Everyone's favorite topic...
That is Ted Bundy losing his mind in court when he was read a death sentence for his series of crimes. He really thought he was going to skate, or at the very least get life in prison, but not death. Here is the moment that he fractured, and the anger was… well… as you can see… unreal.
Ted Bundy is always talked about as the real deal, bonafide psychopath. No one comes close when you are relating an individual to the world “psychopath”, and almost every day I will have someone use him as the example of the certified psychopath.
Except, Ted Bundy was never a psychopath. He was never diagnosed as one either. If the term was used around him, it was never concretely assigned. In fact, he netted seven or eight diagnoses while he was alive, but no one lent them any credit because the clinicians were aware that he could manipulate the examiners to his will.
The best that could be arrived at for a diagnosis for Bundy, didn’t happen until after his death. This wasn’t some psyche student pontificating on his mental health, but rather it was a pretty big ordeal where over seventy clinicians got to try and answer the question about what was going on with Bundy. What did they discover?
Seventy-three psychologists from APA Division 42 recently took the opportunity to participate in a study concerned with the personality structure of Ted Bundy (Samuel & Widiger, 2006). The psychologists were provided a brief one and a half page vignette compiled from historical sources and reference materials. The psychologists were then asked to describe Bundy in terms of the American Psychiatric Association’s personality disorder nomenclature. The most commonly diagnosed personality disorder was antisocial, which was endorsed by almost 96% of the sample. In fact, nearly 80% of the respondents described Bundy as a prototypic case of antisocial personality disorder. Considering the history of brutal rapes and violent murders perpetrated by Bundy, this diagnosis is not particularly surprising. However, it is also worth noting that nearly 95% of the sample also saw Bundy as meeting sufficient criteria to be given the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. Over 50% of the psychologists also viewed Bundy as being above the diagnostic threshold for the borderline and schizoid diagnoses.
Sure, ASPD is what everyone agreed on, but of course, he was antisocial. He murdered people, which kind of goes along with being antisocial. However, the clinicians all considered him ideal for NPD, and some thought BPD, and schizoid personality disorder. NPD fits with what other people observed of him. I have a couple of anecdotal stories about just this:
My friend Nick Yarris spent 22 years on death row (eventually exonerated by DNA evidence) and met Ted one time. They were in the “law library” which was really two solitary cells next to each other with a couple of law books. Ted struck up a conversation with Nick through the bars.
Nick said Ted was as polished and smooth as his reputation - until Nick insulted Ted (intentionally - no one in prison really liked Ted, it seems…) Nick told me he never - before or since - saw someone turn from “nice guy” to “enraged violent screamer” faster than Ted did.
The fun part of the story: the guards came to take them away. Nick, of course, having done nothing wrong, acted meek as a lamb - assumed the position, cooperated in every way.
Ted put up a fight - until, being drug out of the room, he banged his ankle against the door frame. Then, Nick tells me, Ted started calling out “Time out, time out, I hurt my ankle, time out!” - like a kid on the playground. Even the guards started laughing at that stupidity as they continued to roughly drag him away.
So, yeah, what was game to Ted? I don’t think even he knew…
And the other:
I read a fair amount about Bundy including ‘The Phantom Prince,’ by his girlfriend Liz Kloepfer, as well as the Michau book. ‘The Single Living Witness,’ and Kevin Sullivan’s later Bundy material. The agreement reached by all of them was that Bundy had a very poor self-image, he didn’t view himself as attractive, important, worthy of anything very much - which was all an indication of him being a covert narcissist, which would explain his seething envy. This was also indicated by his inability to make friends when at school due to social awkwardness. Even his first college girlfriend, Dianne said he was incapable of standing up for himself and was desperate for approval. That’s about as far away from psychopathic as anybody could get! I’m interested in the tie-in between covert narcissism and malignant narcissism, and how these relate to each other, to manifest in the malicious personality that was Ted Bundy?
The stereotypical “psychopath” that Bundy is claimed to be, he simply isn’t. He was a messed up guy, with low self-esteem, that killed for whatever reasons compelled him. He always wanted to keep the attention on himself, and he always wished to be viewed as important or superior, which is likely why he represented himself in court. That is never a wise idea, but Bundy thought he could make it work. As you can see from the image above, that blew up in his face big time.
This was likely more surprising for him because at one point the judge appeared to believe him, even when delivering the death penalty sentence saying:
"The court finds that both of these killings were indeed heinous, atrocious and cruel," he told Bundy. "And that they were extremely wicked, shockingly evil, vile and the product of a design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life."
However, his comments following that, as Bundy prepared to leave the courtroom, left many flabbergasted because it felt as though Cowart was almost sympathizing with the serial killer.
"Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely," he said. "I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself. It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity, I think, as I've experienced in this courtroom."
