|“||So what's one less? What's one less person on the face of the planet?||”|
Theodore Robert "Ted" Bundy (born Theodore Robert Cowell) was a prolific hebephilic, ephebophilic, and necrophilic American serial killer, serial rapist, and abductor who was active in several states in the 1970s. He's considered one of the most infamous serial killers in U.S. history.
Bundy was born in Burlington, Vermont, to Eleanor Louise Cowell. His father's identity remains unknown. For most of his life, Bundy was raised to believe that his grandparents, Samuel and Eleanor, were his actual parents and that Louise was his older sister. He didn't find out that "Louise" was his mother until his college years. This was done to avoid any social stigma placed on Louise for being an unwed mother. He lived with Louise in a house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, Louise had Bundy's surname changed from Cowell (at that time) to Nelson. Later, when the two moved to Tacoma, Washington, Louise met a man named Johnny Culpepper Bundy at a local church function. They were soon married, and Johnny adopted him, thus changing his surname to "Bundy". Johnny treated Bundy well, including him on the camping trips and other outdoor activities he often took with his and Louise's own children. Despite this, Bundy remained distant from his stepfather. During high school, Bundy was often isolated from other kids his age. He couldn't seem to understand teenage social behavior but was skilled in "faking it", indicating a propensity towards psychopathy. He stated once that, "I didn't know what made things tick. I didn't know what made people want to be friends. I didn't know what made people attractive to one another. I didn't know what underlay social interactions."
It was during this time that Bundy developed a compulsion for thievery and shoplifting. He typically stole skiing equipment and forged ski lift tickets to support his interest in the sport. In college, Bundy studied Psychology and Asian studies. He worked at various jobs (never longer than a few months at a time), such as bagging groceries, stocking shelves, and working at a suicide hotline. During this time, he met writer Ann Rule, with whom he became friends. Ann would later write a defensive biography of Bundy entitled, "The Stranger Beside Me" and also wrote more true crime books, one of which was about the Green River Killer case. After a breakup with a fellow student, who cited immaturity and lack of ambition as her reasons, Bundy became depressed and dropped out of school. He returned to Burlington and, by doing a search of public records, discovered his true parentage. After this, he became more focused and dominant. Returning to Washington, Bundy became Campaign Manager for Nelson Rockefeller's campaign for Presidency. He enrolled in the University of Washington as a psychology major and became an honor student who was well-liked by professors and students alike. Bundy's personality underwent a major paradigm shift; from shy and introverted, to confident and social.
Killings, Conviction, and Execution
Shortly after midnight on January 4, 1974, Bundy made his first confirmed murder attempt. He broke into the basement bedroom of a female student at the University of Washington, bludgeoned her in her sleep and sexually assaulted her. She survived but suffered permanent brain damage. Over the following four months, he killed three students; another from the University of Washington on January 31, one from Evergreen State College on March 12 and one from Central Washington State College on April 17. On July 4, Bundy was descending the Yakima River with his girlfriend, Liz Kloepfer, when he pushed her into the water without a word or apparent motive. Kloepfer returned to the boat without Bundy's assistance, who stood still as if he was seeing through her. Ten days later, on July 14, Bundy inquired Kloepfer until he learned that she was going to suntan at Carkeek, near Seattle. Kloepfer assumed that Bundy wanted to join her there, but he went instead to Lake Sammamish. There he wore a fake arm cast and imitated a British accent to request assistance from young female holidaymakers until two, Janice Ott and Denise Naslund, went with him roughly four hours after one another. It is believed that Bundy forced one of the women to watch him as he raped and killed the other before also killing her. Their skeletons were found on September 6 in an abandoned road four miles from the lake, along with that of Georgann Hawkins, a University of Washington student who had disappeared on June 12. Both Ott and Hawkins were missing their heads.
Based on a large number of witnesses, the authorities released a sketch of the suspect on the disappearances of Ott and Naslund, who was also said to have called himself "Ted" and driven a metallic brown Volkswagen Beetle. Among the people who reported Bundy were Kloepfer, one of his psychology professors, and Ann Rule. Because of his reputation as a clean-shaven and well-mannered student, the police paid no attention to their tips. Bundy cut his hair short and moved on to Salt Lake City, Utah on September 2, where he continued his studies in the University of Utah College of Law and became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, though he never really attended any gatherings. During the first semester, he killed four more women, one of which was the daughter of a police chief. The next semester, 1975, he killed four more women, three of which were taken in Colorado. The fourth was 13-year old Lynette Culver, who was abducted from a school playground in Pocatello, Idaho, taken to a hotel room, and raped and drowned in a bathtub. As with a number of Bundy's victims, her body was never found. He killed another girl, 15-year old Susan Curtis, during his summer break.
