• Angela Joyce

The Case of Theodore Bundy


The life of Theodore Bundy is examined in this case review. The diagnosis and development of antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) is also examined in this review. This case review discusses the possibility that psychopathy is not a personality disorder, but rather a dissociative disorder. Theodore Bundy’s early childhood experiences are analyzed in this case review. The maturation of his mental illness is also examined. Materials for this case review were acquired from case studies, biographies, interviews, and documented court testimonies.


Theodore Bundy was a serial killer and a psychopath. He was sentenced to death on July 30, 1979, for murder. It is estimated that Theodore Bundy murdered approximately 30 women and children. His true victim count remains unknown. Theodore Bundy denied his guilt in the courtroom. He later confessed his crimes in prison. A compilation of studies, biographies, and interviews have been gathered to examine the life and mental illness of Theodore Bundy. Data analyzed in this report include: One case study, one interview of Theodore Bundy (day before his execution), the testimony of Louise Bundy (his mother) dated July 30, 1979, and one video biography (published by The Biography Channel; Ted Bundy Documentary). Theodore Bundy kidnapped, raped, and killed his victims. Many of these acts took place between 1974-1978. In his final interview, he stated that violent pornography was to blame for his violent criminal activity and his severe mental illness.

Theodore Bundy was born out of wedlock on November 24, 1946. His mother was 22 years old at the time of his birth. He never met his biological father. Theodore Bundy spent the first four years of his life living with his mother and her parents. His mother lied to him and made him believe that she was his sister. Theodore Bundy grew up believing that his grandparents were his parents. His grandmother suffered from depression. His grandfather has been accused of domestic violence, animal violence, racism, and sexual assault. Theodore Bundy identified with his grandfather (his father) at a very young age. He admired him and viewed him as a positive male role model. It is my belief that identifying with a violent, aggressive role model at a such young age is, in part, what influenced Theodore Bundy to commit such violent and aggressive crimes.

Louise and Theodore Bundy left the residence of his grandparents when he was four years old. They moved to a different state to live with Louise’s cousin and his family. The reason why they left remains unclear. It is rumored they left because of aggressive, violent behavior displayed by Theodore Bundy’s grandfather. In her testimony, Louise Bundy framed this move as a wonderful opportunity. I believe her statement, combined with her decision to lie to Bundy about her identity as his mother, should be analyzed further. In Theodore Bundy’s final interview, he uses the term “leave it to beaver family” while describing his family. My observation is that Theodore Bundy learned from his family to lie about undesirable circumstances to make them appear more pleasant. I believe this is, in part, is what led to the manifestation of his double life. Theodore Bundy also mentions the need to compartmentalize his life in his final interview.

Theodore Bundy did not want to leave his grandfather at the age of four. He resented his mother for taking him away from his grandfather, who he believed was his father. It is my belief that this act instilled Bundy’s distrust, lack of respect, and anger towards women. My observations suggest that early childhood experiences influence the development of mental illness and disorder. Theodore Bundy’s early childhood experiences were a recipe for disaster: his perceived father was violent and abusive; his identity was a lie; he was removed from his perceived mother and father at the age of four years old.

Theodore’s mother (or sister) married a man named Johnnie Bundy in 1952. Louise and Johnnie had four children together. Theodore Bundy was jealous of Louise’s relationship with Johnnie and felt excluded because of it. It is my belief that this feeling of isolation escalated when Louise and Johnnie had four children together. After all, Theodore Bundy did not know these children were his half-siblings. He believed they were his nieces and nephews. He watched them spend quality time with their father, while remembering that he had been ripped away from his. Theodore Bundy’s first account of an “entity” growing inside of him, separate from himself, occurred only one year after Theodore’s mother married Johnnie Bundy. Around the same time, Theodore Bundy was disciplined at school for punching a boy in the face. This happened when Theodore Bundy was seven years old.

