The Only Living Witness - excerpt from Chapter Five

Copyright (c)1983 Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth
Used by permission


The Only Living Witness -- front cover

Ted began his story with a preamble of operatic sweep. Much of what he had to say at the start was sociological twaddle, comments on the dissolution of society and the fracturing of the nuclear family, or historical ruminations. It was a picture of the world as he saw it; confusing, threatening, verging toward anomie. The other important ingredient, said Ted, was a flaw, a congenital predisposition, that was exploited and teased into expressing itself by his environment. Bundy wasn't entirely blaming the world for shaping who he became, but he obviously saw himself as an illegitimate child of his times.

His first substantive remarks were on the roles of sex and violence in the pathology's development. "This condition," he explained, "is not immediately seen by the individual or identified as a serious problem. It sort of manifests itself in an interest concerning sexual behavior, sexual images. It might simply be an attraction such as Playboy, or a host of other normal, healthy sexual stimuli that are found in the environment. But this interest, for some unknown reason, becomes geared towards matters of a sexual nature that involve violence. I cannot emphasize enough the gradual development of this. It is not short-term."

He told me that long before the overpowering need to kill there were juvenile fantasies fed by photos of women in skin magazines, ads for suntan products, or jiggly starlets on TV talk shows. He was transfixed by the sight of women's bodies on provocative display. Ted told me, too, of the protokiller watching X-rayed movies and searching out the more violent police dramas on television. Bundy said "this person" would carry home some pornographic book, read it, then shred it in anger, self-disgust and fear of discovery.

Crime stories fascinated him. He read pulp detective magazines, and gradually developed a store of knowledge about criminal techniques -- what worked and what didn't. However, that self-school was secondary to the central thrill of reading about the abuse of females. Nevertheless, Ted was training himself.

"Maybe he focused on pornography as a vicarious way of experiencing what his peers were experiencing in reality," Ted opined, trying to sound reflective. "Then he got sucked into the more sinister doctrines that are implicit in pornography -- the use, the abuse the possession of women as objects."

The peers Ted mentioned obviously were the high school boys he had talked of several weeks before, whose lewd and sexually explicit conversations had so confused him. Now, Bundy seemed indifferent to the overt parallel between what he'd told me in the first person and what he was revealing to me now.

Bundy explained that "he was not imagining himself actively doing these things, but he found gratification in reading about others so engaged. Eventually, the interest would become so demanding for new material that it could only be catered to by what he could find in the so-called dirty book stores.

"In a pornography shop," he said, "you can find a variety of perversions. Anyone who walks into one of these places is not just interested in a Great Dane humping someone or two men engaged in sexual activity. It is just not the way it works.

Clearly Ted was personally familiar with dirty book stores.

"But it does offer variety, and a certain percentage of it is devoted toward literature that explores situations where a man, in the context of a sexual encounter, in one way or another engages in some sort of violence toward a woman, or the victim. There are, of course, a whole host of subsituations that could come under that particular heading. Your girlfriend, your wife, a stranger, children --whatever -- a whole host of victims is found in this kind of literature. And in this kind of literature, they are treated as victims."

After three days, the first and most important link between us had been forged. Ted was no longer dodging me; he now was going to lead me back along his path to serial murder. He was comfortable behind his veil of fiction. To him, what he'd said already and what he'd soon tell me was not a confession. It couldn't stand the test of admissibility in court, and thus it was outside his definition of guilt. In truth, he was telling me nothing concrete enough to implicate him directly in anything. Yet the narration was to be too seamless, the descriptions too detailed and consistent, for this to be anything but the truth. The hunchback had begun to emerge.

I was anything but comfortable. As the spring of 1980 wore on, Ted and I were locked together in that stuffy yellow room. He showed very little recognizable emotion and often paid little attention to me -- for which I was grateful.

Sometimes I'd busy myself with note taking, simply to avoid having to meet his gaze. This was pure theater; every word was pouring into the tape recorder.

As Ted told it, the preoccupation with sex and violence gave rise to crude fantasies in which "this person" first began considering himself an actor, not just a member of the audience. This period, I guessed, would have been around 1966 or '67, about the time he first met Marjorie Russell. The next stage was about to commence.

"He was walking down the street one evening and just totally by chance looked up into the window of a house and saw a woman undressing," Ted told me. "He began with increasing regularity to canvass, as it were, the community he lived in. He peeped in windows and watched women undress or whatever could be seen during the evening. He approached it almost like a project, throwing himself into it, literally for years.

"Still, these occasions when he travel about the neighborhood and search out candidates, places where he could see the things he wanted to see, were dictated by the demands of his normal life. So he wouldn't break a date, or postpone an important event, or rearrange his life in any significant way to accommodate his indulgence in this voyeuristic behavior.

"He gained, at times, a great amount of gratification from it. And became increasingly adept at it, as anyone becomes adept at anything they do over and over and over again."

Voyeurism, Ted explained, helped to satisfy the sick fantasies while keeping the woman -- the object -- at a safe remove. So far, everything was occurring in his head. But the "disordered self" then began to demand more active stimulation, something stronger, more real. The need to act was coming over him.

This heightened urgency led to clumsy experiments, he said. He disabled women's cars by pulling the rotor device out of their motors' distributors. Later, he tried deflating their tires. Such stratagems were doomed in a university district where there always seemed to be plenty of guys around to help a woman with car trouble. He needed to get a woman alone.

"There's not a really strong desire to do this," Bundy said. "But it's like toying around with danger almost. It's kind of a game, sort of like, `Let's see how far it goes."'

