The Bundy Effect

Author: Rebecca Franceschetti

Culture’s obsession with true crime has undoubtedly contributed to the fascination of serial killers. Viewers are flooded with ‘facts’ that lead to unrealistic insights. Media consistently attempts to explain and humanize the motives and actions of serial killers, leading its viewers with a false perception of who they are. Ted Bundy, for example, has been characterized as an attractive, intelligent individual. Media’s romanticizing of serial killers and other criminals of the like lead to misguided attraction and fascination towards criminals while overshadowing the story of affected victims. While media may portray certain realistic qualities of the majority of serial killers, some myths are repeatedly circulated.

Myth #1: All serial killers are white males.

Media continually perpetuates this myth. White, male serial killers are the ones who are portrayed throughout movies, television shows, and documentaries. However, contrary to what media would have you believe, white males are not the only people who commit such crimes. About 20% of serial killers are African-Americans, but you don’t see any movies or documentaries detailing minority serial killers (Bonn, 2014).

Myth #2: Serial killers are evil geniuses.

Serial killers are often thought to have above average IQ’s. The average IQ of serial killers is measured at about 94, slightly less than the average American’s score (Gaudette, 2017). Ted Bundy, however, did have an IQ that was above average. His IQ measured at 136 – meaning that he was very intelligent (Buchanan-Dunne, 2016). Although Bundy may have been exceptionally intelligent compared to the average serial killer, media often gives the false impression that all serial killers possess above average intelligence. 

Myth #3: Serial killers are dysfunctional and often isolate themselves.

This is very rarely the case. Many serial killers live normal lives, giving them the ability to fly under the radar. Ted Bundy, for example, had a seemingly normal life. He was able to fit into society. While Bundy may not have understood the appeal of forming social connections, he undoubtedly saw the benefits and was able to use those connections to his advantage.

Ted Bundy’s ability to lead such a normal life outside of his heinous extracurricular activities is just one example of how serial killers can easily blend in with the rest of society. Although he may not have understood what drove people to seek social connections, he was quite good at socializing himself. Bundy went on to go to college, attend law school, date, and eventually have a child. From the outside, Bundy was a normal, successful man. However, Bundy had dark secrets that were eventually disclosed.

In 1974, women began going missing in Seattle and Oregon. Many people believe that this was the work of Ted Bundy, though it is unclear when he first started killing. When Bundy moved to Utah to attend law school, women began to disappear. Police began to suspect Bundy and, when Bundy was arrested for attempted kidnapping, he became the number one suspect. Bundy eventually confessed to killing about 30 women, but it is speculated that he may have murdered as many as 100 women in total (Jenkins, 2019).

Bundy’s ability to kill so many women while also remaining unsuspected for so long led people to be intrigued by his story. Ted Bundy Tapes and Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, a documentary and a movie, showcase Bundy’s life and crimes. Though informative, films and documentaries tend to romanticize serial killers and encourage a cult-like following. For example, Zac Efron, an actor known for his good looks and teen following, was cast as Bundy in the upcoming film Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. While it is important to study and attempt to understand the motives and mindset of serial killers, some viewers believe that portraying Ted Bundy as a handsome, charismatic, desirable man may distort society’s view of what should be seen as attractive. Ann Rule, a friend and colleague of Bundy’s before he was convicted of his crimes, stated that “Ted was never as handsome, brilliant, or charismatic as crime folklore has deemed him” (Ramsland, 2015).

Media has a way of distorting our views on various topics. When it comes to criminals, Ted Bundy included, media tends to overlook the most critical part of the entire story – the victims. The life and accomplishments of the victims are too often lost within the life and accomplishments of the criminal. Romanticizing criminals such as Ted Bundy places the focus solely on the criminal, leaving the victims and their families unnoticed. Next time you watch a movie or read an article romanticizing the life and acts of criminals, think about the victims. Don’t let media overshadow the life and legacy of victims by emphasizing the life and unfortunate legacy left behind by the criminals.

If you are interested in hearing the story of one of Bundy’s victim’s you can read it in this Rolling Stone article.

Resources

  1. Bonn, S. A. (2014, December). Serial killer myth. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/

  2. Buchanan-Dunne, M. J. (2016, December). Serial killers with abnormally high IQs. Retrieved from https://www.murdermiletours.com/

  3. Gaudette, E. (2017, November). How many serial killers are in the U.S.? Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/serial-killers-united-states-how-many-71823

  4. Jenkins, J. P. (2019, January). Ted Bundy: American serial killer. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/

  5. Ramsland, K. (2015, August). The Bundy Effect. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201508/the-bundy-effect


Ashleigh Diserio Consulting works with individuals and organizations, assisting them in gleaning insight into a person’s life, motivation, and past and future behavior, so certain areas of behavior can be understood with a high degree of accuracy. We provide services in the areas of criminal and intelligence investigations, management support, threat assessment, insider threat support, and education and training.