The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall (A Reflection)

Here’s a must read for anyone interested in learning what sort of boyfriend/lover Ted Bundy was as revealed by his former girlfriend of seven years, Elizabeth Kendall, a single mom struggling to make ends meet in the late sixties and early seventies. Right away, Kendall refers to herself as a “failure” following her divorce. She leaves Utah for Washington in hopes of a new start for herself and her young daughter, Tina. Once settled in Seattle, Kendall admits her loneliness and throughout the book, like so many young women, continues to berate herself as ugly and stupid and so on.

Heartbreaking and familiar.

Enter Ted Bundy, handsome, intelligent, ambitious, attentive, sweet, charming, great with kids, and loves to cook. He’s also the bomb in the sack, or so the author implies, although she’s not forthcoming with details. Too bad. Yeah, I said it. Kendall had a sexual relationship with America’s most notorious serial sex killer. I want details.

Oh, well. The main thing is, Ted Bundy came off a Prince Charming, and if Kendall were writing a romance novel . . . well, she wasn’t.

Prince Bundy was an illusion he fought hard to maintain even as he succumbed to his dark impulses and murdered young women all over the country.

Poor Elizabeth Kendall. I mean that.

Imagine you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship then add finding out he’s a serial killer. Yeah. He would have snowed me, too. That is what is so powerful about Kendall’s story. I relate to her. That’s what makes Ted Bundy so scary. I would have fallen for him, too. How emotionally and physically exhausting to try and keep up with Ted’s infinite manipulations. He turned on the crocodile tears and overwrought sentiments of love over and over and over again. What a mind fuck. How painful.

Did Ted love Elizabeth? Probably not. I’m pretty sure Ted didn’t experience emotions the way most of us experience emotions. I’m also pretty sure he wished he experienced emotions the way most of us do but was unable to because of wiring and biology. Ted admits to Elizabeth during a phone call from jail she was a touchstone for him, a reality check, the way in which he tried to feel and appear “normal.”

One of the most powerful moments in Elizabeth Kendall’s story happens when she drives to the mall where Ted attempted to abduct Carol DaRonch, the one who got away. Kendall asks herself if a handsome and well mannered stranger (Ted) approached her and said he was a police officer and asked her to come with him, would she? Her answer is probably, yes. Me, too. Especially in 1974. I wouldn’t have seen him coming. That trick with the cast on his leg would have worked wonders on me.

Here comes this handsome, wounded man asking for help then chatting me up. “Your name is Noel? Like Christmas. That’s pretty neat. That’s a pretty name, Noel.”

There’s me walking to his car and carrying his books for him.

Here’s him coming up behind me with a crowbar.


Postnote:  The above is an edited (although not much) review I posted on Goodreads, May 17, 2015. The Phantom Prince has been out of print for decades and remains difficult to find, unless you’re willing to pay a lot for it. I paid a lot for my copy and consider Kendall’s memoir the best book about Ted Bundy. Polly Nelson’s memoir, Defending the Devil, runs a close second. I dreamed about Ted Bundy last night. I dream about him once in a while. He was a boy in this one. Six years old? Asking for a hug. I picked him and hugged him. XO

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