Ted Bundy, Essay Example
I chose to research serial killer Ted Bundy, a subject that I find both intensely disturbing and strangely fascinating. I have been interested in serial killers for several years, primarily because I am interested in understanding why they behave the way they do, what makes them different from other kinds of criminals, and whether there is any concrete reason why they become serial killers. I also have a personal interest in serial killers because my aunt was murdered and investigators believe that the Rocky Mountain Killer may have been the perpetrator, although they were never able to prove the connection. I took a course in forensic science this semester, and one of the topics that we discussed briefly were the murders committed by Ted Bundy. One of the things that caught my interest was the huge difference between his physical exterior and soft-spoken demeanour and the violent acts that he committed upon his victims. The small amount of information that I learned in class inspired me to conduct further research on Ted Bundy so that I could gain deeper insight into his history, crimes, and subsequent execution.
Prior to my Forensic Science class, I can’t recall knowing very much about Bundy besides the fact that he was a serial killer who was killed by the electric chair at Raiford State Prison in Starke, Florida on January 24, 1989. In class, we also learned that he was infamous for using his good looks and ‘normal’ personality to lure his victims into his vehicle. He would accomplish this by pretending to be injured or by acting like a police officer. After he managed to get his victims into his vehicle, he would hit them with a crowbar or strangle them until they were unconscious. According to my Forensic Science teacher, only five women survived Bundy’s attacks, and one of the major reasons why he was able to avoid being caught for many years was due to his strong organizational skills and his deep knowledge of police procedures, which assisted him in covering up his connection to his crimes. However, he was eventually caught after police in Utah stopped his car and discovered suspicious items like handcuffs, masks, and an ice pick (“Ted Bundy” 2011). In my Forensic Science class I also learned that Bundy was eventually charged, tried, and executed for 37 murders, although police suspected that he may have committed far more crimes which have never been solved. My teacher was unable to say with certainty what factors caused Bundy to become a serial killer, however, I did learn that Bundy had a complicated childhood having been raised by his grandparents to believe that his mother was really his sister. He also had a difficult relationship with his stepfather, and was deeply affected by his failed romance with Stephanie Brooks while attending college in Washington State. Investigators have suggested that most of his victims were chosen because of the physical similarities that they shared with Brooks (Rule 1989).
I began my search by using the Internet to provide me with an overview of some of the available primary and secondary sources regarding Ted Bundy. There are countless books, articles, and websites dedicated to exploring his crimes, so my initial task was to comb through some of these sources to locate the ones which seemed most valid. One of the best resources that I located was a book by crime writer Ann Rule called The Stranger Beside Me. Rule actually knew Bundy briefly when they were both working at a crisis center in Seattle, Washington. As Rule notes in the preface to her book, she originally began writing about Bundy’s crimes before his identity had been discovered, and had initially intended the book to be “detached, the result of extensive research” (Rule 1989, 9). However, the nature of her project changed once she realized that “the stranger at the very vortex of an ever-spreading police probe was not a stranger at all; he was my friend” (9). Rule’s friendship with Bundy causes her book to take on an intimate tone which provides some illumination of the man behind the headlines while still offering no true explanation why Bundy committed such terrible crimes, suggesting that some things are so terrible as to remain largely inexplicable. In her book, Rule details Bundy’s early years and their friendship before delving into his crimes and her own reaction to learning that Bundy was a serial killer (Rule 1989). The Stranger Beside Me also launched Rule’s career as a true crime writer, and she’s since gone on to write dozens of books about serial killers, murderers, and crime in America.
My search also led me to a 1989 video in which Bundy himself talks about his crimes, his family, and his life experiences on the night before his execution. One of the things that surprised me the most about Bundy in watching the video was his incredible calmness and the way he could talk about his crimes as if there was nothing strange about his desire to murder women (Bundy 1989). He also characterizes his early years as good ones, stating that he grew up in a loving home and was raised by “two Christian parents who did not drink, did not smoke, there was no gambling, no physical abuse or fighting in the home” (Bundy 1989). While his comments don’t touch on his illegitimate birth or his difficulties later on while living with his birth mother and step father (Rule 1987), his perception of having had a happy childhood illustrates that perhaps there doesn’t necessarily need to be trauma in a person’s early life for them to grow up to be a serial killer, a notion which would suggest that there may be some sort of biological cause for such behaviors. Bundy’s final interview represents his last chance to present his own version of reality, and I found many of his comments to be quite self-serving without any evidence of true remorse or regret. He implied that the representation of him in the media had been inaccurate, but didn’t offer any insight into his true personality (Bundy 1989). Instead, Bundy seemed very focused on portraying himself in the most positive way possible. This isn’t surprising, perhaps, given that he knew he was going to be executed the next day and perhaps wanted to have some control over how the world would remember him.
