“Oh, the shark has, pretty teeth, dear
And it keeps them pearly white…” — Translated from the German.
For some reason, and as if we did not have enough contemporary evil in this country with which to deal, both Netflix and at least one cable network chose this past weekend to feature a pair of what might loosely be called “documentaries,” on the life and times of one Ted Bundy.
Having seen the suitable tor TV titillation of the previews for both, I watched neither, because I am old enough to have been not only alive but working for a newspaper when Ted Bundy was arrested, and was all too familiar with the actions which made him infamous. And I am here to tell you there was nothing to be romanticized about any of it.
Following the usual legal wrangling that tends to follow reigns of terror, it was Jan. 24 (the day after my birthday), 1989 when in its electric chair the state of Florida got rid of the big-time lady killer that was Ted Bundy.
To this day, nobody seems quite sure just exactly how many women and wouldbe women that Bundy, he of the winning smile and deadly demeanor, actually murdered—so-called “official” numbers sound like a lotto notification if you call them aloud, ranging as they do anywhere from 28 to 36.
The crime for which the state of Florida executed him was the rape and murder of a 12-year-old child.
The United States was not quite as inundated with the mass murder that is serial killing in those days as it has sadly become since, and so both the years-long killing spree which Bundy spread from coast to coast and the spectacle that his execution became was big news.
As seems usually the case with highly publicized state executions, there were a lot of story lines that emerged immediately before and after Bundy’s.
• The man who went all over the country seducing, raping and killing, spent his last night in prayer with a Methodist minister who later said that Bundy had “resolved his relationship with God.”
God, I am sure, can make some of sense of that. I can’t.
• On his last night, Bundy made two phone calls to his mother to say goodbye.
What in the world must that woman have thought? How does a mother love a son who has heinously slain scores of girls and women? How does a mother not?
• As Bundy sat in the electric chair, one group of people outside the prison lit sparklers and cheered, while another group of people lit candles and held a memorial service.
I frankly have a hard time understanding either.
• A Florida radio station actually urged its listeners to turn off all their appliances so there would be enough “juice” for Ted, while a nearby McDonald’s offered “free fries when Ted fries.”
I have no trouble understanding that, but what I would have to say about it isn’t suitable for printing and I can only hope everyone involved with any of that has had his or her opportunity to “resolve their relationships with God.”
One of the more worrisome aspects to the who is Ted Bundy saga is his latterday speculation that pornography had somehow contributed to his evolution into monster status; and that as such, he told one of his far too many interviewers: “There are, loose in the towns and their communities, people like me whose dangerous impulses are being fueled day in, day out, by violence in the media.”
But that, it seems to me, is more a combination of denial and excuse as it is either explanation or link between dirty pictures or movies and dirty deeds. Even pre-Internet swill, pornography had been openly available in Sweden for years, and the Swedes traditionally have one of the world’s lowest rates of violent crime. Besides, our mass killings today appear far more politically than lewdly inspired, with self-perceived “patriots” indiscriminately mowing down innocent citizen “invaders.”
Both deadly. Both crazy. But different.
And that leaves us with a final storyline of capital punishment. Is it justice? Is it inhuman? Is it a deterrent? Is it lowering all of society to the level of that of which it seeks to rid itself?
I don’t know. On grounds both legal and moral, I waiver about if we have the right to do it within what’s become my certainty that we don’t, and perhaps can’t, do it right.
But I do know that one man, Ted Bundy, brutalized and murdered the daughters of a great many men and women who have asked themselves all of those questions before.
And that he will not do so again.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.