Though it could be argued that Ted Bundy’s characteristics could fall into that of other psychopath classification systems, this well-known serial killer exhibited many of the traits that Robert Hare outlined in his Psychopathy checklist. This paper will provide an overview of Bundy’s characteristics applicable to Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R). Taking the two factors of the PCL-R interpersonal traits and antisocial behavior respectively this paper will unpack certain events in Ted Bundy’s life that were contributing factors to his career as a sexual serial killer.
Prior to his career as a serial killer, a factor 2 trait from the PCL-R, juvenile delinquency was present in Bundy. The young Ted would sneak around at night to pleasure himself while peeping at women. He also became a shoplifter. (Rippo, 2007, p22). One of the two factors of Hare’s PCL-R demonstrates how certain interpersonal traits contribute to the explanation of the behaviour of psychopathic individuals. Two characteristics that fall under Hare’s interpersonal assets are being cunning and lack of empathy. These two traits are evident in his modus operandi, numerous escapes from police custody and trial(s).
As an adolescent Bundy initially made good impressions due to of his good looks and superficial charm, however interpersonal relationships made him feel uneasy and he never felt that he fit in. Moreover, Bundy enjoyed being alone. When his stepfather tried to incorporate him in family events for example, Bundy chose to be alone. Bundy enjoyed spending many hours alone as a child listening to the radio, and enjoyed things like travel alone (Michaud, 2000, p21) For someone who was such an introvert, he had a remarkable ability to gain the trust of others.
His popularity at school was not a reflection of his nature, his ability to mimic normal behavior. This so called normal behavior that had to be mimicked could be seen as affect, something which Ted Bundy clearly lacked. (Rippo , 2007, p51). In university Bundy met and became involved with a schoolmate, Brooks who he held in great regard. After some time she ended the relationship with concerns of his immaturity and lack of ambition which is one of one of Hare’s checklist components (Nelson p. 279).
Bundy made it a point to prove Brooks wrong about him and he began to excel at his education as well as pursuing extra curricular government opportunities. In the process he met another woman and began a relationship with her, soon after Brooks came back into his life and he began a relationship with her. Bundy carried on the two relationships never letting them know about each other and even discussing marriage with Brooks until 1974 when he abruptly ended the relationship,. This behaviour in relationships demonstrated his impulsiveness.
Bundy’s modus operandi initially involved late night entries into women’s homes followed by an attack with a blunt object. Often this attack turned into a sexual assault with his blunt weapon of choice. Eventually, his method took a more calculated approach by putting on ruses to lure women. A psychology major in University, Bundy was likely aware of the social-psychological phenomena and utilized this knowledge in his gaining the trust of his victims. He approached women wearing a cast or a sling or identified himself as a trusted individual like a police office or firefighter (Rippo, 2007, p22).
This technique allowed him to gain the trust of his female victim could be placed under checklist items such as being lying pathologically or being manipulative. As Bundy continued on his habitual murderous activity, his sophistication in covering up his crimes grew. His knowledge of the legal system, methodical crime location plotting, never leaving a fingerprint at the crime scene and his ability to transform his appearance easily allowed him to evade capture for a long period of time.
Even his initial capture would never have occurred if not for a routine spot check while he was on the road. Bundy escaped from prison twice after his initial capture. Both attempts were calculated examples of his extreme cunning. Following his initial arrest, having exercised his right to represent himself in court, he studied his case in the courtroom library. He escaped through an open window the library. Later police found evidence that showed he had planned this method of escape all along starting with losing weight to enable escape through a tight spot.
His second escape was a more elaborate plot involving a detailed escape route using a hacksaw blade smuggled into the prison and a five hundred dollars worth of bribery money. After this second escape Bundy relocated using stolen vehicles, watched news reports of his crimes on stolen televisions while planning and carrying out several more sadistic murders in the state of Florida. These are examples of his cunning nature and also his criminal versatility and interpersonal and general traits respectively under Hare’s psychopathy checklist (Rule, 2009, p188).
Following his capture a third time, Bundy tried to escape once more but failed. His actions speak to the height of his ability to create masterful schemes, but they also speak to his utter lack of remorse for his actions. Once incarcerated he would not stay put, contrary to advice given by friends and lawyers. He continued to rally for his acquittal or escape, or offering to exchange more crime details in exchange for more time alive.
While on trial for the third and final time, Bundy continued to deny allegations of his numerous murders. He was actually quite satisfied with his murders and always presumed he would escape the strictures of the legal system. Upon his third and final sentencing to death by electrocution, he shouted: “Tell the jury they were wrong. ” This complete lack of repentance for his actions relates to another aspect of the PCL-R’s interpersonal traits; a grandiose sense of self.
Before his execution he told the FBI that he found murder an aspect of possession –a form of possession that was fixed and immutable. This aspect of his crimes ties to an early part of his life when he routinely committed acts of theft. However, the stand-out characteristic of Bundy’s anti-social behaviour stems from his promiscuous and abnormal sexual acts. Bundy blamed the progression of his promiscuity and sexual obsession on pornography. His interest in sex began in his early teens when he discovered “dirty magazines” in a dump near his home.
The curiosity immediately peaked and began to grow until it developed into an addition to violent images in magazines and videos. Bundy spoke of his excitement from detective magazines, true crime documentaries involving sexual violence and maimed bodies, he enjoyed watching women being tortured and murdered. Eventually Bundy claimed that the gruesome images, stories and videos were not enough to sustain him and he began drinking and wandering the community at night looking into windows watching women undress and whatever else he could see.
Before being executed on 1989 Bundy proclaimed his addition to pornography to be agony and stated that this was the fuel to his crimes. This is typical of serial killers, and falls under the affective trait of failing to accept responsibility for actions (Slade, 2001, p1001). Though a select few of Hare’s PCL-R components may be missing when looking back at what is known about Ted Bundy’s life, an overwhelming number of checklist items are present in the literature and Ted Bundy did posses more than enough traits to be considered a psychopath.
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