On August 16, he was pulled over when he wouldn't stop for a police officer. Inside his car, the officer found balaclavas, gloves, a crowbar, handcuffs, and other items he suspected to be burglary tools. On March 1, 1976, he was sentenced to 1-to-15 years in prison for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch, who he had tried to abduct in Utah in 1974 by pretending to be a police officer. In 1977, investigators had found enough evidence to charge Bundy with the January 1975 murder of Caryn Campbell, who had disappeared while on a ski trip and managed to extradite him to Aspen. At the Pitkin County courthouse, Bundy was allowed to visit the courthouse library. From there, he escaped through a window but was pulled over in a stolen car for having dimmed headlights and arrested again.
He was placed in a jail in Glenwood Springs, from which he escaped on December 30, 1977, by somehow getting his hands on a hacksaw and $500 and getting out through a crawlspace. By the time the jail staff realized that he was missing, he had already made his way to Chicago. After then spending some time at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and in Atlanta, he settled at Tallahassee, Florida on January 8, where he supported himself through shoplifting and purse snatching. On January 15, 1978, Bundy committed his first murders in almost two-and-a-half years. He broke into the Chi Omega sorority at the Florida State University, raped, strangled, and bludgeoned students, Lisa Levy, and Margaret Bowman. Two other students were also attacked but survived. The same night, he attacked another woman eight blocks away, she also survived.
On February 9, 1978, Bundy committed his last known murder. He abducted 12-year-old Kimberly Leach outside her school, raped and killed her and tried to hide the body in an abandoned hog shed. On the morning of February 15, he was arrested for driving a stolen vehicle and was quickly linked to the sorority murders. In the end, Bundy received two death sentences; one for the sorority murders and one for the murder of Kimberly Leach. Two pieces of evidence proved crucial: a set of bite marks on Lisa Levy's buttocks and the testimony of a Chi Omega resident who hadn't been present at the killings and saw Bundy leave the building. Bundy spent the better part of the 1980s fighting his sentence. During this time, he was interviewed by FBI profiler Robert Ressler, who found him uncooperative, and married Carole Ann Boone, a former co-worker, and had a daughter, Tina, with her in October 1982. When Bundy talked about the murders, he always did so in third-person and speaking hypothetically. As the execution date came closer, Bundy confessed to more murders for which he hadn't previously been conclusively linked to. In October 1984, Bundy contacted the Green River Task Force and offered personal insights on the case, which hadn't been solved at the time. At 7:06 a.m. on January 24, 1989, Bundy was executed by electric chair. His last words were "I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends." In May of 2012, John Henry Browne, who defended Bundy during his final trial, claimed in a memoir describing his conversations with Bundy that he claimed to have killed over 100 people and that his first victim had been a man.
Bundy targeted brunette, petite Caucasian women aged 12 to 26 years old. All of the victims were either in college or had a middle-class background. While looking for his victims, he would consume large quantities of alcohol. His method of obtaining the victims varied; sometimes he would burglarize their homes and bludgeon them in their sleep, sometimes he would use an elaborate ruse, and sometimes he merely relied on his looks alone. The latter method was successful for Bundy because of the fact that women considered him to be good-looking and charming. In fact, this characteristic even allowed him to successfully abduct women in broad daylight, even if they were aware that a serial killer was present in the area. His facial features were also "unremarkable"; that is, though attractive, not especially memorable. This allowed him to completely change his appearance with only minor adjustments; a mustache, different hairstyle, a hat, etc. He would even disguise himself as a police officer or a firefighter to gain his victim's trust. Sometimes, Bundy would use a fake cast, have his arm in a sling, or use crutches to play on a potential victim's sympathy. He would ask them for the assistance of some kind, such as helping him put something in his car or asking for directions. They were then struck in the head with a crowbar, shoved into his car, and forced to wear handcuffs.
