1903: Arthur Alfred Lynch condemned 1795: Unspecified Robespierrists

1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer

January 24th, 2009 Headsman

Qu’est-ce que c’est?

It was 20 years today that Ted Bundy, the signature sexual psychopath in a golden age of serial killers,* rode the lightning in Florida’s Starke Prison.

Executed Today is pleased to mark the occasion with a conversation with Louisville crime writer Kevin M. Sullivan, author of a forthcoming2009 book on Ted Bundy … and a man who knows how the world looks from inside Bundy’s ski mask.


Ted Bundy is obviously one of the most iconic, written-about serial killers in history. Why a book about Ted Bundy? What’s the untold story that you set out to uncover?

The desire, or drive, if you will, to write an article about Ted Bundy and then create a 120,000 plus word book about the murders, was born out of my crossing paths with his infamous murder kit. Had Jerry Thompson [a key detective on the Bundy case -ed.] left Bundy’s stuff in Utah that May of 2005, well, it would have been an enjoyable meeting with the former detective, but I’m certain it would have all ended quietly there. Indeed, I doubt if I’d even considered writing an article for Snitch [a now-defunct crime magazine -ed.], much less a book about the killings. But it was having all that stuff in my hands, and in my home, and then being given one of the Glad bags from Ted’s VW that made it very real (or surreal) to me, and from this, a hunger to find out more about the crimes led me forward.


Ted Bundy’s gear, right where you want it — image courtesy of Kevin M. Sullivan. (Check the 1975 police photo for confirmation.)

Believe me, in a thousand years, I never would have expected such a thing to ever come my way. I can’t think of anything more odd or surreal.

ET: You mentioned that you think you’ve been able to answer some longstanding questions about Bundy’s career. Can you give us some hints? What don’t people know about Ted Bundy that they ought to know?

I must admit, when I first decided to write a book about the crimes, I wasn’t sure what I’d find, so the first thing I had to do was read every book ever written about Bundy, which took the better portion of three or four months.

From this I took a trip to Utah to again meet with Thompson and check out the sites pertaining to Bundy and the murders in that state. Next came the acquisition of case files from the various states and the tracking down of those detectives who participated in the hunt for the elusive killer.

Now, no one could have been more surprised than me to begin discovering what I was discovering about some of these murders. But as I kept hunting down the right people and the right documents, I was able to confirm these “finds” at every turn. And while I cannot reveal everything here, It’s all in the book in great detail. Indeed, you could say that my book is not a biography in the truest sense, but rather an in-depth look at Bundy and the murders from a vantage point that is quite unique. I wish I could delve further into these things now , but I must wait until it’s published.

The Bundy story has a magnetic villain and a host of victims … was there a hero? Was there a lesson?

The real heroes in this story are the detectives who worked day and night for years to bring Ted Bundy to justice. And if there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this, it is this: It doesn’t matter how handsome or articulate a person might be, or how nicely they smile at you, for behind it all, there could reside the most diabolical person you’ll ever meet! We need to remember this.

But how can you act on that lesson without living in a continual state of terror? Bundy strikes me as so far outside our normal experience, even the normal experience of criminality, that I’m inclined to wonder how much can be generalized from him.

Actually, (and I might say, thank God here!) people as “successful” as Ted Bundy don’t come our way very often. I mean, the guy was a rising star in the Republican Party in Washington, had influential friends, a law student, and certainly appeared to be going places in life. Some were even quite envious of his ascension in life. However, it was all a well-placed mask that he wore to cover his true feelings and intentions. On the outside he was perfect, but on the inside a monster. He just didn’t fit the mold we’re used to when we think of a terrible killer, does he?

Now, there are those among us — sociopaths — who can kill or do all manner of terrible things in life and maintain the nicest smile upon their faces, but again, just beneath the surface ticks the heart of a monster, or predator, or what ever you might want to call them. Having said that, I’m not a suspicious person by nature, and so I personally judge people by their outward appearance until shown otherwise. Still, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to see the “real” individual behind the person they present to us on a daily basis.

