Ted Bundy’s execution on January 24, 1989, was one of the most talked-about events of the decade.
The Lady Killer, a real-life notorious serial murderer, turned America into turmoil while making everyone question their Mr. Perfect and Handsome next-door neighbor.
Over thirty years later after his death, his name is still one that trends on the internet.
This popularity has led to the creation of tens of movies and documentaries about him, with two new ones announced this year. While we wouldn’t mind seeing an actor as handsome as Zac Efron, even as Ted Bundy on our movie screens again, it would be safe to ask how much is too much?
So why is Ted Bundy so famous? Why are people so fascinated by this Burlington-born psychopath? What makes him so interesting over the other serial killers that film producers a field day out of him? What about all the victims he tortured, raped, abused, like they weren’t even living creatures?
Finally, why are we so obsessed with Ted Bundy’s execution?
Ted Bundy’s Childhood
First, he was Ted Cowell, then Ted Nelson, and finally Ted Bundy. Who is this guy that had not just multiple identities but multiple personalities also?
Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy was a serial killer, rapist, and necrophiliac who killed over thirty women in the 1970s. Unlike what many people will expect from the childhood of such a man that caused much terror in America, Ted Bundy had what many people will say as an uneventful childhood.
Even though he didn’t grow up in the white picket fence kind of home, no particular event in his childhood could explain his actions.
Where Did Ted Bundy Live?
Ted’s mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell, gave birth to him at home for unwed mothers in Burlington, Vermont, on the 24th of November 1946.
Being young and single, she considered putting the baby up for adoption, but her father, Sam Cowell, was against it.
Bundy was raised by his maternal grandparents in Philadelphia as their son to avoid stigma, which came with being born out of wedlock, mainly since he lived in a religious neighborhood.
Everyone, including him, was told his grandparents were his parents and his actual mother was his sister. In later years, he discovered the truth about his birth after he saw his birth certificate. This caused him to harbor a lifelong resentment towards his mother.
His grandfather was a man with a mean temper and was what some described as a tyrannical bully. He hated black people, foreigners, Jews, Catholics, and abused people and animals. Maybe this was a catalyst to Ted’s early disturbing behavior.
Julia, Ted’s aunt, recalled an incident where she woke up from a nap and found herself surrounded by knives with three-year-old Ted standing beside her bed, smiling.
In 1950, Louise moved away with her son to Tacoma, Washington. She changed her surname from Cowell to Nelson to hush any suspicion about her son’s legitimacy. It was here she met Johnny Culpepper Bundy, an army hospital cook. A year later, they got married, and Johnny legally adopted Ted.
Johnny and Louise established a comfortable family together, as their marriage produced four kids of their own. Despite Johnny’s efforts to include Ted in every family activity, Ted stayed distant. He later explained to his girlfriend that he never liked his stepfather because he was very dumb and made little money.
As a teenager, Ted was already exhibiting some delinquent behaviors. He had the reputation of a pathological liar, a compulsive manipulator, a peeping Tom, and a kleptomaniac. Around this time, the police arrested him at least twice on charges of auto theft and burglary. Because of the law in Washington and many other states, they deleted the charges from his records when he reached the age of 18.
Yet, none of these gave any clear sign of the terrible monster he had in him, not until he went off to university.
Why Did Ted Bundy Become A Serial Killer?
The truth of the matter is nobody is ever going to know why he became a serial murderer, but here is one fact – Bundy had a deep-rooted hatred for women. Maybe it was because of his resentment for his mother or because his girlfriend, Diane, whom he met in his junior year in college, dumped him, which had a considerable impact.
Whatever it was, over 30 women in America were going to pay for it. Even after Ted Bundy’s execution, experts couldn’t still determine a solid reason.
His relationship with Diane was purely superficial. In an interview, Ted described her as “beautifully dressed, a beautiful girl. Very personable. Nice car, great parents.” She belonged to the upper class of society, a place Ted desperately wanted to be part of.
In 1968, after a year and a half of dating, Diane broke it off. He lacked the drive and career goals she was looking for, and she unknowingly dodged a bullet. But that may not have been the only reason. According to the book written by his former coworker Ann Rule, The Stranger beside Me, Diane had doubts about his character. She noticed how he used people and only got close to them because he needed them or to curry favor from them.
The breakup was a changing point in Ted’s life as he decided to get his revenge. He would become the man she always wanted, then dump her as she dumped him. And his plan worked.
That year, Ted, who had formerly dropped out of school, re-rolled into law school and started working for the Washington Republican Party. He was finally beginning to be “somebody,” and he needed Diane to know it.
Four years later, they rekindled their romance. Ted was already in a relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer. However, Ted had no genuine interest in being serious with Diane this time.
“I just wanted to prove to myself that I could have married her,” he later explained.
That year, after the relationship ended once and for all, Ted started missing classes and also causing missing women. Women who looked like Diane Edwards.
How Many People Did Ted Bundy Kill?