"You're a bright young man. You'd have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. I don't feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Take care of yourself."
Bundy was absolutely shocked when he was sentenced. I wonder what the judge thought after delivering his punishment, and he reacted like that. I wonder what that moment was like to understand that this was the person that he probably showed to his victims in their final moments. Not the calm, relaxed, confident picture that he was able to create, but that storm of rage, and resentment. I imagine the judge was confident that his sentence was apt.
We will end this post with a very interesting story about Bundy, that is just a fun read.
Next Serial Killer
The Cannibal. Everyone likes to say that Jeffrey Dahmer was a psychopath because he ate people. I don’t know why in their minds that cannibalism and psychopathy go hand in hand, and why they then don’t call Reza Aslan a cannibal for eating human brains on CNN, but they don’t. Also, serial killing and cannibalism… yeah… not linked. That’s not a psychopathic trait. However, Dahmer gets called one pretty much all the time. He is another stand-in for serial killer=psychopath. Except, he wasn’t either.
Dahmer had a lot of issues, but psychopathy was not one of them. Instead, he had borderline personality disorder, was psychotic, as well as several other issues. This was well gone through in a Quora answer:
Ah, Mr. Dahmer. Interesting fellow to say the least. A real world Hannibal Lecter.
Without going into the formal DSM diagnostic criteria and breakdown here is the range of problems he is thought to have had according to a number of different people who have attempted to diagnose him. That is to say, he does not necessarily have all of these problems, just that it is a list by a number of people:
Sexual paraphelias including necrophelia, cannibalism, exhibitionism, pedophelia, depression, substance abuse (alcohol,) and possibly Asperger’s Syndrome.
Borderline personality disorder (identity disturbance being the primary feature,) personality disorder unspecified, with schzoid, antisocial and schizotypal features.
That is a long list of problems, but none of them are related to psychopathy. Again, we return to ASPD, which of course he had, but not psychopathy. One of the main features of Dahmer’s crimes was to not be left alone. He very much wanted a companion… forever. His idea initially wasn’t murder, but he was spurred to kill the first time because he knew that man that he was having sexual feelings for was straight. He had lured him to his home with drinking, but started to feel aroused toward him. The man however had been talking about females, and clearly was heterosexual. Dahmer didn’t want him to leave, so he bludgeoned him to death to prevent him from doing so.
Dahmer had a profound fear of being alone, but also did not seem to have a handle on how to be around people. In his mind, it was easier if they didn’t have to worry about that. All he required was their corporeal form, and his fantasy, the individual themselves, was wholly unnecessary. When he drilled into their brain to create these zombies, it oftentimes went array, and he ended up with a body on his hands.
As you can see Dahmer did not have the mental makeup of a psychopath, but he certainly is considered on by most laypeople, and also by several professionals due to the PCL-R. Then again, many professionals also think that the villain from, “No Country For Old Men”, is a psychopath as well, but we will get into that in another post. Dahmer needed people, and needed companionship. That, among many other reasons, speaks to him being very far from psychopathic. Despite him having diagnoses that specifically remove that being a possibility, he is often second on people’s lips when they are coming up with a list of evil psychopaths.
Serial Killer Number Three
The Night Stalker. Actually, the second Night Stalker, as there was one before him in the seventies. No really, look it up. Really interesting, especially since the original Night Stalker left pretty messed up messages on his victim’s answering machine.
However, this part is about the second Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez. Ramirez was a sick puppy. I knew someone that took advanced criminality courses, and they told me one of the details kept out of the press was that Ramirez would defecate on people’s dining room tables while he was in their houses. Now granted, this is nowhere near as messed up as rape and murder, but it is a level of disrespect that he is demonstrating, if not downright derision. It is a deep emotional statement of dislike and disdain.
However, this is not the only reason to not consider Ramirez a psychopath. The biggest reasons have to do with his childhood. There are three significant things that remove him from being able to be considered a psychopath.
He had a very abusive father, and was physically abused by him.
He had at least three significant head injuries as a child, at least two of which caused him to lose consciousness.
His cousin was a serial killer as well. He was a Vietnam Vet that delighted in torturing and killing the women there. He would dismember them, and take their heads. He shared polaroids of his crimes with a twelve-year-old Richard.
This same cousin also murdered his wife in front of Richard while he was still a very young teenager.
All of this makes trying to tell if Ramirez was a psychopath or not impossible, however, his emotional makeup pretty well rules it out. A statement by a psychiatrist about Ramirez read:
Psychiatrist Michael H. Stone describes Ramirez as a 'made' psychopath as opposed to a 'born' psychopath. He says that Ramirez's schizoid personality disorder contributed to his indifference to the suffering of his victims and his untreatability. Stone also stated that Ramirez was knocked unconscious and almost died on multiple occasions before he was six years old and as a result "later developed temporal lobe epilepsy, aggressivity, and hypersexuality."
