What was it that Ted Bundy was so anxious to say? He felt he owed it to society to warn of the dangers of hard-core pornography and to explain how it had led him to murder so many innocent women and girls. With tears in his eyes, he described the monster that took possession of him when he had been drinking. His craze to kill was always inflamed by violent pornography. Quoted below is an edited transcript of the conversation that occurred just seventeen hours before Ted was led to the electric chair.
Dr. Dobson: Ted, it is about two-thirty in the afternoon. You are scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning at seven o'clock if you don't receive another stay. What is going through your mind? What thoughts have you had in these last few days?
Ted Bundy: Well, I won't kid you today that it's something that I feel that I'm in control of or something that I've come to terms with, because I haven't. It's a moment-by-moment thing.
Dobson: Let's go back, then, to [your] roots. You, as I understand it, were raised in what you consider to have been a healthy home.
Dobson: You were not physically abused. You were not sexually abused. You were not emotionally abused.
Bundy: No. No way. That's part of the tragedy of this whole situation, because I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents. It was a fine, solid Christian home. But as a young boy--and I mean a boy of twelve or thirteen certainly--I encountered outside the home soft-core pornography. From time to time we'd come across pornographic books of a harder nature, more graphic you might say. And this also included such things as detective magazines...
Dobson: And those that involved violence, then.
Bundy: Yes, the most damaging kinds of pornography are those that involve sexual violence. Because the wedding of those two forces, as I know only too well, brings about behavior that is just too terrible to describe.
Dobson: Now I really want to understand that. You had gone about as far as you could go in your own fantasy life with printed material, and then there was the urge to take that little step or big step over to a physical event.
Bundy: My experience with pornography that deals on a violent level with sexuality is that once you become addicted to it--and I look at this as a kind of addiction--like other kinds of addiction...I would keep looking for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of materials. Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder, harder. Something which gives you a greater sense of excitement. Until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far. You reach that jumping-off point where you begin to wonder if maybe actually doing it will give you that which is beyond just reading about it or looking at it.
Dobson: Do you remember what pushed you over that edge?
Bundy: I knew that I couldn't control it anymore, that these barriers that I had learned as a child, that had been instilled in me, were not enough to hold me back with respect to seeking out and harming somebody.
Dobson: Would it be accurate to call that a frenzy, a sexual frenzy?
Bundy: Well, yes. That's one way to describe it. A compulsion, a building up of destructive energy. But I think that what alcohol did in conjunction with, let's say, my exposure to pornography [is that] alcohol reduced my inhibitions, at the same time. The fantasy life that was fueled by pornography eroded them further, you see.
Dobson: In the early days, you were nearly always about half-drunk when you did these things. Is that right?
Bundy: Yes. Yes.
Dobson: All right, if I can understand it now, there's this battle going on within. There are the conventions that you've been taught. And then there is this unbridled passion fueled by your plunge into hard-core, violent pornography.
Bundy: Well, yes. That is a major component, and I don't know why I was vulnerable to it. All I know is that it had an impact on me that was just so central to the development of the violent behavior that I engaged in.
Dobson: Ted, after you committed your first murder, what was the emotional effect on you? What happened in the days after that?
Bundy: Again, please understand that even all these years later, it's very difficult to talk about it, and reliving it through talking about it. It was like coming out of some kind of horrible trance or dream. I can only liken it to, and I don't want to overdramatize it, but to have been possessed by something so awful and so alien, and then the next morning wake up from it, remember what happened, and realize that basically, you're responsible. To wake up in the morning and realize what I had done, with a clear mind and all my essential moral and ethical feelings intact at that moment, [I was] absolutely horrified that I was capable of doing something like that.
Dobson: You really hadn't known that before?
Bundy: I want people to understand this. Basically, I was a normal person. I wasn't some guy hanging out at bars, or a bum. Or I wasn't a pervert in the sense that people look at somebody and say, "I know there's something wrong with him; I can just tell." But I was essentially a normal person. I had good friends. I lived a normal life, except for this one small, but very potent, very destructive segment of it that I kept very secret, very close to myself, and didn't let anybody know about. And part of the shock and horror for my dear friends and family, years ago when I was first arrested, was that there was no clue. They looked at me, and they looked at the All-American boy. I think people need to recognize that those of us who have been so much influenced by violence in the media--in particular pornographic violence--are not some kinds of inherent monsters. We are your sons, and we are your husbands. And we grew up in regular families. And pornography can reach out and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home twenty, thirty years ago, as diligent as my parents were, and they were diligent in protecting their children. And as good a Christian home as we had--and we had a wonderful Christian home--there is no protection against the kinds of influences that there are loose in a society that tolerates. [Bundy is in tears.]
Dobson: Ted, outside these walls right now there are several hundred reporters that wanted to talk to you.
Dobson: And you asked me to come here from California because you had something you wanted to say. You really feel that hard-core pornography and the doorway to it, soft-core pornography, is doing untold damage to other people and causing other women to be abused and killed the way you did it.
Bundy: Listen. I'm no social scientist, and I haven't done a survey. I mean, I don't pretend that I know what John Q. Citizen thinks about this. But I've lived in prison for a long time now. And I've met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence just like me. And without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography--without question, without exception--deeply influenced and consumed by an addiction to pornography. There's no question about it. The FBI's own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography.
Dobson: That's true.
Bundy: And it's real.
