In the past, documentaries and movies have often portrayed serial killer Ted Bundy as some sort of evil genius. However, this was not the case at all. Such portrays are usually sensationalist nonsense that barely scrape the surface.
Let’s cut through the sensationalism that surrounds Bundy and take a look at the facts.
How high was Ted Bundy’s IQ?
There are various reports on Ted Bundy’s IQ. Some websites state that he had an IQ of 124. Others say he had an IQ of 136.
However, none of these websites list their sources. Instead, they simply state Bundy’s IQ as if it is common knowledge. The only reputable report I could find came from psychologytoday.com, which listed Ted Bundy’s IQ as being 124.
If this is the case, then Bundy’s intelligence was only slightly above average. In other words, he was a bit bright, but he certainly wasn’t a genius.
If Bundy wasn’t smart, then how did he get away with his crimes for so long?
Firstly, he did not get away with his crimes. In 1975, police charged Bundy for the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch. In 1976, he was found guilty of the crime. However, detectives also suspected his involvement in multiple murders and disappearances. In other words, they were convinced that they had the right man. There just wasn’t enough evidence to charge him at the time.
Secondly, Bundy’s murders took place across seven states. Unfortunately, law enforcement was far more disorganized back then. Information sharing between precincts and police departments was convoluted and slow-moving. Especially across state lines. Back then, there were no emails or central databases. Furthermore, the FBI’s ViCAP program did not exist. At that time, the FBI was only beginning to involve itself with serial murderers.
Thirdly, police incompetence gave Bundy a number of lifelines. This incompetence allowed him to escape twice and on one occasion, detectives ignored multiple tip offs about him.
Fourthly, Bundy did not have any distinctive facial features. In fact, he looked rather ordinary. He certainly would not have stuck out in a crowd. Consequently, sketch artist depictions of him were pretty useless.
Last but not least, forensic science in the 1970s was primitive in comparison to today’s standards. For example, DNA analysis did not exist.
All of these provided the perfect conditions for Bundy to slip through the cracks.
Had Bundy started his crime spree in a later decade, it is likely that he would have been caught much sooner. Instead of becoming the infamous murderer that we know him as today, his name would have merely become another entry in a long list of serial killers. A list of names that most people don’t recognize.
Bundy was an average law student with mediocre LSAT scores.
Certain people point to Bundy’s experience as a law student as some sort of indicator that he was extremely smart. However, this does not hold up to scrutiny.
Firstly, you do not need to be a genius in order to become a law student. Secondly, Bundy did not go to Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Yale or any of the top law schools. Furthermore, his acceptance into the University of Utah happened despite his “mediocre” LSAT scores, which he personally felt embarrassed by.
In addition, there is no evidence to suggest that Bundy was a good law student. In fact, most reports seem to suggest that he was an average student at best. Ultimately, his efforts to become a lawyer ended in failure, as he began to skip classes and fail exams. After that, he simply stopped showing up.
To sum it up, Bundy was an average student who got into law school despite his poor LSAT scores and then dropped out. There was nothing remarkable about his foray into the world of law.
Bundy’s crimes were careless. They were not the acts of a genius.
If you dive into the details of Bundy’s murders, you will begin to see that many of his attacks were careless on his part. These were impulsive crimes that lacked planning. They were not the act of some genius serial killer who put a lot of effort and premeditation into his murders. In reality, many of Bundy’s attacks were so risky on his part that he was extremely lucky to get away with it for as long as he did.
For example, Bundy abducted two women from a crowded beach at Lake Sammamish State Park in one day. He did this in broad daylight. As a result, multiple witnesses were able to describe him. Three people watched him leave with one of the victims.
He even introduced himself to women using his real name.
No, you did not misread that. This supposed “genius” introduced himself to his victims as “Ted”. Furthermore, he kept trying even after multiple women had refused his fake requests for help.
Consequently, when police issued details about the suspect, four separate people called in to report Ted Bundy’s name.
Unfortunately, police back then weren’t as knowledgeable about serial killers. As a result, they discarded these tips on the basis that Bundy was a law student with no criminal record.
Debra Jean Kent.
After 17-year-old Debra Jean Kent went missing from Bountiful, Utah, witnesses reported a number of details:
- Someone heard a scream coming from the school parking lot.
- Another person spotted a tan-colored Volkswagen Bug speeding away from the school. Bundy owned such a car at the time.
