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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7,176 Responses to “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

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  1. 7151
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Diana,

    Yes, he most certainly was under their influence. This does not mean he had to commit the murders. But yes, they were there. Of course, I would never add that to the book because this can’t be “proven”, and as to what he did, it doesn’t matter anyway as it was Ted who still did the murders.

    That said, Stephen Michaud talked about Bundy taking the tape recorder from him and talking into it. He said Bundy was almost in a trance and that out of nowhere, a welt appeared in his cheek and spread across his face and after awhile it disappeared.

    And another time when Bundy was being questioned by some folks in Florida when it became known that Kim Leach had been found. When Bundy heard this, they said his body seemed to change and an odd order was coming out of him (and no, I don’t mean gas). The fellow who told this story said it bothered them as it was so strange. That, Diana, in my opinion, is the demonic at work within Theodore.

    If you haven’t done so, listen to the podcast and you’ll see what I do when I’m not writing books! lol!

    http://raasnio.com/GenerationWhyPodcast/

  2. 7152
    Diana Says:

    Would it be fair to say that the “Entity” which Ted often spoke about was in fact a “demon” within him?

    Do you feel that the demon was a seperate being that was living inside of Ted and operated at the same time as Ted, never able to fully take over his conscience?

  3. 7153
    Diana Says:

    p.s. Kevin, I listened to the first 10 minutes of the podcast … interesting stuff for sure!! Can you tell me what happened when you were 19 that made you realize Jesus was real? It must have been something surreal, extraordinary, and enlightening!

  4. 7154
    Abi Says:

    Hi Fiz! And Kevin hello again :)

    Oh well if anyone does know what page that book discussion was in… Otherwise, I’ll trawl through! I’ve just ordered Robert Ressler’s Whoever fights monsters, and a book which should shed light on compartmentalisation which was rec’d on that Reddit thread posted here earlier, called Into that Darkness, by Gitta Sereny.

  5. 7155
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Diana: Why did you listen to just the first 10 minutes?

    If you go back and listen to the rest it will explain it all. This way I won’t have to type it all out, lol!

    Angels are spiritual beings. Demons are fallen angels and are spiritual beings. Each human, whether they know it or not, have an eternal spirit, and a soul which is different from the spirit, and we have a body. Demon spirits seek a body to live inside so that they can express their personalities in the earth.

    It is my opinion that Ted did in fact have demons residing within him, but again, he wasn’t forced into murder and could have decided to not go down that road. They wanted him to kill and Ted’s personality blended easily with theirs, and the rest is history.

    And of course, everyone knows I’ve never brought up the aspect of the demonic before at this site or in any radio program I’ve participated in concerning the Bundy murders. But because I know the truth about these things and you asked, well, here it is…

    Go back and listen to the podcast and you’ll get a good understanding about these things from a biblical perspective.

  6. 7156
    Tony Says:

    ….and suddenly Hal and Richard’s wild speculations seem downright rational and prosaic.

  7. 7157
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Tony: lol!

    One difference: I don’t mix any possible supernatural cause into the story. The supernatural aspect is hidden and unseen. The story of what happened is what matters and that’s all that needs to be recorded, and that’s what I did. That’s what I always do. That said, I’m very aware of this evil being out there, and I know that all people, when they die, leave this earth and go somewhere, but that’s my theological opinion and it has no place in this type of book.

    I believe when Ted was executed his spirit left his body and he went to hell, too. Some folks believe he went into the ground and no further. And really, both opinions are fine to hold, but when you’re writing a nonfiction book you simply tell the story of what happened (he was executed), and that’s all. A possible cause for the evil he displayed, or whether he went to hell after death is not a concern to the story and must always stay out of it. However, if I write a book about the realm of the spirit and the work of the demonic, than that is the place to put forth such thoughts. If it’s a theological work, great, we can pontificate all we want. But not in a regular true crime book or a biography, as it were.

    It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

  8. 7158
    Richard Duffus Says:

    “I think he used all girlfriends including his wife Carol as a means to meet his ends- for attention, money, assistance, the appearance of normalcy- rather than as an equal partner in a caring relationship.” [post 7136 by NW gal]

    I agree

    “I suspect he was protective of his daughter because he saw her as an extension of himself.” [post 7136 by NW gal]

    I think that he was protective of her in that he did not want her to be tainted by him. For example, he would not have wanted to see her photo in a tabloid labeled “Ted Bundy’s Spawn.”

    “One of the central mysteries surrounding Ted Bundy was his humanness and the degree to which he was or wasn’t.” [post 7142 by jrj]

    Ted certainly shows characteristics associated with psychopaths such as glibness, superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, a propensity for pathological lying, lack of empathy, lack of remorse, and cunning, manipulative behavior.

    But then things begin to get murky. Although he has a lack of criminal guilt, he is sensitive to social guilt. He even shows characteristics antithetical to those associated with psychopaths. He does accept responsibility for own actions; he pursues realistic long-term goals; his actions are well-planned rather than being impulsive.

    “For that matter, was their marriage even legal?” [post
    7143 by Jutta]

    http://theodorerobertcowellnelsonbundy.wordpress.com/tag/jamey-boone/

    “Richard you’ve made excellent and well researched points many times on this thread, it’s just a stretch to believe in anything that isn’t documented.” [post 7147 by Abi]

    What sort of documentation would you be expecting?

  9. 7159
    Tony Says:

    We all have our crackpot theories. I always kinda thought Keppel might be an alien. I mean, just look at the guy!

  10. 7160
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Lol! Tony.

  11. 7161
    jrj Says:

    Incidentally there are rumors that Bundy haunts the prison where he was executed.

  12. 7162
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    I assure you, jrj, that Bundy is long gone.