Officially, Ted Bundy killed over 30 women, with 20 confirmed, but experts believe there were 100 or more victims. They recorded his first confirmed victim on January 4th, 1974.
College student Karen Sparks lived with her three male roommates and never suspected a man would sneak into the house and assault her, but that was exactly what happened. Ted, who had been stalking Karen for some weeks, attacked her with her bedframe, using it to smash her skull and her vagina.
But Karen wasn’t just the first confirmed victim but one of the two survivors of The Lady Killer’s attacks. Her roommate, Chuck, may just have saved her life with his habit of sleep talking. Ted heard a guy real close, freaked out, and ran.
Just a few weeks later, Ted Bundy went out again in search of a new victim, and this time he was successful.
Lynda Ann Healy, a popular student from the University of Washington, was his first confirmed murder. Everyone knew her for making the morning weather and ski reports on a local radio station.
The method of attack was the same as with Karen. He sneaked into her house, which she shared with other roommates, attacked her, kidnapped her, and later murdered her. The police found Lynda’s skull a year later, along with several other women.
After this, Ted was on a killing spree – him the hunter and innocent and unsuspecting women, the prey. He began killing all over the country. With 11 confirmed cases in Washington, 8 in Utah, 3 in Colorado, 2 in Oregon, 2 in Idaho, and 1 in California, Ted Bundy was the bairn of the devil. Ted Bundy’s execution was like executing the devil.
Why Is Ted Bundy So Popular Even Today?
With almost a dozen movies and books about him, it is okay to say Ted Bundy is the most famous serial killer ever lived. But why? Why is his story so intriguing?
Most serial killers are angry, social outcasts, physically unattractive, or intellectually impaired, but Ted Bundy broke that stereotype.
Ted Bundy was an intelligent, charismatic, and attractive young man. He could charm people and did not look at all threatening. He was smart, cold, and manipulative. A true psychopath and an evil genius, he killed because he wanted to, and he felt he could get away with it.
Many people were interested in him because of his nature. He was an unsuspecting threat, and his victims could be any young woman at all. He wore the mask of normalcy to perfection. Nobody suspected him. Not his mother, not his friends, not even his girlfriend of over five years. He made many people realize that a serial killer can be anyone. It can be Mr. Nice guy or Mr. Grumpy.
Bundy genuinely believed in his charm. He maneuvered the law because of his expert knowledge of it. The way he behaved during his trial showcased him as a real narcissist. He believed he could escape conviction with his grace and charming smile. Many women still fell for his fake facade as he received many love letters even in prison.
Another reason Ted Bundy was very popular was because of the mass media coverage his trial got. The media showcased a man who had the grace and brain to become a successful lawyer or politician and wondered why he crossed over to the other side.
At the time of his trial, serial killers were still a new thing to most Americans, so his trial brought a lot of awareness. He had some people rooting for him. Even after Ted Bundy’s execution, a lot of people still believed he was innocent.
Some people believed it was the police ploy to blame an innocent man for their incompetence because how could such a man who seemed to have everything in other be responsible for such heinous crimes?
During his trial, he acted as his defense attorney while turning the courtroom to his comedy show. He even proposed to his then-girlfriend later wife, Carole Ann Bonne, when she was standing on the witness stand on one of his trials. The law of Florida says that a couple can get married in a courtroom if a judge is present.
Being a law student himself, Ted Bundy took advantage of this and went ahead, most likely trying to gain the jurors’ sympathy and rattle the courtroom. He was indeed a cunning man.
His wife, Carole, got pregnant when he was still in jail. She later gave birth to a girl, Rose Bundy.
They divorced a few years before his execution on the electric chair, and to date, nobody knows the whereabouts of Ted Bundy’s daughter or his wife.
The case of Ted Bundy will continue to intrigue the minds of many. Why did he become a serial killer? Was there anything that could have stopped him from becoming a monster?
All those questions (and more) will keep on coming up, and unfortunately, we may never know. It was his way of staying relevant. He left so many unanswered questions because he knew people would want to learn more. He craved immortality, and he got it.
The public will always want to know why this Burlington boy turned into a complete flesh of nightmares, making him trend on the internet now and then.
Ted Bundy’s Execution
The day of Ted Bundy’s execution was like a public celebration for many Americans. Hundreds of eyewitnesses across the Florida prison sang and danced at the news of his death.
It was like a mini carnival with people dancing, chanting, and fireworks. Some people wore t-shirts with captions like “Toast Ted” and “Burn Bundy.” It was a proper party, but it was not justice. Merely, accountability.
Around 7 a.m, on January 24th, 1989, Bundy was executed on the electric chair, Old Sparky, at the Florida State Prison. His last words were, “Jim and Fred, I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends,” he was talking to his lawyers at that time.
After Ted Bundy’s execution, scientists removed his brain for examination in the hopes of finding any abnormality that could explain his actions. They found nothing.
His brain was normal, with no evidence to indicate any injury to justify his behavior. The lack of any explainable or understandable reason for all the rapes and murders made him all the more terrifying.