Bundy is known as one of the most infamous serial killers in America, having murdered at least 30 women and escaping from his jail sentences twice.
Ted Bundy lived in Philadelphia until he was 3 years old, before his mother Louise Cowell moved him to Tacoma, Washington with her. He grew up in Tacoma before moving slightly up north to attend the University of Washington (UW) in 1965 when he was 19 years old.
Who was Ted Bundy? What led him to became such a notorious and monstrous criminal? Take a deep dive into his early childhood, which wasn’t the “perfect” picture he claimed it was.
Troubled From The Start
Bundy was born on November 24, 1946, in Burlington Vermont. His mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell, was 22 years old at the time.
Bundy’s father was never confirmed. The name on his birth certificate is highly debated, some saying it’s assigned to a salesman, others saying it states ‘Unknown’, and Louise asserts that it was a war veteran.
There is some speculation that the father was actually Louise’s father, Samuel Cowell, although there is no concrete evidence.
From the beginning, Bundy was the hidden shame of his mother, as he was considered an “illegitimate” child due to the confusion surrounding his birth father and her unwed status. This later caused him to resent his mother, as he felt unloved and unwanted.
At 3 years old, Bundy and his mother moved over to Philadelphia where her parents lived.
It is believed that she made the move for the purpose of escaping any stigma that came from having a child out of wedlock, as this was quite a scandalous idea at the time.
She ultimately gave up Ted to her parents, and he grew up thinking that his birth mother was really his sister, and that his parents were his grandparents.
Volatile Home Environment
Growing up in Philadelphia, Bundy experienced a highly unstable home life. His grandparents were reportedly suffering from several mental health problems, and his grandfather Samuel had a vicious temper.
Dr Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a psychiatrist who analyzed Ted before his eventual execution, said that Samuel was an “extremely violent and frightening individual.”
She reported that he would grab cats by their tails and swing them around, kick their dogs, and attack people. He was also known as a bigot, often raging about his hatred for certain Religions and people of minority.
Moving To Tacoma
Bundy turned 5 and Louise decided to move to Tacoma, Washington, to live with her extended relatives. A probable reason for this second move would have been the constant abuse they both experienced at the hands of Samuel Cowell.
Louise met and fell in love with a man named Johnnie Culpepper Bundy, and they married in 1951. They had four children together, and Johnnie ended up adopting Ted not long after.
While Johnnie was a tender man who was keen on bonding with his newly adopted son, Ted had other ideas. He wasn’t a big fan of his stepfather, and became quite an introvert excluding himself from his new family.
Sandi Holt, a previous neighbor and childhood friend that lived nearby to the family in Tacoma, later opened up on Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes on the terrors of Bundy’s actions.
She said that he “just didn’t fit in,” continuing, “he had a horrible speech impediment, so he was teased a lot. He had a temper. He liked to scare people.”
Ted Bundy ended up confessing to abducting, raping, and killing an estimated 30 or more women. In 1989, he was sentenced to death by electric chair, and executed for his crimes.
A 2019 Netflix film was released based on his life and crimes, starring Zac Efron, called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.