Image: Instagram/@pastpresentpodWhat You Might Have Missed From Netflix's Ted Bundy Doc
We sure do have a fascination with the macabre, don't we? From true crime documentaries to murder mysteries, there's just something about these creepy and disturbing stories. It's not that they're entertaining (although many of them are!). It's the suspense and the intrigue. The disbelief that things like that could really happen. It's seeing survivors of horrific circumstances live to tell their tale. And in some ways, these stories serve as a warning to us, a step-by-step guide of what not to do and who not to trust. These types of stories also make us realize that monsters don't always have glowing red eyes and sharp fangs. Sometimes they look just like the all-American guy next door. That's what people are realizing while watching Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.
Ted Bundy was one of the most notorious serial killers in history. He confessed to killing 30 people, but the number is believed to be much higher. He terrorized communities across the country. But at the height of his crime spree, before his face and name became instantly recognizable, he used his generic good looks and charming personality to lure his victims to their deaths. Ted Bundy was a monster, there's no doubt about that. But he wasn't the kind of monster we were used to seeing, which makes him even scarier. The Netflix documentary uses hours of recordings of interviews Bundy gave while on death row, and is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a madman. Here's what you might have missed, and some stuff the filmmakers left out.
The Ted Bundy story has been done ad nauseam, in books and TV shows and even movies. But rarely do we get a chance to hear from the killers themselves. The Netflix documentary is a candid look inside the mind of a very twisted individual. Bundy talks about his life, his crimes, his motivations, and everything in between. It's incredibly creepy, and the hours of interviews conducted by reporters Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth shed some light on the notorious killer. Michaud and Aynesworth wrote a book based on the tapes in 1989, also titled "Ted Bundy: Conversations With a Killer". But up until now, the audio from the recordings hasn't been made public.
The journalists already had plans to write the book, and were looking for background information from Bundy himself. In order to gain access to the prisoner, Michaud told prison officials that he was an investigator who was working on Bundy's appeal. Ted Bundy said he would provide details that would prove he did not commit the crimes for which he had been convicted. Says Michaud, "I didn’t really believe it. I didn’t disbelieve it. But I knew it’d be a hell of a story either way, so I went into the prison with my tape recorder." The interviews took place every couple of weeks.
Ted Bundy had promised to talk about the murders, and that's what Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth were banking on for their book. But as the weeks went on, Bundy talked about everything BUT his crimes. He spoke a lot about his childhood, but always seemed to evade discussing the events that landed him on death row. Feeling the pressure from his editors and publishers to deliver the goods, Michaud played on Bundy's ego. Knowing he had studied psychology and law, Michaud asked Bundy to talk about the murders as an expert, but in the third person. Sort of a "I didn't do it, but if I had, this is what I would have done" type of thing. Ted Bundy fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
Have you ever wondered about those women who marry convicted convicts in prison? Well, Ted Bundy got married to Carole Ann Boone after proposing to her while she was a witness at his trial. You know, his trial for murder. Boone and Bundy met before his was arrested, when they both worked for the Department of Emergency Services in Olympia, Washington. During his trial in Florida in 1980, Bundy represented himself in court. During Boone's testimony about their relationship, Bundy asked her to marry him. Shockingly, not only was the proposal allowed under Florida law, but Boone accepted. They remained married until she divorced him in 1986, three years before he was executed.
Despite his being incarcerated in death row, Bundy and wife Carole Ann Boone managed to conceive a child sometime in early 1981. In the documentary, Boone describes how they consummated their marriage, saying, "We kept looking out the window. There was a black guard who was real nice. After the first day, they just, they didn’t care. They walked in on us a couple of times". Conjugal visits were prohibited for death row inmates, but Boone and Bundy often met up in the prison park. In 1981, a prison superintendent said, "I’m not saying they couldn’t have some sexual contact, but in that park it would be mightly difficult. It’s stopped as soon as it starts." Rose (or Rosa) Bundy was born October 1981, but very little it known about her or her whereabouts now.
This is one of those almost-too-twisted-to-be-true Ted Bundy facts. While he was a college student, Bundy volunteered at a suicide hotline. It's mind-blowing that someone who inflicted so much pain and suffering on people, a person who seemed to revel in death, would have at one point tried to keep people from killing themselves. We wonder if maybe he did it to gain some insight into the human condition? Learn about weaknesses in the psyche he could eventually exploit? This is where he eventually met Ann Rule, the true crime author who wrote about her time with Ted Bundy in "The Stranger Beside Me". Rule says that Bundy was not very good at his job at the hotline.
Sometime during the night of August 31, 1961, 8-year-old Ann Marie Burr disappeared from her home in Tacoma, Washington. Her body was never found, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that her neighbor and local paper boy, 14-year-old Ted Bundy, was responsible for her disappearance and murder. Bundy always denied any involvement in the abduction and murder of Ann Marie. But there's a longstanding rumor that he confessed to the crime at one point, either in prison or during the confessions he made right before his execution. Bundy exhibited much of the odd behavior we associate with psychopaths during childhood (harming animals, effortless lying, etc.), so it's not a stretch to suspect her murdered Ann Marie.
