Serial killer Ted Bundy, who confessed to killing 30 women and teenage girls in seven states between 1974 and 1978, once described himself as “the most cold-hearted son of a b—ch you’ll ever meet.” He killed for the sheer thrill of it and enjoyed playing a dragged-out game of cat and mouse with law enforcement.
Eventually, the sadistic killer was arrested and executed for his crimes. However, he’ll never be forgotten, especially not by those who’ve met him. These chilling accounts, from those unfortunate enough to have crossed paths with the sociopath, give a chilling glimpse at Bundy’s true evil.
Sandi Holt grew up in Tacoma, Washington, where she spent her days playing with her older brother and his best friend—Ted Bundy. Holt remembers Bundy had a cruel streak from a very young age. In Netflix’s docu-series Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, she recalled, “He just didn’t fit in. He had a horrible speech impediment, so he was teased a lot.”
She then described how a young Bundy would build “tiger traps” in the woodland area that surrounded the neighborhood. She added, “He had a temper. He liked to scare people. One little girl went over the top of one of Ted’s tiger traps and got the whole side of her leg slit open with the sharpened point of the stick that she landed on.” That was just the start of a long history of violence Bundy would inflict on females throughout his life.
Author Ann Rule was a former colleague of Ted Bundy. They both worked shifts together as telephone operators for a suicide helpline. In Rule’s best-selling book The Stranger Beside Me, she revealed it was his good looks that allowed his traits as a true sociopath to go under the radar.
“I liked him immediately. It would have been hard not to,” she described in her book. “As far as his appeal to women, I can remember thinking that if I were younger and single or if my daughters were older, this would be almost the perfect man.”
Years later, when Bundy stood trial in court for his horrific crimes, young women would surge toward the public gallery to get a closer look at the serial killer—even passing love notes to his defense team. It was this attractiveness and charm that aided Bundy in his ability to lead his victims like lambs to the slaughter once he had gained their trust.
In 1974, Ted Bundy had begun to impersonate a police officer so that he could lure away his victims. Teenager Carol DaRonch, from Utah, will never forget the day she crossed paths with Bundy at a shopping mall. DaRonch recalled how Bundy approached her and said her car had been broken into. He held out his police badge and recommended that she go down to the station with him to report the crime—which she agreed to do.
In the documentary series Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, DaRonch recalled, “He headed down a side street and then he suddenly pulled over up on the side of a curb up by an elementary school and that’s when I just started freaking out. And he grabbed my arm and he got one handcuff on one wrist. I had never been so frightened in my entire life. I thought, ‘My god my parents are never going to know what happened to me.’ ”
Unlike other unfortunate victims, DaRonch was able to fight Bundy off and escape with her life. She was one of the key witnesses who helped bring down the notorious serial killer.
On October 2, 1974, Ted Bundy murdered 16-year-old Nancy Wilcox in Utah, and a week later, he had the urge to kill again. Teenager Rhonda Stapley was walking home when Bundy pulled over in his Volkswagen Beetle, and she accepted a ride from him. “And then he turned a way that didn’t seem like the normal route to go,” Stapley remembers. “He continued to drive up one canyon and then into another, never stopping [ . . . ] and that’s when the ride started to feel uncomfortable.”
“He turned in his seat so he was almost facing me, and leaned in really close. I thought he was going to kiss me. But instead, he said, ‘You know what? I’m going to kill you.’ And he put his hands on my throat and started squeezing and shaking me.”
Stapley slipped in and out of consciousness during the attack. When she could see Bundy 6 meters (20 ft) away from the car gathering his killing tools, she ran for her life. Stapley tripped and fell into a river that swept her away—an accident that helped save her life.
Blondie front woman Debbie Harry claimed that she had a close encounter with Ted Bundy in New York. The “One Way Or Another” singer said, “It was in the early 70s and I was trying to get across town at two or three o’clock in the morning. This little car kept coming around and offering me a ride. I got in the car and the windows were are rolled up, except for a tiny crack.”
She continued, “I looked down and there were no door handles. The inside of the car was stripped. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up. I wiggled my arm out of the window and pulled the door handle from the outside. I don’t know how I did it, but I got out. He tried to stop me by spinning the car but it sort of helped me fling myself out. Afterwards I saw him on the news. Ted Bundy.”
