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Ted Bundy: A Notorious Serial Killer

Introduction

Ted Bundy, also known as Theodore Robert Bundy, is among the renowned serial killers in history. He was linked to the kidnap, assault, and murder of many women across different states, including Washington, Utah, Florida, and Colorado. Due to the unique nature of his killings and how he used to lure his victims, several movies and documentaries have been based on his story. They include Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, The Stranger Beside Me, and The Deliberate Stranger (Horton, 2021). In most cases, serial killers are influenced by environmental factors such as traumatic childhood and dysfunctional families. However, some people may come from good families and still become serial killers.

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Bundy’s Childhood History, Behaviors, and Family Background

Bundy was born on November 24, 1946, in Burlington, Vermont. Since he was born out of wedlock, his grandparents Samuel and Eleanor Cowell acted as his parents to protect their daughter Eleanor Louise Cowell from societal stigmatization. As a result, Bundy grew up believing that Louise (his biological mother) was his sister. Research indicates that during his childhood, Bundy was introverted and shy. Some studies also suggest that Ted’s early life was marred with violence and abuse from his grandfather. It is believed that Samuel Cowell was abusive to Bundy and his mother Louise, making her move to Washington when he was five (Hourly History, 2017). When his mother married John Culpepper Bundy, Ted had an estranged relationship with his new stepfather and often referred to him using his name.

Bundy’s Unusual Behaviors in Adolescence and Adulthood Actions

Unlike in his childhood, Bundy made efforts to befriend his peers during his adolescence. Although most of his former high school classmates regarded him as well-liked and fairly popular, Bundy explains that he had challenges forming friendships in his biography. This implies that he was still socially isolated even if he had friends. For instance, he preferred showering privately rather than in the open showers where the rest of his peers bathed (Rule, 2012). Additionally, Bundy developed a habit of peeping through women’s windows as they undressed, which was queer. He also began breaking into people’s homes to steal to finance his skiing hobby. Although he had several jobs during his adulthood, he constantly stole from his place of work or neighboring stores. Bundy also used his charm to manipulate people around him to obtain favors from them. It was this appeal that attracted young women to him whom he later killed.

Analyzing Bundy’s Behaviors Using Dr. Hare’s Psychopathic Evaluation

During his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, some of Bundy’s behaviors match several characteristics on Dr. Robert Hare’s psychopathy evaluation checklist. One of the characteristics that align with Bundy is early problem behaviors (Ogden et al., 2021). During his adolescence, he engaged in burglary activities and became a peeping tom (Rule, 2012). This shows that he developed some psychopathic tendencies at an early age. Another psychopathy feature that matches Bundy’s behavior is the superficial charm (Ogden et al., 2021). Many reports about Bundy describe him as a charming and handsome man. He used his charm to attract young women he later assaulted and murdered. In addition, Bundy displayed some impulsivity traits, particularly during his higher learning. He enrolled in various colleges and dropped out suddenly without completing his studies. In this case, after his breakup with Stephanie Brooks, his college girlfriend, Bundy dropped out of the University of Washington, where he studied intensively Chinese (Kuroski, 2021). He later took up other courses like urban planning and sociology. His impulsivity was also observed in the jobs he took during his college days; he would quit after a few months.

Bundy demonstrated a grandiose sense of worth during his adulthood. After meeting Brooks, who was from a wealthy family, he continued his burglary activities to maintain his image. His egocentricity was also portrayed through his costly skiing hobby. Likewise, Bundy revealed signs of being a pathological liar (Sullivan, 2020). While working with Ann Rule at the Seattle suicide hotline crisis center, he lied that Elizabeth Kloepfer, his then partner, was interested in detective magazines. However, he wanted the magazines to learn how to avoid getting caught for his crimes.

Bundy also showed signs of a parasitic lifestyle in adulthood, which is a prominent element of psychopathy. During his relationship with Kloepfer, she constantly lent him money to continue his studies (Kuroski, 2021). Research also indicates that he would take Brooks to expensive dinners and luxurious accommodations belonging to his friends. He would also drive her around using Ross Davis’s (chairperson of the Republican Party in Washington State) car. This proves that Bundy had a habit of relying on other people financially. Furthermore, the last psychopathy characteristic that aligns with Bundy’s behavior in his adulthood is the lack of remorse. By the time of his arrest, he had killed over thirty women, which depicts him as lacking empathy. He assaulted and murdered the women by strangling them or bludgeoning them and disposed of them in the woods (Rule, 2012). Therefore, based on Dr. Hare’s checklist, Bundy was a psychopath because he had early problem behaviors, superficial charm, egocentricity, impulsivity, parasitic lifestyle, lack of remorse, and was a pathological liar.

