The Stranger Beside Me - Ann Rule

Updated: Feb 19


Revisit to the murderous world of Ted Bundy through the eyes of his former coworker and friend, Ann Rule.

Pros: This book sent me. I am pretty sure I read it in 1-2 days. I couldn’t put it down and it genuinely had me rethinking, doubting myself and even considering that maybe he DIDN’T do these things. Stay with me folks, I will elaborate. Cons: it is a true (devastating) story.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


 

DISCLAIMER AND A TRIGGER WARNING: Ted Bundy was an American serial killer who kidnapped, tortured, murdered and raped over 30 victims in the 1970’s. Naturally, this blog post will get into some of those details so please, proceed with caution.

 

It is weird and tricky to try and review a nonfiction book. You surely already know the details of the case so what else can I bring to the table except my opinion? NOTHING so get ready. :) Now, to be upfront with you, I haven’t read this in a while. I debated on re reading it so I could really be in the Bundy headspace before I wrote about it, but seeing as I am already behind on our book club’s next book, I decided to skip it. Plus, it is October and this is my favorite true crime book (well one of them) so I needed to get this out into the world. Here we go. So my fascination for Ted Bundy knows no limits. Now, while I am not the kind of true crime addict who like… purchases their old clothes and shit on the internet, I am the kind who listens to, reads and watches anything and everything about the case. I don’t remember exactly when I heard about Ted Bundy for the first time, but I was young. Maybe 12? I had already been introduced to the world of true crime by means of my grandfather and I watching Unsolved Mysteries nearly every night after he got home from work. The real life horrors that filled up the television screen both fascinated me and terrified me and I could not get enough. Ted Bundy though… this case left a deeper impression and when I read this book, it was illuminated even further. He quite literally was just a seemingly normal guy. Handsome, charismatic, intelligent, etc. However, he also murdered more than 30 women. The questions that plagued my mind (and I’m sure everyone else’s) were “how” and “why”. I don’t think we will ever have answers for those questions to be honest and this book was no exception. While it did provide a more intimate look at Ted, his life, his crimes and his antics… the “how” and “why” still remain. This book is absolutely worth a read, it is well written and provides a lot of closer looks into life in the 70’s during the terrifying reign of Ted.


 

SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

 

If you don’t know the story of Ted Bundy, I honestly would love to know what your life must be like. This is not a drag to you or a flex to myself, I honestly mean it must be nice. I do not remember a time where I was not enthralled in this case. Here is my summarized version of Ted Bundy’s life and crimes, feel free to skip to the next section if you- like me- are a crazy person with too much Ted Bundy knowledge. Ted was born to a young unwed mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell. He was initially raised under the guise of his grandparents pretending to be his parents and his actual mother played the role of his sister. Weird and confusing times for the little dude. Years later, when his mom moved with him to Washington state, she met the man who would eventually adopt and attempt to father Ted, Johnnie Culpepper Bundy. So she switched back to being his mother then I guess and not his sister? Still super weird. He was a weird, kinda withdrawn but mostly normal kid but his family tree had him all fucked up. Now, as a person who also has a very, VERY wild family tree situation, I can understand how this can be jarring and mentally difficult to carry around. However, I did not murder 30 people so… I mean… yeah. When he finally started murdering folks, his standard M.O. was to feign like he was injured in some way (an arm brace, a set of crutches, etc) and then he would typically ask pretty girls with long brown hair parted down the middle to help him with a task. He is as I previously said, a cunning, handsome, charming guy. I am sure he seemed harmless and so this ploy usually worked for him, sadly. Which is why I operate under the rule of NEVER. HELP. ANY. MAN. EVER. (kidding, kind of)