Harry’s description of the car matches with Bundy’s infamous Volkswagen Beetle, which had no interior door handles and seats removed specially to hide his slain victims from view.
Marylynne Chino was best friends with Elizabeth Kloeppfer, who eventually went on to date Ted Bundy. However, Chino had a bad feeling about her friend’s boyfriend from the very beginning. In 1969, while hanging out at the Sandpiper Lounge in Seattle, Washington, she spotted Bundy staring at Kloeppfer. She recalled, “I’ve never forgotten this. I walked in, and across the room, I saw Ted for the first time. I will never forget the look on his face, it wasn’t evil but he was staring [and] nursing a beer.”
During Kloeppfer’s relationship with Bundy, she called Chino and told her that she had found some suspicious items, including women’s underwear and photos of Paris. Chino said that when she asked her friend if she’d confronted him over the items, Kloeppfer replied that Bundy had threatened, “If you ever tell anyone this I’ll break your effing head.” Later, when Kloeppfer found further evidence, Chino managed to convince her to call the police.
Elizabeth Kloeppfer was in a turbulent six-year relationship with Ted Bundy. In 1981, Kloeppfer wrote in her book The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, “We would be getting along fine and then a door would slam and I would be out in the cold until Ted was ready to let me back in. I’d spend hours trying to figure out what I had done or said that was wrong. And then, suddenly, he would be warm and loving again and I would feel needed and cared for.”
In 1974, Kloeppfer reported Bundy’s suspicious behavior to the police. During a recorded interview, she revealed, “Ted went out a lot in the middle of the night. And I didn’t know where he went. Then he napped during the day. And I found things, things I couldn’t understand.” She also uncovered his “kill kit”—a bag containing ropes, garbage bags, a ski mask, handcuffs, an ice pick, and a lug wrench. Bundy claimed all these items were for his own protection, but they were later used as evidence against him in court.
Ted Bundy’s former defense attorney John Henry Bowne revealed that he knew the killer was “born evil” when they first met in 1975. Bowne said, “Ted was the only person in my 40 years of being a lawyer that I would say that he was absolutely born evil.” Adding, “I got that feeling right away when I first met him. He was manipulative, he was dishonest. He seemed very believable. But my intuitive side said ‘No, he’s not telling the truth about a lot of this.’ ”
Bowne struggled emotionally with the defending the case, as his girlfriend was murdered in California a few years earlier during his time at law school. The murder was never solved. He said, “The comment, the one I still get chills about, is when [Bundy] told me, ‘The reason you’ve been my lawyer for so long is because we’re so much alike.’ What bothered me is he would think that we were a lot alike . . . that we were friends. I’ve never considered myself a friend of his.”
In 1984, five years before Bundy’s scheduled execution, Detective Robert Keppel was working full-time trying to build a criminal profile for the Green River Killer when Ted Bundy got in touch offering his services. Keppel spent hours interviewing Bundy about the motives of serial killers and how they operate. This eventually led to the arrest of the Green River Killer, who was identified as Gary Ridgway.
Aside from criminal profiling, Bundy’s other methods to catch serial killers were less orthodox. “He suggested that we have a sex-slasher film festival and set up video surveillance. You know, have it to where they have to park in the theater and then put cameras on all of the cars and the people. We couldn’t do that, but he said we would probably get video of all the future serial murders.”
Forty-eight hours before Ted Bundy’s execution, the killer was with FBI Special Agent Bill Hagmaier, as the pair had spent more than 200 hours together, allowing Hagmaier to gain insights into the mind of a serial killer. A member of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, Hagmaier is an expert of the cases of Bundy, Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez, and Gary “Green River Killer” Ridgway.
Hagmaier recalled being disturbed by Bundy’s familiarity. He explained, “During his last days, Ted Bundy called me his best friend. I don’t know how I feel about that. Here you have a guy giving you a warm handshake, and you’re thinking, ‘This is the same hand that held a hacksaw while he cut off a young girl’s head.’ ” Hagmaier added, “He told me some things which I will never repeat, out of respect for the victims’ families. Let’s just say that he did some things to the bodies that were just as horrible as they could possibly be.”
Bundy died in the electric chair on January 24, 1989, at Florida State Prison. He was 42 years old.
Cheish Merryweather is a true crime fan and an oddities fanatic. Can either be found at house parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 5’2″ or at home reading true crime magazines.