Many describe convicted American serial killer Ted Bundy as a depraved monster who fooled everyone with his boy-next-door charm, including true crime author Ann Rule, who once counted Bundy as a friend.
In the 1970s, Bundy confessed to the raping and killing of 30 women. Police believe the true scale of his victims remain unknown and is possibly a lot higher than the official figures suggest. Furthermore, Bundy was a well-spoken and charming individual who was capable of effortlessly winning over his victims’ confidence.
Netflix’s recently released documentary, The Ted Bundy Tapes, has terrified viewers, not just because it uses unheard audio from the killer as he confesses to his brutal catalog of crimes, but because it also reveals how the convicted killer possessed an unnerving magnetism he used to manipulate people into thinking he was just a regular guy.
Speaking to Refinery29, director Joe Berlinger explained that the Netflix series represents a “cataloging and deep dive into the cradle to grave of Ted Bundy that takes a closer look at his “crimes and methodologies.”
“He taps into our most primal fear: That you don’t know, and can’t trust, the person sleeping next to you. People want to think those who do evil are easily identifiable. Bundy tells us that those who do evil are those who often people we know and trust the most.”
As shown in the documentary, Bundy used people like pawns. These were people who had no idea of the real person lurking behind his cheerful demeanor and wholesome exterior. The Express reports that one such person was best-selling true crime author Ann Rule.
Per the Express, Rule met Bundy when she was volunteering as a suicide prevention hotline worker in Seattle in 1971. She recalled there was a handsome and sensitive young man named Ted who was working alongside her.
Rule was struck by how adept he was at putting people at ease and gaining their confidence. Later, she would realize these were the exact same techniques he would employ on his victims. At the time, however, she had no reason not to forge a close relationship with this well-spoken, charming, and handsome young man.
“I liked him immediately, it would have been hard not to. He always insisted on seeing me safely to my car when my shift was over in the wee hours of the morning,” Rule later recalled.
“He often told me, ‘Be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to you.’
“As far as his appeal for women, I can remember thinking that if I were younger and single or my daughters were older, this would be almost the perfect man.”
Except that he wasn’t. Rule, who had previously worked as a policewoman, first began to have doubts about Bundy after he first began killing in 1973.
At first, she thought the killer would “prove to be a man with a record of violence, a man who should never have been allowed to walk the streets, someone who must surely have shown signs of a deranged mind.”
However, when police discovered Bundy had given his real name to women he attempted to kidnap, it switched a trigger in Rule’s mind. She contacted the homicide department to report her concerns about Bundy.
“I don’t really think this is anything, but it’s bugging me. His name is Ted Bundy. B-U-N-D-Y. Call me back. OK?”
When the police contacted her, they revealed the suspect also drove a 1968 bronze Volkswagen Beetle. Rule was aware that Bundy had also recently acquired a Beetle and that “he’d lived at 4123 12th Avenue NE, only blocks from so many of the missing girls.”
Yet despite what, in hindsight, looks like an overwhelming tide of evidence leading to Ted’s door, Rule completely discounted that her friend could be a killer. Even after he was arrested for kidnapping in 1975 and became a prime suspect in the case, Rule just thought of Bundy as the harmless Ted everyone knew and loved.
Rule explained that she knew that he “was a prime suspect, but that was all I knew at the time.”
“I had no knowledge at all beyond the few innuendoes I’d read in the papers. People like Ted can fool you completely. I’d been a cop, had all that psychology — but his mask was perfect. I say that long acquaintance can help you know someone. But you can never be really sure. Scary.”
After he was finally behind bars, Rule and Bundy would write to one another until he was sentenced to death by electric chair in 1979.
Ann Rule would go on to write the definitive Bundy biography The Stranger Beside Me in 1980. She died in 2015.