of a Murderous Rapist
media world-wide have spoken of Ted Bundy, sentenced to death
for 28 murders of women and young girls. Ted Bundy was executed
on January 24, 1989, by electric chair in Starke Prison, Florida,
U.S.A. The following interview which took place a few hours
before his death was done by Dr. James Dobson and reveals
in particular the nefarious influence of pornography in the
making of a serial killer. This interview
is published with the permission of Focus on the Family, Colorado
Springs, CO 80995-0001, U.S.A. and is taken from the video
tape available from this organisation.
of Ted Bundy
Dr. James Dobson
Ted, it is about two thirty in the afternoon, you are scheduled
to be executed tomorrow morning at seven o clock, if you don't
receive another stay. What is going through your mind? What
thoughts have you had in these last few days?
I won't kid you to say that it's something that I feel that
I'm in control of, or something that I've come to terms with,
because I haven't. It's a moment-by-moment thing. Sometimes
I feel very tranquil, and other times, I don't feel tranquil at
all. What's going through my mind right now is to use the minutes
and hours that I have left as fruitfully as possible and see what
happens. It helps to live in the moment, in the sense that we
use it, productively. Right now I'm feeling calm in a large part
because I'm here with you.
For the record, you are guilty of killing many women and girls.
Yes, yes, that's true.
Ted, how did it happen? Take me back. What are the antecedents
of the behaviour that we've seen? So much grief, so much sorrow,
so much pain for so many people. Where did it start. How did
this moment come about?
That's the question of the hour and one that, not only people
much more intelligent than I have been working on for years but
one that I've been working on for years to try to understand
it. Is there enough time to explain it all? I don't know. I
think I understand it though, understand what happened to me,
to the extent that I can see how certain feelings and ideas developed
in me to the point where I began to act out on them; certain very
violent and very destructive feelings.
Let's go back then to those roots . First of all, you, as I understand
it, were raised in, what you consider to have been, a healthy
You were not physically abused, you were not sexually abused,
you were not emotionally abused,
No, no way. I mean, that's part of the tragedy of this whole
situation, because I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated
and loving parents, and one of five brothers and sisters. A home
where we, as children, were the focus of my parents’ lives, where
we regularly attended church; two Christian parents who did not
drink, they did not smoke, there was no gambling, there was no
physical abuse, or fighting in the home. I'm not saying this
was Leave it to Beaver...
No, I don't know if such a home exists but it was a fine solid
Christian home, and no-body should, I hope no-one will, try to
take the easy way out and try to blame or otherwise accuse my
family of contributing to this, because I know, and I'm trying
to tell you, as honestly as I know how, what happened. I think
this is a message I want to get across. As a young boy, and I
mean a boy of twelve, or thirteen certainly, that I encountered,
outside the home again, in the local grocery store, the local
drug store, the soft-core pornography, what people call soft-core,
but as I think I explained to you last night, Dr. Dobson, in an
anecdote that, as young boys do, we explored the back roads and
side-ways and byways of our neighbourhood and oftentimes people
would dump the garbage and whatever they were cleaning out of
their house. And from time to time, we'd come across pornographic
books of a harder nature than, more of a graphic, you might
say, a more explicit nature than we would encounter in,
say, your local grocery store. And this would also included such
things as, let's say, detective magazines and more.......
Those that involve violence.
Yes. And this is something that, I think I want to emphasise,
is the most damaging kinds of pornography in my - again, I'm talking
from personal experience - hard real personal experience. The
most damaging kinds of pornography are those that involve violence,
sexual violence, because the wedding of those two forces, as I
know only too well, brings about behaviour that is just too terrible
Now, walk me through that. What was going on in your mind, at
OK. Before we go any further, I think - it's important to me
that people believe what I'm saying - to tell you that I'm not
blaming pornography. I'm not saying that it caused me to go out
and do certain things. I take full responsibility for whatever
I've done and all the things that I've done, that's not the question
here. The question and the issue is how this kind of literature
contributed and helped mould and shape the kinds of violent behaviour...
Fuelled your fantasies...
Well, in the beginning, it fuels this kind of thought process.
Then, at a certain time, it's instrumental in, what I would say,
crystallising it, making it into something which is almost like
a separate entity inside. And at that point you're at the
verge, or I was at the verge, of acting out on this kind of, these
kinds of things.
Now, I really want to understand that. You had gone about as
far as you could go, in your own fantasy life, with printed material
and video and film.
Film, magazines, what have you.
