Ted Bundy, prolific serial killer, or just a boy misunderstood? How do we know the motivation or why someone is driven to kill? In this study, I will attempt to evaluate the underlying psychological behavior that has personified our boy Ted’s violent, aggressive nature. We may, in understanding his early childhood; we can develop and define Ted Bundy with our established theories. We will evaluate evidence that Ted Bundy suffered from anti-social personality disorder, as well as being a criminal psychopath. Serial killers are rare, especially on the same realm of Ted Bundy. If we can understand the prelude to the many heinous crimes, we may be able to see the markers forecast future offenders. We can offer professional intervention before the violence occurs.
Ted Bundy, or Theodore Robert Cowell, murdered and sexually assaulted 30 or more women. He used injuries and disabilities to gain trust before murdering them in cold blood. The sexual assaults before and post mortem were ongoing even through decomposition. Ted traveled across our country in search of the ideal woman. He escaped custody more than once, only finally to receive the death penalty January 1989.
Ted’s early life may have created the need to hurt innocent women. He was extremely intelligent but he had no social skills and was a case for attachment disorder since the moment he was born. He appeared to be successful. He found it painfully difficult to have relationships with other people. He took the breakup of his first girlfriend hard; the rejection brought back all the childhood anger and frustration. This rejection brought on the slaying of his first victim.
Ted Bundy, stated willful and wanton murder of a human being, is also found guilty of aggravated sexual penetration, kidnapping and the deprivation of liberty. We know that state laws vary in charges and penalties; they are quite similar in most areas. He exhibited the traits of a criminal psychopath and could possibly plea insanity, but he found and appealed his rulings and received the death penalty, executed January 24th 1989.
Ted began life with the rejection of a father who disappeared before birth. His birth certificate lists Lloyd Marshall, Air force veteran, (Rule, 2009) it is widely believed that Ted is a result of incest from the rape of his mother by her abusive father. (Rule, 2009). His mother pretended to be Ted’s sister as she was so young, and Ted’s grandparents playing the role of parents. Ted was provided no emotional support. He did not form a secure loving relationship with his caregivers. Levy et al, 2004 explains that the lack of attachment causes children to have difficulties such as emotional, social and behavioral issues which create the antisocial personality disorder.
It has emerged that genetics can play a role in developing psychopathy. (Bartol et al, 2011). Ted’s grandfather beat the family dog, abused the neighborhood cats. This behavior that young Ted witnessed enforced the permissibility of violence to people and animals. Other behavior, his grandmother once woke up surrounded by knives with a content Ted smiling at her. (Rule, 2009). It is believed that Mr. Bundy did not commit his first homicide until his 20’s, he spent his most free time engrossed in porn magazines and books that immortalized dead bodies. (Rule, 2009). Ted began drinking and stalking the neighborhood for women dressing, bathing or anything of that nature. The addiction has begun. He kept searching for more graphic paraphernalia, he was arrested for burglary and auto theft, (Rule, 2009), if they only knew the monster to be unleased.
When attachment is disrupted or severed in the first three years of a child’s life, it can lead to an affectionless psychopathy, the inability to form emotional relationships, chronic anger, lack of impulse control and no remorse. (Bowlby, 1969). Ted Bundy at the age of four, moved to Washington to live with cousins. The fear of loss or separation creates anxiety and rage in the offender. (Bartol et al, 2011).
His mother married, she had four more children, and then as a teen, they told Ted of his illegitimacy. He found out that his sister was really his mother. He did not get along with his step-father; he was defiant towards his new family. When a child is neglected by his mother, he becomes antisocial and violent. The child then looks inward for comfort, masturbation, sexual fantasies; this is pleasure and gives a sense of control. (Whitman, 2004).
Ted Bundy lived a childhood of poverty, he was a loner in high school and college. Poverty has a valid connection with the violent offender. Juveniles are at high risk. (Bartol, et al, 2011).
Then the first girlfriend Marjorie, in 1967, they met at college, Ted fell hard, he lied of his accomplishments, Marjorie, then decided he was not husband material, and broke off the relationship. The rejection was so intense; he dropped out of college to travel the country.
“It is clear that serial murderers begin to kill as a result of increasing feelings of rejection, frustration, anger and powerlessness” (Whitman and Akutagawa, 2004), as Ted began his killing after his rejection from his first love. He cannot control his environment and propelled himself into the violent behavior. .
We understand that most serial killers suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, (Carbajal, 2010). Hervey Cleckley(1976) identifies 16 characteristics of a typical Psychopath, many traits displayed in Ted Bundy. He is intelligent, superficial charm, egocentricity, lying, insincere, manipulative, impulsive, lack of guilt or remorse. Ted’s sexual deviancy is motivated by thrill and sensations and boredom. (Porter et al, 2009).
A sexual homicide is a homicide that involves sexual activity before, during or after a homicide. (Porter et al, 2009). Ted being handsome and charismatic, winning the confidence of young women was simple. He would take them to an excluded area, assault and murder his victim. He would also revisit the crime scene, groom and perform sexual acts on decomposed victims. Necrophilia is the sexual arousal stimulated by a dead body (Wittkop, 2011). Killers often engage in necrophilia. It permits the feeling of complete control over their victim in life and death. (Carbajal, 2010).
Antisocial personality is extremely difficult to treat. Treatment depends on the individual’s situation and willingness to participate, also the severity of symptoms.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy is used to treat this disorder. Therapy can include anger and violence management, substance use treatment, and treatment for other mental health issues.
Problem being, if symptoms are severe and the individual cannot admit that they contribute to their own problems. There are currently no approved medications to treat antisocial personality disorder. (Bateman, A., Fonagy P., 2009)
In conclusion, we find considerable information that details the influences in Ted Bundy’s early life. Rejection, psychopathic and violent in parental guidance, lack of attention from his grandmother, a very young mother, who he thought was his sister are all developments that took a toll, but when we add a overbearing step-father and four young siblings only compounded the rejection and emotional separation. We see evidence to state that Ted Bundy never had role models. His psychopathic traits, which stabilized in Ted, intensified with the obsession with violent and sexual images manifested in his growing imagination. These factors combined with the rejection of his first girlfriend, set the addiction of excitement and revenge lose on the world.
- Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2011). Criminal Behavior: A Psychological Approach. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.
- Bateman, A., Fonagy P., 2009. Randomized Controlled Trial of Outpatient Mentality-Based Treatment versus Structured Clinical Management for Borderline Personality Disorder
- Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Volume 1. Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
- Carbajal, K. (2010). Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and Serial Killers: Does Abuse Beget violence? The science of fiction:
- Cleckley, H. (1976). The Mask of Sanity
- Levy, T., & Orlans, M. (2004). Attachment Disorder, Antisocial Personality and Violence. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association.
- Porter, S., Campbell, M. A., Woodworth, M., & Birt, A. R. (2009). A new psychological conceptualization of the sexual psychopath. Advances in Psychological Research: Volume 7. Huntington, New York: Nova Science Publishers.
- Rule, A. (2009). The Stranger Beside Me. (2009 ed.) NY: Signet
- Whitman, T. A., & Akutagawa. (2004). Riddles in serial murder: A synthesis. Aggression and Violent Behavior.
- Wittkop, G. The Necrophiliac, 2011.