The new Reelz true crime special Ted Bundy: Serial Monster, which premiered Sunday, explores the criminal profile of one of America's most notorious serial murderers. Self-described as "the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you'll ever meet," Bundy inspired the character "Buffalo Bill" in Silence of the Lambs. Whether you're interested in serial killers or not, you've likely heard Bundy's name. You may even know some of the details of the string of sexual assaults and murders he committed between 1974 and 1978, mostly across the Pacific Northwest.
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Unless you've taken the time to study Bundy, however, there are some details you may not know. If you're watching the two-night Ted Bundy: Serial Monster premiere, you'll appreciate this list of some of the stranger details of his crimes, as reported on the Parcast podcast Serial Killers' two-part Ted Bundy special in April 2017.
1. He had a complicated family history
Born Theodore Robert Cowell on Nov. 24, 1946, in Burlington, Vermont, to a single mom who listed his father as someone who may or may not exist, Bundy grew up believing lies about his family situation. When his mother realized she couldn't take care of him on her own, Serial Killers said, she took Bundy to her father and asked that he raise him in her place.
Bundy therefore grew up believing his grandparents were his birth parents and that his mother was his sister. According to the podcast, Bundy's grandfather was a violent man who abused his daughters, though there's no evidence that he was ever abusive toward Bundy himself. Still, being abusive "around Bundy" gave him early examples of abuse toward women.
2. He doesn't fit the pattern of other "lust killers"
Since there is no evidence that Bundy suffered abuse as a child — he merely witnessed it happening to those around him — Serial Killers noted that he doesn't fit the pattern of other "lust killers," or serial murderers who committed sexual atrocities in their crimes. Research has suggested that there is a direct correlation between serial killers and emotional, mental or physical abuse that was perpetrated against them in childhood; Bundy is, apparently, the exception.
3. He didn't learn the truth about his family until adulthood
After his college girlfriend, Diane Edwards, dumped him for his emotional immaturity after one year of dating, Bundy dropped out of the University of Washington and returned home to Burlington. Serial Killers reported that he went to City Hall to obtain a copy of his birth certificate, where he discovered his family's lies. The podcast noted that Edwards breaking up with him was the first major betrayal by a woman in Bundy's life; his mother lying to him about his parentage was the second. These betrayals likely fed into the psychosis that pushed him to rape and murder so many women.
4. He may have claimed his first victim early
When Ann Marie Burr went missing from her home at just 8 years old, Bundy was 14 and lived just a few blocks away. Although he was not considered a suspect in her disappearance at the time (her body was never found), many today believe that Bundy was responsible. According to a 2011 article in HuffPost, police evidence did not have enough amplifiable DNA to link Bundy to Burr's disappearance.
During Bundy's confessions, in which he claimed to have killed more than 50 women, King County detective Bob Keppel tried to get him to talk about his first murder. “We’ll have to bring that up, do that some other time. If there is another time,” Bundy told Keppel, per HuffPost's reporting on recorded confessions obtained by KIRO-TV. That other time never came. Burr's parents died in 2003 and 2008, not knowing what happened to their daughter.
5. He was a skilled peeping tom
According to Serial Killers, one of the reasons neighbors later believed Bundy may have kidnapped Burr was his reputation as a skilled peeping tom. The podcast noted that family members noticed someone "looking in the windows" in the weeks leading up to Burr's disappearance and that Bundy stalked his victims before attacking.
6. Some of his victims survived
One of Bundy's first known victims, Joni Lenz, was just 18 when he brutally beat her while she slept and sexually assaulted her with a metal bar removed from her bed frame, according to Serial Killers. Her roommates found her, covered in blood, the next morning. The attack left Lenz in a coma and did irreparable damage; the podcast noted that although she survived, she was permanently disabled.
Likewise, several of the women Bundy attacked at a Florida sorority house in 1978 survived that night but were left with permanent scars — mental, emotional and physical. Some of their experiences were recounted in a Washington Post op-ed from the day before Bundy's scheduled execution in 1989.
7. He appeared to be a normal, upstanding man
Bundy is one of many serial killers whose danger lurked beneath a "mask of sanity"; there seemed to be nothing abnormal about them. In fact, the Serial Killers podcast reported that Bundy was quite charming, which is a disturbing description of a man who maimed and killed so many.
In college, the podcast noted, Bundy even worked part-time at a suicide prevention hotline and often received praise from local police for his good citizenship.
8. His romantic partners wouldn't tolerate his darker urges
According to Serial Killers, Bundy began dating widow Liz Kloepfer in 1969, a few years after Edwards, his college girlfriend, broke up with him. For a time, in 1973, he picked up his relationship with Edwards again while still dating Kloepfer. This was sustainable, according to the podcast, because Bundy kept these women so completely separated that they never knew the other existed. He employed the same tactic to separate his daily life from his murders.
Per the podcast, Kloepfer wouldn't abide Bundy's darker sexual urges. To satisfy those urges, he began attacking and murdering women — although, it's important to note, Kloepfer was not in any way to blame for Bundy's attacks. Serial Killers also reported that even though Kloepfer was in touch with police in Utah after Bundy was arrested on suspicion of murder, she stayed with Bundy for some time, likely because he was gaslighting her (convincing her that if she suspected anything, it was because she was "crazy" or because the way she perceived reality was wrong. Gaslighting is a common tactic abusers use to convince their victims that they are not actually being abused).
9. He was arrested multiple times
According to Biography, Bundy was arrested twice in 1975: once when he was pulled over by police and a vehicle search revealed several burglary tools, a year after he moved to Utah for law school, and again following the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch. She immediately identified Bundy in a lineup, and he was sentenced to one to 15 years in jail.
In 1977, Bundy was indicted on murder charges in connection with the death of a young Colorado woman. He escaped through a window during a trip to the courthouse library. Later that year, he escaped from his prison cell by losing over 30 pounds and crawling through a tiny hole in the ceiling.
10. He acted as his own lawyer in court
Per Serial Killers, when Bundy was arrested in 1979 and sentenced to the death penalty, he represented himself in court wearing "a Seattle Mariners shirt, a suit jacket and a smirk." During the trial, his charm made him something of a celebrity; even the judge, after conferring two death sentences on Bundy for his crimes, called him "a bright young man" and said he would have liked to see him practice law.
The first part of Ted Bundy: Serial Monster aired Sunday at 9/8c on Reelz, and the second part airs Monday at 7/6c. Both parts repeat on Friday, starting at 8/7c.