What the Netflix documentary series failed to tell us about Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy is perhaps one of the most interesting minds of the 20th century. Having successfully escaped custody twice then represented himself in court, he was the modern anti-hero whom many would-be victims were enamoured by. But society’s obsession with the vicious killer continues.
The questionably titled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday. However, Netflix documentary Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes has created a buzz the likes of which a Hollywood producer could only dream of. However, through Bundy’s narration, have we allowed him to posthumously romanticise or even rewrite history? To help you decide, here are 13 facts about Ted Bundy which the Netflix documentary neglected to tell us.
13) He would engage in necrophilia with his victims’ corpses, often days after they were killed
The documentary brushes over Bundy’s obsession with his victims’ bodies. However, he would often return to the woods to violate them even after they had started to decompose. He would sleep next to them by night and watch them rot by day. He often removed the heads with a hacksaw so that he could admire them in the comfort of his own home, before throwing them back into the wilderness for animals to eat. He said he burned one of the heads in his then-girlfriend's fireplace.
12) He did more than murder 12-year-old Kim Leach
Kim Leach, one of Bundy’s last victims, stands out as something of an anomaly. However, no matter how much meaning or methodology is ascribed to his murders, they were merely an outlet for his brutal hatred of women. Desperate for a sufficient thrill, he kidnapped, raped and murdered 12-year-old Kim Leach before leaving her body under a pig pen.
11) Nobody knows the whereabouts of his child
Carole Ann Boone was Bundy’s old friend - who reappeared in his life after his capture. A vocal advocate of his cause, she protested his innocence and helped to support his case in any way she could. As the documentary shows, during his cross-examination of her as a character witness, he asks if she will marry him and she says she will. All seemingly pre-rehearsed and rather awkward, a round of applause was notably absent. However, having married Bundy while he was in custody, she then bore a child which was thought to have been conceived with Bundy, again while he was in custody. But when he finally admitted his guilt, she wanted nothing more to do with him. There were reports that Boone passed away in 2005 at the age of 58. However, these were unsubstantiated.
10) It is rumoured that he would eat parts of his victims
Tired of rape, murder and necrophilia, it is rumoured that Bundy would also eat parts of his victims - so that they would be a part of him. These kinds of gruesome details led authorities to question whether such a civilised and well-spoken man could actually perpetrate such heinous crimes.
9) He would often pretend to be injured to gain people’s trust
The documentary series briefly mentions plaster of Paris being found in Bundy’s car, but never explains why. He would use crutches, slings and - of course - plaster of Paris to appear to be injured and in need of help when carrying books. When a victim offered to help, he would lure them into his car, beat them and handcuff them to the car’s frame. They couldn’t even try to get out - as he had removed the interior passenger door handle.
8) In the early 1970s, he worked for a suicide hotline
Bundy worked with author Ann Rule at a crisis call centre in Washington. Here, the man who would go on to take dozens of lives was in fact saving them - or perhaps just using this position of power to toy with people? Following a number of murders in Seattle, a photo fit appeared to show a man similar to Bundy. As his girlfriend Meg Anders would later do, Rule contacted police. Both his name and his car also matched the information police were publicising. In both cases, the authorities considered whether it could be Bundy but decided that the killer couldn’t possibly be such a clean-cut and upstanding citizen.
7) The “Brides of Bundy” were all modelled on one woman...
Many experts believe Bundy never thought he was good enough for his college sweetheart, who he refers to as “Stephanie Brooks”. She came from a rich background and excelled at the University of Washington, where she met, went out with and later broke up with Bundy. It is widely held that this was due to his lack of ambition. Yet many of Bundy’s experiences were shaped by her and, in fact, he originally enrolled to study Chinese. Chillingly, his obsession manifested itself in his victims or so-called “Brides of Bundy”. Almost all of his victims were college-age, brown-haired women with a centre parting.
6) ...And he joined Governor Daniel J. Evans' re-election campaign in order to humiliate her
Using his knowledge of law, Bundy spent years getting close to Republican politicians and eventually worked on Governor Daniel J. Evans' re-election campaign. However, this was all in an attempt to get back with Stephanie Brooks. Yet once Bundy had successfully rekindled their relationship, he promptly dumped her. Soon after, he began his first spate of killings.
5) Bundy removed the passenger seat from his Volkswagen Beetle...
Remember all that 1970s stock footage of VW Beetles in the documentary series? Other than the fact that the cars were often the wrong colour, they also always had two front seats. In reality, Bundy actually removed the passenger seat so that it would be easier to hide bodies. This was one of the reasons he was pulled over, during a routine traffic stop, after his failed attack on Carol DaRonch.
4) ...Which made its way into a museum
Decades after Bundy was put to death, the infamous VW bug appeared in a museum in the country’s capital. Despite the fact that a number of murders are thought to have taken place in the vehicle, the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle was unveiled as part of Washington D.C.'s National Museum of Crime & Punishment in 2010. Roped-off with a chain made of handcuffs, it was something of an errant move. Furthermore, its inclusion in the museum is thought to have significantly contributed to a “murderabilia” trend - with collectors spending thousands of dollars on objects related to famous murders. The museum closed in 2015 over a lease dispute. The car was moved to the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where it can still be viewed today.
3) He practised for murder by picking up women then letting them go
Treating homicide like a sport, Bundy would train in his “off season” by charming women then luring them towards his car. It is only by practise that he became so confident speaking to attractive women and convincing them that he was harmless. Little did they know, on another day, his whimsical-looking VW bug would have been their tomb.
2) He became a million-dollar brand
Dozens of people made millions of dollars off of Bundy, whether it was books, films, interviews or trading in his effects. Author and friend Carole Ann Rule released the bestseller The Stranger Beside Me and Rhonda Stapley, who claims that she too is a Bundy survivor, aggressively promoted her book I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape & PTSD That Changed My Life. Meanwhile, the budget alone for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile (starring High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron) will be several dozen million. However, the one person who didn’t make money off the Ted Bundy brand was Bundy himself.
1) He may have killed many more than 30 people
Thirty is the official number of Bundy’s murder victims but when FBI agents suggested a total tally of 36, Bundy told them: "Add one digit to that, and you'll have it." FBI profiler Robert Keppel wrote that "[Ted] and I both knew [the number] was much higher" while Reverend Fred Lawrence, the clergyman who administered Bundy's last rites, stated: “I don't think even he knew ... how many he killed, or why he killed them".
Bundy is still widely considered a gentleman killer. However, this view appears to neglect what he did behind closed doors - and in secluded wooded areas. What must be remembered about Bundy is not that he was a superstar or a mastermind but that he was mentally ill.
He was, of course, also a great manipulator - and it’s here that there are lessons to be learned. “I’d have loved to have you practise in front of me, ” Judge Edward D Cowart told him during his trial. An unqualified lawyer accused of multiple murders, that Bundy was able to represent himself is plainly ridiculous. “I don’t have any animosity to you, I want you to know that,” Judge Coward told him in his parting statement. Clearly, that Bundy was able to continue to charm those around him shows just how blind the public were to the reality behind the smile.