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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Was Ted Bundy a product of incest?

In the previous post I linked an article about Ted Bundy to substantiate his work at a suicide hotline. But the article, Six Little-Known Facts About Ted Bundy That Every Bundyphile Should Know, contained two other tidbits I'd been unaware of.


Ted Bundy, born Theodore Robert Cowell, grew up living a lie. Ted’s mother, Louise Cowell, was single when she gave birth to him and in the 1940’s that was a serious no-no. Ted’s grandparents took their daughter in, telling young Ted that his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his sister.

As if that wasn’t messed up enough, Ted’s grandfather, Samuel Cowell, is rumored to be his biological father. Although it was never confirmed, if the rumor is true, that would make Ted Bundy the product of incest.

Here's the picture they provided of a young Ted with his grandfather (and maybe father):

If the rumor is true, then Ted inherited three-quarters of his genes from Samuel Cowell. And Louise Bundy never gave up the name of Ted's father, which tends to lend credence to the rumor.

The incest also raises the possibility that Ted's mental problems were organically-caused. Ted wasn't inbred-looking, in fact was often described as handsome. But that doesn't negate the possibility that the incest resulted in brain defects.

I had always assumed that Louise was a cold, harsh woman whose lack of love for her son turned him into the monster he became. But if she had been raped by her father, Louise was just another victim herself.

In addition to the shame of bearing a child out of wedlock, Louise must have worried about how the inbreeding would affect Ted. And all of those feelings must have been subtly communicated to Ted from the moment he was born. 

Louise Bundy was evidently steadfast in her defense of her son up until he started confessing. It sounds as if she actually believed in his innocence, too, which, while the height of naivete, is understandable in a mother. 

On the day he died, she told him twice, "You'll always be my precious son." Which makes it sound as if she actually did love him. 

Most of the pictures I've seen of her, like the one above, showing her lean, tough face, and the severe hairdo she kept all her life, gave her a somewhat stark and forbidding demeanor. But reading about her has softened my view of her. And what can you do if, as a young girl, you're raped by your father?

None of Louise's other four children -- all fathered by her husband John Bundy -- ever got into any significant trouble. Which would indicate that it was Samuel Cowell, and not Louise, who put the curse on Ted.

The other thing I hadn't known was that Bundy had helped take down the Green River Killer:

It’s surprising to see the words “help” and “Bundy” in the same sentence. In a surprising move, Bundy contacted the detective that helped put him behind bars, Robert D. Keppel, while he was on death row. Keppel was working on the “Green River Killer” investigation, desperately seeking to stop the infamous killer. Bundy was able to help Keppel understand the inner workings of a serial killer’s mind, ultimately helping the detective identify Gary Ridgway and bring him to justice.

This is a little reminiscent of Clarice Starling going to visit Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs in order to obtain his help in tracking down the serial killer "Buffalo Bill."

Bundy's probable motivation for helping out was to prevent the Green River Killer from surpassing him. (Bundy, like many serial killers, took a certain proprietary pride in the number of his victims.) 

I had known of Bundy's job at the suicide hotline before. But his motives for doing so weren't purely to appear noble. Sociopaths actually savor other people's pain. And where better to experience that than on a phone with someone who is so distraught they want to take their own life?

Ted Bundy is probably the most famous serial killer in history, the first person people think of when they think of serial killers. He's the archetype, the bogeyman whose name is shorthand for everything evil and twisted. Much has been written about him over the years, a lot of which I've read. I'm surprised I'd never heard the incest rumor before, or about how he'd helped find the Green River Killer. 


Steven said...

If true then its organic not just because he was the product of incest but because he inherited 3/4 of his genes from a guy who may well have been a sociopath (who rapes their own daughter?).

On the environmental side, he was brought up by a man who raped his own daughter so I doubt that was an ideal home. That guy could have been abusive in all sorts of ways.

I guess they weren't lying when they said his mum was his sister. It just wasn't all she was.

The mum might not have been a sociopath. She might not have inherited the right genes from her dad and maybe her mum was a nice person and a victim of her dad too.

John Craig said...

Steven --
All of those are distinct possibilities.

I do remember reading once that Ted had witnessed his grandfather kill a cat by swinging it by the tail and bashing its brains out against a wall. So yeah, between that and maybe having raped his own daughter, it does sound as if Gramps/Dad was a sociopath.

I was wondering about Louise's mother as well. She must have been completely cowed by her husband, to allow all that stuff to go on under her roof.

Steven said...

yeah but that wouldn't be unusual would it.

Just ever seen Dexter?

Justin said...

Buddy's grandfather was known for being abusive, he supposedly threw one of his daughters down a flight of stairs for oversleeping. If I recall correctly, Ted lived under his roof until he was 3, the critical attachment years, so not too surprising he'd turn out sociopath too. I didn't know about these incest rumors though.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I saw one episode. But I didn't really buy the whole sociopathic-serial-killer-with-a-sense-of-justice premise, so couldn't get into it.

John Craig said...

Justin --
Wow, hadn't heard that story about throwing the daughter down the stairs. Gramps sure was consistent.

Anonymous said...

If you are ever in Salt Lake City, you should eat at Lamb's restaurant in downtown, like 161 South Main Street, is very very old school, like Great Depression, unchanged for as long as I have been paying attention.
We are reliably told that Ted Bundy liked to eat there regularly (it is not expensive) but I don't know what dishes he ordered. But whatever dish you get, the odds are good, that the meal is very much as it was back when Ted was an habitué.

====Fake Baba

John Craig said...

Fake Baba --
Next time I'm in SLC, I'll check it out.

My understanding is Ted was a necrophiliac (kept several of his victims' heads to have sex with), but not a cannibal, so he probably just ordered from the menu.

Anonymous said...

Bringing unwanted children in the world, who kill not just one but over 30, wrecking havoc to the victims’ families. And the pro-lifers think they have a just cause. Killing of the unborn versus murder.


John Craig said...

Sherie --
I'm definitely pro-choice myself, and the last thing the world needs is more unwanted children. That said, I'm not sure that using Bundy as an argument against the pro-lifers is quite fair.

Anonymous said...

Some pets are the product of incest, no wonder the neighbors dog is a bastard. Must be the village idiot since villages often have inbreedibg but not all turn get the point and the joke has lost its whatever that is called

John Craig said...

Josh --
Ah, that makes sense. I wonder if our new dog is a product of that.

Anonymous said...

They all are inbred really, does a bulldog look natural? It's literally deformed through selective breeding.


John Craig said...

Josh --
True; that's probably in large part why dogs are so much less intelligent than wolves and coyotes.

Wabbit said...

We are all products of inbreeding. If you believe in the Adam & Eve story..

Megan Roberts said...

We are most likely all products of incest as it was common practice in most places in the past to marry within the family.

Anonymous said...

"Sociopaths actually savor other people's pain"-are you f***ing kidding me? I understand why someone might have thought such a thing in the 70's, when Sociopathy & psychopathy were conflated with sadistic & narcissistic traits & behaviors, but today, we know that Sociopathy/psychopathy & sadism are mutually exclusive conditions. I lost all respect for the author's knowledge when I read the aforementioned quote. People need to be more knowledgeable about such topics before commentimg about them.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I've known several sociopaths personally and every one of them did savor other people's pain. Especially if they had caused it.