    If anything is “haunting” it will be those things hanging around in the realm of the spirit. But I doubt that anything is going on there.

  13. 7163
    Diana Says:

    Kevin,

    So, is it possible that the demons that resided inside Ted found a new human host body after they were set free during Ted’s execution? I ask this because it is my gut feeling that “the Entity” does not die…it continues to exist…but it would certainly need a new host body.

    I will listen to more of the podcast…the only reason that I only listened to just 10 or 12 minutes before was because I didn’t have a lot of time at that point.

  14. 7164
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    That’s correct, Diana, they do not die.

  15. 7165
    Jutta Says:

    They go into politics.

  16. 7166
    Hal Says:

    Hey Tony,

    What ‘wild speculation’ of mine were you referring to, out of interest?

    You are right though, rational discussion has now left the building. There’s a reason this stuff doesn’t get mentioned in the books. Because the author would be outed as a loon. Even a quasi-vanity publisher getting all of their material exclusively from the slushpile wouldn’t touch it.

    You know, once upon a time it was the serial killers themselves who claimed evil dogs told them to do it. Now it’s the so-called experts!

    And you can’t miss that that little wrinkle the nutters like to add – Bundy still had free will. It doesn’t matter that they’re making it all up as they go along and can’t possibly know how these mystical creatures actually work. But the free will stays! Has to. Because the nutters like to kill folk and feel good about it, and if it wasn’t really Teddy’s fault, then that just spoils their righteous fun.

  17. 7167
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Oh, Jutta, you know that’s true! lol!!

  18. 7168
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hal,

    What aided Bundy to do what he did (in my opinion, and the opinions of many others), has no place in the story of what he actually did. That would be for a book on theology or demonology. For those who believe people go somewhere after death, they may believe that Bundy went to a literal hell after his execution, but that too has no place in a book about him or the case. Again, that would be for books covering such life after death issues, etc. It just so happens that what I write has nothing to do with these things. You won’t ever find any of these ideas in any of my books, as there’s no need to include them. I stick with the facts of what happened and that how nonfiction works. Any aspects of the supernatural must be left to books covering these things

    That said, you’re completely wrong about publishers thinking that writers who believe in life after death, or heaven or hell, or angels or demons, etc, are loony. Quite to the contrary. Publishers make millions and millions of dollars a year publishing books on theology, demonology, and the paranormal. Take books on ghosts for example: They have a large market out there as folks find this stuff interesting. Years ago, I picked up a book called “Pigs in the parlor” that had to do with demonic oppression and deliverance, and it’s been in continuous publication for decades, having sold well over a million copies. It’s a much larger market than you think, and when it comes to theology and demonology, the folks writing them are almost always highly educated.

    But again, I have never be a part of such a work, and all of my books you would consider to be standard, normal works, and that’s true.

    However, I am writing a book about all of this, and for this book about the supernatural, it is the appropriate place to deal with this subject. Hopefully, it will be out by the end of the year and I know you can’t wait to get your copy, lol!

  19. 7169
    Tony Says:

    I saw a movie once about these demons jumping into the bodies of serial killers. It was called ‘Fallen,’ with Denzel Washington. An oldie but a goodie!

    Freddy and Jason also had evil spirits running around inside them, according to certain of the films in their respective franchises.

    Hal — I was just (obliquely) referencing the hullabaloo about the Lake City murder, Ted going back inside the auditorium, etc. I haven’t followed your posts closely enough to have an opinion as to whether your speculations tend to be truly ‘out there’ or not. I’m also not familiar with the claims made by Richard in his self-published book, as it happens.

  20. 7170
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hey Tony…

    I remember Fallen, a good movie. But real demonic oppression does not happen the way it’s portrayed in the movie. Movies don’t always get it right.

  21. 7171
    Tony Says:

    Just keep a vial of holy water handy, shout some Latin, say “The power of Christ compels you!” a few times, and try to ignore all the wind that’s suddenly picked up in this tiny, dark, enclosed space. Piece of cake.

  22. 7172
    Diana Says:

    The Conjuring is an example of a recent really good demonic possession movie. Have you seen it Kevin?

    When the mother starts getting possessed, that is the type of “being possessed” Bundy may have dealt with. Of course the movie eventually brings it into a whole over the top realm… but at first, she had no idea she was being possessed…she thought she was just dealing with some sort of health issues.

    Yet, the “possession” that Bundy talks about is the kind where he has full control over a person. He has killed them and he owns their corpse. He found some kind of spiritual link inbetween the killing and the owning of he corpse it seems.

  23. 7173
    Tony Says:

    This is now the official ET “Demonic Possession” thread.

  24. 7174
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hey Diana,

    Actually, I never watch those movies. I find absolutely no entertainment in them.

    Now, zombie movies I will watch, lol!

  25. 7175
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hey Tony,

    No, we need to move beyond the demonic and what part it played in Bundy’s life. In the same way we need not be concerned about where Bundy went after death. These are spiritual matters and shouldn’t be a part of the actual story. We need to forget all that as it has no place in this discussion, and it played absolutely NO PART in my book.

    All readers of my books know I never add spiritual opinions to any of them. Why? They have no place here.

    But If I write a book on demonic oppression, etc, then yes, I can mention Bundy and other killers, just like I can write about Nazi Germany and the dark spiritual forces that controlled that nation as they turned diabolical. That would be the absolutely correct format to write about these things.

    So lets keep this blog focused on the case, the victims and the killer. And we’ll leave the spiritual aspects of this to other forums.

    Now, back to earthly Bundy and nothing more, lol!

  26. 7176
    Tony Says:

    Kevin’s giving us a hint of what to expect from his next book! LoL.

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