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. 5151
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    This odd jealousy runs rampant, and I wish it wasn’t so. It doesn’t affect everyone, but some do have problems with one another. For my part, I will always be grateful to those who thought enough of me to liberally give of their time while I was researching and writing the book.

    And of course, If Bill Hagmaier ever writes his book, I will purchase it the same day it comes out.

  2. 5152
    Shelley Says:

    Hats off to you, Kevin, for putting up with it and writing the book anyway. Hats off to the ones who were generous towards you too!

  3. 5153
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Thanks, Shelley! I became an expert at keeping my mouth shut, and pretending I didn’t hear them, LOL!

  4. 5154
    Ted Montgomery Says:

    Kevin and others -

    I think there were some professional jealousies borne of the fact that some of the investigators had worked for years trying to track down Bundy, and then the FBI brings Bill H. in and he starts interviewing Bundy without tying what he said to evidentiary matters. In other words, Bundy and Bill H. just talked in the abstract about what it was like to commit murder, what was going through his mind before, during and after each crime, and the like. That kind of interview has never closed an open case, and I think some of the investigators felt some resentment toward that. Their job was to solve murders, not listen to Bundy tell them that the grounds where he left his victims would always be sacred to him. Cops want specifics; who were the victims, where did he leave them, when and how did he abduct and kill them, etc. Bill H. never got those answers because his goal was not to close a bunch of open murder cases. So, yes, I can see how a couple of the cops who worked so hard to get Bundy off the streets and solve those murders might harbor some bad feelings. I totally get that.

  5. 5155
    Fiz Says:

    J.D does come across as the 8th Wonder of the World, doesn’t he!

  6. 5156
    Fiz Says:

    I hear you, Kevin! A certain lady writer who would not help you says that Dave Reichert who caught Gary Ridgway, the Green River serial killer actually had very little to do with the case and she always felt sorry for the other cops who had worked for much longer on the case that he claimed all the credit!

  7. 5157
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Fiz–You hit the nail on the head, as they say!

  8. 5158
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Ted– The way things played out are the way they played out. Everyone involved had a role in the case and each role was different. Keppel hunted for a killer that was revealed in Utah. Fisher obtained the first indictment for murder, and Florida got the pleasure of killing him. This is just how it all played out.

    In Hagmaier’s defense, Bill had a mission. And that mission was to befriend Bundy and unwrap the fiend if at all possible. That said, he really did befriend him, and Ted felt comfortable with Bill and conveyed these things even to his mother. And at the end, Bundy wanted to confess to Bill alone, and it was Hagmaier who told him that he needed to deal directly with the investigators from the jurisdictions where he had murdered women. And this is why Hagmaier sat in on every interview.

    Every participant should be proud of the role they played in this case. I just hate to see petty jealousy pop up in people who should know better. These statements I make are based on my own observations, and the second-hand info I’ve received are similar to what I know first-hand. But none of this matters to me, for I have always liked all those I dealt with on this case.

  9. 5159
    Vidor Says:

    I tried to make this post a couple of days ago, but it wasn’t posted. I wanted to tell the forum that I posted to Wikimedia Commons two photos of Ted’s rooming house in Salt Lake City, Utah–one of the front of the house and one of the utliity room where he kept souvenirs. I may post a photo of the fire escape now that Kevin has told me which one it was.

    Surprised to read that Bob Keppel and Stephen Michaud have put out a book together. I thought Michaud had already written the definitive Bundy bio with “The Only Living Witness”.

  10. 5160
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Vidor–You know I am a fan of The Only Living Witness, but let’s not forget books like Richard Laresn’s The Deliberate Stranger, and the excellent, Ted Bundy: The Killer Next Door, by those two reporters. No one talks about these books anymore and it’s a shame.

  11. 5161
    Vidor Says:

    Reading the Michaud/Keppel book. Almost no new info, but TONS of photos that I had never seen before–a photo of Janice Ott, Lisa Levy’s room, etc. Also specified which fire escape Ted used, so I’ll be loading that to Commons too.

