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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Netflix’s “Ted Bundy Tapes” gives a close look into the life of a serial killer

The poster for “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” Netflix premiered the series on Jan. 24, 2019. PUBLIC DOMAIN

No name is more synonymous with American crime than Ted Bundy. The 70s were a time of fear and caution as it seemed serial killers plagued the country; the Manson family, John Wayne Gacy, Son of Sam, the Zodiac Killer, the “Hillside Strangler” and, of course, Ted Bundy, hunted their victims across the country within a span of ten years. It was the birth of the “serial killer” and the birth of the nation’s fascination with these gruesome characters.

Now, you can feed this obsession with the new docu-series on Netflix, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” Fair warning; the series is not for those with a weak heart, or a weak stomach.

Throughout the four-episode series, the audience gets to hear pieces of Bundy’s stories and confessions in his own words. In their interviews with Bundy and his appointed biographers, journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth captured over 100 hours of audio tape.

The docu-series outlines Bundy’s life and crimes, including stories on his childhood, his personal relationships, his two escapes from imprisonment, footage of his trials and in-depth conversations about his execution in the Florida State prison system in 1989.

These very tapes are recounted and played throughout the new series, allowing the audience the chance to hear Bundy explain the crimes himself. Though he shares his stories in a “hypothetical” third person, there isn’t much that is more chilling than hearing a serial killer share their thoughts on their own crimes.

And if that isn’t gruesome enough, Netflix premiered the series on the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s execution date — Jan. 24, 1989.

So many viewers are getting freaked out, that Netflix has warned audiences not to watch the series alone.

Along with the audio tapes, the series contains a recorded interview with his ex-girlfriend, Liz Kloepfer, and archived footage of his mother and ex-wife. The series also features camera interviews with Michaud and Aynesworth, various law enforcement officers from multiple jurisdictions and others that have encountered Bundy throughout their life, such as close friends, and one woman who survived an encounter with the serial killer, Carol DaRonch.

Bundy was a serial rapist, murderer and necrophiliac. His crimes crossed state lines many times, going through Washington, Oregon, Utah and Florida. Some believe crossing jurisdictions in the days where law enforcement didn’t have a system for sharing information is what helped Bundy escape capture for so long.

He primarily targeted college-aged women, but was charged and sentenced to death for the killing of 12-year-old Kimberly Diane Leach. Before his execution, Bundy confessed to the murders of 36 women, but some experts believe the count could reach 100 victims.

While Bundy helped define the idea of a serial killer, he also didn’t fit the usual profile of what we believed a serial killer was. He was educated, charming and good-looking. He didn’t fit the image of what people believed went bump in the night. He was a law student and participated in conservative politics. How could the boy next door turn into such a heinous villain?

The series is directed by Joe Berlinger, who is also directing a biographical movie on Bundy’s life, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” The film stars Zac Efron as Ted Bundy, and has premiered at Sundance 2019. Though the film is currently amid controversy over glamorizing Bundy’s charming persona, Berlinger defends his film, stating that, “I certainly don’t think we’re glorifying him because he gets his due.”

Whether you’re a true crime fan or have never heard of Ted Bundy before the internet began to blow up over him, there is something for you in this extremely bingeable docu-series. So kick back, hit the lights and let the viewing begin — just don’t forget your binging buddy.

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