Serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile Ted Bundy killed many young women and girls during the 1970s. Before he was executed, after spending a decade of denying his crimes, he confessed to 30 homicides which he committed between 1974 and 1978. His actual victim count remains unknown.
So what happened to this charismatic, handsome young man that turned him into one of the most feared serial killers of all time? Here we look back at the early years of Ted Bundy…
Bundy: The Early Years
Founded in 1890 as a home for unmarried pregnant women, Lund Family Center in Burlington, Vermont is still a vital resource for struggling families and societies most vulnerable. During those years, Lund Home was a necessary shelter for young women who needed to give birth quietly without losing their social standing.
That is the environment into which Theodore Robert Cowell was born on November 24, 1946. His mother, Louise, was just a teenager when he was born and his father is unknown to this day. However, theories of his paternity range from a sailor on leave to his own grandfather.
Ted spent the first three months of his life alone in the maternity home, over four-hundred miles from his mother. After giving birth, his mother returned to her family home in Philadelphia and Bundy was raised by nurses and other caregivers at the Lund Home. It has been suggested by members of his family, that his mother never intended to go back for him, leaving the child to be put up for adoption. However, it was insisted she bring him back to her family’s home.
Friends and neighbors alike agreed that he was a handsome child with dark blue eyes and curly brown hair. Ted’s grandparents took on the outward role of father and mother in the boy’s life- although almost everyone knew he was their eldest daughter’s son.
Still living in her parents’ home after high school, Louise took on the role of his sister. She did her best to help care for Ted; taking him to the local Methodist church and made sure he was in bed on time. She tried to bond with him, yet there was always a distance between them. Instead, Ted clung to his grandfather and revered him, despite the older man’s disturbing behavior towards the rest of his family.
A terrifying man with an abusive personality, Sam Cowell was feared both within his home and throughout his Philadelphia neighborhood. Stories were told of the Cowell head of household swinging stray cats by their tails, kicking neighborhood dogs, and brutally tormenting his family. His youngest daughter of three, Julia, referred to him as a “tyrant.” He was often found shouting at no one in particular, leading some people to wonder if he was mentally ill.
Still, little Ted was said to have worshiped his grandfather. It was during these early years that his Aunt Julia, his mother’s sister, began noticing disturbing behavior in her young nephew. She tells a story of waking up from a nap in the Cowell home to find herself surrounded by kitchen knives and three-year-old Ted smiling at her nearby.
Luckily, by the time he was four, his mother was able to move in with family in Tacoma, Washington to escape her father’s abuse. In doing so, she must have thought she was removing her child from the chaos and dysfunction of the Cowell household, but it seems the damage was already done. In his grandfather, Ted had found a role model.
Discovering His Illegitimacy
Growing up in Tacoma was disappointing to Ted. He and his mother initially lived in the home of his very successful great-uncle, Jack. Jack was a mentor to the young boy and had the kind of wealth Ted wanted his family to have. Uncle Jack was able to send his own children away to overseas boarding schools. Ted began to resent his wealthy cousins, especially after Louise met and married a middle-class worker named Johnny Bundy.
Ted’s illegitimacy became a big deal when he hit his teen years. Taunted by his cousin John Cowell about being a “bastard,” Ted was devastated to learn his mother wasn’t married when he was born. He distanced himself even more once he realized she hadn’t told him about his true parentage. His mother was his first disappointment in life and he was never able to get away from both needing her and being repelled by her.
Ted had it all; clothes, a home, and dinner every night, but what he really craved was a deep conversation and answers about his real dad.
Becoming A Predator