Warning Signs That Bundy Was Psychopathic

Bundy portrayed several behaviors that may have shown his psychopathic tendencies. In this case, during his childhood, he was an introvert; however, his parents believed that he was socially isolated due to his shyness. Another warning sign was his superficial charm, particularly in adolescence and adulthood. Studies describe him as a charming and handsome man who was fairly liked and known. Bundy used his appeal to attract ladies and manipulate people to grant him special favors (Hourly History, 2017). Additionally, during his childhood and adolescence, he developed a habit of peeping into women’s windows as they undressed. This may have triggered the pervert tendencies that drove him to rape women.

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Bundy’s manipulative tendencies should have served as a warning sign. Beatrice Sloan, an older woman who worked with Bundy at the Seattle yacht club, describes him as a schemer. Some reports also indicate that he was a conman who used other people to achieve his goals. Likewise, he also had a criminal record; he was arrested twice for suspicion of burglary and theft (Rule, 2012). Another warning sign of psychopathy was his grandiose sense of self-worth. Although he worked menial jobs to support himself in college, he constantly stole to maintain his public appearance and fund his costly hobby of snow skiing. Therefore, various signs, such as his superficial charm, pathological lying, and manipulation could have warned those close to him about his psychopathic traits.

How Bundy Fitted in the Society

Bundy had a normal life and fitted well into society. No one could have ever linked him to crime, especially murder. Like other young adults in his time, while in college, he engaged in several casual jobs where he worked as a busboy, legal messenger, stock boy, and shoe clerk, among other occupations. He later took an interest in Republican politics, where he campaigned for Nelson Rockefeller in 1968 and for Dan Evans in 1972, who was successfully re-elected as the Washington governor (Hourly History, 2017). Consequently, he was chosen to join the Seattle Crime Prevention Committee, later serving as an assistant to Davis. He also worked at the Seattle suicide hotline crisis center, where he befriended Ann Rule, a former police officer (Kuroski, 2021). Therefore, Bundy’s life resembled that of any ordinary public member.

Although he was socially isolated in his childhood, Bundy later established friendships in high school, college, and adult life. During his college days, he dated Brooks for close to two years. Following their breakup in 1969, he began dating Kloepfer, whom he met at a local bar in Seattle; she was divorced and had a young daughter (Sullivan, 2020). Later in his life, Bundy married Carol Anne Boone, a former colleague whom he met while working for the Emergency Services in Olympia with whom they had a daughter. Additionally, despite discovering that Louise was his mother and not his sister, research indicates that he maintained a good relationship with his parents and often took Kloepfer when visiting them (Kuroski, 2021). Due to his normal life, there was no suspicion that he could be a serial killer.

A Description of Bundy’s Crimes

Bundy was linked to the kidnap, assault, and murder of over thirty young women in the mid to late 1970s. He targeted beautiful young women with long dark straight hair parted in the middle. Most of his victims were aged between 18 to 22 years. He used his appeal to attract women, but on some occasions, he used props to disguise himself as an injured person in need of assistance (Hourly History, 2017). Bundy had previously worked in an emergency store where he stole bandages and crutches to disguise himself. In another scenario, he posed as a police officer and gave a fake name to lure his target, but the woman escaped. Most studies suggest that Bundy targeted beautiful women who resembled Brooks, although he opposed the idea during his interviews.

It is estimated that Bundy began his killing spree in early 1974. Reports indicate that nine young women disappeared mysteriously from Washington and Oregon’s recreation areas and college campuses. Out of the nine women, only seven bodies were found in forests around Seattle. The bodies had signs of assault and were either strangled or bludgeoned to death (Sillivan, 2020). Another young woman was found in her bedroom with severe injuries but survived after several months in a coma. The eyewitnesses claimed that the suspect was a handsome man who drove a Volkswagen and introduced himself as Ted. There were also accounts that the suspect was on crutches, had a sling on the arm or a cast on his leg, and was cheerful and polite (Kuroski, 2021). Although Bundy’s name was on the suspects’ list, there was no evidence tying him to the murders. The victims killed by Bundy in Washington include Lynda Healy, Janice Ott, and Donna Manson.