It should also be mentioned that he was in a STABLE MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIP the entire time of his first string of murders and off and on over the duration of the rest of his life. Is it a monogamous relationship if after you have a fight, he leaves the house, murders a girl and then has sex with her corpse in the woods? Just one of the many insane questions that flow through my mind at 2 in the morning when I can’t sleep and need answers. Anyway, he lived with his girlfriend and her young daughter ::shudders:: while he carried out these horrible brutal crimes. She suspected him but only slightly, after the composite sketch was released and it was known the killer drove a VW Bug. Ted also drove a VW Bug (I wonder if he enjoyed a good Volkswagen more than he enjoyed murdering women. It was probably a tie.) The police lowkey suspected him as well but thought there was NO WAY a cleancut, handsome, well dressed, intelligent pre law student could even fathom such atrocities. So he wasn’t watched as closely as he should’ve been and a lot of women and families had to pay for that. He was eventually arrested and charged for a kidnapping but escaped by JUMPING out of a SECOND STORY WINDOW at the courthouse because the guards LEFT HIM ALONE. I cannot even with these fools. This is just a testament to how harmless people tended to view him. They clearly did not see him as a threat or guilty at all until 30 women were dead. The negligence is strong with these people. Anyway, he murdered over 30 women in 3 different states. He did dumbass shit like jumping from windows and starving himself in prison and then ESCAPING by crawling his malnourished ass through a vent and just frolicking off into the night. He opted to represent himself in his trials which is just a show of how brazen and cocky he was. He was completely out of touch with any genuine sense of humanity, was deeply disturbed and a true sociopath. He walked the line just well enough to fool those closest to him for extended periods of time. He even got married DURING his murder trial in Florida because he is a literal lunatic with zero chill. For more in depth accounts of his crimes I suggest scouring the internet for content. There are so many takes on Ted, I will list a few of my other favorites at the end. For now though, let’s discuss this book.


 

THE BOOK; ANN RULE AND HER PERSPECTIVE

 

So this book is extremely well written. She weaves the details of Ted Bundy’s life and crimes together and makes it look effortless. I am not sure how long it took her to write it, but just 20 minutes on the section above this one has me feeling lethargic and ready for a nap. Ann was an older lady who worked alongside Ted at a local Suicide Hotline in the 1970’s in Seattle. I wish I was making that up. They developed a friendship of sorts that spanned from their years of being coworkers to the letters he wrote her from prison after his conviction. I shudder to think of how I would feel knowing that Ted Bundy knew where I lived. Moving on, before I need a break for a self induced panic attack. She lays out the case in extreme detail but also tells the tale from her perspective which I think is phenomenal writing. The timeline she created had me walking along those dark streets with Ted, searching Taylor Mountain for bodies with the police, feeling frustrated each time he slipped through the cracks of our justice system (and prison ductwork) but at the same time, the story she tells had me going through the emotional rollercoaster of trying to make sense of the man you knew being the man on the wanted posters. The man who walked you to your car after your shifts ended to ensure your safety being the same man who led women to his car and their doom. I mentioned in the summary above that reading through this book had me thinking that maybe he didn’t do these crimes. I wanted to elaborate on that because I am fully aware of almost everything that he did or didn’t do. I have spent more time researching this case more than any other true crime tale. I know he is guilty and I knew it going into this book. Imagine my surprise when halfway through the book I caught myself thinking, “What if he didn’t do it? What if it was just wrong place, wrong time?” To say I was rattled at those thoughts is an understatement. However, the fact that those thoughts found me through pages of someone else’s account and with decades of time between us speaks to the true power of Ted. It only took me reading the account from a person who knew and cared for him to be like… maybe he didn’t do it. How incredible is that? A lot of people talked shit about the recent Zac Efron movie detailing the life of Ted Bundy saying things like “they made him too likeable. The movie made him seem so smooth and smart.” Um… Y E A H. I think that was the point. I fully believe that it is just an honest testament to the power this man yielded JUST because he was a good looking, intelligent white male. Even the judge in his MURDER TRIAL was kind to him the entire time. This man had sex with dead bodies until they literally turned to mush… and everyone who met him or was close to him was fooled. So yeah, the movie didn’t “paint” him as anything. He simply was smooth, cunning, terrifying but charming. This isn’t a movie review so let me get myself together. I read through this book and was dumbfounded that even years after he died via electrocution, he somehow still was able to cast doubt in my mind. Even for a second. A moment. It had worked. I felt for Ann while reading it, I felt even more for his live in girlfriend Elizabeth, but more than anything I felt for the victims. All I did was read a paperback. They faced him, he smiled at them, he interacted with them and they bought his facade too. Their lives were stolen from them because they were kind, they trusted him, he made them feel safe. What an incredible liar and piece of SHIT! However the details of his M.O. are not lost on me. He targeted young, pretty girls with long brown hair, parted down the middle. For those of you who don’t know me… that is me. He was also a genuinely good looking, charming guy who pretended to need help. I would’ve been killed. I would’ve been killed HARD. So naturally, later in the book I began to feel angry. I always feel angry when I think about this case to be fair, but I felt angry at myself for being gullible. I felt angry that he got away with it for so long. I felt the urge to yell “THIS is what is wrong with the world. A black man dies at the hands of the police for NO REASON but Ted Bundy SAVAGELY murdered dozens of women but he got to galavant all over the damn country because people just liked him and LET HIM!” This tale speaks to a gap in the legal system that still exists today. However, I will not ramble on about it here. This is about the book. THE BOOK NATALIE, THE BOOK. All in all, this book was great in a horrible sense. It made me feel, it made me think, it made me really look at and examine myself and the world and the systems that allow for things like this to slip by them. It hurt my heart to think of the people he destroyed just by knowing them and being in their lives. His friend Ann, his girlfriend Liz. It made me ache for the women whose lives were lost to this maniac. From the very first girl (Lynda) to the last one (Kimberly) and all the others in between. They didn’t deserve such deaths.