Aside for his unorthodox family dynamic and one (isolated) act of aggression, Theodore Bundy’s life was relatively normal at this time. He was a good student and received good grades. He attended church regularly. Johnnie Bundy worked for a local church and his family was very religious. Bundy grew up learning Christian values. His mother described her relationship with her son as loving and open. She called him her “pride and joy” in her testimony. In his final interview, Theodore Bundy stated, “I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents. One of five brothers and sisters. A home where as children we were the focus of my parents’ lives. We regularly attended church with two Christian parents. They did not drink. They did not smoke. There was no gambling. There was no violence in the home.”

The case study of Theodore Bundy expresses a different perspective from his mother’s testimony and from his interview. This study claims that Theodore Bundy fondly recalls his mother doing homework with him after school. It also states she attributed to his academic success with her “diligent efforts.” It also states that she was not emotionally available. There were no conversations about intimate matters between the two. Theodore Bundy did not feel his mother was capable of being open with him. He described her as quiet, closed off, and reserved. My observation is that Bundy’s relationship with his mother strongly influenced his inability to connect intimately with women.

Theodore Bundy began to show significant signs of abnormal behavior in his adolescence. He was not socially active and found it difficult to connect with his peers. He began to look at pornography, and was particularly attracted to violent pornography. He also became very materialistic. He fantasized about being adapted by Roy Rodgers and resented his peers for their involvement in sports. Theodore Bundy’s family could not afford the cost required to participate in organized sports. Theodore Bundy concocted a way to manufacture fake ski passes, which allowed him to ski for free. This was his first documented crime. His case study claims that he was never caught, which would make this crime a confession of Theodore Bundy. One must also consider the accuracy of this claim, since Theodore Bundy was a pathological liar. However, he did come from a family of limited income. This suggests it is very likely he felt inferior to his peers because they had more financial freedom than he did. He did not date much and struggled to connect socially with women. He did not drink or attend parties. He was perceived as arrogant, and he became increasingly introverted/shy.

It is unclear exactly when Theodore Bundy found out his mother’s true identity, but it is speculated that this happened when he was in high school. Theodore Bundy stumbled upon his birth certificate, labeling his sister as his mother and his father as “unknown”. My analysis is that this must have come as quite of a shock to Theodore Bundy. I believe this exact moment is what catapulted him into having an identity crisis. It is hypothesized that this realization led to numerous revelations, including but not limited to: distrust in women, volatile aggression towards women, distrust in family. I believe this was a critical moment in Theodore Bundy’s life. This moment instilled (or strongly confirmed) Bundy’s belief that it is better to lie than it is to tell the truth. This realization potentially led to his maladaptive suppression of emotions, compartmentalization of his life, and dissociation from reality. This may have increased his mental capacity to violently attack and kill approximately 30 young women.

Theodore Bundy went to his grave blaming porn for his mental illness. All of Theodore Bundy’s claims must be taken with a grain of salt, considering that he is a pathological liar and a mentally deranged serial killer. In his interview, he strongly advocated for the awareness of influence that violent pornography has on young people. While making this statement, he appeared completely sincere. It is my belief that Theodore Bundy truly believed this to be true. It is also my belief that he is delusional and deeply in denial. I believe Theodore Bundy is using the coping mechanism denial to hide his unconscious conflicts due to early childhood experiences. My analysis is that Theodore Bundy used violent pornography as an emotional outlet. Theodore Bundy unknowingly learned to violently kidnap, rape, and murder women through classical conditioning with the use of violent pornography.

Theodore Bundy began reading and watching pornography, like many young boys do. He would masturbate to pornography. When Theodore Bundy would reach a climax and ejaculate, the hormone oxytocin was released in his body. This rush of oxytocin offered as an emotional release for Theodore Bundy. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone.” This hormonal rush served to alleviate his pent up, negative emotions. Theodore Bundy identified with angry/violent pornography because of his pent-up feelings of anger and resentment from his early childhood experiences.

This is a case of classical conditioning. The unconditioned stimulus is violent porn. The unconditioned response is the release of oxytocin when he ejaculates. Theodore Bundy watched violent pornography when he was upset. This became a maladaptive behavior to regulate his emotions. This behavior developed because of Theodore Bundy’s inability to express his emotions to his mother, his peers, or his other family members. Theodore Bundy explains how he became addicted to violent pornography. He said that he “kept craving something harder, that gives you a sense of excitement,” and continued to state, “you wonder if actually doing it will give you that which is beyond just looking at it.” As with any addiction, his tolerance for violent sexual acts increased, and he needed more stimulation to achieve homeostasis. Eventually, he would come to find that he was still angry, stressed, etc. after reaching a climax. This unstained anger is what compelled him to search for “something harder.”

