3 – Ted Bundy
One of the characteristics of serial killers is that they spread their crimes out over a long period of time: the definition of a serial killer – according to convention, as there is not one single definition in use – is a person who kills more than three people with those murders taking place over a period of more than a month with breaks in between. It is this distinction of time that sets serial killers apart from mass murders, who kill lots of people in one place at the same time, and spree killers, who kill people in one single event spread across a wider geographic area. Of course, there are crossovers: the Beltway Sniper attacks of 2002 could well be considered to be all three, as multiple people were killed in one location, as in a mass murder, before another incident on the same day, like a spree killer, with attacks spread over three weeks, in the style of a serial killer.
Another feature that defines what turns a murderer into a serial killer is their psychological profile, which often leans towards a feeling of gratification – often sexual – from killing. Serial killers are often outwardly normal, even successful, and give little to no indication in their day-to-day lives that they are at all dangerous or depraved. Few men – and it is almost always men – fit the archetype of a serial killer in terms of length of time active and appearance of public normality, while concealing total depravity, quite as well as Ted Bundy.
Bundy killed at least 30 women between 1974 and 1975, before being caught and jailed in 1976, escaping in 1977 and then striking again in 1978. He would prey on the helpful instincts of his victims, often posing as a man with an arm in a sling to lure his prey to his car, where he would attack them with a blunt object and handcuff them. He would move his victims to secluded areas, generally a long distance from where they were abducted, before stripping them naked and strangling the women to death. Bundy would repeatedly return to the corpses until they decayed or were disturbed by wild animals.
He was a necrophiliac and would dress up the bodies in new clothes, as well as applying makeup and nail polish, before lying with them for hours and taking Polaroid photographs of them. His victims were usually young white women with hair parted in the centre, generally picked up from college campuses. Bundy had been rejected by a girlfriend, Stephanie Brooks, and it has long been speculated that he attacked women who physically resembled her, though Bundy himself denied this.
Despite this depravity, Bundy was able to live almost normally: he was a perfectly regular guy. He began killing in Washington state, where he was attending university, before transferring to Utah and continuing his activities there. He would also attack women in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and California before his conviction in 1976. He escaped in 1977 and was re-captured in 1979. Bundy faced the death penalty and was eventually executed in Florida State Prison on January 24, 1989, his name synonymous with evil.