Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer: Ted Bundy

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Table of contents

  1. Genetic Predisposition and Environmental Influence
  2. The Impact of Family Secrets and Distrust
  3. The Dual Identity of Ted Bundy
  4. Manipulation and Self-Deception
  5. Bundy’s Courtroom Antics and Blame on Pornography
  6. The Role of Trauma and Genetic Deficiency

Genetic Predisposition and Environmental Influence

Many times one is not born with the intent to become a serial killer; it is often a result of the environment they grew up in. However, in some cases people have genetic makeup that the presence of trauma can crest psychopathic tendencies. Serial killers are a result of their genetic makeup as well as the environment they grew up in. There are many cases where people have the same genetic makeup as a serial killer but do not have the trauma that causes distrust for their peers. If a person with this gene never experienced trauma, they would go on to live a normal life. However, if the person with the genetic makeup to commit such crimes had childhood trauma, the same would not be said for them. An example of nature and nurture affecting a person who both had the genetic makeup and childhood trauma that resulted to psychopathic tendencies in adulthood is Ted Bundy.

Ted Bundy, like many other people have a deficiency in the MAOA gene. The U.S. National Library of Medicine states the MAOA gene, “provides instructions for making an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A. This enzyme is part of a family of enzymes that break down molecules called monoamines through a chemical reaction known as oxidation...Specifically, monoamine oxidase A is involved in the breakdown of the neurotransmitters serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Signals transmitted by serotonin regulate mood, emotion, sleep, and appetite. Epinephrine and norepinephrine control the body's response to stress. Dopamine transmits signals within the brain to produce smooth physical movements.” The genetic makeup Bundy was born with shows that Bundy does not process emotions like an average person. Many people have genetic makeup similar to Bundy’s. The difference between Bundy and most others is the childhood he had.

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The Impact of Family Secrets and Distrust

Ted Bundy was born into a family that lied to him. His mother, Eleanor Louis Cowell, gave birth to Ted Bundy at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. The father was not in the picture. To avoid embarrassment, his grandparents Samuel and Eleanour Cowell took them both in. Bundy was told his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his sister. The reveal of Bundy’s parents actually being his grandparents caused young Ted Bundy to not trust the people around him. When his mother and Ted moved out, his mother eventually married a man named Johnnie Bundy. His mother and Johnnie had four children. The four children got more attention compared to Bundy causing him to miss his parents/grandparents even more.

The Dual Identity of Ted Bundy

This distrust led to Bundy isolating himself; leading him to dream of one day making his reality better than it currently was. Bundy committed petty crimes like shoplifting, peeping into windows, and breaking into cars. However, during the petty crime spree, Ted was succeeding. His grades were good, he was popular with other students and often seen as charismatic and handsome. The two sides of his identity led Bundy to susceptible to the duality of his self-perception as well as the perception others had of him. The divide between his double life is what made him become a serial killer feel like second nature to him. Bundy could commit any crime he wanted and get away with it due to his status and charm. Ted Bundy seemed to know how to play a part. Katherine Ramsland writes in The Forensic Examiner ( Vol. 22, Issue 3) how Ted Bundy would play the victim to his lawyer Polly Nelson felt when they first met for disputing the case against Bundy. “ In a book about Bundy's death penalty appeals, defense attorney Polly Nelson recalled that he sounded insecure when Bundy first called her. She felt immediately protective. Mentally, she assigned him a role that came with expectations of gratitude and humility, so he startled her with his many self-centered demands.

Manipulation and Self-Deception

When Nelson finally met Bundy, he looked 'dark, wary, and wild.' Despite his dull skin, his blue eyes were 'fully alive.' He seemed to want to appear suave and knowledgeable but mostly stuttered and stammered. She was surprised that he admitted he'd found his law classes incomprehensible. Bundy softened Only in rare moments, such as when he bashfully displayed pictures of his young daughter: 'His eyes weren't as loud with subtext as they usually were.'

As they talked, Nelson searched for a sign that she, a smart woman, would have spotted Bundy, the killer. 'But I saw nothing ... This dangerous man was not detectable by sight or sound. But not for the reasons people usually suggest. It was not because Ted exuded charm--he was too obviously disingenuous to be truly charming. It was not because Ted was such a 'diabolical genius' that he could fool you believe me, he was not that smart. The real reason you could look at Ted Bundy straight in the face--even with full knowledge of what he had done--and not see a single sign of his guilt was that he truly believed he was not guilty.' Ted Bundy would lie to himself often making what he said the truth in his mind ; which technically he was not lying, so signs of lying would be less noticeable to him. Many people would show guilt due to the lies they are telling ;but since Ted Bundy had the genetic makeup that caused him to process emotion differently and the presence of emotional trauma, he was used to lying to himself about his reality.