Theodore Bundy worked up the confidence to commit his first murder through a combination of inhibition (created by alcohol consumption) and aggressive, sexual frustration. The conditioned stimulus is violently abducting, raping, and murdering women. The conditioned response is the release of oxytocin he received when he ejaculated and committed murder. In his final interview he talks about how he felt after killing his victims. He said, “once it has been satisfied, I become myself again.” For Theodore Bundy, violent rape and murder were coping mechanisms used to deal with his negative thoughts and emotions. Henceforth, the development of Theodore Bundy’s criminal activity is a case of classical conditioning.

Alcohol played a role in Theodore Bundy’s violent criminal activity. In his interview he said, "alcohol lowered my inhibitions” and claimed that he was “always half drunk” when he committed violent crimes. Because of this, and because of his adamant protection of his family’s reputation, I believe that psychopath’s do have a conscience. I believe this conscience is deeply suppressed. It is observed that self-medicating with drugs and alcohol help to elucidate this process. When asked to recall how he felt after his first murder, Theodore Bundy stated, “With a clear mind and with my essential moral and ethical feelings intact at that moment, absolutely horrified that I was capable of doing something like that.” He also stated, “It was like coming out of some kind of horrible trance or dream. To have been possessed by something so awful and so alien and then the next morning wake up from it, remember what happened, and then realize that basically you’re responsible in the eyes of the law, and certainly in the eyes of God.” When speaking about his family, Bundy said, “I hope no one will try to blame my family for this.”

I believe that Theodore Bundy asked to be interviewed about his violent crimes before he was sentenced to death because he was searching for a greater purpose in his violent misconduct. It is my belief that he was trying to rationalize his crimes. Rationalization is the defense mechanism he used to cope with unconscious conflict. I believe he did this because he did, in fact, have a conscience. He felt guilt and shame about the crimes he had committed. It is my belief he wanted to justify his actions by warning the world of the dangers of pornography. Furthermore, I believe that psychopathy is not a personality disorder. I believe it is a dissociative disorder. I believe that Theodore Bundy had to become dissociated from reality to commit his violent, aggressive crimes.

My observations suggest that Theodore Bundy used was unable to correlate his horrific crimes to his early childhood experiences. I hypothesize that this occurred because Bundy was too young to comprehend his childhood experiences at the onset of his illness. I also hypothesize he had become too delusional and dissociated from reality at the end of his life to comprehend his use of these defense mechanisms: denial and rationalization. Use of these defense mechanisms allowed him the mental capacity necessary to commit his violent, aggressive crimes. He also mentions a “fantasy life filled by pornography” in his final interview, further supporting my claim that he had become dissociated and delusional.

Theodore Bundy lived a double life. People he knew described him as charming, charismatic, and affluent. No one suspected that he was capable of committing these horrific crimes. Bundy became involved in politics and eventually went to law school. He became very social and very involved in the community. At one point in his life, Theodore Bundy worked as a receptionist for a suicide hotline. His former, female coworker recalled working with him. She stated that her and Bundy worked together, alone, is a small office room. They answered crisis calls together. She said that she never would have imagined Theodore Bundy was capable of such horrible crimes. She continued to state that she felt safe in his presence.

Theodore Bundy mentioned that he compartmentalized his life. I believe this compartmentalizing and emotional suppression contributed to his dissociation. Theodore Bundy refers to an “entity inside him” and “possession” when committing his violent crimes. He also stated, “I was the all-American boy.” When not committing acts of murder, he said, “I was ok. The humanity and basic spirit that God gave me was still intact. I just became overwhelmed at times.” My observation is that Theodore Bundy became ‘overwhelmed’ when he experienced negative emotions, such as stress, anger, jealousy, rejection, resentment, or fear. I believe that when he experienced these feelings, he would shift into his alter-ego. In this state, he learned he could control his emotions by kidnapping, raping, and murdering his victims. I believe Bundy’s childhood conditioned him to compartmentalize his emotions, further leading to the development of his psychopathy. Bundy’s childhood observations are an example of vicarious conditioning.