Bundy moved to Salt Lake City in 1974 to pursue law at the University of Utah. In October 1974, three young women vanished from Salt Lake City. Following the incident, a witness, Carol DaRonch, who escaped an abduction, described the suspect as a police officer who drove a Volkswagen. From January to April 1975, three women went missing from the ski sites in Colorado (Kuroski, 2021). Some of Bundy’s victims in Colorado include Denise Oliverson and Caryn Campbell (Sullivan, 2020). Bundy returned to Utah in 1975, where another young woman vanished in July the same year.

The Arrest and Death of Bundy

Bundy was first captured in August 1975 in Utah for burglary suspicion. When the Seattle task force was notified of his arrest, they began a probe to determine his link to the serial killings in Washington. Carol DaRonch and multiple other witnesses positively recognized him in a police lineup. Bundy was found guilty of kidnapping and jailed in the Utah State prison (Smith, 2021). He was later indicted for one of the murders in Colorado and was extradited, but he managed to run away. Although he was recaptured eight days later, he fled again and moved to Florida, where he lived under a fake name (Chris Haggen). In January 1978, two women were murdered, and two others were critically injured at the Chi Omega Sorority house at Florida State University. Additionally, a 12-year-old girl, Kimberly Leach, was abducted and brutally murdered in Florida (Parker, 2021). Bundy was later re-arrested, and due to the massive evidence, he was sentenced to death and was later electrocuted in January 1989.

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Several factors led to the delay in capturing Bundy as the culprit behind the serial murders. One of the most prominent elements is that Bundy was brilliant and had studied psychology and law. Therefore, he had mastered the art of luring his victims. For example, he knew that women were kind-hearted and compassionate, which explains why he disguised himself as an injured person with bandages and crutches to trap the young women. In other instances, he relied on his charm to attract women. Likewise, his study of law and close association with Ann Rule, a crime writer, improved his mastery of concealing evidence (Rule 2012). Although he was among the suspects, no evidence could link him to the murders. Worse still, several of his victims were never found, which gave him leeway to continue killing.

Bundy moved a lot to pursue his studies and never stayed in one state for long, which helped him evade being captured. For instance, he moved from Washington to Utah and later to Colorado. Thus, it appeared as if different people executed the murders. Similarly, Bundy was calm and composed, which lowered the suspicion that he could engage in murder. For example, Ann Rule describes Bundy as a charming and composed man who was always concerned for her emotional well-being and security (Rule, 2012). Therefore, it is evident that Bundy lived a double life, and this made it difficult to link him to the killings.

Conclusion

Bundy was a notorious serial killer who murdered over thirty young women across Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Florida. There is no evidence of childhood trauma; however, he was socially isolated as a child. Nevertheless, he became a charming and handsome man and used his appeal to attract people to him. Bundy later developed some features that match Dr. Hare’s evaluation list of psychopathy. These traits include superficial charm, egocentricity, impulsivity, parasitic lifestyle, and lack of remorse. Although he displayed these signs of psychopathy, it was hard to link him to the murders because he concealed the evidence and was a charming person; hence no one doubted him. He fitted well in society since he pursued his career, worked different jobs, and was interested in politics. Therefore, none of his actions aroused any suspicion until he was arrested and later electrocuted.

References

Horton, A., (2021). It’s time to stop making movies about Ted Bundy. The Guardian. Web.

Hourly History. (2017). Ted Bundy: A life from beginning to end. ‎CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Kuroski, J. (2021). “The very definition of heartless evil”: The story of Ted Bundy. All That’s Interesting. Web.

Ogden, N., Boyes, M., Field, E., Comer, R., & Gould, E. (2021). Psychology around us. Wiley.

Parker, J. (2021). Tragic murders on FSU campus by serial killer Ted Bundy remembered 40 years later. NBC. Web.

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Rule, A. (2012). The stranger beside me. Planet Ann Rule.

Smith, T. (2021). Surviving Ted Bundy: Women attacked by notorious serial killer share their stories. CBS. Web.

Sullivan, K. M. (2020). The Bundy murders: A comprehensive history. McFarland.

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