I recently read Ann Rule’s true crime classic, The Stranger Beside Me. It’s the Ted Bundy story, which is so interesting to me. Specifically, I think it’s interesting that we all know Ted’s name, and John Wayne Gacy’s, and Dahmer’s, but we don’t know the names of other serial killers that had higher numbers of people killed, like Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer.
Why is that?
I’m not sure. But what was very interesting to me about the book was Ted Bundy’s narcissism. He’s often considered the prototypical narcissist. I have an interest in narcissism since my ex was listed as likely having narcissistic personality disorder and was referred for further testing, which he never did. And indeed, when you read about narcissism, it’s a portrait of my ex.
My ex is a terrible person and was abusive to me and to the children, but I do not believe that he is a serial killer, or even a killer at all. And I would be incredibly surprised if you told me that he was. His sense of self-preservation is stronger than his belief that he is too smart to catch, which doubtless saved my life many times.
Narcissism isn’t just self-centeredness. It’s more than that. It’s the absolute and unwavering belief that you are always right and never make mistakes. The shrink that diagnosed my ex said that therapy would be useless for him because he can’t admit he’s done anything wrong and as a result he can’t grow.
It’s the belief that you are different than other people. Better than other people.
Part of the fun for narcissists is to manipulate other people. Sometimes he would lie about things that were completely trivial, not worth lying about. I distinctly recall a lie about getting milk from the store, for example.
And he does this other thing I could never understand, and I got a chill when, near the end of the book, Bundy did the same thing.
My ex sometimes will tell you he’s thinking about doing something or about agreeing to something, when actually he had already done that thing. For example, earlier this year he cornered me at a school event to discuss the older child’s proposed science fair project, which he did not like, and he said, I think I might let her do it anyway, because she has to learn to fail if she makes bad choices. But I found out later that at the time he said that, he had spent several days emailing her science teacher expressly forbidding the project entirely.
Near the end of the book, Bundy says to Rule, I’m thinking of writing to the detectives in Seattle and offering my help with the Green River Killer case. That was said to her in 1986. Later it came out that he had been in contact with the police about the Green River Killer since 1984.
I don’t understand why. I don’t know what they get from that. Is it just another level of subterfuge? Another barrier between the world and their real life? I don’t know.
It’s just so creepy and disturbing to me to see correlations between the best known serial killer in history and the man I lived with for eight years.