Theodore Bundy mentioned that all inmates convicted of murder in prison were addicted violent pornography. He adamantly claimed that this is the only thing they all had in common. I believe that if observed, these individuals will all have two things in common: traumatic childhood experiences and addiction to violent porn. I believe that the violent pornography is used in classical conditioning as a gateway to objectifying and dehumanizing women/victims, thus creating the mental capacity needed to commit violent crime or murder.

In his final interview, Bundy was asked about his latest murder of a twelve-year-old girl. I observed that Theodore Bundy refused to talk about the murder. My analysis is that he did not feel remorse for the murder and knew that his response would be viewed as incorrect or socially unacceptable. I made this observation by watching his facial expressions, dictation, and body language. This is a prime example of a psychopath’s emotional detachment and utilization of intellect and charm to gracefully move through social interactions. Theodore Bundy was asked how he felt after murdering this child. He responded, “I can’t really talk about that right now.” He said this while shaking his head and looking down at the ground. Theodore Bundy did this because he did not want to be caught showing no remorse for his crime. He maintained eye contact with the interviewer throughout his entire interview. It is my belief he looked away at this moment because he knew the interviewer would recognize he was not remorseful for his crime. My observation is that he attempted to look remorseful, but he was faking it. The interviewer appeared to believe his act. He assumed, “It’s too painful?’ Bundy replied, “I would like to be able to convey to you what that experience was like, but I can’t. I won’t be able to talk about that.” I would encourage readers to take those words at face value, without projecting their own emotional sentiments. Bundy continues, “I can’t begin to understand, well I can try. I am aware that I can’t begin to understand the pain that the parents of these children, of these young children and women, that I have harmed, feel… and I won’t pretend to.” Theodore Bundy is stating that he does not understand how the parents of these people feel. He is stating that he is aware that he does not understand how they feel. He is stating that he will not talk about it. He concludes by stating that he will not pretend to. This is a prime example of how deeply detached Theodore Bundy is from his emotions. Theodore Bundy felt remorse for his actions (as they pertain to his identity) and he felt the need to protect his family members (from the consequences of his actions). This remorse, and desire to protect his family, occurred because he does have a conscience. However, Bundy does not feel remorse for the families of his victims. This lack of remorse occurred because he had to objectify and dehumanize his victims before killing them. Therefore, this case review strongly suggests that psychopathy is not a personality disorder. It is a dissociative disorder.

Theodore Bundy was sentenced to death by electric chair. This sentencing was given to him because he was a danger to himself and to others. I believe that treatment would not be resultant for Theodore Bundy. It is my firm belief that, if given the opportunity, Theodore Bundy would continue to murder women and young children until the day he died. It is my belief that ending his life was the only way to ensure the safety of his community. Theodore Bundy’s mental illness remained unchecked for too long. Over the course of his life, his mental processes became terminal. Theodore Bundy was a serial killer. His psychological wiring relayed the message to him that he needed to rape and kill women in order to achieve physiological homeostasis. In my opinion, the death penalty was the only viable option.

In conclusion, it is my belief that Theodore Bundy was able to commit the violent act of abduction, rape, and murder approximately 30 times because he suffers from a dissociative disorder: psychopathy. The maturation of this mental illness has been observed through case studies, interviews, testimonies, and biographies. Theodore Bundy did not have a happy childhood. He did not have a positive male role model. He was not encouraged to explore or express his emotions. He suffered an identity crisis. He was encouraged to compartmentalize his life into tiny boxes and he only revealed to others what he believed they wanted to see. Alcohol and violent pornography strongly influenced the development of Theodore Bundy’s mental illness, while neither are solely responsible. Theodore Bundy was handsome, smart, educated, and funny. He also violently abducted, raped, and murdered women he identified with sexually. Theodore Bundy died in an electric chair on January 24, 1989. He was 42 years old. There is much we can learn from the life and death of Theodore Bundy. The most important lesson, perhaps, being to never judge a book by its cover.

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