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:

On this day..

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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8,427 thoughts on “1989: Ted Bundy, psycho killer”

  1. Bob says:

    Hello Kevin and Everyone who still supports this “Idea Fest.”

    I can’t express the joy and intellectual satisfaction I have received since the day when, out of the blue, I discovered this discussion, this treasure trove, this encyclopedia of information. Kevin I trust you intend to support and nurture this fond of knowledge and forum of free and open expression. I truly believe that, while there is probably not much left out there to learn about Bundy, there are still many amateur detectives who have not read the books and may have interesting insights on the case.

    Kevin hang in there, you are doing a great job and, I have some interesting (at least to me) visuals and ideas to share with the group.


    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      Hi Bob,

      Yes, I’m still at the helm, and can you (and everyone!) believe we’ve just entered the 9th year of this thread?!!!!!

      And yes, I plan on being here another 9 years if it goes that long!

      1. Larry G says:

        Kevin, I’ve been lurking for 10 years, posted 1 or 2 questions, bought every one of your books, religiously still stop by here every few weeks. Larry G says….let’s keep it going! And thank you for everything you’ve done for so long!

        1. Kevin Sullivan says:

          Thank you, Larry G! I really do appreciate the kind words. And thanks for being a faithful lurker lol! I know you’re not the only one. I look forward to “chairing” this discussion for many more years, and I’m glad you’ll be sticking with us. :)

  2. Bridget says:

    I thought everyone might like to know that my local station here in Pensacola is doing an interview with Norman Chapman. The detective who interviewed Bundy while he was in custody here in Pensacola.


    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      Thanks Bridget!

  3. Kevin Sullivan says:

    13 cases of pure evil, where human monsters came calling, and found an unlocked door…


  4. Judy T says:

    Wow. I just heard that Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon on the Big Bang theory is going to play in the new Ted Bundy movie! Apparently he is going to play the role of Larry Simpson, the prosecutor in Florida. Will be interesting to see him in a role that is serious.

    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      Well, that’s interesting. Thanks Judy! :)

      1. Judy T says:

        You’re welcome. I usually don’t watch the more recent t.v. series, I am old school and like to watch reruns of reruns of reruns from the seventies and eighties shows lol, but The Big Bang Theory is one of my exceptions.

        1. markb says:

          and now, james hetfield, singer/guitarist of metallica will play Bob Hayward. they are building this into an EVENT.

  5. Jack says:

    Kevin, is there any reason why Mike Fisher doesn’t appear (identified) in any photographs? Among the plethora of Bundy books, many detectives from Keppel to Thompson to Dunn to Chapman are presented in photos. Mike is like the comedian from the eighties with the paper bag over his head: the unknown comic. I’m asking because over the years, I’ve seen numerous photographs of Bundy in custody in Colorado and among them he’s always presented with a short looking man with big glasses and a bigger mustache. I’ve always suspected that this was Fisher, as the lawman looks like he isn’t about to let Bundy out of his sight for a second. What is confusing is that in one of the photographs (the famous one taken the day he leapt out of court) this same officer is wearing blues, which could also mean to me he might just be a deputy of some sort. In other photos, such as the one I’m offering below, he is wearing a south-western button-down. So how about it? Is this the Fish? And, if so, do you know any reason why Fisher never presented himself for photography in the many years and books that were written about this case?



    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      Hi Jack…

      That’s an excellent question, and one I’ve never been asked before!

      There is a really good picture of Mike in the the first edition of The Only Living Witness. It’s the hard copy, and he’s sitting at his desk. There’s also a good pic of Jerry Thompson standing and either making copies, or standing at a file drawer.

      I had the same thought when I first saw that pic you posted (years ago), but that’s not Mike, as it appears that’s the uniform-type shirt that the guy behind him is wearing as well. I took a pic of that staircase when I was in the courthouse in 2015 and it hasn’t changed a bit.

      You’re correct – there aren’t enough pics of Mike out there. The same goes for Jerry Thompson.

  6. Kevin Sullivan says:

    Hi All!

    What follows is from my new book, Through an Unlocked Door…

    “Before ascending the wooden steps, Rolling, already dressed all in black, pulled out a brown ski mask and slipped it over his face. He then put on gloves, all the while keeping his eyes on #113. Inside, Sonja and Christina were fast asleep, Christina on the first-floor sofa and Sonja upstairs. It was now 3:00 a.m. Very quietly Rolling climbed the steps and retrieved from his bag a screwdriver and a penlight. After trying to pry open the door, he discovered the door was unlocked.”


  7. KYGB says:

    News on the Bundy Movie beat……

    Actor Zac Efron will start shooting a thriller movie called “Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil And Vile” which is about the late serial killer Ted Bundy’s life but from the view of his former date Elizabeth Kloepfer.
    The movie will start shooting in the Northern Kentucky area as well as in Cincinnati Ohio this month.
    Efron will play the role of the late Ted Bunday and Lily Collins will play the role of Elizabeth Kloepfer.

    Filming is being done as we speak in the Covington suburb of Elsmere KY.

    Maybe they will use Rev Kev Sullivan in some capacity!

    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      Hey KYGB!

      I have been noticing for some time now, quite an uptick in my Bundy books being sold in the Cincinnati area. Methinks something is up lol!