And then, there was the urge to take that little step or big step
over to a physical event.
It happens, it happened in stages, gradually, it doesn't necessarily,
not to me at least, happen overnight. My experience with, let's
say pornography generally, but with pornography that deals on
a violent level with sexuality, is that, once you become addicted
to it, and I look at this as a kind of addiction, like other kinds
of addiction, you would keep, I would keep looking for more potent,
more explicit, most graphic kinds of material.
Like an addiction you keep craving something which is harder,
harder, something which gives you a greater sense of excitement,
until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far...
It reaches that jumping-off point where you begin to wonder if,
maybe, actually doing it will give you that which is beyond just
reading about it or looking at it.
How long did you stay at that point before you actually assaulted
You see... that is a very delicate point, in my own development,
and we're talking about something which I either reached the point,
or a grey area that surrounded that point, over the course of
a couple of years.
You don't remember.... How long?
Well, I would say a couple of years, and, what
with, there were very strong inhibitions against criminal behaviour,
violent behaviour, that had been conditioned into me, bred into
me, in my environment, in my neighbourhood, in my church, in my
school. Things which said: “No, this is wrong”. I mean, even
to think of it is wrong, but certainly to do it is wrong. I'm
on that edge and at last, what will I say, the last vestiges of
restraint, the barriers to actually doing something were being
tested constantly, and assailed, through the kind of fantasy life
that was fuelled largely by pornography.
Do you remember what pushed you over that edge? Do you remember
the decision to go for it? Do you remember where you decided
to throw caution to the wind?
Again, when you say ‘pushed’ ... I know what you're saying...
I don't want to infer again that I was some...
Yes, I know...I understand ...
...helpless kind of victim. And yet, we're talking about an influence...
that is the influence of violent types of media and violent
pornography which was an indispensable link in the chain of behaviour,
the chain of events that led to behaviours, to the assaults, to
the murders and what have you. It's a very difficult thing
to describe, the sensation of reaching that point where I knew
that something had, say, snapped, that I knew that I couldn't
control it anymore. That these barriers that I'd learned as a
child, had been instilled in me, were not enough to hold me back
with respect to seeking out and harming somebody.
Would it be accurate to call that a frenzy, a sexual frenzy?
Well, yes. That's one way to describe it. A compulsion, a building
up of this destructive energy. Again, another factor here that
I haven't mentioned is the use of alcohol. I think that what
alcohol did, in conjunction with, say, my exposure to pornography,
was that alcohol reduced my inhibitions. At the same time, the
fantasy life, that was fuelled by pornography, eroded them further.
In the early days, you were nearly always about half-drunk when
you did these things, is that right?
And was that always true?
I would say that was generally the case, almost word for word,
If I can understand it now, there's this battle going on within.
There are the conventions that you've been taught, there's the
right and wrong that you learned as a child, and then there is
this unbridled passion fuelled by your plunge into hard-core violent
pornography and those things are at war with each other.
And then with the alcohol diminishing the inhibitions, you let
Well, yes. You can summarise it that way and that's accurate,
certainly. And it just occurred to me that some people would
say : “ Well, I've seen that stuff and it doesn't do anything
to me”. I can understand that, virtually everyone can be exposed
to so-called pornography and while they're aroused to it, they're
not going to go out and do anything wrong.
Addictions are like that, they affect some people more than they
do others. But there is a percentage of people affected by hard-core
pornography in a very violent way and you're obviously one of
That was a major component and I don't know why I was vulnerable
to it. All I know is, it had an impact on me that was just so
central to the development of the vile behaviour that I engaged
Ted, after you committed your first murder what was the emotional
effect on you? What happened in the days after that?
Again... please understand, that even all these years later, it’s
very difficult to talk about it, and reliving it, through talking
about it, is difficult, to say the least, but I want you to understand
what happened It was like coming out of some kind of horrible
trance or dream. I can only liken it to after... - I don't want
to over dramatise it, but - to have been possessed by something
so awful and so alien, and then the next morning wake up from
it, remember what happened and realise that basically, I mean
in the eyes of the law, certainly in the eyes of God, you're responsible.
To wake up in the morning and realise what I had done, with a
clear mind and with all my essential moral and ethical feelings
intact at that moment...absolutely horrified that I was capable
of doing something like that.
You really hadn't known that before?
