At that time I was the editor of the Evergreen college newspaper, the Cooper Point Journal (CPJ). It took a while for Manson's roommate to report her missing; Evergreeners were free spirits, and this was a time when students, men and women, could hitch a ride anywhere without a lift or crash with friends. However, as the weeks went by, it became clear that something was wrong. In April our article had a story about the missing student, along with a full-page advertisement with a $ 500 reward for proof of her whereabouts. The sheriff office of Thurston County began an extensive search.
I went outside with one of these quests, which scoured a large booth of second-green alders near the campus, the kind of damp, dark forests that occur throughout this wet area. Our group found bones, but it turned out to be that of a dead deer. No sign from Manson.
Other young women in the region, about the same age and with the same physical description, were also missing, most of them. At the beginning of July, the Sheriff & # 39; s Office of Thurston County organized a conference on "Murder and Missing Persons" for law enforcement and media targeting disappearing women. The goal was for different jurisdictions and researchers to "brainstorm" about the phenomenon. The police had no evidence that crimes had been committed in these disappearances, only dark suspicions.
Wendy Kramer, a reporter we sent to the conference, wrote a story on the front page with the heading & # 39; Pattern in disappearances & # 39 ;. The deceased writer Ann Rule, not yet famous, was present at the conference. She later wrote a book about true crimes about Ted Bundy, The stranger next to me; she knew him by working with him at the Seattle Crisis Clinic. But at this early moment she did not know Bundy was involved.
Rule noted that the abductor seemed to be taking women at regular intervals, about one a month. They disappeared from the University of Washington, Evergreen, Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Oregon State University and who knew where else. As the list of women showed, Rule predicted at the conference that the next victim would disappear later that month, and that happened, but there were two victims. On July 14, two women disappeared in separate incidents from Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, last seen in the company of a young man with his arm in a sling calling himself "Ted" and driving a brown Volkswagen bug used to be. A massive manhunt ensued, and people came forward with stories related to other abductions or attempts. Bundy was not caught, but he had left essential clues, such as his name, his car, and a trick of pretending he needed help.
Nobody knows when Bundy became a serial killer, but those 1974 disappearances put investigators on track and helped him lead to his final imprisonment. Bundy claimed at least 28 murders, but also hinted that the toll could be in the triple digits. After the murders in Washington and Oregon, he moved to Utah, Colorado and Florida, leaving a trail of death and chaos. He was eventually sentenced to death in Florida and executed in the electric chair in 1989. Because he was raised mainly in Tacoma and apparently his famous murders started here, he is inextricably linked to the northwest.
I was recently asked to think about Bundy for a documentary that is being made about him and which is currently planned to be completed this fall. When the late Anthony Bourdain came to Seattle in 2017, he also asked me about serial killers. What was it about the Northwest and serial killers? Bourdain asked. I joked that it's an easy place to hide the bodies.
There is some truth about that. In 1974, Washington was relatively recently connected to other regions through larger, faster interstate highways. These paths allowed people to travel anonymously to and along areas that offered the kind of woody privacy that Bundy liked when killing and later visiting the bodies of his victims. Bundy would return to these semi-main locations time and time again. For example, those two women at Lake Sammamish were taken one after the other to a hidden place on the Issaquah road – just a few minutes from the park and near the Interstate 90. I have been there. The sound of the highway can be heard from that forest.
Bundy brought serial killers into public consciousness, but he also changed how we think of mass killers, who until then were considered insane, such as Charles Manson or Son of Sam. Bundy was intelligent, a law student, a handsome guy who looked like the neighbor. He worked for then-Gov. Then Evans and for the Republican party. He was the kind of young man your parents might like because, unlike many young men of the time, he wasn't a long-haired hippie protesting in the street. His victims were, as one investigator described it, & # 39; the daughters of everyone & # 39 ;.
What should we make of Bundy now? Some feminist critics have postulated that Bundy is a copy of & # 39; gynecide & # 39 ;, a genus of sexually motivated male serial killers who have been romanticized in TV movies and in stimulating media stories. Ann Rule said Bundy had achieved the status of a Billy the Kid character.
This is being reviewed in this # MeToo era when women's hatred and patriarchy are exposed and challenged. Is Bundy an extreme example of our worst cultural impulses? Or is he a rare monster whose execution was rightly celebrated? The terrible nightmare of Ted Bundy and his victims, and his place in our culture, is worth investigating for almost half a century.
This column, in a slightly different version, originally appeared in the April edition of Seattle Magazine.