24th July 2019
Whenever we hear the word “monster”, the very first thing that comes into our mind are images or werewolves, vampires, zombies, or even clowns luring kids into storm drains. These monsters can be as real as every child’s boogeyman. But should we be scared of monsters that only exists in movies and literature or should we rather be concerned with real-life monsters that are very much alive, disguised and poses a real threat.
Serial killers. The truest monster in every sense of the word. They aren’t just any type of monster. They are classified into a specific genre because of the notoriety of their MO (modus operandi). Some of them functions very well in the society, some may be socially withdrawn, others may be academic achievers and others are even public figures. There is not one defining character or trait that can identify someone as a serial killer, but surely there are signs to look out for in people which we can use to determine the possibility of them being one.
Theodore Robert Bundy (November 24, 1946–January 24, 1989). One of the most prolific serial killer in the United States; captured in 1975, tried in 1976 for kidnapping, which later led to trial for more than 30 counts of rape and murder of women from different states. In January 1989, he was sentenced to be executed, and later confessed to killing at least 100 women during his active years (Montaldo, C. 2019).
In his work Monster Culture (Seven Theses), Cohen presented through Theses II that “Monsters must be examined within the intricate matrix of relations (social, cultural, and literary-historical) that generate them” (Cohen, J.J, 1996). The becoming of a monster is not something you just easily attribute to thin air. It is empirical that we examine some facts about Bundy’s childhood to fully understand how he became the most notorious killer in US history. Ted Bundy grew up without really knowing his father. He grew up believing that his mother, Eleanor “Louise” Cowell, was his sister, and that his grandparents were his real parents. There were speculations about his grandfather being his biological father, making him a by-product of incest, though this rumor wasn’t scientifically proven thru DNA testing. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, with his grandfather being abusive and oftentimes hostile, Bundy was perceived by many as a shy and timid boy with lack of social skills. Later in his teenage years, growing up not being able to socialize a lot with other teenagers, it would then be reported that young Bundy was caught peeping into ladies’ windows. During the later part of his incarceration where he had interviews with experts, Bundy claimed that he had a fondness to pornography as a child and later on influenced him in his series of rape and murder activities. Looking into the facts, we can say that Bundy surely had a perverted childhood. And yet we have to ask whether these factors really played a major role in his evolution to evil.
Despite his aberrant childhood, Ted Bundy grew up to be a self-made man. He developed a totally different persona. He worked his looks and excelled in academics, and through time also enhanced his social skills. He was even involved in romantic relationships when he was in university. He studied psychology, law and has worked on campaigns for then Washington Republican Dan Evans. However, as progressive as his adulthood may seem, troubled Bundy did not fully develop until his adolescent years. It was around that time in 1969, that he discovered the truth about his parentage. Shortly thereafter, he underwent a relationship crisis with his then girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall. All of these happened momentarily before his first killings began, reason why it was presumed that the pile-up of successive setbacks in his personal life triggered the monster in him that was only waiting to be unleashed.
Bundy’s personality speaks that of intricacy and complexity. From a child with an unhealthy childhood, to a man with a potential for success, it is very difficult to understand why and how he chose to create a monster of himself. As Cohen explained in his Thesis III: The Monster is a Harbinger of Category Crisis on Monster Culture, the dangers of monsters are not in its ability to harm but in our incapability of understanding their nature. The complexity of their personal structure requires a different level of understanding, approach and perception other than what we are accustomed to. “For by refusing an easy compartmentalization of their monstrous contents, they demand a radical rethinking of boundary and normality” (Cohen, J.J. 1996). This is especially true for Bundy since, while he was incarcerated, many experts attempted to delve into his monstrous interior to possibly understand his development as a serial killer. However, there was never a precise diagnosis, only that majority of the evidence led him towards Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Not one of the best people in their fields who have dealt with Bundy could explain his Daedalian nature.
