Ted Bundy is a notorious serial killer who terrorized young women in different U.S. states during the 1970’s. As he said himself, he’s “the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet”. Although Bundy confessed to having killed around 36 girls, it is believed that he could possibly be responsible for the deaths of at least 100 more girls (Biography.com Editors, 2019). The mental disorder psychopathy could be used to help explain Bundy’s behaviours and the tactics he used to lured his victims and carried out his crimes. In this paper, his childhood and background growing up will be looked at along with similarities between his crimes and how psychopathy can be tied in with each aspect.
On November 24, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont, Ted Bundy was born in a home for unwed mothers to Eleanore Louise Cowell; who also goes by Louise (Biography.com Editors, 2019). Bundy, never knew his biological father although according to Ann Rule, a former coworker of Bundy’s, his father could have been Air Force veteran Lloyd Marshall (Biography.com Editors, 2019). At the time of his birth, babies born out of wedlock were severely frowned upon and in an attempt to hide this Bundy was raised by his grandparents and told that his mother Louise was actually his sister (Bruney, 2019). According to Serena (2019), Ann Rule wrote in her book The Stranger Beside Me, that despite the fact the claim was never proven with DNA testing. Samuel Cowell maybe have been Ted Bundy’s father after raping his daughter Louise. Bundy looked up to and respected his grandfather Samuel, seeing him as “a prime example of a man and the head of a household” (Serena, 2019). This fact is slightly disturbing considering the fact that he was a known to be an abusive, openly racist and sexist man (Serena, 2019) and could connect to Bundy’s future behaviours and reasons for committing his horrible offences. According to Serena (2019), Bundy’s grandmother was prone to “fits of depression” and would go through electromagnetic shock therapy frequently, leading to Bundy having a possible biological predisposition to mental health issues. Louise took Ted to live in Tacoma, Washington after being fed up with the regular beatings that came from her father (Paoletti, 2019). According to Paoletti (2019), Louise married Johnnie Bundy, a hospital cook, who then adopted Ted, giving him Bundy as his last name. Bundy held a grudge against his step-father for being a working class man and never had an interest in bonding or creating a relationship with him; even turning down camping and fishing trips and keeping himself distant from his step-father and step-siblings ( Bruney, 2019).
Ted Bundy showed signs of delinquency and questionable behaviours at a young age. He had a concerning interest in macabre and had an obsession with knives by the age of three (Biography.com Editors, 2019). Bundy’s aunt Julia recalled that around the same time he started his fascination with knives, she would be woken up multiple times to find young Bundy giggling and watching her as he placed kitchen knives, including butcher knives, under her sheets and around her as she slept (Serena, 2019). Along with his passion for death, Bundy tended to covet and obsessive over material objects (Investigation Discovery, 2018). As stated by Investigation Discovery (2018), as a child, Bundy would force his mother to bring him to department stores to look at the expensive clothing and displays; and as stated above, Bundy was embarrassed by his step-father’s job, earnings and even the vehicle he drove. As a child, Bundy was known to sneak off to read his grandfathers pornography and adult magazine collection in the greenhouse for many hours which Bundy later admitted inflamed his “violent fantasies” that led to his horrific crimes (Serena, 2019). As Bundy grew into his teenage years, his odd behaviours grew worse. Bundy became more antisocial as he grew up and would often search for any pornography on the streets or would spy on women through any open windows he may have found (Crime Museum). He had no problem with peering through windows, spying on young women and stealing whatever he wanted from others never fazed him; earning himself a juvenile record that was eventually dismissed after he turned eighteen (Crime Museum). It is pretty clear as stated by Serena (2019) that there wasn’t anything in Ted Bundy’s childhood that helped set him up for a “normal” adult life.