- A stranger had asked two people to come out to the parking lot in order to help him “identify a car”.
- One student witnessed a man pacing around the back of the auditorium.
Afterwards, police found handcuff keys in the parking lot. These keys were later tied to the same handcuffs that Bundy had used on one of his earlier kidnap victims.
As you can see, Bundy wasn’t particularly crafty or “smart”. Not only did he use his own car and make himself extremely visible by hanging around the school and approaching multiple people, he also dropped keys belonging to handcuffs that he had used on an earlier victim. A victim that had escaped and survived, taking the handcuffs with her.
A smarter killer would have discarded those keys immediately and in a much better location.
In 1978, Bundy entered a sorority house in Florida State University. Over 30 people were asleep in the house at the time. He then proceeded to attack four women over the course of 15 minutes. Immediately after fleeing from the house, Bundy traveled eight blocks and attacked another student in her apartment.
This is not the work of a serial killer who is calculated or sophisticated. A genius would not enter a sorority house that is full of potential witnesses and then attack multiple people. If any of these women had stumbled across Bundy or heard these attacks, he would have found himself in a very exposed position.
Ted Bundy’s ruses weren’t that sophisticated.
You do not have to be a genius to take advantage of people’s good nature or willingness to help. Furthermore, you don’t have to be particularly smart to realize that pretending to be an authority figure can trick someone into trusting you more. Criminals with low and average IQs use these kind of cons and ruses everyday. And they successfully use them on people who are much smarter than they are.
In the previous section, I highlighted cases where Ted Bundy would approach multiple people on the same day. This happened because a lot of women turned him down. In other words, Bundy wasn’t as charming and alluring as he has been depicted. A lot of women saw right through him and refused his fake requests for help. He did not have the ability to snap his fingers and make any woman walk off with him. Instead, he applied the good ole method of throwing shit at the wall until something stuck. That, or he crept up on them from behind and carried out a sudden “blitz attack”.
It would not surprise me if the victims Bundy did “trick” had a bad feeling about him. A gut feeling that was yelling at them to say no. Unfortunately, many of us find it difficult to say no to people, especially when they are asking for our help.
We are social creatures. It is in our nature to help other people who are in need, and sometimes we will ignore our gut instincts in order to do so.
Bundy’s prison escapes weren’t exactly “genius” either.
Bundy’s first escape occurred because police allowed him to “research his case” next to a two-story window. Furthermore, they didn’t even keep him in plain sight. This gave Bundy the opportunity to jump out of the window and run towards Aspen Mountain.
In the mountains, he became lost and ended up wandering around for a couple of days. After that, he stole a car beside a golf course and proceeded to drive back into Aspen. At this point, he came to the attention of police because of his reckless driving.
If there is one thing I will give Bundy, it’s that his second escape was far better planned. He acquired a floor plan of the jail and a hacksaw, which allowed him to carve out a crawl space in his cell at night. He then carried out practice runs until the Christmas period, when there was less staff and prisoners around.
Although this escape plan was much better, it could have also been easily prevented.
In the weeks leading up to his escape, a fellow prisoner reported that he was hearing noises coming from the ceiling. Despite the fact that this noise was reported numerous times, the authorities failed to investigate it.
Once again, police ineptitude had given Bundy a lifeline.
Bundy shouldn’t have attempted to escape.
Another thing worth noting is that Bundy’s escape attempts were probably unnecessary. The case against him for the murder of Caryn Campbell was steadily falling apart. It was weak from the start. However, more and more evidence was beginning to be ruled out as inadmissible. Furthermore, there wasn’t much left on his prison sentence for the original kidnapping conviction. All he had to do was sit tight and let the case implode. Had he done that, there was a good chance that he would have been a free man within a year and a half.
Did Ted Bundy defend himself at his own trial?
Yes, he did. But look at how that turned out.
Bundy let his ego get in the way of his own defense and in the end, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. At the start, prosecutors were open to a plea deal. A deal that would have saved Bundy from the death penalty. Despite this, Bundy refused to plead guilty and then decided to mount his own defense. A strategy that was considered terrible, even at the time.
These are not the actions of a smart man. These are the actions of a man who believes that he is smarter than what he actually is.
If you found this article interesting, then you might want to check out the following:
- Are they any black serial killers?
- Why do serial killers kill?
- Organized vs Disorganized serial killers.