There is just absolutely no way to describe. First, the brutal
urge to do that kind of thing and then, what happens is, once
it's been more or less satisfied and recedes, you might say, or
spent, that sense, that kind of energy level recedes. I basically
became myself again. I want people to understand this too, I'm
not saying this gratuitously because it's important that people
understand this. Basically I was a normal person. I wasn't some
guy hanging out at bars or a bum, or I wasn't a pervert in the
sense that, you know, people look at somebody and say: “I know
there's something wrong with him, I can just tell.” I mean, I
was essentially a normal person and I had good friends, I led
a normal life except for this one, small but very potent and very
destructive segment of it, that I kept very secret, very close
to myself and didn't let anybody know about it. And part of the
shock and horror for my dear friends and family, years ago when
I was first arrested was that there was no clue. They looked
at me and they looked at the, you know, the 'All-American boy'.
I mean, I wasn't perfect, but I want to be quite candid with you,
I was OK.
I was. The basic humanity, the basic spirit that God gave me
was intact, but unfortunately, it became overwhelmed at times.
People need to recognise that it’s not some kind of... that those
of us who are... who have been so much influenced by violence
in the media, in particular pornographic violence, are not some
kinds of inherent monsters. We are your sons and your husbands,
and we grew up in regular families. And pornography can reach
out and snatch a kid from any house today. It snatched me
out of my home twenty, thirty years ago, as diligent as my parents
were. And they were diligent in protecting their children. And
as good a Christian home as we had, and we had a wonderful Christian
home. There is no protection against the kinds of influences
that are loose in the society that tolerates...
You feel this really deeply, don't you? Ted, outside these walls,
right now, there are several hundred reporters that wanted to
talk to you, and you asked me to come here, from California, because
you had something you wanted to say. This hour that we have together
is not just an interview with a man who's scheduled to die tomorrow
morning. I'm here and you're here because of this message that
you're talking about right here. Do you really feel that hard-core
pornography and the doorway to it, soft-core pornography, is doing
untold damage to other people and causing other women to be abused
and killed the way you did?
Listen, I'm no social scientist and I haven't done a survey.
I mean, I don't pretend that I know what John Q Citizen thinks
about this, but I've lived in prison for a long time now and
I've met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just
like me and without exception, every one of them was deeply involved
in pornography, without question, without exception, deeply influenced
and consumed by an addiction to pornography. There is no question
about it. The FBI's own study on serial homicide shows that the
most common interest among serial killers is pornography.
And it's real. It's true.
Ted, what would your life have been like without that influence?
You can only speculate.
Well, I know it would have been far better, not just for me, and,
excuse me, for being so self-centred here, it would have been
a lot better for me and lots of other people. I know there are
lots of other innocent people, victims and families. It would
have been a lot better, there's no question about that. It would
have been a fuller life, certainly a life that would not have
involved, I'm absolutely certain, would not have involved this
kind of violence that I have committed.
Sure. Ted, if I were able to ask you the kind of questions that
are being asked out there, one of the most important as you come
down to perhaps your final hours: Are you thinking about all
those victims out there and their families...?
...who are so wounded. You know, years later, their lives have
not returned to normal, they will never return to normal.
Are you carrying that load, that weight? Is the remorse there?
Again, I know that people will accuse me of being self-serving
but we're beyond that now, I mean, I’m just telling you how I
feel but, through God's help, I've been able to come to the point
where I, much too late, but better late than never, feel the hurt
and the pain that I am responsible for. Yes, absolutely. In
the past few days, myself and a number of investigators have been
talking about unsolved cases, murders that I was involved in and
it’s hard to talk about all these years later because it revives
in me all those terrible feelings and those thoughts that I have,
steadfastly and diligently dealt with and, I think, successfully,
with the love of God. Yet, it has reopened that and I felt the
pain and I felt the horror again of all that. And I can only
hope that those whom I've harmed, those whom I've caused so much
grief, even if they don't believe my expression of sorrow and
remorse, will believe what I am saying now: that there is loose
in their towns and their communities, people, like me today,
whose dangerous impulses are being fuelled, day in and day out,
by violence in the media in its various forms, particularly, the
sexualised violence. And what scares me, and looks like coming
into the present now - because what I'm talking about happened
twenty, thirty years ago, that is, in my formative stages - and
what scares and appalls me, Dr. Dobson, is when I see what's
on cable TV! Some of the movies, I mean, some of the violence
in the movies, that come into homes today, was stuff that they
wouldn't show in X-rated adult theatres thirty years ago. This
The Slasher Movies... Is that what you're talking about?
