality he wanted to project.

Johnny Bundy, who adopted Ted as a child, had a complicated relationship with his eldest son. He tried to relate to the difficult child he had accepted as a package deal upon marrying Louise, but all attempts to connect failed. Mr. Bundy was a middle-class worker who couldn’t possibly provide a lavish lifestyle for his five children. Ted was never able to see past the fact his adopted father lacked the motivation for the finer things in life. In fact, he resented what he saw as Johnny’s lack of ambition. By the time Ted was in high school, he had already distanced himself from his father.

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Sam Cowell and a young Ted at the beach.

Despite Ted’s discomfort toward his father as the head of the household, Bundy never acted out against men in the manner he chose to brutalize the unlucky women who chanced to cross his path. Had he felt the same intense hatred towards men that he felt for women, I believe police would have located male victims and connected them to Bundy. More than likely his genetics (a predisposition to violence) paired with early trauma he witnessed by his grandfather played a huge role in his killing. It’s safe to say his rage was reserved only for young women.

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