Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hollow Men: Why Serial Murderers Must Kill To Feel

Hollow Men: Ted Bundy Discusses "Possession"

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy

It was easily the strangest interview of my life: Ted Bundy on death row explaining to me in the third person how a sexualized murder occurs:

"The initial sexual encounter," said Bundy, "would be more or less a voluntary one that did not wholly gratify the full spectrum of desires that he had intended. And so, his sexual desire builds back up and joins ... this other need to totally possess her. As she lay there, somewhere between coma and sleep, he strangled her to death."

The pivotal word here is possess. At the time, I hardly understood what Bundy meant by it, and it remains a little-appreciated particularity in the ritualistic killer's psyche. It is nevertheless central to his crimes, and distinguishes him from every other criminal, deviant or otherwise.

Possession in its aberrant sense is newly relevant this summer with the sudden rise of disturbed murderers in every corner of the country. From the killer kids in Colorado to a homicidal janitor at Yosemite, around America with serial "Railway Killer"Angel Maturino Resendez, down toMark Barton's day-trader hell in Atlanta and on to deranged bigot Buford Furrow's rampage in Los Angeles two weeks ago, 1999 has been a banner year for murderous moral imbeciles.

Right now we seem inexplicably under siege not by armies, or even gangs, but by mostly middle-class white guys of varying ages who are skidding wildly out of control, targeting multiple defenseless victims, usually strangers, for murder.

But they are not interchangeable pieces of the same macabre puzzle. There is a world of deviant difference between deeply troubled shooters such as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold atColumbine High and sexually motivated ritual predators like Resendez, who has been charged in four states with nine serial murders and one rape (and is rumored to have had post-mortem sex with at least one of his other female victims), orCary Stayner, who is accused of brutally dispatching four females at Yosemite, two by strangulation and two by slitting their throats decapitating one, nearly decapitating the other.

The difference is possession.


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