You worked with case detectives in researching your book. How did the Ted Bundy case affect the way law enforcement has subsequently investigated serial killers? If they had it to do over again, what’s the thing you think they’d have done differently?

They all agree that today, DNA would play a part of the investigation that wasn’t available then. However, in the early portion of the murders, Bundy made few if any mistakes, as he had done his homework so as to avoid detection. As such, even this wouldn’t be a panacea when it came to a very mobile killer like Bundy who understood the very real limitations sometimes surrounding homicide investigations.

I can’t help but ask about these detectives as human beings, too. Clearly they’re in a position to deal with the heart of darkness in the human soul day in and day out and still lead normal lives … is a Ted Bundy the kind of killer that haunts or scars investigators years later, or is this something most can set aside as all in a day’s work?

They are, first of all, very nice people. And you can’t be around them (either in person, or through numerous phone calls or emails) for very long before you understand how dedicated they are (or were) in their careers as police officers. They are honorable people, with a clear sense of duty, and without such people, we, as a society, would be in dire circumstances indeed.

Even before Bundy came along, these men were veteran investigators who had seen many bad things in life, so they carried a toughness which allowed them to deal with the situations they came up against in a professional manner. That said, I remember Jerry Thompson telling me how he looked at Ted one day and thought how much he reminded him of a monster, or a vampire of sorts. And my book contains a number of exchanges between the two men (including a chilling telephone call) which demonstrate why he felt this way

How about for you, as a writer — was there a frightening, creepy, traumatic moment in your research that really shook you? Was there an emotional toll for you?

Absolutely. But the degree of “shock”, if you will, depends (at least for me) on what I know as I first delve into each murder. In the Bundy cases I had a general knowledge of how Bundy killed, so there wasn’t a great deal that caught me by surprise, as it were. Even so, as a writer, you tend to get to know the victims very well through the case files, their family members or friends, and so on. Hence, I’ll continue to carry with me many of the details of their lives and deaths for the remainder of my life. And so, lasting changes are a part of what we do.

However, I did a story a few years back about a 16 year old girl who was horribly murdered here in Kentucky, and this case did cause me to wake up in the night in a cold sweat. Perhaps it was because I have a daughter that was, at the time, only a few years younger than this girl, and that some of what transpired did catch me off guard, so to speak, as I began uncovering just what had happened to this very nice kid.

Watch for Kevin M. Sullivan’s forthcoming The Bundy Murders: A Comprehensive History from McFarland in summer or fall of 2009.

* In fact, the term “serial killer” was coined in the 1970’s by FBI profiler Robert Ressler, as an improvement on the sometimes inaccurate category of “stranger killer”.


Additional Bundy resources from the enormous comment thread:

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Florida,History,Infamous,Murder,Popular Culture,Serial Killers,Sex,USA

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7,555 thoughts on “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

  1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Well, I hope everyone is sitting down, lol!!

    I can’t say much a bout it now, but I wanted to let everyone know that I’ve gotten the “okay” from a publisher to write a companion book to my best selling THE BUNDY MURDERS.

    Yes, that’s right: I’M WRITING ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT TED BUNDY!!!

    If you’re surprised, you’re not half as surprised as I was when it happened. And I must tell you, I couldn’t be more excited!

    The Bundy case files are open again!

  2. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Or, about it now; always nice to put the “a” with “bout”, lol!

  3. Jana says:

    What’s the focus going to be on, Kevin?

    And while you’re researching…wonder if you can find out what happened to those “Jana” brand handcuffs that were in the confiscated murder kit from Utah… inquiring Janas would like to know, ha ha ;)

  4. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hey Jana,

    Well, I can’t go into it now, but I will as the project progresses. It’s not a biography, as I’ve done that, of course. What it will be is a really nice companion to it, and I can’t wait to start writing it!