  8. Tony B says:

    Speaking of the victims: some guy on Reddit is claiming Donna Manson was a distant relative of Charles? I’d never heard that before and was wondering if there might be anything to it.

    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      I’ve heard that, and I don’t think there’s any thing to it. It’s no doubt one of the many millions of unfounded rumors that plague the Internet.

  9. markb says:

    one thing i’ve wished for while researching TB is for someone to just haul off and knock the hell out of him. really hard. what can i say, i’m a hillbilly.

    i think Mr. Parmenter would have been up to the task. alas.

    (this was supposed to go with the video below)

  10. Brad says:

    For Kevin:

    I just finished watching the Showtime documentary series “Cold Blooded – The Clutter Family Murders”, and was struck by how badly misrepresented the Clutter family was in Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood” and the movie (1967) and TV miniseries (1997) that were based on the book. It never ceases to amaze me how in so many true crime books, the victims are seemingly pushed into the background.

    What does this have to do with Ted Bundy? Basically my point is that the same goes for him and his victims. By design, of course, to report on the crimes, the focus should be on the perp. And Bundy is, by himself, a fascinating case study is criminal psychopathy. But what about his victims? I hate that they are so often portrayed (not by you in any of your books, of course, but by society at large) as little more than “Bundy’s Women”. They were not BUNDY’S WOMEN, they were individual distinct human beings, with lives, loves, cares, families of their own and should be viewed as such.

    I know you said that you are through with doing books on Bundy, but maybe you could consider doing one about one or a couple of his victims. Tell their life stories, before Bundy. Or maybe suggest the topic to a fellow author. Maybe pick the victims (seemingly) most talked about, such as Georgeann Hawkins, Denise Naslund and/or Melissa Smith.

    Please don’t take this rant as somehow a criticism of your work. It certainly isn’t. I’ve enjoyed your books. I just think it’s time these women and girls had their stories fully told.

    What do you think?

    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      Hey Brad,

      No, I don’t think you’re being critical of me or my work. And you’re not the first to suggest a greater look into the lives of the victims. When I was writing The Bundy Murders, I purposely added lots of info on them (where possible), and a good number of folks who’ve read the book recognize this.

      Again, after 3 books and over 600 pages, I have finished my writing on Bundy, the victims and the case. I still do documentaries, radio shows and podcasts, and that’s fine, but there won’t be any more Bundy books from me. And as to suggesting others writers look into it, that’s not what writers do.

      Perhaps one day someone will write a book about the victims, but that might prove problematic. Numerous friends of the victims won’t talk, even today. Getting enough NEW info to fill a book would be difficult indeed. For the foreseeable future, the occasional article or blog with turn up something – just as I have new, never-before published testimonies from those who knew Bundy in all three of my books. But outside of that, I don’t expect very much to come forth. Maybe i’m wrong, but we’ll see.

      Oh, and one more thing: If Bill Hagmaier ever writes that book we talked about once, I’ll be the first in line to get it lol!

      Take care!

      1. markb says:

        Man, i hope Hagmaier does write a book! and i would like to hear something from diana weiner.

        those are two people with very unique POV’s.

        1. Kevin Sullivan says:

          Between the two, I’d rather see Hagmaier write his book.

          1. CoreyR says:

            Agreed. All Weiner does is perpetuate the Ted mythology. Of all the women attracted to Ted in their weird way, she’s by far the most irresponsible and unethical. In the position she held and the power she wielded, she should have had her head screwed on and not given into his charms. She’s part of the minority that excuses what he did.

          2. Kevin Sullivan says:

            Yes, I’ve heard the stories directly from the investigators who dealt with her, and they are eyebrow raising lol! Of course, I never put any of these things into print.

            I do find it interesting that Bundy left everything to her after his execution, and yet, Bob Keppel ended up with most if not ll of it. I can’t recall now all the particulars of that situation.

      2. CoreyR says:

        Writing anything of substance about Bundy’s victims is impossible – thy were all taken long before they’d really achieved anything in life – how much can you write about someone from the ages of 12 to 26? It’s a sad truth, but true nonetheless.

    2. markb says:

      i agree that there ought to be more said about the young women victimized by TB, but there just isn’t much way to do more than has already been done. as a writer working on a TB project, i would love to say more about them, but the only way that i can think of would be to try to talk to families and people who knew them. And i am not willing to bother those people. they are sick, i’m sure, of anything pertaining to TB.

      the only thing i’ve thought of is to try to intelligently speculate on the lives they might have lived. i have also written some about the times in which they lived, that aftermath of the 60’s that was still in the air in the early 70’s.

    3. Meaghan says:

      I agree that famous murderers’ victims are often overlooked and it’s a crying shame.

      I saw a wonderful article on the 50th anniversary of Richard Speck’s mass murder of those nurses, and it was all about the nurses’ lives instead of their deaths and Richard Speck’s actions.

      The reporter found old photos of them and interviewed family members and presented each person, a promising young woman, a life snuffed out, and it was really beautiful. The article really did a great job but the victims’ families shouldn’t have had to wait 50 years for it.

  11. Kevin Sullivan says:

    For those of you who missed this…

  12. CoreyR says:

    It never ceases to amaze me just how many places he got to. He went EVERYWHERE.

    1. Kevin Sullivan says:

      Yes, he was quite the road-killer. Very mobile.

  13. Kevin Sullivan says:

    Here’s a new Bundy video I shot while in Jacksonville, FL

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