In the early morning hours of January 4, 1974, Ted Bundy broke into the basement apartment of 18-year-old Karen Sparks. He bludgeoned the sleeping woman with a metal bar from her bed frame. He then sexually assaulted the woman and left her for dead. Sparks survived, but suffered extensive internal and brain injuries in the attack. She was unconscious for 10 days following the attack, and lives with permanent organ damage and extensive brain damage that erased her memory of the attack. She is believed to be one of only five women to survive an encounter with Bundy. Less than a month after he attacked Sparks, Bundy broke into the apartment of Lynda Ann Healy and abducted her.
Bundy graduated from the University of Washington in 1972, and spent some time working for political campaigns and offices before enrolling in law school at the University of Puget Sound in the fall of 1973. He seemed to do well initially (he even represented himself during his trial). But in the early spring of 1974, he began skipping classes, and he stopped attending altogether by April. It was around this time that local women began disappearing. Ironically, Bundy was working as the assistant director of the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission and wrote a pamphlet for women on rape prevention the year the murders began.
Ted Bundy was born to an unmarried mother, and not much is known about his father. His mother's parents sent her away during her pregnancy, out of shame for their unwed daughter being pregnant. She returned with Bundy, and he was raised to believe she was his sister and his grandparents were his actual parents. As if that wasn't bad enough, some actually believe that his grandfather may have actually BEEN his biological father. There is evidence that his grandfather was abusive toward the entire family. Being the product of an abusive and incestuous relationship could explain Bundy's own predatory sexual tendencies.
Given the incredibly violent murders and sexual assaults he committed against women, it should come as no surprise that Bundy held some deeply disturbing views about them. In the documentary, he referred to women as possessions or merchandise that could be owned. In trying to explain why a serial killer couldn't or wouldn't stop, he said, "Perhaps this person hoped that through violence, through this violent series of acts, if with every murder leaving a person of this type hungry… Unfulfilled. Would also leave him with the obviously irrational belief that if the next time he did it he would be fulfilled. And the next time he did it he would be fulfilled. Or the next time he did it he would be fulfilled."
One of the enduring myths about Ted Bundy is that he was able to attract to many victims because of his good looks and charm. While it may be true that he was more attractive and "wholesome" looking than we expect serial killers to be, it wasn't just his all-American face that women trusted. As mentioned in the documentary, he would sometimes impersonate a police officer to to gain his victim's trust. But he also exploited their kindness. Bundy would often fake injuries to lure women in, wearing a sling or pretending to have a disability. He resorted to this evil manipulation to get women to let their guards down around him.
In 1976, Bundy was convicted of the kidnapping and assault of Carol DaRonch and was sentenced to 1-15 years in Utah State Prison. He was serving his sentence when he was extradited to Colorado to stand trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell. During a preliminary hearing, Bundy (acting as his own lawyer) was allowed to go to the law library to research case law for his defense. He jumped from the window of the library and escaped into the woods. He was a fugitive for six days before being captured. In late 1977, still in jail and awaiting trial for Campbell's murder, Bundy escaped once again. This time, he managed to elude authorities long enough to get to Florida, where he committed the murders that eventually landed him on death row.
It takes a killer to catch a killer, we suppose! Three years before Ted Bundy was executed for his crimes, he was interviewed by police who were investigating another series of murders. The Green River Killer had been terrorizing the state of Washington, and investigators asked for Bundy's help to learn about the psychology of a serial killer. Some of the suggestions provided by Bundy eventually led police to Gary Ridgeway, who was arrested and convicted of 49 murders. The Green River Killer is believed to have killed at least 90 women in total, and is considered the most prolific serial killer in US history based on the number of confirmed murders.
Almost 10 years after Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth collected the hours of audio we hear in the Netflix documentary, Ted Bundy confessed to the murders of 30 women. It was apparently a last-ditch effort to stay his execution, which was just days away. But don't think he felt any remorse over the lives he took and the many more he destroyed. Bundy told investigators, "I don’t feel guilty for any of it. I feel less guilty now than I’ve felt at any time in my whole life. About anything. I mean really." He added, "I believe I understand everything that I’ve done. I am in the enviable position of not having to feel any guilt. And that’s it. Guilt is this mechanism we use to control people. It’s an illusion. It’s this kind of social control mechanism and it’s very unhealthy."
By the time Ted Bundy was convicted and sentenced to death for the Florida murders, everyone knew he was a bad dude. Like, a really bad dude. Which is why it was so shocking to hear the way the sentencing judge spoke to him. Edward D. Cowart of Dade County Circuit Court presided over Bundy's trial, delivered the sentencing recommendation of death by electric chair.
But in his closing remarks Cowart said, "Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It's a tragedy for this court to see such a total waste, I think, of humanity that I have experienced in this court. You're a bright young man. You would have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don't feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself." WTF man. Just ... WTF.