Yesterday’s Crimes: Ted Bundy by the Bay

What happened to Ted Bundy when he went to Stanford?

Ted Bundy is big business right now. The prolific serial killer and necrophiliac is the focus of Netflix’s info dump of a true crime series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, and Zac Efron got really ripped to play the never-very-athletic Bundy in the upcoming biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. While the Bay Area had so many serial killers of its own in the 1970s that we hardly need to go claiming other cities’ murderous creeps, Bundy and his unibrow were here in 1967.

After majoring in Asian studies at the University of Washington, Bundy took an intensive Chinese language course at Stanford that summer.

“It was really great,” Bundy told psychologist Dr. Al Carlisle in 1976. “It was warm, the campus was beautiful, and the professors were very interesting.”

Carlisle examined Bundy as part of a 90-day diagnostic team at the Utah State Prison when Bundy was incarcerated there following a kidnapping conviction in 1976. He probably saved countless lives by recommending that Bundy not be freed, and published his report in 2017 as Violent Mind: The 1976 Phycological Assessment of Ted Bundy. Carlisle died in May 2018, but not before becoming one of the more compelling talking heads on The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Despite singing the praises of the Stanford campus, Bundy didn’t finish his classes in 1967.

“I couldn’t focus on the lectures,” Bundy said. “I left without taking the final exams. After that summer, I felt I wasn’t measuring up. Everything was a bit too alien.”

At the time, Bundy was dating Diane Edwards, a University of Washington student from a well-to-do family in Burlingame. While Edwards was referred to by pseudonyms in Carlisle’s book and other Bundy biographies, she was pretty much doxed by repeated zooms into her yearbook photo in The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Bundy’s general evasiveness about Edwards during his conversations with Carlisle caused the psychologist to note that “it was clear that something significant, possibly traumatic happened between him and Marjorie when he was attending his summer classes at Stanford University.”

Evans first fell for Bundy because of “his ability to talk.”

“You know, he could just off the cuff come out with anything and it would sound good, and he wrote fantastic letters,” she told Carlisle during follow-up interviews for the 1976 psychological assessment.

Evans stayed in Washington while Bundy was just a 15-minute drive from her family home in 1967. She broke up with him through a series of letters that summer.

“I just didn’t feel he was straight with me all the time,” she said. “Instead of saying his pants came from Sears, he said he bought him at a high-class store.”

Carlisle also interviewed Sybil Ferris, an elderly nurse who knew Bundy “quite well” around that time in Washington, who confirmed Bundy’s propensity for lying. Ferris described Bundy as “a very peculiar boy” who was “just kind of sneaking around.”

“He told me he was going to be one place and he would be somewhere else,” Ferris said.

When Evans confronted Bundy over his bullshit, he became “pitifully weak.”

“He kowtowed to me,” Evans recalled. “He wasn’t strong. He wasn’t real masculine.”

“I think I was coming apart at the seams. She maybe didn’t understand what I was going through,” Bundy tells journalist Stephen Michaud during the series of interviews in 1980 captured on the tapes that form the narrative arc of The Ted Bundy Tapes.

“I had this overwhelming feeling of rejection, that stemmed not just with her but everything,” Bundy continued. “In there somewhere was a desire to have some sort of revenge on Diane.”

It is unclear in this part of The Ted Bundy Tapes if Bundy is talking about the initial breakup with Evans in 1967, or the final breakup with her after an attempt to rekindle the relationship in 1973. By allowing Bundy to tell this part of the story, The Ted Bundy Tapes engages in subtle victim blaming where Evans seems at least indirectly responsible for Bundy’s prolonged murder, rape and corpse molesting spree that began (as far as we know) in 1974.

As a result of Bundy’s time at Stanford and his renewed courtship of Evans after she returned to San Francisco in the early 1970s, Bundy was suspected of several then-unsolved Bay Area murders. Recent DNA tests found other sexual sadists responsible for the murders of Stanford grad Leslie Perlovin 1973 and Arlis Perry in the Stanford cathedral in 1974. Bundy’s use of credit cards also cleared him of the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker murders around the same time.

Misogyny, it turns out, is a regular occurrence.

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