  12. 5162
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    That’s good. Was my assumption correct about the fire escape?

  13. 5163
    JRJ Says:

    Vidor – Could you post the link to your Wiki Commons site?

    Thanks

  14. 5164
    Vidor Says:

    Nope! It was the other one, next to the utility room and above the driveway.

    I’ll post it soon. It looked like a hard way to get a body up to a 2nd floor apartment.

  15. 5165
    Vidor Says:

    It’s not my site, it’s the Ted Bundy category at Wikimedia Commons. Although I’m proud to say I’m responsible for almost all of those photos–the three I took myself (with a 4th to come)–the photo of the VW that I found on Flickr, and all the photos I found in the Florida archives.

    Anyway, enough bragging, here’s the link.

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Ted_Bundy

  16. 5166
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Well, that’s what assumption will do for you (and this is why I never put speculation in print, LOL!). There was no definitive way to know, but going up the other one (above the driveway) would expose him to a greater chance of being discovered, I would think. Oh well, that’s Bundy.

  17. 5167
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    That means the shot I took of the house in 2006 (and used in my book) has the correct fire escape in it, ans that’s good. Glad you passed this info along.

  18. 5168
    Vidor Says:

    “but going up the other one (above the driveway) would expose him to a greater chance of being discovered, I would think”

    I figured he was simply using the fire escape that went to his room, room #2.

  19. 5169
    Shelley Says:

    I really liked both; The Deliberate Stranger and Ted Bundy: The Killer Next Door. No big egos to contend with either! Seriously, they are both excellent and you can get them second hand for very reasonable prices too.

  20. 5170
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    @Shelley– Every Bundy book (including mine) has its own flavor. I have always enjoyed TOLW, but I do not think it holds the title “definitive”, but it is an excellent work on the case. Larsen’s book is excellent too; and The Killer Next Door is an exceedingly fine work. It is unfair to compare them as if they’re in some type of “American Idol” for books.

    I look at all of the Bundy bios as being important and unique. Again, they all have their own flavors. But to say that any particular one is definitive, I just don’t see it and have never seen it. I believe some folks have their favorites and that’s fine. I’ve read them all, and they are all “winners” to me.

  21. 5171
    Shelley Says:

    Yes, I agree. I have enjoyed them all and for different reasons but mostly just for the different ‘takes’ each author brings. The ‘egos’ I was referring were those I found in the ‘profiler’ books and not the ‘core’ Bundy books.

  22. 5172
    Shelley Says:

    Yes, I too think they will be reading about Bundy 50 to 100 years from now. Not a day goes by that my daily Google Alert doesn’t send an email listing new references to Bundy somewhere on the net even if one was for a dog called Ted Bundy (oh, for heaven’s sake lol)!

    Here’s a SHORT and concise article in the Vancouver Sun called “Are psychopaths hardwired to hurt?” that I found nice and succinct. http://www.vancouversun.com/news/psychopaths+hardwired+hurt/6756880/story.html

  23. 5173
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    @Shelly–Yes, the profilers “got it bad” LOL! But, it also can be found in some writers of these books too, and that’s all I’m going to say about that, as Forest Gump likes to add, LOL!

  24. 5174
    Shelley Says:

    To be fair :-) not all profilers, just some. I don’t find Roy Hazelwood, for example, like that. But some have “got it bad” for sure!

  25. 5175
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    So true, Shelley. I think John Douglas is a good guy, too. Indeed, I don’t have a problem with anyone in that group, but some do. I always try to stay above the fray, as it were. LOL!

  26. 5176
    Shelley Says:

    Kevin — What’s your opinion on the role social media (like ET) seems to now be playing in the relationship between authors and readers? I wonder if it will become more and more popular to the point of being ‘expected’ of authors. What do you think? Do you believe having this forum helped you? I know readers sure like being able to ask questions, etc.

    Thanks!