His initial attacks involved him raping them (either with incidental objects found in the victim's bedroom or ones he brought with him) and then fatally bludgeoning them with a crowbar. Before raping his victims, he would have them remove their clothing (and later burn it after killing them, or in the case of Julie Cunningham, deposit it in a Goodwill Industries collection bin) or take off his own clothing to prevent the authorities from finding any trace evidence. He would later kill his victims by strangulation and would sometimes decapitate them post-mortem, keeping a few of their skulls as trophies. In one case, he cremated the severed head of one victim in a fireplace. When he killed Lynette Culver, he drowned her in a bathtub. When he attacked his victims at the Chi Omega sorority house, he bludgeoned all of them with a log.
Bundy would often visit his victims, whom he dumped at a site in Taylor Mountain. He admitted to applying makeup to the corpses, having sex with them, and would lie with them for hours afterward. He also dressed them in clothes that they never wore and apply nail polish that their families had never seen them use. Bundy also kept a collection of photos of his victims that he took with a Polaroid camera as a way of remembering the crimes.
"You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You're looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God!"
Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a psychologist who interviewed Bundy for seven hours, diagnosed him as a manic-depressive. She concluded that he committed his murders during depressive episodes. His pathology may have been due to his relationship with his grandfather, Samuel Cowell, a church deacon, who was described as a "tyrannical bully". Samuel was a known bigot, who hated African-Americans, Hispanics, Italians, Catholics, and Jews. Bundy stated that Samuel also tortured small animals, including neighborhood dogs and cats, and kept an extensive collection of "odd" pornography in his greenhouse. It would later be revealed that the pornography was of a violent nature; rape, torture, and mock-snuff.
On Criminal Minds
- Intro: Bundy's mugshot is among the mugshots shown during the show's intro.
- Season One
- "Extreme Aggressor" - While giving a lecture on the Footpath Killer, Gideon claims that he is obviously a disorganized killer since there was no indication at any of the crime scenes that he made any attempt to charm or trick his victims as Bundy did. He also appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's main unsub, Tim Vogel - Both were serial killers, rapists, and abductors who had three-syllable names that began with "T" and were known by a shortened one ("Tim" and "Ted"), primarily targeted (though Bundy also killed teenagers), strangled them (though this was only one of Bundy's methods), operated in Seattle (Bundy only briefly), killed monthly (Bundy briefly), were given nicknames for their crimes, lured them with ruses, and abducted them in cars. Also, the fact that Vogel was a prison guard could be a reference to how Bundy sometimes lured his victims by pretending to be a police officer.
- "Plain Sight" - While trying to talk down Franklin Graney, who has a woman at gunpoint, Gideon tells him that if he surrenders peacefully he will be immortalized by the media, and join the ranks of other infamous killers, like Bundy and Dahmer.
- "Unfinished Business" - Reid brings up Bundy as an example of a devolving killer, mentioning his sloppy attack on the Chi Omega Sorority House at the Florida University, and his excessively brutal murder of twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach. The reference is accompanied by a flashback of Bundy (portrayed by an uncredited actor) in a van, manic and splattered in blood after having just murdered Leach.
- "Charm and Harm" - Bundy is depicted again in a flashback (this time portrayed by Robert Lee) and appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Mark Gregory - Both were rapists (Bundy serial and Gregory statutory), serial killers, and abductors who targeted women, drowned them (once in Bundy's case), were highly charming and masters of disguises used to lure victims, operated in multiple states (including Florida), and became sloppy during their last murders.
- Season Two
- "The Boogeyman" - While discussing how some serial killers enact revenge fantasies on their victims with Morgan, Reid brings up the theory that Bundy targeted women who reminded him of Stephanie Brooks, the girlfriend who rejected him.
- "The Last Word" - When the Mill Creek Killer's necrophilia is discovered, Bundy's penchant for it is brought up. Bundy may have also been an inspiration for him - Both were necrophilic serial killers who targeted young brunette women, lured them with ruses, then killed them through manual means (the Mill Creek Killer punched his victims to death, while Bundy strangled and bludgeoned his, and even drowned one), and later returned to the crime scenes in the woods to groom and have sex with the corpses of their victims until the decomposition became too severe.
