When anyone mentions the words ‘serial killer’ we often instantly think of Ted Bundy. Known as one of the most notorious serial killers of all time; over a 4-year period, he brutally murdered and mutilated more than 30 women. Although the real victim count is still unknown as many of the bodies of his victims were never recovered.
Bundy was resourceful, intelligent, and relentless. He would hunt strategically, stalk specific victims, observe his prey, and he was always perfecting his approach to his victims. All of his victims were petite, brunettes whose ages ranged from 12 to 26 years old.
Following the murder of 21-year-old Linda Ann Healy on February 1st, 1974, Bundy began killing approximately one girl a month. Despite warnings of an active serial killer in the area, Bundy was still able to strike time and time again.
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Later, police produced something called ‘the girl of the month club’ where they tracked missing girls who were later found dead.
A master manipulator, Bundy used a fake plaster cast and crutches to appear injured. He would also dress as a policeman to gain a victim’s trust. Once trapped inside his notorious VW Bug, he would strike them over the head with a crowbar.
There were few witnesses who could give an accurate description of Bundy due to his “unremarkable” looks. He was attractive but he was not memorable. This also gave Bundy a ‘chameleon-like’ effect, whereby simply changing his hair slightly or wearing a fake mustache, he could appear as someone entirely different.
When police finally arrested Bundy, America was shocked; he appeared to have it all – he was good looking, charismatic, and a law student. One reason people find him so compelling is he appears as the ‘boy next door’ – not so different from us. . His trial was the first-ever to be televised nationally.
Yet we feel secure enough when hearing about these gruesome, violent crimes that we will never be like Bundy. His evil is total alien to us. So what drove Bundy to kill and why did he kill a particular type of victim.
Bundy’s “Perfect” Victim
The victims of Ted Bundy were vulnerable because of how they looked. Experts now realize that these particular types of serial killers fantasize about their “perfect victim” long before the murder occurs.
This trait only organized serial killers possess – stalking their prey, searching for the perfect victim to fuel their sadistic fantasies.
The race, gender, age, physical build, and sometimes even the profession of the fantasy victim are deeply internalized in the serial killer’s mind. The serial killer might not even realize they have a particular “type” until after the murders when a psychiatrist will point out the victims fit a certain pattern.
Because there is no such thing as a perfect victim, the serial killer is unable to find someone who fits their exact fantasy, so they generally seek out a victim with similar traits. They typically stalk a victim first and strike only when they feel confident enough to go through with the murder.
Professor of psychology Marissa Harrison found 65.4% of male serial killers stalked their victims compared to just 3.6% of female serial killers. Female serial killers will likely already know the victim personally; they usually kill to gain money – collecting life insurance, inheriting property for example.
Whereas male serial killers typically kill because they are power starved – they want to feel as if they have some self-esteem.
Serial killer victims are also symbolic because they trigger these embarrassing internalized memories about being rejected, taunted, or threatened that continue to enrage the killer.
Memories of humiliation run deep – depriving them of self-esteem, a sense of control, and feelings of accomplishment. They don’t get past it. Instead, the humiliation festers in their mind and feeds this view of a hostile world that hinders them and justifies payback.
The serial killer then strikes out in an attempt to decrease this rage. Since the victim is not the offending person who caused these internalized memories; there is no resolution.
Once again, the urge to strike out is just too overwhelming for them to resist, so the murders continue. The killer does not always make the association between the murders and the internalized memories.
Rejection of a Narcissist
Ted Bundy met his first girlfriend when he attended the University of Washington. He was instantly drawn to her social status and that she came from a wealthy family. From a young age, Bundy was embarrassed by his family’s lack of money and working-class status.
Bundy later recalled in childhood he was mortified that his family drove these – in his words – sensible and ugly ramblers. He had started to become jealous and resentful of kids who had more things than he did.
Now, he was attending University and he had a beautiful, wealthy girlfriend from a rich family he could attach himself to. The relationship came to an end as she found his lack of realistic long-term goals frustrating.
It is typical of a psychopath to drift aimlessly through life. Bundy drifted from University to University; one year studying Chinese the next year studying Law.
He was also unable to hold down a job long-term. This rejection of a narcissist is what many psychologists have recognized as one of Bundy’s main urges to kill – revenge.
If you line-up all of his victims they are pretty much a carbon copy of his ex-girlfriend. They were also in the prime of their lives.
Bundy was also a necrophile who often returned to the locations where he’d buried bodies to violate the corpses further. Another twisted post-crime act of his was to ‘pose’ the bodies in a provocative, sexualized manner and take polaroids.
This disturbing collection was destroyed when Bundy realized the investigators were catching up with him.
When later questioned about the polaroids, the sinister serial killer replied: “When you work hard to do something right, you don’t want to forget it.”
FBI Special Agent Bill Hagmaier revealed in the docu-series ‘Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes’ a disturbing interview with the serial killer.
“During his last days, Ted Bundy called me his best friend. I don’t know how I feel about that. Here you have a guy giving you a warm handshake, and you’re thinking, ‘This is the same hand that held a hacksaw while he cut off a young girl’s head'”.
Hagmaier added, “He told me some things which I will never repeat, out of respect for the victims’ families. Let’s just say that he did some things to the bodies that were just as horrible as they could possibly be.”
On January 24th, 1989, Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison. Bundy requested his cremated remains to be scattered in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The request was granted; however, it did come with a sinister twist.
The Cascade Mountains is the place where Bundy dumped the bodies of four of his victims – 21-year-old Lynda Ann Healy, 19-year- old Donna Gail Manson, 22-year-old Roberta Kathleen Parks, and 22- year-old Brenda Carol Ball.
This was Bundy’s final power play on the planet that he personally had made a much darker, scarier place.