Content warning: The following post contains depictions of violence.
If we learned anything from bingeing all of Netflix’s psychological-thriller series You, it’s that people are never what they seem. In You, Joe Goldberg is a seemingly harmless and good-looking bookkeeper who leads a double life as a super creepy stalker. But IRL, it can be even harder to see a killer for who they are, especially if they take on a friendly demeanor and a relatively normal job. Such is the story of Ted Bundy, the dapper, seemingly respectable serial killer who admitted to at least 36 slayings.
Bundy’s story is having a resurgence in popularity right now, with the release of Netflix’s true-crime docu-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and the Sundance film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, starring High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron as Bundy. All of the buzz has us asking many questions, one of them being: What did Ted Bundy actually do for work?
The young Bundy was a bit of a drifter, enrolling at and dropping out of multiple universities and working in minimum-wage jobs during his early adulthood in Washington state. In between schools, he attended the Republican National Convention in 1968 as a delegate for Nelson Rockefeller. Three years later, he worked for a suicide crisis hotline. After graduating from the University of Washington in 1972, Bundy continued in politics, working for Washington governor Daniel Evans’s re-election campaign, and subsequently for Ross Davis, the head of the state’s Republican Party. It was these key connections, rather than his own merit, that got Bundy into law school at the University of Puget Sound and later at the University of Utah. (It’s unclear, however, if he ever got his law degree.)
Around 1974, Bundy was a director at the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission, where, believe it or not, he reportedly wrote a rape-prevention pamphlet. He also worked at Washington’s Department of Emergency Services, where he met and dated Carole Ann Boone (whom he later proposed to when on trial). He would move around to several other states, kidnapping, assaulting, and slaughtering women from Colorado to Utah and Florida. But after getting arrested and escaping from custody — more than once — Bundy went on the lam, and he began breaking into houses and stealing from stores.
During his eventual trials, he became a national TV spectacle, acting as his own lawyer, using his charm and the skills he gained from law school to try to sway the jury. It didn’t work, and he was executed in 1989, shortly after confessing to three dozen killings.
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