As one of the most famous serial killers of all time, just the name Ted Bundy is enough to remind people who lived during his four-year rampage of the countless atrocities he committed. In a new Netflix Original four-episode docuseries, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” the audience gets to hear Bundy’s actual thoughts about the murders and the events leading up to them, along with interviews from people who floated in and out of his life.
Known for the murders of at least 30 women, Theodore “Ted” Bundy, has been a fascination to the public since his story was heard around the country. His murder trial was the first one ever televised. Bundy grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and his first known murder took place at the University of Washington, where he got a degree in psychology.
Eventually, Bundy traveled to Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Florida and a list of other states, where he got away with murder for years without police catching him. In 1975, he was stopped in traffic by a police officer and later given the death penalty in Florida’s state penitentiary.
While in prison, he sat down with journalist Stephen Michaud, who convinced Bundy to tell his story in a third-person perspective by talking as an expert witness instead of the defendant. As Bundy narrates what he “believes someone did,” interviews of the detectives, friends, and those who interacted with Bundy during the 1970s are shown, giving greater detail and perspective to Bundy’s final words.
Throughout the documentary, inconsistencies in Bundy’s life arise from his own words when compared to the accounts of those who knew him. In the first episode, Bundy’s childhood friend Sandi Holt is introduced. When Bundy narrates his childhood, he paints a picture of a perfect life with good grades, plenty of friends and athletic ability. Conversely, Holt claims Bundy was an outcast for most of his life, growing up with a speech impediment and having trouble connecting with those around him.
As his outcast persona amplified, small indicators of his future would pop up. As a kid, he would build tiger traps with sharp sticks that were covered in grasses. The hidden traps even injured a young girl who was lured in.
The contradiction in his stories reveals where Bundy was mentally during the interviews and establishes a pattern of lying. By creating his twisted versions of the truth, Bundy manipulated his family, friends and eventually his victims into believing whatever he wanted.
In the tapes, Bundy’s version of the truth depends on what would benefit him the most. At one point, Michaud noticed that Bundy did not want to talk about the murders, which he claims he was falsely accused of, and instead goes on about his early years. As a handsome man from a wholesome family, Bundy was never thought to be capable of the crimes he commited. By using his charm, he fooled everyone for years. Even after he was charged, he kept finding ways to escape from prison, like jumping out of windows and squeezing through small holes in the ceiling — the kind of stuff that sounds like the acts of a guilty man. But, he claimed he was innocent and just wanted out of the cells.
On some level, Bundy had some obvious issues with reality and impulse control, forming a man who would make women all over the country fear for their lives.
The series finds ways to recount the information in intriguing ways, keeping viewers focused on the show. The narration and sequencing of events, as in the number of times Bundy barely escaped getting caught, provides real-life suspense. In the first two parts of the series, the cops, victims’ families and fearful young women are on the lookout for the fleeing “Ted” and are determined to find the murderer. While the viewer knows who the true killer is the whole time, it’s hard to watch the families and police go around in circles when the suspect is right in front of them all along.
In light of popular shows like “Making A Murderer,” which explore the psyche of murderers, this docuseries has a built-in audience. Though Bundy’s execution happened 30 years ago and plenty of documentaries have attempted to tell his story, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” finds a way to bring the case back to life with the chilling voice of a murderer’s perspective.