- "No Way Out" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode (or its other half), Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for its unsub, Frank Breitkopf - Both were prolific, psychopathic, organized serial killers who committed murders over a span of decades with the possibility of many more victims and cases that were unsolved. Both were also sadists who took pleasure in seeing their victims' fear moments before death, mutilated them and kept trophies of their murders as to relive them (Breitkopf kept the victims' rib bones, while Bundy kept their skulls). After being captured, Bundy attracted a following of female fans, seemingly echoing Jane Hanratty's captivation towards Breitkopf. In addition, both Bundy and Breitkopf evaded capture once from the authorities after being held in their custody. Lastly, both presented themselves as good-looking, charming, and non-threatening due to their physical appearance and way of dressing, which allowed them to evade suspicion.
- "The Big Game" - Reid mentions how, when recounting his murders in interviews, Bundy never spoke about himself in the first-person, usually just saying "the killer".
- Season Three
- "Doubt" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Nathan Tubbs - Both were killers with the same media-given nickname ("Campus Killer"), targeted women who resembled the women who rejected them, shared the same victimology (brunette, Caucasian, female college students), and kept trophies (Tubbs kept newspaper articles that mentioned his murders, while Bundy kept his victims' skulls). Tubbs also used his job as a college security guard to get close to his victims, similar to how Bundy would dress up as a police officer so that he could get his victims to lower their guard when he approached them.
- "Penelope" - While going over the details of Garcia's near-fatal shooting, Rossi brings Bundy, Edmund Kemper, and Robert Anderson up as examples of killers who appeared to gain sadistic satisfaction out of gaining the trust of their victims and out of lulling them into a false sense of security before killing them.
- "Limelight" - Rossi mentions that he interviewed Bundy and that he fed him the story about pornography contributing to his violent impulses, stating, "If you want to stop people from becoming like me, don't burn Catcher in the Rye, burn Hustler."
- "Tabula Rasa" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Brian Matloff - Both were serial killers whose mothers 'deceived' them in some way (Bundy's mother told him she was his sister, while Matloff was put up for adoption) and learned the truth years later. Both went to college, were rejected by women which triggered their murders, targeted Caucasian brunette women, used some sort of authority to lure them (Bundy pretended to be a police officer, while Matloff was a Forest Service employee), and then buried them in wooded areas to 'relive' the murders (though for different reasons). Both took possessions from their victims, were given nicknames for their crimes, and lastly both managed to escape from court during their trials and went on the run briefly before being recaptured.
- Season Four
- "Cold Comfort" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Roderick Gless - Both were necrophilic serial killers and abductors who had a similar victimology (Caucasian woman in their twenties), targeted victims who were surrogates for women in their lives (Gless targeted women who resembled his deceased babysitter, while Bundy targeted women who resembled his ex-girlfriend), killed their victims in Washington (although this was only one of the states Bundy killed in), and engaged in sexual acts with their victims post-mortem.
- "Omnivore" - While holding George Foyet at gunpoint, Hotch tells him that he wouldn't want to die because he wanted to know of all of the media coverage that would result in his arrest, adding that it was "going to be like Bundy". Foyet then proclaims that he is going to be "bigger than Bundy". Bundy may have also been an inspiration for Foyet - Both were prolific, psychopathic, and hebephilic serial killers who primarily targeted women out of hatred, killed through various means and used ruses to get their victims to lower their guards (one of which was pretending to be a police officer). Both also managed to escape from prison and kill additional victims before being re-apprehended and ultimately killed.
- Season Five
- "Outfoxed" - Neuroscientist James Fallon mentions Bundy was one of five violent psychopaths (the others being John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, Dennis Rader, and Charles Manson) whose brain patterns he has studied.
- "The Slave of Duty" - While theorizing the killer they are currently investigating may be targeting women who remind him of someone from his past, Reid mentions the theory that Bundy killed women who reminded him of Stephanie Brooks.
- "The Uncanny Valley" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Samantha Malcolm - Both were serial killers and abductors who targeted young women, lured them with ruses (one of which included pretending to need help in lifting an object into her car and then incapacitating the victim immediately afterward) before abducting them and taking them to another location to be killed.
- "Parasite" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in the episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Bill Hodges - Both were charismatic killers and abductors who tended to charm women, devolved at the end of their crimes sprees, used multiple aliases, committed their crimes in multiple states (including Florida, the same where their last crimes occurred and where they died), and killed their victims by strangulation or bludgeoning.