In my search, I also came across a general biography compiled by the Biography Channel which helped me to get an overall sense of Bundy’s history, crimes, and final years. This source provided me with the information that Bundy was able to delay his execution for many years by continuing to offer investigators new information about his crimes and victims, leading many to believe that Bundy may have exaggerated his crimes in an attempt to avoid death through multiple stays of execution (“Ted Bundy” 2011). As with my other sources, the Biography Channel’s overview offered no conclusive reason why Bundy behaved as he did, although the writer does suggest that Bundy experienced many “psychological blows” (“Ted Bundy” 2011) in his early years as he tried to reconcile his complicated family history with his sense of himself as an individual (“Ted Bundy” 2011).
In order to contextualize my research, I found a newspaper article that was published at the time of Bundy’s execution which helped me to better understand how Bundy was viewed before the passage of time was able to organize and contextualize his acts. Although the spectre of serial killers has become familiar for many people through films, television shows, and an increased public awareness of such crimes, these newspaper accounts reflect the horror that many people felt on discovering the brutality of Bundy’s acts and the ways that he sought to debase and dehumanize his victims (Nordheimer 1989). When Bundy was finally executed on the 24th of January, 1989, many people expressed relief and enthusiasm, including the family members of Bundy’s victims (Nordheimer 1989). However, as the Biography Channel’s overview of Bundy points out, Bundy’s execution allowed him to take “the secret of his actual victim count with him” (“Ted Bundy” 2011).
However, recent developments in DNA profiling may allow investigators to identify more of Bundy’s victims, as I learned in a recent article discussing how scientists and police investigators are currently trying to connect Bundy to a number of unsolved cases (Goode 2011). According to the article, which was published in The New York Times, “a vial of blood [was] discovered in a courthouse where it had been stored for three decades” (Goode 2011). This blood has since been handed over to the FBI, who will input it into their DNA database in the hopes that there may be a match between cold cases and any DNA evidence left at the scene that might match Bundy’s. According to David Coffman, chief of forensics at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he receives several calls each year from investigators who are trying to connect Bundy to their cold cases; thus, one small vial of blood may provide a concrete way for investigators to answer many questions about the true number of victims claimed by Bundy (Goode, 2011).
When I began this search, I hoped to easily find answers to my questions about why serial killers exist and what causes people to engage in such behaviour. Specifically, I thought I might find an article that would tell me exactly why Bundy murdered so many women. However, my search provided no firm answers to any of my questions; if anything, it merely raised many, many more questions about Bundy and others like him. I am most interested in the unresolved issue of how many people Bundy actually killed, because I believe that if investigators could tie Bundy to other unsolved cases, then this could provide the families of victims with some sense of closure and justice. Additionally, I am very interested in better understanding the early years of serial killers. This interest was sparked by the discrepancy in how Bundy described his childhood versus the information available on the Internet about the emotional and social difficulties he experienced as a child and teenager (“Ted Bundy” 2011). Serial killers are often portrayed in the media as scary and dangerous-looking individuals whose physical appearance broadcasts their intentions. However, my research into Ted Bundy has demonstrated that looks can be very deceiving: according to Ann Rule, Bundy was a kind and generous friend who was handsome, personable, and well-educated (Rule 1989). In other words, he was the kind of person no one would ever suspect to be a killer. In the future, I may go into law enforcement, and an understanding of what motivates serial killers would be an asset in this profession.
Bundy, Ted. “Final Interview: January 23, 1989.” YouTube, 29 Aug. 2007. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.
Goode, Erica. “DNA Profile of Ted Bundy Gives Hope to Old Cases.” The New York Times, 9 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.
Nordheimer, John. “Serial Killer Ted Bundy Executed.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 25 Jan. 1989. Web. 9 Aug. 2011.
Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me. New York: Signet, 1989.
“Ted Bundy.” The Biography Channel. AETN UK, 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.
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