Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Only Living Witness: The True Story Of Ted Bundy

The Story Page 14

Ted's critical challenge from his teen years onward was the perfec­tion and maintenance of a credible public persona, his mask of sanity. Lacking true adult emotions, he had to put on the look of normalcy while inside him the tumult raged unabated.

He underwent a process of mock acculturation, like an alien life form acquiring appropriate behavior through mimicry and artifice. It was painful and confusing to him, each frequent misstep a stab at the child bewildered by his inability to handle the simplest adult rela­tionships. "I didn't know what made things tick," Ted told me. "I didn't know what made people want to be friends. I didn't know what made peo­ple attractive to one another. I didn't know what underlay social interactions."

His happiest moment during his first year of college came when he bought a '58 Volkswagen bug for $400. The little car meant freedom to Ted. He could get in it and drive and be alone whenever he wanted, a reprise of his early boyhood when he and his collie, Lassie, would disappear out into the trees for hours. Ted loved VWs. He would own two in his life; the second one, a light brown '68, eventually would yield evidence of his secret life.

Ted lived at home for his freshman year. "He got along fine, as far as I could tell," his mother remembered. "He got good grades that first year." Louise was not alarmed that her son "never got into the social life of the school at all. He'd come home, study, sleep, and go back to school."

By Ted's account, "my social life was a big zero. I spent a great deal of time with myself. It was a lonely year for me, and it was worse because I didn't have my old neighborhood buddies around." He declined to join a fraternity and can still recall how cowed he felt in the presence of self-assured, hearty fraternity brothers. Al­though he was rushed, he wouldn't join because "I didn't feel socially adept enough. I didn't feel I knew how to function with those people. I felt terribly uncomfortable."

Ted only spoke when spoken to, or in class. He made no new friends. For all intents, he was an invisible man that year. Instinctively, Bundy turned to the classroom as his stage for build­ing an identity. He had found in high school how easy it was to appear scholarly; the ability and willingness to speak up often were enough to set him apart. But freshman survey courses taken in large, impersonal lecture halls offered scant opportunity to be anything but anonymous and small, the way Ted felt most of the time. He was very disappointed.

Then one day he attended an international affairs lecture on main­land China and immediately was struck with the notion that here was an area where people might take notice of him without threatening him. He didn't think about how much work the subject might entail. Ted saw the Chinese language as exotic, glamorous, a bright cloak in which to wrap himself.

The following autumn, he enrolled as a transfer student at the Uni­versity of Washington's first-rate Asian studies program in Seattle. As at UPS, he did not see himself measuring up to Fraternity Row, so Ted took a room in a dorm. But he was right about his new major; it did set him apart from the run of the undergraduate population at the huge university. He threw himself into the arcana of ideograms and earned high grades. He acquired a little restaurant Chinese, learned to use chopsticks, and actually made a few friends.

He had made a start at fabricating the public Ted: scholarly, bright, witty, serious-minded, wholesome, and handsome. He developed an air of cool self-assurance, a look that women could not resist. Ted lured females the way a lifeless silk flower can dupe a honey bee. At least twice in his life, the beguilement would endure. With other females, like his first true girlfriend, the spell eventually shattered.