January 24, 2019
Serial killer Ted Bundy – who also spent parts of his life in and around Philadelphia – is back in the news this week.
A Netflix documentary series "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes" was released on Thursday, coinciding with the 30-year anniversary of the killer's execution by electric chair after he confessed to murdering more than 30 women.
The docuseries is based on taped interviews that journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth conducted while Bundy was on death row in 1980.
The true number of Bundy's victims is still unknown. He admitted to 36 homicides shortly before his death, but it's believed Bundy kidnapped, raped and killed dozens more. Some of the women were decapitated, others bludgeoned to death in their sleep, and Bundy admitted to performing sex acts on his victims' decomposing corpses.
The imagery of him driving his tan Volkswagen Beetle across state lines to find new victims or dump bodies in remote locations has become infamous. He later admitted to killing women in Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
Although he never admitted to committing any murders in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, as officials learn more about the killer, it's believed he had strong ties to the area.
Below is what is known about Bundy's connections to the Philadelphia region – somethings that will make watching "Conversations with a Killer" that much more chilling.
Although it was just for one semester, Bundy attended Temple in January 1969. As a teen Bundy originally enrolled at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, then transferred to University of Washington.
He dropped out in 1968 and left town, ending up back in Philadelphia to enroll at Temple.
Bundy has never admitted to this, but he has implied that his first murders were committed at the Jersey Shore. He describes picking up two women in Ocean City in the spring of 1969, around the same time 19-year-olds Susan Davis, of Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Perry, of Minnesota, were found strangled and stabbed beneath a pile of leaves on the Garden State Parkway near the Ocean City exit.
According to a 2009 article in the Inquirer, Bundy "specifically states that he was on the Ocean City boardwalk in the spring of 1969 and that he experienced the thrill of abducting a woman along the boardwalk."
Eleanor Louise Cowell gave birth to Bundy at a home for unwed mothers in Burlington, Vermont, on Nov. 24, 1949. It's still unknown who Bundy's biological father is. Cowell and her newborn son moved back to Cowell's native Philadelphia shortly after Bundy's birth. They lived with Cowell's parents, and to hide that their daughter was unmarried, Bundy was raised as their adopted son and Cowell's little brother.
Several sources say Cowell's parents' home was in Roxborough on the 7200 block of Ridge Avenue – including the author of the book "Ted Bundy: A Visual Timeline," who posted old photos to Facebook showing the property's approximate location here and here. The home has since been demolished.
Cowell eventually moved Bundy to Washington in 1950 and married Johnnie Bundy two years later.
After dropping out of Temple, Bundy lived briefly with his grandparents in Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County.
UPDATE: Information about where Ted Bundy was born was corrected after this article was originally published and additional details about his childhood in Philadelphia were added.