If he had schizoid personality disorder, it seems unlikely that he would also be a sociopath. More likely he was just someone with schizoid personality disorder with antisocial traits. However, his head injuries make for a more interesting story
Serial Killer Number Four
This guy is not being included because he is considered a psychopath. In fact, most people have no idea who he is. This is Bobby Joe Long, and he has interesting parallels to Ramirez. He is a distant cousin of Henry Lee Lucas. Ramirez also had a serial killing cousin. He also suffered a significant head injury when he was in a motorcycle accident without a helmet. He landed on his forehead, damaging the frontal lobe of his brain. Prior to that he also had several significant head injuries in his childhood:
His mother tended to be overly protective and dramatic, but still Bobby Joe Long managed to suffer a series of severe head injuries beginning at age five, when he was knocked unconscious in a fall from a swing and had one eyelid skewered by a stick.
At 6 he was thrown from his bicycle, crashing headfirst into a parked car, with injuries including loss of several teeth and a severe concussion. At age 7, he fell from a pony onto his head and remained dizzy and nauseous for several weeks. He also seemed to have gotten into countless fist fights with relatives and classmates.
Add to that when he got older:
Things went well until a serious motorcycle accident in which he suffered another serious head injury and came close to losing a leg. He claimed that after this accident he became hypersexual.
Bobby Joe Long, and Richard Ramirez shared relatives that were serial killers, and had a history of severe head injuries. It interests me how much head injuries can cause severe personality changes, and I wonder what would have become of either of them had they not suffered these injuries, but we will never know.
It is fairly simple to see that these men are not psychopaths, but they are extremely antisocial in their nature. Once you examine each of them with a bit of scrutiny it is easy to see that they had a multitude of problems that created the outcome that the world had to deal with. It is a lot easier to try to make the problem simple. They were a psychopath, and psychopaths are evil, that’s the answer. It’s easy, it’s clean, and doesn’t require there to be a deeper examination of society and what might have contributed to the outcome that we now have to deal with.
Saying that psychopathy is the answer absolves the rest of the world from being complicit in who these people become. Looking at elements like child abuse is disconcerting, and making it someone else’s problem is far more comfortable. Serial killing is likely a very complex process, and it does not seem to discriminate as to who it affects. There are certainly psychopathic serial killers. What drives a psychopath to murder incessantly, I have no idea. Seems like a waste of valuable time to me, and perhaps the answer lies in their childhood.
After all, abuse a psychopath, and you can fairly well guarantee an antisocial psychopath. You may even produce an “A”-lister, or an “Above the Snowline” psychopath. These are the psychopaths that have all their traits all turned up to ten. They are severely antisocial, and they have no interest in being any other way. These are the types that end up engaging in things like serial murder.
However, they don’t account for a terribly large percentage of serial killers. Most of them are made up of various compilations of bad starts, and awful outcomes. People’s obsession with it is curious to me, but it is far more curious how people so obsessed, could simultaneously be so misinformed. It is the common narrative that pollutes those waters. Until that is cleaned up, there will still be this insistence that these men qualify as psychopathic, when in reality, that is a grave misconception.
And now, as promised, the Bundy story:
Ted Bundy Provo Canyon story
It was near Halloween time when my friends and I were telling ghost stories. My friend said she was going to tell a story about her parents' first date. She said she didn't like telling the story, since it was actually true, but we prodded her on.
To cut to the chase, the parents had spent a nice, if awkward first date, and around the time that they would have said "good night," the male in the situation--my friend's dad--suggested that they go for a midnight hike up Provo Canyon. He apparently knew the place, since he had done a fair amount of rock climbing in the area. So the two drove up the mouth of the canyon, got out of their cars and started hiking under just the light of the stars, since it was a new moon.
At some point, the male starts getting a "bad feeling," since the pathway ahead, which would pass under some trees, would be dark, and because it was getting to be quite late. He ignores the feeling and presses on. In later retellings of the story, the female would say that she had felt the same feeling at what was probably the same time, though she didn't know the trail like he did. A minute later, the feeling came back to the male. He ignored it again, and started walking a bit of the way into the trees when his foot hit something "soft" in the middle of the path. Under the trees, it was too dark to see just what this soft thing was, and the feeling came back stronger than ever. Instead of finding out what his foot had bumped into, he and the female both agreed to hightail it out of there...
Years later, after being married for some time, they were watching an interview with the serial killer, Ted Bundy. In response to a question asking him to describe the time that he felt the closest to being caught, he explained about the night that he lured a girl into Provo Canyon, and had just killed her when he heard some people coming up the trail. He explained how he hid in the trees just in time, only to watch some guy walk right into the body, and for some reason, just turn around and walk away.
Thanks for reading Eye of the Storm! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Thanks for reading Eye of the Storm! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.