The Early Years
Theodore Robert Cowell was born on November 24, 1946 to Louise Cowell following her stay of three months at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Vermont. Ted's biological father, who was an Air Force veteran, was unknown to his son throughout his life. Shortly after his birth, Ted and his mother moved back to the home of his grandparents in Philadelphia. While growing up, Ted was led to believe that his grandparents were his parents and his natural mother was his older sister. The charade was created in order to protect his biological mother from harsh criticism and prejudice of being an unwed mother.
At the age of four, Ted and his mother moved to Tacoma, Washington to live with relatives. A year after the move, Louise fell in love with a military cook named Johnnie Culpepper Bundy. In May 1951, the couple was married and Ted assumed his stepfather's last name, which he would keep for the rest of his life.
Over the years, the Bundy family added four other siblings, whom Ted spent much of his time babysitting after school. Ted's stepfather tried to form a bond between himself and Ted by including him in camping trips and other father-son activities. However, Johnnie's attempts were unsuccessful and Ted remained emotionally detached from his stepfather. According to Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth's book Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer, Ted became increasingly uncomfortable around his stepfather and preferred to be alone. This desire to be by himself increased and possibly led to his later inability to socially interact comfortably with others.
As a youth, Ted was terribly shy, self-doubting and uncomfortable in social situations. He was often teased and made the butt of pranks by bullies in his junior high school. Michaud analyzed Ted's behavior and decided that he was "not like other children, he looked and acted like them, but he was haunted by something else: a fear, a doubt — sometimes only a vague uneasiness — that inhabited his mind with the subtlety of a cat. He felt it for years, but he didn't recognize it for what it was until much later." Regardless of the humiliating experiences he sometimes suffered from being different, he was able to maintain a high grade-point average that would continue throughout high school and later into college.
During his high school years, Ted appeared to blossom into a more gregarious young man. His popularity increased significantly and he was considered to be "well dressed and exceptionally well mannered." Despite his emerging popularity, Ted seldom dated. His interests lay more in extra-curricular activities such as skiing and politics. In fact, Ted had a particular fascination with politics, an interest that would years later temporarily land him in the political arena.
Following high school, Ted attended college at the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington. He worked his way through school by taking on several low-level jobs, such as a bus boy and shoe clerk. However, he seldom stayed with one position for very long. His employers considered him to be unreliable.
Although Ted was inconsistent with his work outside of school, he was very focused on his studies and grades. Yet, his focus changed during the spring of 1967 when he began a relationship that would forever change his life.
Ted met a girl that was everything he had ever dreamed of in a woman. She was a beautiful and highly sophisticated woman from a wealthy Californian family. Ted couldn't believe someone from her "class" would have an interest in someone like him. Although they had many differences, they both loved to ski and it was during their many ski trips together that he fell in love. She was really Ted's first love, and, according to Ann Rule, possibly the first woman with whom he became involved with sexually. However, she was not as infatuated with Ted as he was with her. In fact, she liked Ted a lot but believed he had no real direction or future goals. Ted tried too hard to impress her, even if that meant lying, something that she didn't like at all.
Michaud writes that Ted won a summer scholarship to the prestigious Stanford University in California just to impress her, but at Stanford, his immaturity was exposed. He writes, "Ted did not understand why the mask he had been using had failed him. This first tentative foray into the sophisticated world had ended in disaster."
In 1968, after his girlfriend graduated from the University of Washington, she broke off relations with Ted. She was a practical young woman and seemed to realize that Ted had some serious character flaws that took him out of the running as "husband material."
Ted never recovered from the break-up. Nothing, including school, seemed to hold any interest for him and he eventually dropped out, dumb-founded and depressed over the break-up. He managed to stay in touch with her by writing after she returned to California, yet she seemed uninterested in getting back together. But Ted became obsessed with this young woman and he couldn't get her out of his mind. It was an obsession that would span his lifetime and lead to a series of events that would shock the world.