...that stuff is, I'm telling you from personal experience,
the most that is graphic violence on screen, particularly, as
it gets into the home. The children who may be unattended, or
unaware, that they may be a Ted Bundy who has that vulnerability
to that predisposition to be influenced by that kind of behaviour,
by that kind of movie, that kind of violence. There are kids
sitting out there, switching the TV dial around and come upon
these movies late at night or, I don't know when they're on, but
they're on and any kid can watch them. It's scary when I think
what would have happened to me if I had seen them, I'm scary enough.
I mean, I just ran into stuff outside the home but to know that
children are watching that kind of thing today or can pick up
their phone and dial away for it or send away for it!
Can you help me understand this desensitisation process that took
place? What was going on in your mind?
By desensitisation - I’ll describe it in specific terms - is that
each time I harmed someone, each time I killed someone, there'd
be this enormous amount, especially at first, enormous amount
of horror, guilt, remorse afterwards, but then, that impulse to
do it again would come back even stronger. Now, believe me, the
unique thing about how this worked, Dr. Dobson, is that I still
felt, in my regular life, the full range of guilt and remorse
about other things, regret and...
Do you have this ‘compartmentalised’?
This ‘compartmentalised’, very well focused, very sharply focused
area, where it was like a black hole, it was like a crack and
everything that fell into that crack just disappeared. Does that
Yes, it does. One of the final murders that you committed, of
course, was, apparently, little Kimberly Leech, twelve years of
age. I think the public outcry is greater there because an innocent
child was taken from a playground. What did you feel after that?
Were there normal emotions three days later? Where were you,
I can't really talk about that, right now. That's, that's too
painful. I would like to be able to convey to you what that experience
is like, but I can't... I won't be able to talk about that.
I can't begin to understand, well, I can try but I, I'm aware
that I can't begin to understand the pain that the parents of
these children, and these young women that I harmed, feel and
I can't restore really much to them, if anything, and I don't
pretend, and I don't even expect them to forgive me. I'm not
asking for it. That kind of forgiveness is of God and if they
have it, they have it and if they don't, they don't. Well, maybe
they'll find it some day.
Do you deserve the punishment the State has inflicted upon you?
That's a very good question. Now, I'll answer it very honestly:
I don't want to die. I don't want to kid you. I deserve certainly
the most extreme punishment society has, and I deserve, I think
society deserves, to be protected from me and from others like
me, that's for sure. I think what will come of our discussion
is, I think society deserves to be protected from itself because,
as we've been talking, there are forces loosened, in this country
particularly, again, this kind of violent pornography, where,
on the one hand, well-meaning decent people will condemn the behaviour
of a Ted Bundy while they're walking past a magazine rack full
of the very kinds of things that send young kids down the road
to be Ted Bundy's That's the irony. We're talking here,
not just about more, what I'm talking about is beyond retribution,
which is what people want with me, going beyond retribution and
punishment, because there is no way in the world that killing
me is going to restore those beautiful children to their parents
and correct, and soothe the pain. But I tell you, there are lots
of other kids playing on the streets around this country today,
who are going to be dead tomorrow and the next day and the next
day and next month, because other young people are reading
the kinds of things, and seeing the kinds of things, that are
available in the media today.
Ted, as you would imagine, there is tremendous cynicism about
you on the outside and, I suppose, for good reason. I'm not sure
there's anything that you could say that people would believe,
some people would believe...
...and, yet you told me last night, and I heard this through our
mutual friend John Tanner, that you have accepted the forgiveness
of Jesus Christ and are a follower and a believer in Him. Do
you draw strength from that as you approach these final hours?
I do. I can't say that being in the valley of the shadow of death
is something that I've become all that accustomed to and that
I'm strong and nothing's bothering me. Listen, it's no fun.
It's kind of lonely and yet, I have to remind myself that everyone
of us will go through this some day, in one way or another, and
countless millions who have walked this earth before us. So this
is just an experience which we'll all share.
will you allow the rise of other Ted Bundy's generated by the
permissiveness of actual laws?
will you provoke in your customers these thoughts leading to sexual
violence, occasioned by your videos, magazines, newspapers and
books full of erotic elements?
will you put within the reach of your pupils libidinous ideas
and images which may lead them to vice?
will you open the door of your homes, through books, videos, T.V.,
radio and literature, to a lewd influence which can but harm your
children and yourselves?
We must react in destroying all pornography from our cities, schools
and homes because “people are more easily reduced into slavery
by pornography than by Miradors” (Solzenitsyn).
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