Ted Bundy attended the Woodrow Wilson High School in Tacoma, Washington and didn’t have an interest or see the point in making or maintaining friendships, stating that he “didn’t know what made people want to be friends” (Biography.com Editors, 2019). After graduating from high school in 1965, Bundy attended the University of Puget Sound before transferring to the University of Washington; eventually dropping out (Bruney, 2019). During his time out of school, Bundy found himself involved in volunteering for Republican presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller’s campaign and attending the Republican National Convention in 1968 (Bruney, 2019). After taking a semester in Temple University in Philadelphia (Gainsburg, 2019), Bundy re-enrolled in the University of Washington and graduated in 1972 with a degree, ironically, in psychology (Anderson, 2019). Bundy continued in his political path after graduating from UW and worked for Washington governor Daniel Evans with his re-election campaign and also with the head of the state’s Republican Party, Ross David (Anderson, 2019). He then applied and got accepted into the University of Utah School and Law in 1974, which is around the same time of his first confirmed murder (Gainsburg, 2019). However, he would never end up graduating from the University of Utah School of Law. Stated by Bruney (2019), Bundy wanted a professional middle-upper class lifestyle but he was not academically strong enough to be accepted into the universities he aspired to attend and it is said that his acceptance was granted due to the connections he had to the political world and not based on his academic record (Gainsburg, 2019). According to Anderson (2019), Bundy also spent some time working for Washington’s Department of Emergency Services where he met Carole Ann Boone; who he would later date, propose to and get married to during his trial and at the suicide hotline crisis centre in Seattle where he met Ann Rule, the eventual author of The Stranger Beside Me.
While Bundy was a student in the University of Washington, he met a young women from California who was not only pretty but wealthy as well and had everything he has desired to have since a young age: “money, class and influence” (Biography.com Editors, 2019). Bundy fell in love with her and dated her briefly before the relationship was broken off which devastated Bundy (Biography.com Editors, 2019). According the Biography.com (2019), many of Bundy’s future victims resembled his former girlfriend: they were alluring college students who have long, brunette hair. Throughout his murderous spree, Bundy was often over looked from being a suspect, even after being identified by his ex-girlfriend, professor, co-worker and friend, because he was seen as a “clean-cut law student” and did not fit the suspected profile (Paoletti, 2019). This misconception of him clearly helped with his continued targeting and murdering of young women.
Ted Bundy’s first attack was on Karen Sparks, a student attending the University of Washington, when he broke into her apartment, rendered her unconscious and sexually assaulted her using a metal rod taken off her bed frame (Paoletti, 2019). Although she was lucky to make it out alive, her injuries from his assault put her into a ten day coma and resulted in permanent disabilities (Paoletti, 2019). Bundy’s first confirmed murder was Lynda Ann Healy, who was also attending the University of Washington at the time, when he broke into Healy’s apartment and beat her unconscious before carrying her body to his car (Paoletti, 2019). Bundy continued choosing young college women as his targets using not only his charm to help attract them but was also known to fake injuries or disabilities while approaching these young women to ask for help with carrying or unloading things like books or groceries from his car (Crime Museum). Bundy would occasionally portray himself as firefighters or police officers to gain trust from his victims before he would proceed to attack them. Typically after debilitating and sometimes strangling his victims, he’d force them into his car in handcuffs where is front passenger seat was removed to keep his unconscious victims out of sight as he moved them to his dumping locations (Crime Museum). Disturbingly, Bundy was a necrophiliac and often wanted to drag out his satisfaction by either re-visiting the locations he dumped the bodies at or bringing them home with him and “gain further sexual gratification” — even bringing home decapitated heads as a trophy until the body’s decomposition made it intolerable (Crime Museum). Perhaps one of Bundy’s most famous cases was the bite mark case. In 1978, after the second time of escaping custody, Bundy attacked four women at Florida State University (Tron, 2019). Two of the women, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman were unfortunately murdered and Levy’s killer had left bite marks on her buttocks (Tron, 2019). According to Tron (2019), during Bundy’s trial, a transparent sheet with his teeth impressions was held over a picture of the bite marks that were left on Levy. The matching of the bite marks, and witness testimony, is what ultimately convinced the jury that Bundy was guilty (Tron, 2019). As stated by Gainsburg (2019), this was the arrest that led to Bundy’s execution in 1989.
A possible explanation for Ted Bundy’s actions could be that he suffers from the mental disorder psychopathy. Bundy was often seen as a charming man, helping him easily attract his victims, and had no empathy towards his crimes , stating “I don’t feel guilty for anything. I feel sorry for people who feel guilt”; both in line with some characteristics stated by Essi, Eamon & Ana, (2014p.R871) that are presented by psychopaths. According to Essi, Eamon & Ana, (2014p.R871), characteristics associated with a psychopath can be noticeable at an early age and “callous-unemotional traits” that are shown in adults diagnosed with psychopathy may also be seen in children suspected of psychopathy and help to estimate the risk of antisocial behaviour as they grow older. Going back to Bundy’s childhood, he was very antisocial not only in school, but also with his family and didn’t see a point in having friendships with others.