Dobson: Ted, what would your life have been like without that influence? You can only speculate.
Bundy: I'm absolutely certain [it] would not have involved this kind of violence that I have committed.
Dobson: One of the most important questions as you come down to perhaps your final hours: Are you thinking about all those victims out there and their families who are so wounded?
Bundy: Absolutely. I can only hope that those who I have harmed and those who I have caused so much grief--even if they don't believe my expression of sorrow and remorse--will believe what I'm saying now, that there is loose in their towns, in their communities, people like me today whose dangerous impulses are being fueled day in and day out by violence in the media in its various forms, particularly sexualized violence. And what scares me--and let's come into the present now because what I'm talking about happened twenty, thirty years ago, that is, in my formative stages. And what scares and appalls me, Dr. Dobson, is when I see what's on cable TV, some of the movies, some of the violence in the movies that come into homes today was stuff that they wouldn't show in x-rated adult theaters thirty years ago.
Dobson: The slasher movies that you're talking about.
Bundy: The stuff is--I'm telling you from personal experience--the most graphic violence on the screen. Particularly as it gets into the home to the children who may be unattended or unaware that they may be a Ted Bundy who has that vulnerability to that kind of behavior, by that kind of movie and that kind of violence.
Dobson: Can you help me understand this desensitization process that took place? What was going on in your mind?
Bundy: Each time I harmed someone, each time I killed someone, there would be an enormous amount of horror, guilt, remorse afterward. But then that impulse to do it again would come back even stronger. The unique thing about how this worked, Dr. Dobson, is that I still felt, in my regular life, the full range of guilt and remorse about other things. Regret and...
Dobson: You had this compartmentalized...
Bundy: ...compartmentalized, very well focused, very sharply focused area where it was like a black hole. It was like a crack. And everything that fell into that crack just disappeared. Does that make sense?
Dobson: It does. One of the final murders that you committed, of course, was apparently little Kimberly Leach, twelve years of age. I think the public outcry is greater there because an innocent child was taken from a playground. What did you feel after that? Were there the normal emotions three days later? Where were you, Ted?
Bundy: [Struggling for words] I can't really talk about that right now.
Dobson: That's too painful.
Bundy: I would like to convey to you what that experience is like, but I can't. I won't be able to talk about that...
[continuing] I can't begin to understand--well, I can try, but I'm aware that I can't begin to understand the pain that the parents of these children--that I have, and these young women that I have harmed--feel. And I can't restore really much to them, if anything, and I won't pretend to. I don't even expect them to forgive me, and I'm not asking for it. That kind of forgiveness is of God. And if they have it, they have it, and if they don't, well, maybe they'll find it someday.
Dobson: Do you deserve the punishment the state has inflicted upon you?
Bundy: That's a very good question, and I'll answer it very honestly. I don't want to die. I deserve, certainly, the most extreme punishment society has, and I think society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me. That's the irony. What I'm talking about is going beyond retribution because there is no way in the world that killing me is going to restore those beautiful children to their parents and correct and soothe the pain. But I'll tell you, there are lots of other kids playing in streets around this country today who are going to be dead tomorrow and the next day and the next day and next month, because other young people are reading the kinds of things and seeing the kinds of things that are available in the media today.
Dobson: And yet, you told me last night, and I have heard that you have accepted the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and are a follower and a believer in Him. Do you draw strength from that as you approach these final hours?
Bundy: I do. I can't say that being in the valley of the shadow of death is something that I've become all that accustomed to, and that I'm strong and nothing's bothering me. Listen, it's no fun. It gets kind of lonely, and yet, I have to remind myself that every one of us will go through this someday in one way or another...and countless millions who have walked this earth before us have, so this is just an experience which we all share. Here I am.
With that, Ted Bundy was led away with his arms cuffed behind his back. At seven o'clock the following morning, he was buckled into the electric chair, and his soul went into eternity. If anyone ever deserved to be executed, it was this man. He brutally killed without mercy and inflicted incredible pain on the families and friends of his victims. What a tragedy! There is a possibility, at least, that it would not have occurred if that thirteen-year-old boy had never stumbled onto pornographic magazines in a garbage dump. He was one of those people who was terribly vulnerable to depictions of sexualized violence.
Bundy was correct in saying that most serial murderers are addicted to hard-core pornography. FBI records validate that point. Not every person exposed to obscenity will become a killer, of course, but too many will! If only five or ten people in a nation become serial murderers per year, each killing twenty-eight people, it is too many!
Unfortunately, the willingness of men in our culture to harm women is far more widespread than that. Two researchers at UCLA studied this impulse among "normal" university men. They asked hundreds of male sophomores, "Would you rape a woman if you knew you would never get caught?" More than 50 percent said "Yes."
Pornography Often Leads to Violent Crime
Common sense tells us that providing potentially violent men with highly erotic depictions of rape, murder, and torture is dangerous and stupid. Yet there is very little restraint on what the pornographers are able to produce and sell in this country. And remember this: Hunters read hunting magazines, fishermen read fishing magazines, computer specialists read computer magazines, and you can be sure that men who find it exciting to assault women sexually read magazines and watch videos that depict that terrible abuse.
What does this discussion mean for you? Just this: Remember that pornography is dangerous. It can warp the mind and destroy sexual intimacy in marriage. Stay away from it. A monster is crouched behind that door.
Book: Life on the Edge
By Dr. James Dobson