Serial Killer Ted Bundy

One of the constant questions in criminal justice is whether criminal acts are a nature (genetically acquired) or nurture’s (environmentally acquired) product. As Knight (2007) notes, serial’s killers mind is driven by primal instincts as compared to other population whether people get to utilize the intellectual (social skills and interpersonal skills) side of the brain. In this case, serial killers commit murder as a way of relieving intense feeling created by past experiences. However, the grounded theory challenges this worldview. As Yajsic (2015) adds being sexually and physically abused in childhood does not guarantee people to engage in serial killing behaviors. As Beasley (2004) points out, scholars should embrace an open minded approach while examining information related to serial killing activities void of preconceived assumptions and hypotheses. Besides, every serial killer motivation to kill many victims may be distinctive and therefore difficult to quantify.

After the murder, these individuals becomes temporality mollified and subdued.  On their work, Alley et al. (2014) argue that serial killers behave the way they do because of the buildup of situations and factors that generate the compulsion to commit murder. Ted Bundy who is a subject in this case is no different from other serial killers including Albert Fish, Aileen Wuornos, among others. Psychiatrists, psychologists and forensic investigators understand serial killers mind by carefully exploring their past and present lives. However, only the serial killers will ever know the main cause of their behaviours (Alley et al., 2014: Beasley, 2004).


Behavioral Variables

 In criminal profiling, serial killers tend to have a conclusive and a common personality sketch. As Baron-Cohen (2011) argues, serial killers are diagnosed if they killed a minimum of three victims in two weeks span. For Bundy, he killed at least 30 young women before his execution in 1989. Since he was educated and charming, he managed to convince the law enforcement to save him from Florida’s electric chair (Cimono, 2019). In addition, such individuals are frequently social awkward and have issues related to job stability. On examining Ted case, he was a coldhearted, oppressive, had impulsive predispositions and incapable of feeling guilt. A key determinant of serial killers is their motive towards aggression. Serial killers in this case can be categorized in various categories including visionaries, lust killers, serial killers, thrill killers and power seeker (Leung, 2004). For visionaries, they suffer from psychotic delusions while the missionaries’ killers take it as a call to eliminate some people in the world. For lust killers, they kill to attain sexual gratification while the gain serial killers profits financially. Ted was a psychopath who could not follow rules. According to Cimino (2019)), Ted was a power/control killer who committed a series of murders with an intention of dominating the victims. He followed a predictive behavior pattern.

Ted Modus Operandi, Signatures and Repetitive Patterns evident in Criminal Acts

Serial killers sometimes leave their traces of Modus Operandi (MO) or signature behavioral characteristics. As Schlesinger et al. (2010) adds such acts as a personal mark or an imprint of the offender. While many of the crimes have an MO, most of them lacks a signature. While MO is what the serial killer must do to commit a crime, signature is not a requirement in committing a crime. However, it serves the offender (Ted) emotional and psychological needs. Sharma (2018) adds that MO is learned behavior that is subject to change. On the other hand, a signature comes from within the offender’s psyche and reflect a deep fantasy.  In terms of MO, Ted used to lure girls into his Volkswagen pretending that he was injured in an accident and he desperately needed help. Once the girl is inside, he would pull a crowbar and knock them to the state of unconscious. He would then proceed to rape them and later strangle them to death (Cimino, 2019). Schlesinger et al. (2010) in their work also argued that Ted used his good looks to lure girls into his trap. However, he never had a consistent way of doing things. In terms of signature, Ted liked killing his victims under the bright moon or illumination of his car headlights. In one of his confession, Ted mentioned necrophilia and dolling up where he put make up on his victims (Cimino, 2019). According to John Douglas who was a former FBI criminal officer, Ted had complex signature behaviors. They included keeping the victims’ bodies for days, shampooing their hair, application of makeup, inserting objects in their private parts and decapitation. Kozel (2007) in his work argues that on being questioned by FBI, Ted blamed his behavior on pornography. As he watched pornography, he fantasized many things that would give him gratification and self-comfort. Later, he would practice with his victims before killing them.

Possible Causes for Prevalent Criminality

Various developmental issues seem to have contributed to Ted behaviors. Firstly, an evaluation by Utah State Prison psychologist proved that Ted had past painful memories. As Cimino (2019) notes, Ted had past hurtful memories related to cruelty, embarrassments, disappointments, intimidations and hindrance. Such things drove him to fantasizing which later would lead to homicide. The fantasies majorly comforted him. Over the years, the development of serial killers has been associated with painful and traumatic memories. In many scholastic works including Wilson & Hilton, Leung (2004), serial killers engage in serial killings as a result of dysfunctional relationships growing up, are sexually or physically molested in childhood and hence murder for sexual gratification. However, Sharma (2018) refutes arguing that scholars should approach the development of a serial killer issue with an open mind without preconceived assumptions and hypotheses. An analysis of Ted shows that he was born in a stable, loving and Methodist family. Born out of wedlock, his grandfather an adopted him. After the mother got married, Ted would be forced to live a merger life (Cimino, 2019). In school, Ted was known to be loving, popular and intelligent. Exploring Ted’s earlier life indicates that a normal child can later turn out to be a capable, destructive murder. In his work, Leung (2004) argues that Ted’s serial killing behaviors was probably triggered by a heartbreak after a lady friend broke up with him back in college. In this case of Ted, he had challenges dealing with life situations that includes stress, loneliness, and frustrations and ended up using sexual violence and serial murders as a coping skill. 

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In conclusion, unlike many beliefs that serial killers have gone through a hardship among other traumas growing up, Ted grew in a stable Methodist home. However, he later turned out to be a notorious American serial killers. In his killings, both MO and signatures are evident. He used to pretend to have been injured to lure young girls. On signatures, he used to shampoo, insert objects in the victims’ private parts and do makeup to the victims’ bodies. Because of his good looking nature and neutralizations methods, he easily won the victims and the society’s trust.


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Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The science of evil: On empathy and the origins of cruelty. New York: Basic Books.

Beasley, J. (2004). Serial murder in America: Case studies of seven offenders. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 22, 395-414.

Cimino, A. (2019). Ted Bundy: America’s most evil serial killer. London: Arcturus.

Knight, Z. (2007). Sexually motivated serial killers and the psychology of aggression and “evil” within a contemporary psychoanalytical perspective. Journal of Sexual Aggression. 13 (5),. 21-35. Doi: 10.1080/13552600701365597.

Kozel, M. (2007). Mind of a Killer. Retrieved from

Leung, J. (2004). The personality profile of a serial killer. Retrieved from

Schlesinger, L., Kassen, M., Mesa, B & Pinizotto, A. (2010). Ritual and Signature in Serial Sexual Homicide. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 38(2), 239-246.Top of Form

Sharma, M. (2018). The Development of Serial Killers: A Grounded Theory Study. Masters Theses. 3720.

Wilson, W., & Hilton, T. (1998). Modus operandi of female serial killers. Psychological Reports, 82(2), 495-498. doi: 10.2466/PR0.82.2.495-498

Yaksic, E. (2015). Addressing the challenges and limitations of utilizing data to study serial homicide. Crime Psychology Review, 1 (I), I 08-134.