In aiming to understand the evolution of the serial killer in Bundy, it will be easy to look into the flaws in his life that could have easily become the trigger factor. Most people looking into Bundy’s life story, would readily attribute his actions to his unfortunate childhood. However, a lot of people grew up like Bundy, or even worse, and still didn’t end up becoming a serial killer. There are also documented serial killers who grew up with loving families, had everything they want in life, but still opt to do evil. There may be an undeniable correlation between the social upbringing of a person and how they will be in their adult life, but it does not necessarily follow that an unstable childhood will by default produce a troubled adult. However, in Bundy’s case, he may not have chosen at birth to be a psychopath but his childhood exploit surely played a significant part. During those times that he was plagued with unfortunate events as a kid, Bundy may could have possibly fabricated a fantasy as a means of escaping his real world. Since he lived a lonely and complicated childhood where he felt he did not fit in, young Bundy sought for ways to satisfy his loneliness (Dimitropoulos, S. 2018). This holds true for Cohens’s idea depicting monsters as an alter ego and projection of one’s self. “The monster awakens one to the pleasure of the body, to the simple and fleeting joys of being frightened or frightening” (Cohen, J.J 1996). This would explain why most experts would agree that Bundy was dealing with a similar case of multiple personality disorder accounting witness recollections of him being another version of himself in separate instances. Bundy wants us to believe what we want to believe regarding his personality. But he is the master of himself and he wear his mask so well it is hard to tell one personality from the other. In totality, Bundy’s life as a serial killer, as a monster, was his own choice. It was not his mother’s nor his grandfather’s fault why he killed innocent women. It was not the fault of his ex-girlfriend who broke her heart, and definitely not the fault of the women who trusted him. “He killed for the sheer thrill of the act and the challenge of escaping his pursuers” (Moyer, J. 2015). Those unimaginable actions were his own, his craft, his own way out.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press. 1996
Monsters are complex creatures to understand. The book will outline theories in relation to the study of monsters and approaches the understanding of the monster nature in different constructs. This literature takes on the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and Beowulf and attempt to dissect the reason behind their monstrosity. It is discussed how the intricacy of these creatures makes them more dangerous. The integration of monster in society attracts fear but at the same time its mysterious effect becomes appealing to people. We adapt and believe in creatures that we don’t even know is true but has not really look into the context of how these creatures came to be and the circumstances that surrounds their creation. It is an effective literature that gives the readers the pull into the mystery world at the same time giving them a realization that would lead them to believe that monsters do really exist.
Dimitropoulos, Stav. “Ted Bundy’s Childhood: Lonely Boy to Window Peeper to Serial Killer.” 16 April 2018, Real Crime, Retrieved from https://www.aetv.com/real-crime/ted-bundy-childhood-turned-into-serial-killer
This is a documented conversation with Psychologist Al Carlisle, who was only one of the few experts who tried and unravel the mind of Theodore Bundy. It mainly focuses on his childhood years and how his loneliness, his reclusion from the social world influenced his life as an adult. After multiple theories as to how Bundy turned into a killer, this interaction with Carlisle emphasizes on the highlights of his childhood including him being addicted to pornography. Carlisle also debunked some theories circling Bundy’s story specifically mentioning that it was all along Bundy’s choice to become a serial killer. Several articles and scholarly works on Bundy never fails to mention and include his childhood since it is, after all, considered as our formative years. Despite the argument that Bundy would have been a killer either way he was brought up, his story will never be completed without looking into the possibility of his corrupt childhood being the main contributor.
Montaldo, Charles. “Biography of Ted Bundy, Serial Killer.” 23 May 2019, Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/profile-of-serial-killer-ted-bundy-973178
Montaldo, as a writer and a former licensed private detective, provides the basic information about Theodore “Ted” Bundy who was once the most notorious serial killer in the United States. He outlined the important events in Bundy’s life starting from when he was a kid in a dysfunctional family, up until his arrest, trial and execution. He established that Bundy was a functional adult regardless of his unfortunate childhood and presented some of the incidents in his life that may have contributed to his becoming of a serial killer. In the accounts of people who have worked on Bundy’s story, we always find details of him being, at some point in his life, a good person. This work gave us the idea that Bundy was not necessarily evil in the onset of his existence. Montaldo’s outlined work help us look easier into the transition of Bundy’s life to becoming a serial killer.
Moyer, Justin Wm. “The twisted friendship of crime writer Ann Rule and serial killer Ted Bundy.” 28 July 2015. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/28/crime-writer-ann-rule-and-killer-ted-bundy-were-friends-before-they-were-famous/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0db5c5dc313b
This article narrates briefly the life of Anne Rule as a writer, towards the presentation of the relationship that formed between her and Ted Bund. In her hopes of producing a phenomenal work on Bundy, Rule would frequent the prison to visit Bundy for interviews. It was established that the frequent visit formed a bond between the two that enable the writer to write best-selling works about Bundy. Rule confessed that although a serial killer, he instantly liked Ted the first moment she saw her. Even inside bars, Bundy’s personality still exudes charisma. It was known that he had a thing about women liking him and Anne Rule was no exception. It would seem that the intention of approaching Bundy for literary reasons blossomed into an unlikely personal connection between them, which have made it easier for Anne Rule to write about a person whose complicated nature she relatively understands.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press. 1996
Dimitropoulos, Stav. Ted Bundy’s Childhood: Lonely Boy to Window Peeper to Serial Killer. 16 April 2018, https://www.aetv.com/real-crime/ted-bundy-childhood-turned-into-serial-killer
Montaldo, Charles. Biography of Ted Bundy, Serial Killer. 23 May 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/profile-of-serial-killer-ted-bundy-973178
Moyer, Justin Wm. The twisted friendship of crime writer Ann Rule and serial killer Ted Bundy. 28 July 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/28/crime-writer-ann-rule-and-killer-ted-bundy-were-friends-before-they-were-famous/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0db5c5dc313b
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