  5. Fiz says:

    That’s amazing, Kevin! Please hurry up with it! :D

  6. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I’m on it, Fiz, lol! :)

  7. bart says:

    Good to hear about new Bundy book – as you perfectly nail Bundy, Kevin.
    If it is not biography, it must be something more about his Modus Operandi – or what’s most challenging – about what was problably going in his mind during his “career”.
    I can’t wait to buy it and read it.

  8. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Thanks Bart.

  9. KYGB says:

    I thought you put your quill back in the inkwell on the Bundy case.

    Keep us posted, Kevin.

  10. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I did, KYGB. But this made so much sense I just couldn’t say no – to myself! lol!

  11. Bob Roberts says:

    Hi Kevin. Excellent news about your new book. I trust some new bit of research has prompted you to re-open the case. Look forward to reading it. (Also, can you release it in Australia).

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      Hi Bob,

      Well, it’s a combination of things that’s led me to tackle what will be an excellent companion book to THE BUNDY MURDERS. Thank God the biography is written and I don’t have to do that one again, lol! This is something that will have new info in it, however, although nothing ground-breaking like what was in the bio where I had new, hot-off-the-press, information about three or four of the murders. Rather, there will be some new stuff about the case in general from the files and perhaps some of the upcoming interviews.

      It will be published by WildBlue press as an eBook as well as in paper; and perhaps an audio book after that. So stay tuned, as they say.

      Good to hear from you, Bob

      Kevin

    2. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      Btw, Bob, all editions of the book will be available through Amazon and other outlets, so you shouldn’t have any trouble obtaining a copy. If you do, just post something here and I’ll get back to you.

      1. Bob Roberts says:

        Thanks Kevin. Sounds interesting. Books are easy enough to order online, it’s more that in Australia, few of the more niche items get through to the store shelves. One day I’ll get round to writing a quick review of that first book.

        1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

          Thanks Bob!

  12. bart says:

    I have a feeling that as poor Bundy mother died some time ago, Bill Hagmaier released from the vow decided to speak.. to Kevin. This is what I suppose.

  13. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hello Bart..

    Once again, Bart, your speculation is incorrect. I haven’t spoken to Hagmaier in years, and I have no plans to contact him. :)

    1. Krisha says:

      Hello Kevin,

      Just to say that I think it is interesting that Hagmaier hasn’t written a book on Ted, considering he was quite close to him. May I ask, is there a good reason for that (not writing a book)? Prisoner confidentiality, perhaps?

  14. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Hey Krisha,

    Soon after Bundy was executed, various publishers approached him about doing a book, but he declined. Part of that might have been job restrictions (at the time), as he was still with the FBI. Part of it also may have been personal. But in any case, he said no. And as of when I was talking with him (2008, 2009), he still had no plans to write a book.

    He also mentioned (and I already assumed this), that his book would never be a bio of Ted and his years of murder, but rather, would focus on his time spent with the caged killer. That would make for a very good book, and I told Bill so.

    So perhaps one day Bill will decide to write that book. We can hope.

  15. Philippe says:

    Hello Kevin,

    I am as well looking forward to purchasing your new book about Bundy !
    I suppose it is still too early to talk about an even approximative date of publication ?
    On the Amazon websites the book is not yet referenced at all.
    But this search showed me you had written another book this year already published and I have ordered it today. Your book Kentucky Bloodbath : Ten Bizarre Tales of Murder From the Bluegrass State, also published by Wild Blue Press.
    I may have overlooked if you did so but I don’t recall you mentioned this book of yours in any of your posts here on Executed Today ?

