On the morning of January 24, 1989—twenty-five years ago this month—serial sex killer Ted Bundy was strapped into “Old Sparky,” the electric chair in the Florida State Prison’s execution chamber. In a cow pasture across from the prison’s entrance, hundreds of people, mostly young college males, chanted “Burn, Bundy Burn” and banged on frying pans as Ted was fitted with a black leather hood and copper-lined skullcap. At 7:06, Bundy’s anonymous executioner pushed a button that sent 2,000 volts of electricity through the handsome, onetime law student’s body.
He tensed against the straps. A puff of smoke rose from his leg. Then it was over. A doctor came forward, removed the hood, shined a light into Bundy’s half-open, unseeing eyes, and declared him dead. A nearly 20 year saga of coast-to-coast murder, mayhem and heartbreak finally was brought to a close.
Bundy confessed to several murders on the eve of his execution. “I think he was born to kill,” said one shaken investigator after meeting with Ted. “He was just totally consumed with murder.”
But even on his execution’s 25th anniversary troubling questions remain about Bundy and his career. Most basic among them is why did this well-spoken young man with bright prospects in politics choose to go “another way” as one of his judges put? What made him so successful? And how many girls and young women in fact did he murder and mutilate?
Stephen G. Michaud and co-author Hugh Aynesworth wrote the two definitive books on Bundy, THE ONLY LIVING WITNESS and CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER, both based on extensive investigation and months of face-to-face interviews with Bundy at the prison. They coaxed from the killer an extensive self-analysis, carefully couched in the third-person, plus reconstructions of the crimes and what was happening in the killer’s head as the “entity,” as he called it, directed him.
“He should have recognized,” Bundy said in one memorable moment, “that what really fascinated him was the hunt, the adventure of searching out his victims, and, to a degree, possessing them physically, as one would possess a potted plant, a painting or a Porsche. Owning, as it were, this individual.”