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.