Furst, G. (2012, p. 175) describes Ted Bundy as one of the most prolific American serial killers of all time. That would be an apt statement. However, while Bundy did not necessarily kill the most people during his infamous spree; Bundy used psychology and perception to his advantage.
Theodore Robert Cowell (Ted Bundy) was born in the city of Burlington, Vermont. As a young boy, Bundy was made to believe his maternal grandparents were his actual parents. The woman he believed to be his older sister was in fact his real mother (Furst, 2012, p. 175).
During his high-school days, Bundy spent most of his time reading library novels, magazines, and illustrations showing dead bodies and sexual violence. He also engaged in minor criminal behavior such as shoplifting.
Bundy eventually went to the University of Puget Sound and decided to study psychology. There is no doubt that his psychology studies helped him acquire victims with the greatest of ease. After transferring to the University of Washington, Bundy met a woman who he described as the love of his life. Shortly after she ended the relationship, he found out the truth about his real mother. It is implied by many theorists, that his mother was actually raped by her abusive father, his maternal grandfather. There is sufficient speculation that his childhood and experiences as a young adult shaped Ted Bundy into the serial killer he became. But what psychological evidence supports that theory?
Serial Sexual Homicide Investigated
The name Theodore Bundy has almost become synonymous with serial sexual homicide. Up until recent years, the motivation behind such a crime was believed to be driven by compulsion. Despite the seriousness of the crime in question, serial sexual killers are quite rare. Nevertheless, most are known to the public. Figures such as Gary Ridgway, Ted Bundy, Edmund Kemper, and Ed Gein are all examples of serial sexual killers (Williams, 2018).
Theodore Bundy certainly meets the characteristics associated with serial sexual homicide, as Bundy’s crimes were repeated and seemed to be sexually motivated. Researchers have been looking into this specific type of crime for many decades, and most found a substantial correlation between the samples taken from serial homicide killers (Meloy, 2000; Miller, 2014; Schlesinger, 1998, cited in Williams, 2018).
One of the more interesting correlations in various studies suggests that killers who had committed multiple homicides or even mass murders had 10% more cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder and head injuries compared to the control group (Allely, Minnis, Thompson, Wilson, & Gillberg, 2014, cited in Williams, 2018).The study also highlighted that a larger presence of childhood perceived or real psychological trauma or neglect was also reported.
The research executed by Allely et. al (2014, cited in Williams, 2018) is important for numerous reasons. In fact, it caused clinical and forensic psychologists to speculate that the killings could be motivated by a need to reclaim power and control, which was not present during early childhood.
Other research (Hickey, 2016; Myers, Husted, Safarik, & O’Toole, 2006, cited in Williams 2018) supports that claim. According to research done by Hickey and Myers et al., power and control over others was a common denominator in numerous case studies surrounding serial murder.
Bundy’s Characteristics And Potential Leisure Motivations
While the above mentioned research suggests that Bundy could have been motivated by power and control. Another potential variable should be considered according to the article by Williams (2018). In fact, Williams selected the Bundy Case specifically for analysis, attempting to find out if Bundy’s case could have a leisure motivation as well.
To find out if there was a leisure motivation in Bundy’s case, Williams (2018) used a qualitative study in the form of transcript analysis from Bundy’s previous interviews. Within this framework, some evidence of leisure motivation was found. Williams specifically recalls contributors such as seeing serial murder as a game, overcoming barriers to partake in activities, cooling-off periods, and other substantial evidence supporting the leisure theory.
What Motivated Bundy To Kill?
As mentioned previously and backed up by research, sexual serial killings are relatively rare. This is also one of the reasons why the killers who commit it get so much media coverage. Research has shown that this kind of criminal is created by a number of different factors. Not only was Bundy a narcissist, deceit in his childhood and pre-existing criminal behavior were clear warning signs of things to come. Of course, a bad childhood does not made someone a murder.
This is why researchers have started looking at the concept of leisure, in other words, serial killers who kill for pleasure. Proving that someone derives pleasure from killing and almost treats it as a hobby is remarkably difficult though, especially since researchers are often dealing with historic events that require transcript and case file analysis. The one advantage researchers do have is that sexual serial killer cases are usually well-documented by the media. Therefore, there are substantial transcripts to derive information from.
Breaking Through Barriers
During his interviews, Bundy repeatedly mentioned the barriers he would overcome to commit his crimes, which could be an indicator that he enjoyed his crimes rather than committing them out of compulsion. The difference between leisure and compulsion killing has been investigated over the past couple of years. As a consequence, more thorough research and supporting evidence is needed to prove the latter. He was also clearly a narcissist, as he chose to defend himself during his trial (Pérez-Peña, 2017).
In conclusion, Bundy certainly had a narcissistic personality and the ability to manipulate people around him thanks to his background in psychology. But in my opinion, the findings that support the leisure theory also support the compulsion theory as well as the need for power and control. Therefore, I am inclined to support the theory that Bundy wanted power and control. Furthermore, he also that he was left with a lot of anger due to childhood events. Ted Bundy is a well-known case, but I believe the truth behind his motivations is still not proven.
The Case For Obsession — Jock’s Hypothesis
In one of the greatest cases of Demonic Possession in the history of the USA, the major catalyst to the possession was the infestation and oppression during the act of rape, and the consecration by the father against his daughter. This of course was the case of Anna Ecklund aka Emma Schmidt (March 23, 1882 – July 23, 1941). So what does this case and Ted Bundy have in common?
As I have mentioned, the catalyst to the infestation was external to the individual based on the intent. So perhaps in the case of Bundy, this hypothesis might have some merit. Personally what I believe is that Bundy would have come under the phenomena of Interstitial Obsession.
Could his obsession from a young age be one of the reasons that he reveled in such examples and images of death and violence. Furthermore, we might also hypothesize that his criminal behavior was also the result of external influence of an obsessing preternatural being.
If we also look at the above statement by Sandra who recounts the following statement regarding Psychologists;
In fact, it caused clinical and forensic psychologists to speculate that the killings could be motivated by a need to reclaim power and control, which was not present during early childhood.
We know that malevolent intelligences can fuel a need like a drug user needs a hit. There is no real proof by any statement on whether the Clinical Hypothesis is correct or whether the preternatural hypothesis is correct. The reality is that both of these lines of thought have merit.
We must remember that malevolent intelligences are for more advanced than we could ever imagine and the modus operandi has intelligence behind the intent and therefore, there is an intelligent pattern. We know that Bundy used his psychological skills to carry out his objectives, but perhaps the objectives were already sown into his being by malevolent intelligent forces.
The enjoyment of the crimes to which he was thirsty for may not have been fuelled by his own desire. They could have been influenced by external agency, which could control the urge seeded in Bundy from a young age.
Furst, G. (2012) The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia. Stony Brook, Virginia :SAGE Publications, Inc.
Pérez-Peña, R. (2017) ‘Why Do Killers Represent Themselves? Ego, Ideology, Paranoia…’ The New York Times, 5 January. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/us/dylann-roof-killers-defense-lawyers.html (accessed: 12 September 2020).
Williams, D. J. (2018) Is Serial Sexual Homicide a Compulsion, Deviant Leisure, or Both? Revisiting the Case of Ted Bundy, Leisure Sciences, 42:2, 205-223, DOI: 10.1080/01490400.2019.1571967