Ted Bundy was born in Vermont
, the son of an unwed teenage mother and a father who has never been conclusively identified. He spent his early years in Philadelphia
being raised by his maternal grandparents, who told the young Bundy that he was their son, and his mother was his elder sister. As a child he exhibited disquieting behaviour, and identified closely with his grandfather, a mentally unstable and extremely violent bigot. In 1950 his mother left her parents' house along with her son, and moved to Washington
. There, a year later, she married, and Bundy was adopted by her new husband, who gave Bundy his surname. Bundy was distant from his stepfather for most of his young life, as he disliked the man. In his youth he began wandering the neighbourhood, peeping through windows; he also began shoplifting. As an adolescent he had little understanding of how to develop interpersonal relationships, and was fairly shy, especially with women. At the age of fifteen it is possible that he committed his first murder, though this has never been conclusively proven. He graduated from high school in 1965, and began attending university at the University of Puget Sound. He remained there for a year, before transferring to the University of Washington, where he studied Chinese. During this time he made radical changes to his personality, growing more personable and losing his shyness. In 1967 he began dating a young woman with whom he became infatuated. The following year he dropped out of university and took up a series of odd jobs, including working for a political campaign. Also in 1968 his girlfriend dumped him due to his perceived lack of ambition. Bundy was devastated, and left the area, travelling to various places throughout the States for a year before returning to Washington in 1969, and re-enrolling in university there in 1970, pursuing a major in psychology. In 1971 he began working for a suicide hotline. He graduated from university in 1972, and began working for the Governor. In 1973 he applied to and was accepted by two law schools, mainly on the strength of his recommendations rather than his grades. He encountered the ex-girlfriend who broke his heart around this time, and began dating her again, before suddenly breaking off contact in 1974, apparently in an effort to break her heart and prove to himself that they could have gotten married. He also began to skip classes in law school.
It is unknown when Bundy began killing, with suggestions going back as far as 1969. His first documented series of attacks began in Washington and Oregon
in early January of 1974, with a young woman who survived the assault. The next month saw his first confirmed murder, and for the next three months after abductions occurred at a fairly steady rate of once per month. In June of that year he abducted two women ten days apart, and the next month a further two women with only four hours separating them. By this point the pattern of abductions had been noted, as had the characteristics that all the women shared: the long brown hair worn parted in the middle that was characteristic of the woman who broke his heart. No physical evidence was left at any of the crime scenes. Bundy was first connected with the case after a composite sketch was released following the July murders. Despite this, he was not initially considered a very likely suspect. In August of 1974 he moved to Utah
to attend law school. Claiming to have returned to his murderous ways as early as September of that year, he had no identified victims until October, when he killed three women over the course of the month. He attempted to abduct a young woman in Utah but she escaped his trunk. Undeterred, he kidnapped and killed another woman. By this point Bundy's profile as a suspect in the murders had risen considerably, though there was no solid evidence tying him to the case. In 1975 he began abducting women from Colorado
, killing a total of five between mid January and late June of that year.
In August of 1975 Bundy was pulled over by a Highway Patrol officer in Utah, who noticed the various suspicious items he had in his car, as well as the fact that the passenger seat of the car was missing. He was arrested after his resemblance to the suspect in the abduction gone wrong was noted. His apartment was searched, but nothing directly incriminating was discovered and he was released, though placed under surveillance. In September his car was impounded, and hairs connecting him to various victims were discovered. In early October he was chosen out of a lineup by the victim who escaped, as well as being identified as the man seen lurking around one of the abduction sites. He was released under bond, but remained under heavy surveillance. Detectives from the various states in which he had committed murders began collaborating in November, and by February of 1976 they were able to charge him with the kidnapping of the girl who had escaped him in Utah. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail for this crime. In early October he was found attempting to escape, and later in that month was charged with one of the murders committed in Colorado. He was extradited there in January of 1977. In early June of that year he was brought to trial, acting as his own lawyer. During a recess in the trial he was able to escape custody, fleeing the courthouse and remaining fugitive for six days before being recaptured. Though the case against him in Colorado was weak and he was growing increasingly likely to be acquitted, he began planning another escape, eventually succeeding in late December of 1977. He flew to Chicago
before his disappearance had even been noticed. He travelled to Michigan
, then Atlanta
, finally arriving in Tallahassee, Florida
in early January of 1978. In the early hours of January 15th he broke into a sorority on the campus of Florida State University. There he killed two young women and assaulted a further two before fleeing the building and travelling to a nearby apartment, where he wounded another young woman. In early February he abducted and murdered a 12-year-old girl. He fled the area on February 12th, and was on the road for three days before being captured near the Alabama border.
His trial for the Florida murders began in June of 1979. He was a difficult client for members of his defence team, which he lead for himself, and refused a plea deal. He was found guilty in late July, and sentenced to death for both murders that had occurred in the sorority. In January of 1980 he was put on trial for the murder of the 12-year-old girl, and was similarly found guilty and sentenced to death. During his trial he married a woman who had become obsessed with him. After receiving the third death sentence he began to confess to a number of the murders that had been ascribed to him over the years. All of these confessions were given in the third person. In 1984 he began planning another escape, which was foiled by the discovery of hacksaw blades in his cell. Around this time he was attacked by a number of fellow inmates, and it is possible that he was raped, though he denied being assaulted. In October of 1984 he offered his opinion on then at-large serial killer the Green River Killer, providing insight into the way that the killer's mind might work. In April of 1986 he began to provide more details of his crimes, mainly as a means of forcing law enforcement officials to put off his impending execution so as to resolve the various cases that had been tied to him but never conclusively proven. Over the next several years his various death penalties were continually rescheduled, however he moved fairly rapidly through the system. After the exhaustion of his appeals he began explicitly confessing to many murders, including some that police had been unaware of up to that point. He also gave the locations of many of the bodies that had to that point been undiscovered. However, it became clear that this was a stalling technique. He was executed in an electric chair on the morning of January 24th, 1989. He was 42.
In Other Media
Ted Bundy is one of the most notorious serial killers in modern history. He has made a massive impact on the popular culture landscape, and characters based on him include Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs
, who uses a ruse similar to Bundy's to abduct women. A murder based on his case appears in the 1995 movie Copycat
. He appears in a number of movies, including the 1985 television movie The Deliberate Stranger
, where he is played by Mark Harmon, the 2002 film Ted Bundy
, where he is played by Michael Reilly Burke, and the 2004 television movie The Riverman
, where he is played by Cary Elwes. He has also been featured in numerous biographical and documentary works, including A&E's Biography
series, the film Murder: No Apparent Motive.