It’s rare that a brutal, violent criminal will commit humane acts worthy of approval. However, there are two stories that have long circulated about Ted Bundy suggesting he had a kinder side. In the summer of 1970, Bundy spent some time at Green Lake with friends, a popular park in central Seattle that offered trails, boating, dog walking, and swimming. Reports from that warm day indicate a 3-year-old child wandered away from his parents and was later spotted drowning in the deep water. Ted jumped into the lake, fully clothed, to rescue the child. This anecdote has been repeated many times and more than one version has been circulated. The original story was published by Ann Rule in her book, “The Stranger Beside Me.” In another instance, Ted was shopping with his girlfriend, Liz Kloepfer, when he took off running, much to her surprise. Liz was confused until she saw him chasing off a would-be thief who was attempting to steal an older woman’s pocketbook. He later received a commendation from the Seattle Police Department for catching the purse snatcher. This story was quoted in Kloepfer’s book, “The Phantom Prince.”
Both reports were given by people who knew Ted intimately, so their truth is likely. However, these tales give rise to the question “How can someone so violent and cruel save a life or rescue someone from a thief?” Prior to his criminal trials, Ted was diagnosed with narcissistic personality and antisocial personality disorders. Antisocial personalities are characterized by their complete disregard for others and narcissism connotes an inflated sense of self-importance. Both of these disorders contrast any acts of heroism or selflessness. It’s hardly likely that Bundy would have done anything for anyone but himself. Still, although he wasn’t diagnosed with having a hero complex, this could explain his selfless acts. People who strive for recognition often want to flaunt their bravery to those around them. In both instances, Bundy was surrounded by people. He clearly wanted to appear to be a valuable asset to the community and to be admired by members of his community. Bundy later sought recognition in 1984 when he offered to help the Green River Killer task force find their killer.
It’s evident that being perceived as a good guy and someone to be trusted was very important to Ted. He had a very difficult time revealing his true murderous feelings to anyone. It was far more important to show the nice guy “persona” to those around him, not only for his own self-esteem, but also to easily manipulate others. This also explains why he proclaimed his innocence until almost the very end of his life. It was extremely challenging for Ted to open up and admit to his crimes. So much so that in some of his final interviews, he is difficult to hear, whispering just loudly enough to be caught on the audio tape recording his confessions. Once we put these acts into context, it’s clear that Bundy committed them primarily to help himself. Had there not been anyone around to witness his behavior, it’s highly unlikely he would have lifted a finger to assist those in danger around him.