Monday, April 20, 2015

The Ghost of Ted Bundy Still Haunts Me

Before I reveal the Ted Bundy article you are about to read, I'd like to take a moment to focus on one moment in time – the memory that prompted the article in the first place.

During the Ted Bundy fiasco, newspapers ran photos of Bundy's victims. They all looked eerily similar to each other with their long dark hair parted down the middle. 

The moment I saw the layout of those photos, I suddenly – with profound impact – remembered in vivid detail meeting a man in the parking lot where I worked when I was only 17 years old who just might have been – Ted Bundy. The photo you see was taken of me at about the same time as the incident revealed below. Photos of Bundy’s victims can be found on Murderpedia.

Here then is the original article, Ted Bundy and Me, in its entirety:

Serial killers both fascinate and repulse us – Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Gary Ridgway, and Ted Bundy conjure horrific images of innocent lives destroyed. How did these gruesome characters become so adept at committing crimes so macabre? Imagine how creative these murderers must be to devise methods of deception so devious even the brilliant minds of their victims become impervious to self-preservation. 

Civilized humans with a conscience wonder how murderers justify behavior we deem not just abnormal but an abomination. And we wonder at what point it becomes part of their internal makeup. What steps do serial killers take to successfully refine their systems to such a degree that excitement builds and impulse replaces common sense? What compels them to repeat their atrocities again and again?

As their levels of depravity sink beneath a surface we can't even imagine, as each victim succumbs to their charms, these manipulators of their own consciences improve their methods, tweaking and adjusting them until they discover what works. It is the point before that realization hits them that arouses my curiosity. I want to know what didn't work.

I was 17 the summer and fall of 1968 just after Ted Bundy's girlfriend broke off their relationship. According to many sources, he traveled during that time, from the west coast to the east coast and to Florida.

I-80, 294, and I-90/94 take you east, west, and south, not far from the River Oaks mall in Calumet City, Illinois (one of Chicago's south suburbs), where I worked for three months that year.

Like many young women, I wore my dark hair long and straight with a part down the middle.

On my way to work as I exited my father's car in the Sears parking lot one evening, a tall thin man approached me. As if out of nowhere, he appeared before me, the sun stretching across the western sky, casting its light behind him.

"Your car is leaking," he said as he pointed under my car.

I leaned over and saw many leaks under the car. "That's OK. I'll have my dad look at it," I told him as I slung my purse over my shoulder.

"It will only take a minute."

"No, really," I said, "it's OK. I have to get to work." I started to walk away, but he kept talking. I forced a smile. I was trying to be polite.

He was insistent. He bent over to look under the car. "I can't really tell which leak is coming from your car, because there are so many, but if you drive it over there," he said, pointing across the parking lot, "I can take a better look. Nobody is parked over there. Less stains on the ground."

I hesitated, but "over there" was next to a thick grove of trees. I declined again, repeating that my father would take a look at it. He insisted again that it would take only a minute. I told him I really had to get to work, at which time we both walked away.

When he turned to walk, however, instead of walking into the store, as I would have expected, he returned to the parking lot, something I found strange even then.

Though the man was obviously trying to be kind, I felt oddly frightened. My body was trembling. I couldn't have articulated at the time why my heart was pounding so wildly in my chest – something in his demeanor, maybe – an underlying intensity along with his polite insistence. Still shaking, I called my father from a pay phone. I was afraid to return to the parking lot after work and I was afraid the car wouldn't run. My father assured me that nothing was leaking from the car and that the man wouldn't be there when I left.

I didn't think about the event again until years later when I saw photos of Ted Bundy's victims, all with long hair parted down the middle.

From 1969-1972, after he discovered that the woman he thought was his sister was actually his mother, Bundy delved into the academic and political arena. A political career in the late 60's and early 70's, before the world learned about corruption in high places, may have been what Bundy thought was a highly respectable career choice. He may have been able to hide his evil side. He may also have spent time thinking about how to perfect his strategy.

Bundy's first known victim, Joni Lenz, was brutally attacked in January 1974. Did Bundy suddenly become the psychopath the media exposed him to be, or did he progress, allowing his brain to assimilate psychotic impulses he would learn to justify (it's OK for me to kill her because my pleasure is more important than her pain). In all likelihood, he probably blamed his victims for his behavior (they asked for it).

Refining techniques takes thought and time. Failed attempts require creative solutions to insure success. Serial killers follow their impulses and force a transformation of their fantasies into their version of reality. Was the ruse Ted Bundy once used one of offering help to unsuspecting victims? And is it possible that after one or more failed attempts, he altered his technique and started asking unsuspecting victims to help him (as he did with his last known victims)? Did he confine his killing sprees to those areas that most assured him of success, perhaps leaving Illinois alone?

So many questions remain unanswered. What if I had agreed to drive my car to the grove of trees at the end of the parking lot? What if I hadn't trusted my instincts?

Bundy chose to use his intellect and creative abilities to destroy his victims and their loved ones. Creative destruction – destructive creativity – two opposing words that worked together in Ted Bundy's mind – until he got caught. He was electrocuted fifteen years after the murder of Joni Lenz in January 1989. He was 42 years old.

I will never know if Ted Bundy was the man who approached me forty-five years ago in the summer or fall of 1968, but I will always wonder.

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