In the last few months I’ve been binging episodes of the My Favorite Murder podcast (which is super great if you like true crime and enjoy gabbing with girlfriends about it). In one of the earliest episodes the hosts mentioned Ann Rule’s book about Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me, and I was immediately intrigued. Ted Bundy is one of those serial killers I know a little about and can actually remember related news stories and his execution. But I was 10 at the time and so I figured reading a book written by someone who knew him probably better than most would be a good way to freshen up on my Bundy knowledge.
The Stranger Beside Me was initially published in 1980. The edition I purchased for my kindle had additional chapters with updates from 1986, 1989, and 2000. The bulk of the book is Ann’s recollections of working with and befriending Ted on a crisis hotline in Seattle, in the early 1970s. He was a charming young man who treated Ann with respect and kindness. The two became close friends during their long shifts at the crisis center. Ted often walked her to her car at night and wouldn’t leave until she was safely on the road – because he didn’t want anything to happen to her. Bundy and Rule both moved on to other things but they kept in touch somewhat regularly. Ann was busy covering a string of mysterious murders in Seattle. All young women, beautiful, with long dark hair parted in the middle. Only when a lead led the police to believe the suspect was called “Ted” did Rule even entertain the idea that the sweet young man she knew from her old crisis center days might be a brutal rapist and murderer. Sadly, she ended up being right. The book alternates histories of the victims, Ted Bundy, the cases themselves and the coincidences that led her to finally accept that her dear friend might just be capable of the terrible things she was writing about.
I liked this book, though it was quite long with the addition of the afterwards. Some of them are nice to read though, because at the time of the initial publication, Bundy was still living, and the names of some of the people involved had become public as well. I have always found Bundy a fascinating character. He was obviously sociopathic, but he was able to hide in plain sight for an incredibly long time. I was not aware that so many more than the nearly 40 murders he confessed to might also be attributed to him. This kind of depravity is fascinating to me. I feel for the victims and several nights couldn’t sleep after reading about how he entered rooms silently and the occupants were never heard or seen again. It’s worth reading this book if you’re any kind of true crime buff. He’s so interesting and if you are at least my age you might remember the exterior of Raiford prison on the news in early January 1989. I was 10 and I clearly remember them talking about his execution and my parents being pretty happy about it. Now I appreciate why.