    I take the occasion to recommend a book I was unaware of until I stumbled upon it and bought it having just received it some days ago. I have started leafing through it. As it is in an almanach form I do not commit myself to read in the order.
    Looking Back in Crime: What Happened on This Date in Criminal Justice History?
    James O. Windell
    CRC Press, May 2015
    The presentation text is available on Amazon and elsewhere.
    But let’s already say that the author self-proclaims it is fundamentally a textbook which will be of interest to law students particularly in the criminal law field but not only. It may as well be of great interest to people from the general public,average readership. The writing style is literary or perhaps sometimes journalistic, not with legal jargon one might expect.
    This book has entries about each day of the year from 1st January till 31st December. For each, one or several events of a year or another.
    Note that the title says ” Criminal Justice History ” , not ” crime history ” .
    So the dates are not necessarily when such crime was committed or such criminal was born or died, executed or otherwise. There are also dates dealing with films, TV shows about true crime / fictional portrayals.
    Or the passing of such law in the USA, federal or State law, or other countries, in criminal law. Or the date of the abolishment of death penalty in this or that country.
    Also landmark court decisions, mainly from the US Supreme Court. Regarding for instance any of the Ten Amendments to the US Constitution. Like Gideon vs Wainwright ( right to counsel for indigent defendants ) ( reference to the telefilm with Henry Fonda ) ; Furman vs Georgia ( 1972 ) reversed by Gregg vs Georgia ( 1976 ) ( about the fairness of administration of death penalty ) ; Roper vs Simmons ; Atkins ( I dont’t recall which decision prohibits the execution of juveniles at the time of the crime and which one prohibits it for people mentally impaired below such IQ ) ; decisions about whether such method of execution in such State infringes the 8th Amendment which bans cruel or unusual punishment ; decisions about the Fifth Amendment and no self-incrimination ; of course about the 4th, 6th or 14th, searches and seizures.
    There are many names of law professionals like judges, district attorneys, lawyers, policemen ( or policewomen, the first female police officer in the USA in 1908 has an entry ).
    Louis Brandeis the first Jew to serve in the US Supreme Court 1916 – 1939. Thurgood Marshall the first African American. Clarence Darrow perhaps the most famous American lawyer of his time and / or all times ( Leopold and Loeb case ; Scopes Monkey Trial ; Ossie Sweet trial ; Massie trial in Hawaï ).

    Best Regards

    1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

      Hello Philippe,

      I’m thinking that my new book on Bundy will be published in 2016, and it will be a WildBlue press release.

      You’re right, I may not have mentioned Kentucky Bloodbath here at ET, lol! I’ve just been very busy.

      Thanks for the heads up about the textbook too!

      See ya,

      Kevin

  16. bart says:

    I just wonder what would have happened if an individual like Bundy had been born today I mean like 40 years later, not 1946 but 1986? Would have he been able to proceed with his lust murder obsession so long with all this surveillance around? Would “modern” porn available online just one click away have shaped his mind in different way? What kind of ruses and trick this “Reborn Bundy” would have used? Instead of approaching victims in the darkness – approaching them online, talking for months and then “getting to the point”? Honestly, I think there many “Reborn Bundies” cruising around online and offline.

  17. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I think Bundy would have used the internet for pornography, of course. But as to searching online for victims? No, far too risky. He didn’t want connections between him and the women, like IP addresses.

    He would have a bit harder time operating due to the cell phones (cameras), as well as governmental camera placement within cities, etc.

    But Bundy would have found a way to avoid most of that. He would have adapted to the times, as it were.

  18. bart says:

    Yeah, Kevin – that’s what I though – “Bundy reborn” would have moved to the places with lesser number of cameras – for example. I don’t know – to the country, rural areas.

    I wonder if victims from such places would have “satisfied” him as he always hunted for “upper-middle class” sophisticated girls. But in his bloody resume – he also had “country” girls.

    Anyway – campuses were also his hunting grounds and I wonder how would he have behaved to do “his thing” in such places?

  19. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    It’s all speculation, Bart.

  20. bart says:

    Bundy-like perpetrators DO exist nowadays – so let’s study them and we’ll see portrait (or better call it “sketch”) of 21st century Bundy. I only hope they are been caught sooner than Bundy – 40 years ago.

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