Evolution of a Monster: According to Ted Bundy

In our current day and age we are overwhelmed with stories about men in power and allegations of sexual assault. The debates fire up because the allegations seem to appear at the most opportunistic of times, such as the case with Brett Kavanaugh and Harvey Weinstein. Our great country has been divided time and time again because people often choose to side with the accused, despite evidence to the contrary.

There is an important history lesson here. The divide that the country faces today is similar to the divide felt decades ago when Ted Bundy stood trial. Despite the overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Bundy had a large group of supporters made up of friends, members of his church congregation and his own family members who did not believe his guilt. They would rally for him until the very end. Valuable lessons can be learned from the Ted Bundy case and applied to current times.

Let's explore further.

Netflix recently released "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes". Although much of the series is disturbing, I feel it is important that people watch it and seek to understand the underlying message. The series does more than detail who Ted Bundy was as a person. It focuses more on the values and beliefs system present at the time of Ted Bundy's murdering sprees and goes on to draw the conclusion that because society held incorrect perceptions of the psychological profile of a serial killer, it would take many years before Bundy was identified as a suspect.

Ted Bundy would go on to be outed by his girlfriend at the time who, despite not seeing evidence in their daily life that Bundy was capable of violence, could not explain away his absences during the time of the murders. Several of Ted Bundy's girlfriends would go on to explain that there was a darker side to Bundy that no one else saw but them. One girlfriend would tell of a time when they were swimming and he would hold her head under water for too long. Although he would laugh in her face when she came up for air, she was sure that something more sinister hid underneath.

The 60s and 70s were a time of terror for Americans. Between violent images from the war in Vietnam to the rise in American serial killers had people doubting that quiet suburban life was as simple and innocent as previously thought. Advances in news broadcasting and a sharp increase in the number of homes with televisions helped fuel the panic behind each murder announcement. Psychological profiling was in its infancy which meant people were largely uneducated about what a serial killer looks like. Such acts are supposed to be committed by a true monster. A deformed, mentally ill, socially isolated outcast who was not part of the every day world. But Ted Bundy was not a monster. He was good looking, charismatic, and a law student that came from a good home.

At the time of the murders the women's rights movement and feminism were stronger than they had been decades prior. Bundy took notice of this movement and felt repulsed by it. Years of rejection from classmates, especially female classmates, has begun to build up and he can find no satisfying way to release his anger. Below are direct quotes from the Ted Bundy Tapes, as he describes why he chose his victims and how societal views played a role in his feelings toward women.

Bundy speaks fondly of his childhood in a borderline narcissistic fashion. He boasts that his childhood did not contain one red flag, one incident that people could point to and say "there. there's where he became a killer". Interviews from Bundy's childhood friends would paint a different picture. A neighborhood acquaintance would tell a story of how Bundy had a fascination with hurting people, even at a young age. While playing with neighborhood kids, he would often build what he called "tiger traps" which were holes dug in the ground with sharpened sticks standing upright at the bottom. Bundy would cover the holes with leaves and would wait for children to fall in. One girl did fall and cut her leg wide open. Bundy never brings up this incident.

He would go on to describe his teenage years with the same smug pride that he used to describe his childhood. Bundy spoke about being a stellar student, an athletic participant in all sports, how he was well liked by everyone and was even elected to student council. An interesting thing to note is how Bundy speaks in generalities. He never names any positions he played in football or any other sport. He never identifies what academic clubs he was in or what title he had on student council.

The reason for Bundy's lack of specifics is that they are all lies. Bundy's associates from school recalled that he was an average student, not good at any particular subject. That he would try out for many sports but was not athletic enough to do well. They described him as a "blow-hard", always telling boastful stories about how he would go on to become President of the United States one day. He had a desire to appear more powerful than he really was and no one took him seriously. Bundy claimed he had many friends in school while his associates described him as more of an outcast.

In the second episode of The Ted Bundy Tapes, Bundy goes on to explain how a person like him is created. From this point of the interview Bundy stops telling a story of his life and switches to speaking in third party form. He refers to his dark thoughts and deeds as an "entity" and is careful to never admit that he is the one with the thoughts and feelings but rather it is the "entity" that drives him. The interviewer notes that as Bundy begins to detail some of the murders he loses all expression and his normally blue eyes become black.

"A person of this type chooses his victims for a reason. His victims are young attractive women. Women are possessions. Beings which are subservient more often than not to males. Women are merchandise. From the pornographic, through Playboy, right up to the evening news. So there is no denying the sexual component. However, sex has significance in the context of a much broader scheme of things that is possession, control, violence."

"Now let's consider the possibility that this person suffered from some sort of acute onset of a desire that resulted in the killing of young women. The early manifestations of this condition starts with an interest concerning sexual images; your standard fare that you'd see in the movie house or in Playboy magazine." At some point this entity began to associate sexual images with violence. "The interest becomes skewed toward a more specialized literature to something more grotesque which would preoccupy him more and more. It would reach a point where the anger, the frustration, the anxiety, the poor self-image, feeling cheated, wronged and insecure that this person decides upon young attractive women being his victims".

After his first arrest for attempted kidnapping, the judge would hire a psychiatrist to interview Bundy to determine if he was of further threat to the public. During these sessions Bundy would reveal that during his adolescence he discovered that his birth father was not known and that he was an illegitimate child. Bundy states that this fact didn't bother him at all. The psychiatrist saw this as a form of denial.

Today we have decades of psychological research, profiling and theories to explain why people become violent. For men who attack women, a commonly held belief among mental health professionals is that men who attack women have a hatred for women that stems from a dysfunctional relationship with their mother. We can see this play out in Bundy during his adolescent years.

It begins with an attraction to women that is driven by sexual feelings that are common in adolescents. At some point Bundy learns of his illegitimacy and becomes angry at his mother. This is likely when the pornographic images associated with violence. He began to seek out more violent forms of porn to satisfy this anger. Yet the entity grew and grew and soon simply watching violent acts were not enough. A young, sexually frustrated, socially rejected young man needs to feel personal power and control over those that he loathes. This is when he begins kidnapping and raping women.

For Bundy, the murder of the women was his way of "disposing of the evidence" so he could continue his antics and not get caught.

There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the Ted Bundy case. One of the most important lessons being to not to judge a person by their appearances or public actions. Rather, it is the things they do and say in private, especially with their significant others, that truly reveal who a person is. Bundy states that he spent large amounts of time trying to balance his "normal" life with his "entity" life. He worked hard to keep up appearances. He worked to be soft spoken and calm. He worked to attend church ever Sunday and to seek out a noble profession.

Nonetheless, red flags persisted in the case of Ted Bundy, as they do in all cases of abusive men. Those red flags are: A preoccupation with violent sexual images of women. A hatred toward his mother or other dominate female figure. A hatred toward peers and classmates for being rejected. A feeling of inferiority for not being smart enough or athletic enough. A personality disorder, whether it be borderline or narcissistic. An inner need to be powerful and in control over other people.

I'm not saying that an individual with a few of these traits with turn into Ted Bundy. What I am saying is that we should educate ourselves and our family about red flags. We should talk about red flags and what danger they pose. We should not make excuses for a person's behaviors and blame their upbringing. Many people come from difficult childhoods and do not become murderers or rapists. Many people come from normal childhoods and commit some of the most heinous crimes against man. In in the end it is a delicate dance between genetic propensity, internal chemistry, behavioral tendencies, personality traits and environmental factors that make a person a murderer. No one snaps out of the blue. There is always a trail of red flags leading up to a violent incident. One just has to look for them.


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