- Season Six
- "Remembrance of Things Past" - While trying to convince Hotch that the slew of recent murders being committed in Bristol are connected to the Butcher, Rossi mentions that just because the murders lack the Butcher's signature, that does not mean he is not involved; to prove his point, Rossi states some of Bundy and Dahmer's murders lacked the signature(s) the others had.
- "The Stranger" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Greg Phinney - Both were psychopathic, organized rapists and serial killers who devolved, had near-identical victimologies (Caucasian brunette female college students in their twenties), targeted women who resembled the women they fell in love with and had M.O.s that involved breaking into their victims' homes at night and killing them.
- Season Seven
- Season Nine
- "The Inspiration" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode (or its other half), Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for its unsub, Wallace Hines - Both were serial killers, serial rapists, and abductors who devolved, were rejected by an ex-girlfriend and targeting women who resembled them (though Hines also killed men), would abduct them from various locations and raped them, decapitated them (though Hines only did this with his first victim, while Bundy eventually stopped), and performed ritualistic acts with their bodies (Hines posed his victims, while Bundy would groom and dress his before engaging in necrophilia until the body was too badly decomposed).
- "Angels" - A mugshot of Bundy was seen alongside one of Richard Ramirez on a board kept by Sheriff Peter Coleman for the current investigation.
- Season Eleven
- "A Badge and a Gun" - Bundy was compared to Andrew Meeks by the BAU and appears to have been based on him - Both were killers who targeted women, usually killed their victims by asphyxiation, were antisocial but managed to develop skills to charm their victims, had claustrophobia, and posed as a law enforcement officer to gain the trust of victims.
- "Tribute" - Bundy's mugshot was seen on the cover of the book America's Deadliest Killers, which was read by the episode's unsub, Michael Lee Peterson, who may have also been based on him - Both were serial killers and serial rapists (budding at least), primarily targeted women (though Peterson also killed men, and Bundy claimed to have), had a varying M.O. (including strangulation), were highly charming, operated in multiple states, and were originally organized and later devolved as their killings came to a close, with their last attacks being in a sorority dormitory. Also, the fact that Peterson's first victim was a little girl may be an allusion to Bundy's unconfirmed first victim being a little girl.
- "Inner Beauty" - Bundy was mentioned by Rossi and JJ alongside Gary Ridgway as an example of serial killers who dispose the bodies of their victims in the same spot. His tendencies to commit necrophilia on some of his victims was also brought up in the same scene.
- Season Twelve
- "Taboo" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Stuart Barker - Both were serial killers who have unidentified fathers, were raised believing their mothers were their sisters, targeted women, killed them by drowning them (though in different solutions: water in Bundy's case, concrete in Barker's), and also bludgeoned women with incidental objects (though Barker did this once, and only as a way to incapacitate).
- "Assistance Is Futile" - Bundy's social skills and ability to lure victims in by charming them was mentioned by Rossi while he and Alvez were discussing the case at hand.
- Season Thirteen
- "To A Better Place" - Bundy was mentioned several times throughout the episode. The BAU compared Bundy’s feigning of injury to the unsub’s.
- "Lucky Strikes" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Bundy appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's main unsub, Marcus Manning - Both were serial killers (budding at least) and abductors who targeted women, abducted them by striking them over the head and took them to a secluded location to kill them (sometimes in Bundy's case), bit them, and committed crimes prior to their murders.
- "The Dance of Love" - Bundy was referenced again.
- Season Fifteen
- Killer Profile - Former profiler Max Ryan is revealed to have written about Bundy in a book titled Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: Profiling Why They Kill. Daniel Dryden (who used the book as a point of reference) also copied Bundy, luring a pair of young women who matched his victim type from a beach, strangling them and leaving several of their bones in a wooded area afterward.
- Note: In addition to these mentions and references, Bundy is said to have been a source of inspiration for a majority of the unsubs in the show, according to the CBS website.
- According to his FBI wanted poster, Bundy worked as a bellboy, busboy, cook's helper, dishwasher, janitor, law school student, office worker, political campaign worker, psychiatric social worker, salesman, and a security guard.
Ted Bundy Has Been Blocked
- Wikipedia's article about Bundy
- Murderpedia's article about Bundy
- July 14, 1974: Murder on a Sunday Afternoon, by Graveyardbride
- She is usually not identified by this name, instead being referred to by the pseudonym of Joni Lenz
- Sources are conflicted on the spelling
- How realistic are those bad guys?