The Incriminating Past of Ted Bundy

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In today’s society, people often view serial killers as outcasts, unapproachable, and defiant. Ted Bundy was the opposite of all those stereotypes. He was handsome, intelligent, and a charmer. So much so, that he was suspected to have killed over 50 women and girls during the 1970s.

Today, in the U.S. alone, there are approximately 25-50 serial killers operating at any given time. But with Ted’s intelligence, he committed such horrific crimes that would go down in history. On November 24, 1946, an unwed, pregnant woman went to the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. There, Eleanor Louise Cowell gave birth to Theodore Robert Cowell. For the first three years of Ted's life, he lived in Philadelphia with his maternal grandparents. Ted would grow up to believe that his grandparents were his parents and that his mother was his sister. Eleanor wanted Ted to grow up as normal as possible seeing as she was unwed and had no idea of who Ted’s father was. Nobody knows for sure when Ted found out that his sister was his mother. He would grow up to envy his grandfather, Samuel Cowell. Samuel Cowell was known for beating his wife and dog and swinging neighborhood cats by their tails. Eleanor’s sister, Julia, once recalled waking from a nap to see herself surrounded by knives while her three-year-old nephew, Ted, stood smiling. He would end up committing auto theft and burglary in his juvenile years. In Ted’s final interview he said, “If I can understand it now, there is this battle going on within. There are the conventions that you’ve been taught, there’s the right and wrong that you learned as a child, and there is this…this…unbridled passion…fueled by…your plunge into hardcore violent pornography. And those things are at war with each other.” (Ted Bundy, personal communication, January 23, 1989).

He later admitted going out for walks to search through neighbors trash in search for any discarded pornography or open windows to spy on unsuspecting women while they got undressed, this he said was the root of all his killings. In 1951, Louise and Ted moved to Tacoma, Washington. There she changed her surname from Cowell to Nelson. Louise ended marrying Johnnie Culpepper Bundy, who she later had four children with. Johnnie ended up adopting Ted in an effort to include him in the family more. In an interview, Ted said, “Because…I grew up in a wonderful home with two…dedicated and loving parents, as one of five brothers and sisters. A home…where we, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attend church…Two Christian parents…they did not drink, they did not smoke, there was no gambling, there was no physical abuse or fighting in the home.” (Ted Bundy, personal communication, January 23, 1989).

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He went on to graduate high school with an IQ of 136. He had no serial killer tendencies and this is what made him into the serial killer that went down in history. After Ted graduated high school in 1965, he went to the University of Puget Sound for one year before transferring to the University of Washington where he studied Chinese. There he met a woman who he envied. Her name was Stephanie Brooks, she was a pretty girl who liked to wear her dark, long hair in a middle part. This hairstyle would later be the only evidence to link most of Bundy’s victims together. Ted ended up dropping out of college in 1968 due to his lack of ambition. He would volunteer at the Suicide Hotline Center where he later met the author, Ann Rule, who ended up writing a distinctive biography about Ted. He also helped Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential campaign. Stephanie ended up leaving Ted, which left him heartbroken. “Whether speculation that this break-up was a major turning point in Bundy’s path as a serial killer is true or not, we do know that he was affected by it great enough to drop out of the University of Washington.” (“Ted Bundy: The Campus Killer’, 2014). He later met Elizabeth Kopfer, who worked as a secretary at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Ted later enrolled at UW and graduated, in 1972, as a psychology major. “He was a tormented soul in a lot of respects, and psychology would appeal to a person like him. He was not unusual for a very clever psychopath individual. He was able to inspire confidence in others and provide a very good front. Nobody who interacted with him actually suspected what was going on.” (Ronald Smith, personal communications). This psychology degree helped him get into the minds of his victims. Ted would then help with the re-election campaign of Governor Daniel J. Evans. After Governor Evans was re-elected, Ted was hired as an assistant to Ross Davis who was Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. In 1973, Ted was accepted into the law schools of the University of Puget Sound and the University of Utah with the letter recommendations of both Evans and Davis. Ted ended up reconnecting with both Stephanie and Elizabeth, he began to date both without either women ever aware of each other’s existence. In January of 1974, he broke off contact with both women. He skipped his classes frequently and eventually stopped going entirely. This is the year that many young women began to disappear, the year that Ted Bundy started killing.

Ted’s degree in psychology and high IQ enabled him to disguise himself and put on a new face. He knew how to convince people of his false words. But Ted was still a human, he was afraid to die, “I don’t want to die. I’m not going to kid you. I deserve the most extreme punishment society has...I think society deserves to be protected from me and others like me.” (Ted Bundy, personal communications, January 23, 1989). He often times would drink alcohol before committing the murders to suppress his distinctive personality. He used multiple tactics like dressing up as police officers or firefighters in order to gain women's trust. Ted used casts, crutches, and arm slings to exploit the amiability of unsuspecting women. Bundy would then ask women to come back to his car whether it was to help with groceries or textbooks. He would hit the women unconscious with a crowbar or pipe. After that, he would handcuff them and forcibly put them into his 1968 tan Volkswagen Beetle. He had already removed the passenger seat and put it in the backseat or trunk so that his victim would lay flat and out of sight as he drove. He raped and strangled or bludgeon his victims to death. He was known for revisiting his dump sites and using victims bodies for his own pleasure. He would even go as far as to decapitate their heads and display them, as well as dress and apply makeup to their corpses.

As the body counts rose from Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Florida, police began to become suspicious of Bundy. Police had never considered Bundy to be the killer because of his put-together appearance and charming ways. But, he was finally caught on August 16, 1975, in Utah after fleeing from a patrol car. Police then searched his vehicle to find masks, handcuffs, ropes, and other suspicious items. With the police never able to connect him to the deaths of his victims, he was then released but remained under constant police surveillance. He was arrested again for kidnapping and assaulting a victim months later. While he was in custody and being transferred from Utah to Colorado he escaped only to be recaptured within the week.

On December 30, 1977, Bundy escaped for the second time where he went to Florida and tried to live a ‘normal’ life, but he was arrested again for continuing his serial killer tendencies. During most of his trials, he represented himself and was his own lawyer. Ted was seen as more of a celebrity during his trials because it was the first ever televised murder trial in U.S history. He was later convicted of killing a young Colorado woman as well as the murders of two Chi Omega women at Florida State University. The most conclusive evidence to tie Bundy to the murders was the bite marks seen on the bodies of the two Chi Omega women. He tried to bargain his own life with the deaths of his victims by later admitting to more than 38 killings. Moments before his execution he said, 'Jim and Fred, I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends.' (Ted Bundy, personal communications, January 24, 1989).

But ultimately, Ted Bundy was executed by the electric chair in Florida on January 24, 1989. One of the most notorious serial killers of all time, Ted Bundy. While he may not have seemed like a serial killer, he certainly was. He had no motive, and that ultimately led to him becoming a gruesome serial killer. Murderers, rapists, and serial killers can be anywhere and everywhere. So next time a cute guy with a broken arm asks you to help him put some groceries into his car, will you be willing to take that risk?

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