  27. 5177
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Shelley–

    Social media is a wonderful tool that brings people together in ways that otherwise would be impossible. For example, I’ve become friends over the last two years with other writers, and especially those in the true crime field. And I was thinking how difficult this would be if Facebook and other social sites didn’t exist. Indeed, technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives.

    As to the connection between authors and readers, social media can play a very big part in bringing the two together. Of course, many writers don’t make themselves available at sites like this, answering questions on a particular subject, but when they do, it’s fantastic for the reader (I wish I had something like this years ago, where I could query a writer about his or her book, and get answers every time I showed up to ask!).

    Has being here and available to answer questions this helped me sell books? I would say yes. But that is not the motivating reason I do this. I’m here answering questions because I’m interested in the subject matter, and the interest of others is what really drives me to keep doing this. I love intellectual discussion, and I’ve never been a stuck up guy, and no matter how many books I write, I’m still me and I’m like everyone else. So while the book sales are good (the book is going to sell whether I’m here or not), it’s this intellectual discussion we have here that keeps me coming back for more. I like being here as much as anyone else, LOL!

  28. 5178
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Please mentally remove “this” from the first sentence of the third paragraph. I’m playing editor again, LOL!

  29. 5179
    Shelley Says:

    I wonder what the percentage of authors now have this direct link with their readers. It wouldn’t be the majority yet, I am sure. I wonder if people will see it, like it and then start to ‘demand’ it at some point. Just interesting to see how it will evolve.

    I wish Roy Hazelwood had something. I have a burning question for him. In “Dark Dreams” he said that Bundy was not a sexual sadist but he didn’t explain why he thought that.

    There are two instances that I can think of that would suggest to me that he was. HOWEVER, they are instances described by Bundy so we don’t know if they are true. Plus for one of them, at least, I have heard other ‘versions’. The first instance was Lake Sam where he *may* have had one victim witness the rape and murder of the other to elicit more fear and terror. The other instance was when he let Julie think she had a chance to escape just to give chase. Both sound sadistic to me!

    What do you (and anyone else listening) think? Was Bundy a sexual sadistic or was he not into that and preferred to bonk them on the head rendering them silent.

  30. 5180
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    I’m surprised Hazelwood said that. Bundy was a sexual sadist. Yes, Bundy confirmed to Hagmaier he had both Lake Sam victims together for awhile. And the Julie Cunningham episode (from my book), shows how sadistic Bundy really was.

    That said, there were times when he did want privacy (even from the victim), and a whack in the head would do it. So he did switch what he was doing based on what he wanted at the moment. But yes, he was a sexual sadist.

  31. 5181
    Fiz Says:

    I agree with you both. That certainly sounds like sadism to me :(

  32. 5182
    Shelley Says:

    Yep, the comment took me by surprise. It’s on page 99 of Dark Dreams (hard copy 1st edition 2001). It’s in brackets like it’s ‘casual’ comment. Wish I could ask him to explain why he said that!

  33. 5183
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Pure sadism. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, LOL!

  34. 5184
    bart Says:

    Both instances of Bundy’s behaviour picture him as lust killer with sadistic tendencies. But there were and are more violent and sadistic sexual “overkill” killers. We will never know for sure, but Bundy seemed to have acted as sadistic killers when he was in a *mood* for this.

  35. 5185
    Shelley Says:

    Yeah. Maybe Hazelwood meant that sexual sadism was not Bundy’s ‘primary’ motivation and not that he was never sadistic. Some of the stories we hear seems to suggest he could ‘go there’ at times. I guess people, no matter who we are, just don’t fit into categories or labels perfectly. :-)

  36. 5186
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Yes, we know for a certainty many things about Theodore Bundy. We can accurately describe his life and personality in pristine detail. But some things about him, and some of the things he did and what was motivating him at any particular moment, is still a mystery. I do not have the time, but I could give examples of this, such as why he sometimes changed his mind about attacking a female at the last moment and let her go? Or why did he admit to killing eleven in Washington State but confessed by name to only eight? Or to killing eight women (and young girls?) in Utah, but then giving only five names? So there is still sense of mystery attached to the case, and these unknown aspects will always generate interest and keep people wondering.

