Hidden behind a carefully constructed “normal” face, handsome young Ted was on the surface a joy to his neighbors and family members. He especially had a way with women. Many older ladies thought he was a good kid and let him borrow their cars and gave him money when he asked. While watching him in videos and viewing pictures of him, it’s easy to see how he could wrap members of his community around his finger. He was handsome and convivial. He continually impressed local businessmen who thought he was a shoe-in as the next big attorney in the Seattle area. Utah detective Jerry Thompson once described his mastery of persuasion by quipping, “he could sell you a dead horse.” However, underneath it all, he was a man obsessed with murder and violence. Unfortunately, those around him would find out about his predilections far too late.
Born in Burlington, VT in 1946, Ted Cowell was a precocious child. Raised by a single mother and living in Philadelphia, PA until age 4, he never knew his biological father. However, he was exposed to his violent grandfather’s strange behavior before abruptly being whisked away by his mother to Washington State, closer to his extended family. As he matured, family members noticed disturbing behavior. A tendency toward roaming his Tacoma neighborhood late at night lent itself to an interest in peeping in the windows of his pretty female neighbors. A successful career in theft was briefly interrupted by a juvenile arrest, later expunged from his criminal record. He was never stopped again for larcenous activity, though he continued stealing on a grander scale as the years progressed.
It was around this time in his life when he turned to pornography to answer some of his questions about women. He knew he could never ask his highly religious mother questions about sex, especially during an era when nobody discussed their sex lives. Ted was also drawn to crime magazines that sexualized women and encouraged his violent fantasies of bondage and dominance. Recently, noted Bundy expert Christina Nixon stated, “considering the fact that most porn magazines pictured the women as sex objects, it most certainly amplified his feelings of hate/disrespect towards certain women.”
After a devastating breakup with a college girlfriend, from which he never truly recovered, Bundy found himself looking for revenge. Though his crimes until this period happened solely in his head, he found himself moving more and more towards acting out his fantasies based on what he saw in X-rated magazines. Following women, peeping into their houses, and finally attacking someone with a two by four on the street were rationalized and became normal to Ted. His sense of entitlement was continually encouraged by successful nighttime prowling and stealing. As January 1974 loomed, he was preparing to make his move.
On January 4, 1974, Ted’s violent rampage began in earnest. He no longer held back his contempt for women nor his sexual appetite. He brutalized his prey, through decapitation and necrophilia, burying some of their bodies and leaving others out in the elements. His crime spree ended the lives of over 30 young women, mostly college students, throughout the United States. His final victim was a twelve-year-old girl. Her raped and decomposed body was found in a pig shed in rural Florida. When he was arrested in 1978, after 2 prison escapes from Colorado, he told police “I’m the most cold-hearted motherfucker as you’ve ever put your fucking eyes on. I don’t give a shit about those people.” The monster had been caged but his animal instincts were still on high alert.
By the time he was interviewed by James Dobson, Bundy’s agenda was simply to lengthen his life by staying on Florida’s death row beyond his third execution date. He was desperate to remain relevant to law enforcement and by allowing Dobson to interview him, he thought Governor Bob Martinez would grant him another stay. It was his final and ultimately unsuccessful gamble. After ten years of trials and appeals, he was finally executed in January, 1989 after much pomp and circumstance. A crowd of over two-hundred people partied outside of Florida State prison waiting for word of his death.
Whether spurred on by pornography or an innate rage toward women, the result remains the same. A young man from a working class family was able to function without society while hiding a completely separate personality from those around him. The only people who saw his true anger were his victims and they didn’t survive the encounter. Though it’s doubtful pornography caused his despicable behavior, it more than likely encouraged it. To this day, Dr. Dobson still rages about the wild, loose morals of society. Whether he’s genuinely concerned about the Ted Bundys of the world has yet to be seen.