The book is amazing, from start to finish. I have the recently released updated copy with more pictures, a new chapter and a letter from Ann herself. I recommend this book to anyone who loves true crime. Also, as promised, here are a few other books, shows, movies, etc. that cover the terrifying case of Theodore Robert Bundy.

  • The Phantom Prince; My Life with Ted Bundy - this book was written by Liz (his long time girlfriend) and originally published in 1981. I downloaded a copy somehow a few years ago because they had initially stopped publication of and pulled the book from shelves because of the amount of negativity that Liz received. Which I think is absolute bullshit and another form of victim blaming for the crimes that men commit. I am not here for that bullshit ever. Anyway, they recently released a new version with new chapters and even a section from Liz’s daughter Molly who Liz had from a previous relationship but she spent a lot of time with Ted when she was growing up. It is worth a read. I remember when I read it the first time and Liz talked about how sometimes when they had a fight, Ted would storm out of the house, come back hours later and apologize to her. She had no idea that in those hours he was gone, he was murdering someone. How could she have?

  • The Last Podcast on the Left; Bundy (episode 99 and episode 100) - I listen to this podcast every day, which I honestly don’t know what to think of at this point. I love the hosts and their humor and its a nice break in the monotony of my days and it helps alleviate some of the heavy when hearing about these kinds of things. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea though and I get that but I had to put it here!

  • Violent Mind; The 1976 Psychological Assessment of Ted Bundy - now if you know me, you know I love a good psychological non fiction book. I am constantly cycling through several at a time with topics varying from atheism to the history of psychiatric hospitals and women. They are my jam. If they are yours too, this book is great. Along with the doctors observations, you get to see some of the tests that Ted Bundy filled out and how he answered them. It is illuminating for anyone who likes to dig into the psychology of it all.

  • Conversations with a Killer; The Ted Bundy Tapes - this fool loved to hear himself talk, especially from death row and in attempt to put off his inevitable execution. This docuseries is interesting though and streams on Netflix.

  • Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile - last but not least, I had to put this in the list. I enjoyed this movie. It was an accurate portrayal and I think Zac did a great job coming across as creepy but charming. He nailed it is what I’m saying. Come find me if you wanna discuss it.

 

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?

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