Ted Bundy is perhaps the most notorious serial killer of the 20th century. He took the lives of over 30 women and proved incredibly difficult to catch, as he blended easily into his surroundings and exploited the lack of communication between police departments. He appeared to be an average, mild-mannered, conventionally attractive man. Women were drawn to his charm and trusted him based on his apparent education and privilege. But Bundy was leading a double life - he stalked multiple women across the United States during the '70s, terrifying the nation.
Reporter Stephen Michaud sat down and spoke in depth with Bundy after his capital sentence. Michaud got Bundy to describe his life and offenses in the third person. The Netflix documentary Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes details Bundy's perspective of his spree, and the tapes reveal a man who is self-obsessed, misogynistic, and just plain creepy. Seeing life from Bundy's point of view yields deeply disturbing results.
In Conversations with a Killer, childhood friend Sandi Holt discusses her experience growing up with the Bundys. She says Ted came from an economically disadvantaged home, but that his family "couldn't be more 'Beaver Cleaver.'" They were supposedly involved with the Scouts programs, attended church weekly, and Holt reports that Bundy's parents were attentive.
Where Bundy tries to build the narrative that he had an idyllic childhood, Holt says other kids picked on him for his speech impediment. Bundy wasn't popular or successful in school, and he lacked athleticism. Holt says Bundy had a temper and liked to build "tiger traps" in the woods by digging deep holes in the ground and planting sharp sticks at the bottom, pointing upward. He would then cover the traps in leaves. Holt recalls that a young girl fell into one of these holes and sliced her leg on a stick.
Bundy also never dated in high school, and Holt notes that no one ever got particularly close to him - she says he "didn't seem to be all there, all present."
Bundy briefly dated a woman named Diane Edwards while he attended the University of Washington. Bundy told reporter Stephen Michaud that he and Edwards were in love and used to "mumble sweet nothings into each other's ears."
In 1968, Edwards graduated from college and moved to California for a job. Bundy and Edwards maintained a long-distance relationship and wrote letters to each other. However, Edwards started writing to Bundy less and less frequently, and she eventually broke up with him later that year.
Bundy told Michaud it caused an "overwhelming feeling of rejection." The breakup reportedly inspired him to enact revenge on Edwards. When he started his slaying spree in 1974, he targeted women who had brunette hair parted down the middle and were around the same height as Edwards.
Bundy evaded capture for many years, and a lot of his knowledge on how to avoid the authorities appears to have come from his experience working at a watchdog organization for Seattle, WA. Bundy was part of a team that studied sexual assault prevention, so he received access to law enforcement data.
He was aware of the lack of communication between police jurisdictions - many departments from across the state failed to share evidence, so it was difficult to get the full picture of whether or not a case was isolated. Bundy used these findings to his advantage to carry out a spree across state lines.
Some viewers criticize the documentary for focusing too heavily on Bundy, arguing that it borders on hero-worship. Though the Netflix documentary doesn't necessarily glorify Bundy, it does focus almost solely on him - the stories of his victims and their families are notably missing. This approach by the documentary's creator Joe Berlinger brings Bundy's mindset to the screen.
Bundy's world revolved entirely around Bundy - he didn't care about any of the women he slew, much less those affected by their loss. Berlinger contrasts Bundy's grandiose self-portrayal with real stories from those who were familiar with him, giving us a unique juxtaposition between Bundy's perspective and that of the people around him. As reporter Stephen Michaud says, Bundy agreed to tell his story on tape because he thought he was getting a "celebrity bio."