Fascination has not waned around the serial killer Ted Bundy, who raped and murdered more than 30 women all over the continental United States from 1973 until he was arrested in 1978. Netflix released the documentary “The Ted Bundy Tapes” today, on the 30th anniversary of the serial killer’s execution. He was put to death by electric chair on January 24, 1989 in Florida.
And Bundy appears to have been used as inspiration by novelist Thomas Harris in his 1988 bestseller “Silence of Lambs”, which was memorably turned into the 1991 blockbuster film starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
The fictional story featured killer Buffalo Bill, who approaches women by asking for help with an injury, before knocking them out in a surprise attack and abducting them.
Like the fictional killer, Bundy used ploys to gain the confidence of women before abducting and murdering them.
He often pretended to be injured, wearing a fake casts and arm braces and using crutches, which he used to gain women’s sympathy as he struck up conversation.
The infamous Silence of the Lambs killer Hannibal Lecter shares traits with Ted Bundy
Another technique he used was to ask for directions, or help with his apparently broken-down car.
Once he had lured victims into his car he would strike them over the head to immobilise them, often taking them to a secondary site some distance away before murdering them.
Like the Silence of Lambs killer, one of Bundy’s main modes of homicide was to strangle his victims.
Although Harris has not publicly spoken about the similarities between Buffalo Bill and Bundy, the author attended parts of Bundy’s murder trial and reportedly sent him a copy of his 1981 novel Red Dragon, which introduced the character of Hannibal Lecter.
ted Bundy pictured in court (left) and from his police wanted poster
Harris also appears to taken inspiration from two other notorious American murderers in creating the Buffalo Bill character, who keeps his victims in a well in his basement, starving them so he can then more easily skin their bodies after death.
In the 1940s and 50s, Ed Gein skinned his murder victims and bodies he had snatched from cemeteries to make clothing, masks, lampshades and bowls, and created a “woman suit” to wear.
Gary M Heidnik kept six women prisoner in a pit in his basement, killing two of them, between 1986 and 1987.
The infamous Silence of the Lambs character Hannibal Lecter, who advises FBI agent agent Clarice Starling on catching Buffalo Bill, also shares traits with Bundy.
Ted Bundy used his Volkswagen Beetle in his crimes
Bundy offered himself up as an interview subject to the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit, the groundbreaking team that coined the term “serial killer”, and the unnerving charm and manipulation that agents witnessed that can be seen in the Netflix documentary.
One of the agents to interview Bundy was John E Douglas, who Thomas Harris interviewed extensively for Silence of the Lambs, creating Clarice Starling’s mentor Jack Crawford based on his research.
While awaiting execution, Bundy also advised on the investigation into Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer.
Ridgway is America’s most prolific serial killer, who murdered at least 71 women, and possibly as many as 90.
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster both won Academy Awards for their roles in Silence of the Lambs
Bundy spoke with investigators Robert Keppel and Dave Reichert in 1984 about his opinions on the killer’s psychology and motivation, and one of his chilling predictions proved to be correct.
He advised Keppel and Reichart that the killer was most likely re-visiting the sites where he dumped his victims in order to engage in sexual intercourse with the bodies.
Bundy told them to stake out any fresh graves they found and wait for the killer to return.
Police did so and were able to collect samples that proved crucial in bringing Ridgway to justice.
Bundy was also a necrophile and displayed similar traits to the Green River Killer.
Following the Netflix documentary release today, there is also a forthcoming feature film from the same director, Joe Berlinger.
Set to be released on Saturday, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” will star Zac Efron as the killer who was described by his defence team as “the very definition of heartless evil”.