Bundy’s Courtroom Antics and Blame on Pornography

Ted Bundy was so full of himself that he wanted to represent himself in court even though his time in law school was not a successful time. As Victor H. Kramer writes in the Constitutional Commentary about Bundy seeming to want to represent himself in court, to only talk around in circles instead contributing anything of use “Trying to Determine Why Bundy Became a Sadistic Woman Killer.(12) To this reviewer the most interesting part of the book is that part which recites the efforts by both Bundy himself, his lawyers (particularly the author), and psychoanalysts to find out why he did the terrible things he did. To understand it, the reader should be aware that though Bundy's judgment was bad when seeking to act as his own lawyer, he was relatively well educated, though he did flunk out of law school twice.(13) Nevertheless, his language skills were impressive and when dressed in a suit and tie, he looked like he could be an associate or young partner in a law firm.(14) But the author emphasizes that Bundy's judgment was atrocious and he 'never contributed anything of use to his case.'(15)

Bundy apparently was eager to participate in efforts to 'psych' him because it might result in keeping him alive longer and it gave him a chance to bolster his ego and at least gave the appearance of doing something worthwhile during his last days. The book contains a verbatim account of his last conversation with a psychiatrist several hours before he was electrocuted. Bundy expressed difficulty in explaining or understanding what changed him from the appearance and action of a normal person to a mad dog torturer and killer of young women. Then he lamented, in describing his Chi Omega murders, 'I'd never bitten anyone before.'(16) The one point, however, that he said he was sure of was that pornographic movies or pictures stimulated his urge to injure and kill women. During his long, 11th-hour death row conversation with the psychiatrist he said: . . . I know that if the police had . . . let me get drunk . . . and showed me some really hard-core pornography, I could have talked to them in that voice [the voice of a serial killer-torturer while preparing to and committing his crimes] . . . (17) Bundy was puzzled that 'the vast majority of people can view the kind of so-called pornography I've been talking about and not be moved this way. Why?'(18)

Ms. Nelson stresses that Bundy was 'sincere' in his conviction that adult pornography was the trigger--or at least a trigger. She wrote: He had tried to encourage the FBI to stake out adult movie houses and follow the patrons as they left. He was certain . . . that the men who preyed on women were there.(19)”

In the last few days of his life Bundy would often talk about his addiction to pornography, he would often scapegoat pornography for his homicidal rages and serial rapes. Bundy felt that doing the acts in the pornography would feel better than just reading or watching the acts. Bundy even says that many of the men he met in prison wanted to commit the same violent acts he did and was also deeply interested in pornography as well. AL Goldstein writes in the New York Times (circa 1989) about how Ted Bundy would manipulate guilt away from himself to blame not only pornography but society as a whole for expressing such acts of violence and pornography. “There is still the very overbearing image of Ted Bundy himself testifying to the porn -violence connection ''in the shadow of the electric chair,'' as commentator Maury Povich stated. (The Bundy interview was broadcast, in best tabloid-TV style, on Mr. Povich's show, ''A Current Affair.'') James Dobson is a psychologist and sophisticated enough to know the logical fallacy he is promoting: Ted Bundy used porn , Ted Bundy kills women, therefore all porn -users kill women.

And that is why Ted Bundy chose Mr. Dobson over all journalists clamoring for a interview. Mr. Dobson offered him a way out. Porn made me do it. In the many chronicles of Mr. Bundy's life, the word ''manipulative'' comes up again and again. In his last interview, Mr. Bundy tried to manipulate guilt away from himself and onto society as a whole.” Ted Bundy never seemed to take full responsibility by blaming pornography but James Dorban used his admission of guilt of the crimes Bundy committed to express that pornography is bad. The self-manipulation of Bundy really helped James Dorban express his values in the most extreme way he could think of.

The Role of Trauma and Genetic Deficiency

Ted Bundy did not start off as someone who manipulates the people around him. Although his genetic makeup causes Bundy to process emotion different, it was the trauma of his early family dynamic that caused Bundy to not trust the people around him. The deficiency of the MAOA gene alone does not cause Ted Bundy or anyone else with that deficiency to become a serial killer. The emotional trauma of not knowing if he could trust his “parental figures” that caused Ted Bundy to make those horrific choices.

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Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer: Ted Bundy. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
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