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.
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 We both grew up in the Methodist church, were involved in scouting activities, and we were withdrawn and shy in high school.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.
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.