Alcohol was a potent part of the game, a spur to go hunting, just as it was for shoplifting, a parallel avocation.

"I think you could make a little more sense out of much of this if you take into account the effect of alcohol. It's important. It's very important as a trigger. When this person drank a good deal, his inhibitions were significantly diminished. He would find that his urge to engage in voyeuristic behavior, or trips to the bookstore, would become more prevalent, more urgent. It was as though the dominant personality was sedated. On every occasion he engaged in such behavior, he was intoxicated."

The "dominant personality" was Ted's term for his public self, the upright law-abider. But the "entity" had the floor right now. I could feel Bundy's malignant aura. His eyes darkened, and his voice hardened. The constant din all around us seemed to grow distant and muffled. Ted had my undivided attention.

"On one particular evening," he said, `when he had been drinking a great deal, he was passing a bar where he saw a woman leave and walk up a fairly dark side street. Something seemed to seize him. The urge to do something to that person seized him in a way that he had never been affected before. And it seized him strongly. Without a great deal of thought, he searched around for some instrumentality to attack this woman with. He found a piece of two-by-four in a lot and proceeded to follow and track this girl for several blocks. There was really no control at this point.

The situation was novel because while he may have toyed around with fantasies before, and made several abortive attempts to act out a fantasy, it never before had reached the point where actually he was confronted with harming another individual."

Ted was caught up in his narrative, totally heedless of me and the guards who hovered around the interview room.

"So he'd gotten ahead of his quarry, this girl," Bundy continued, "and was laying in wait for her. But before she reached the point where he was concealed, she turned and went into her house.

The revelation of the experience and the frenzied desire that seized him really seemed to usher in a new dimension to that part of him that was obsessed with violence and women and sexual activity -- a composite kind of thing, not terribly well defined but more well defined as time went on. This particular incident spurred him on succeeding evenings to hunt this neighborhood, searching.

"He had, in the months and years previous to this, frequently passed women in alleys, women in dark streets, women alone on any number of occasions when he was making his rounds and looking in windows. But it never occurred to him --ever, at any point -- to use this as an opportunity to do anything. It just never occurred to him. For some reason, the sight of that woman under those circumstances on that evening and in the condition he was in sort of signaled a breakthrough. The breaking of the tension. Making a hole in the dam.

"On succeeding evenings, he began to scurry around that same neighborhood, obsessed with the image he had seen. On one particular occasion, he saw a woman park her car and walk up to her door and fumble for her keys. He walked up behind her and struck her with a piece of wood he was carrying. She fell down and began screaming. He panicked and ran.

"What he had done terrified him, purely terrified him. Full of remorse and remonstrating with himself for the suicidal nature of that activity, the ugliness of it all, he quickly sobered up. He was horrified by the recognition that he had the capacity to do such a thing., He was fearful, terribly fearful, that for some reason or another he might be apprehended.

"The effect was for some time to close up the cracks again. For the first time, he sat back and swore to himself that he wouldn't do something like that again, or even anything that would lead to it. He did everything he should have done. He didn't go out at night, and when he was drinking he stayed around friends. For a period of months, the enormity of what he did stuck with him. He watched his behavior, and reinforced the desire to overcome what he had begun to perceive were some problems that were probably more severe than he would have liked to believe they were.

Ted made no mention of remorse for what his victim had suffered. He felt nothing for his prey.

"It was the deceptive fashion, you might say, in which that psychopathology withdrew into this dormant stage that led the individual to the erroneous belief that he had got it out of himself, and this wasn't going to happen again."

Ted turned in his chair and cocked his head to the side. Sweat stood out on his temples, and soaked through the front of his T-shirt. He began again.

"But slowly, the pressures, tensions, dissatisfactions which, in the very early stages, fueled this thing, had an effect. Gradually, it would re-emerge. This individual would say, `Well, just one trip to the bookstore. Just once around the neighborhood.' It did this kind of thing. Then, gradually, it would become more and more demanding, as it were.

"However, as he slipped back into his old routine, something did stick with him. That was the incredible danger of allowing himself to fall into spontaneous, unplanned acts of violence. It took six months or so until he was back thinking of alternative means of engaging in similar activity, but not something that would likely result in apprehension or failure of one sort or another.

"Then on another night he saw a woman walking home. He followed her and looked in the window and watched her get ready for bed. He did this on several occasions, for this was a regular kind of thing. Eventually, he created a plan where he would attack her.

Early one morning, he sneaked in through a door he knew would be open and entered the bedroom. Implementing a plan based somewhat on fantasy, based on anything but personal experience, he jumped on the woman's bed and attempted to restrain her. All he succeeded doing was waking her up and causing her to panic and scream. He left very rapidly.

"Then he was seized with the same kind of disgust and repulsion and fear and wonder at why he was allowing himself to attempt such extraordinary violence. But the significance of this particular occasion was that while he stayed off the streets and vowed he'd never do it again, and recognized the horror of what he had done, and certainly was frightened by what he saw happening, it took him only three months to get over it. In the next incident, he was over it in a month.

"What happened was this entity inside him was not capable of being controlled any longer," Ted went on, "at least not for any considerable period of time. It began to try to justify itself, to create rationalizations for what it was doing. One element that came into play was anger, hostility. But I don't think that was an overriding emotion when he would go out hunting. On most occasions, it was a high degree of anticipation, of excitement, or arousal. It was an adventuristic kind of thing.

"The fantasy is always more stimulating than the aftermath of the crime itself. He should have recognized 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."