  37. 5187
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Also, I have an eBook coming out in July titled:

    Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders. A trade paper edition will follow soon after. I just wanted to let everyone know, just in case you want a great deal of new information on this blood-thirsty (and I do mean blood-thirsty) killer. :)

  38. 5188
    Shelley Says:

    Hey, that’s exciting! A ‘real’ vampire should be a nice addition to the current popularity of the fictional ones.

  39. 5189
    Fiz Says:

    When, please, Kevin? I don’t have an ebook reader.

  40. 5190
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Thanks, Shelley! No stake through the heart for this guy. He did himself in with pills, LOL!

  41. 5191
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Fiz…I’m putting the finishing touches on the eBook even now (working with the formatting people, etc), and then I’ll need to start the process for the trade paper edition. I’m thinking a couple months down the road. I’ll keep you, and everyone else, informed, though.

  42. 5192
    Fiz Says:

    Thanks, Kevin :)

  43. 5193
    Shelley Says:

    I take it Richard Chase is not like the currently popular vampire; a handsome and romantic prince of darkness – alpha male with a heart of gold who feeds on only animals whenever possible and never kills his prey and even thanks them for sustaining him? LOL I have to (but hate to) admit I have enjoyed a few of those popular novels when they aren’t too silly.

    I am sure your book will be enjoyable too but in an entirely different way!

  44. 5194
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Shelley–You’re right, my book won’t make the ladies swoon. Run in horror might be more accurate, LOL!

    I’m thinking the release date will be on or near July 3rd.

    BTW: My wife has read all the the Twilight books, etc, but like THE BUNDY MURDERS, she’ll probably forgo this one too. She will read my Custer book when it’s released next spring, however, (she promised LOL!).

  45. 5195
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    What’s up with “217 re;right” on the heading page? LOL!

  46. 5196
    Barry Says:

    Heres an interview with Al Carlisle who provides and overview of bundys life. He met bundy numerous times to perform assessments on him for the courts.

    One thing surprised me is that he says bundys first kills (besides ann marie) were 2 girls he picked up from a beach. i dont recall which beach he says again have to rewatch video but wonder which 2 he means here.

    If i recall Kevin u might of mentioned about these murders further back in the discussion. Do you know which girls he referring to Kevin?

    Heres Link:

  47. 5197
    Shelley Says:

    Barry — Thanks for link. Boy, that’s interesting! Can’t wait for Carlisle’s book.

    Two girls were murdered at the Jersey Shore in 1969. Many think Ted may have done it. Dr. Art Norman says Ted admitted it to him. Here’s an article on it:

    http://athepoint.blogspot.ca/2008/02/parkway-murders-revisited.html

  48. 5198
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Hi Barry–

    Yes, these are two girls Bundy said he killed in 1969 while he was living in Philadelphia (but not necessarily in that city), and he originally confessed this to Dr. Art Norman (see my book p. 57) .

    Also, Al Carlisle has a book out about Bundy, based on his evaluation of the killer. It takes place in a fictional conversational format, but what makes it intriguing, is that he (in my estimation) captures the essence of what Bundy was all about. A really good book.

  49. 5199
    Kevin M. Sullivan Says:

    Shelley…Just saw your post. Yes, get a copy of Carlisle’s book, as you’ll love it. I told Al to get it up on Amazon, but you may have to contact his website. It’s a really great read.

  50. 5200
    Shelley Says:

    I checked Carlisle’s site and all it says it will be available to the public soon. I read a few reviews that I found. Interesting that Carlisle wrote it as fiction. Is it because he creates a fictional conversation with Bundy? Of course, the Ted that would come through in the story would be based on Carlisle’s extensive interaction with Bundy so not very ‘fictional’ in reality. Am I understanding this correctly?

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