Ted Bundy’s real father’s identity may never be known. His birth records show the name of a salesman. His mother said it was a sailor who seduced her. Family rumors suggest more deviant paternity.
And even though his true maternity would not be told to him as a boy, there’s no doubt that his mother was Eleanor Louise Cowell.
Later known as Louise Bundy, the woman who gave birth to the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy stood by her son until the end.
She survived him by 23 years; he was executed in 1989 and she died in 2012.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Eleanor Louise Cowell Gave Birth to Son Theodore in a Vermont Home for Unwed Mothers. A Young Ted Was Told His Mother Was His Sister
On November 24, 1946, Eleanor Louise Cowell gave birth to a son, Theodore Robert Cowell, at the Elizabeth Lund Maternity Home For Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. The website for the institution refers to it as a then-maternity home. In the late 1890s it was called the Home for Friendless Women now the Lund Family Center with sweeping care for families: “In 1890, ten compassionate members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union founded ‘The Home for Friendless Women’ a refuge and maternity home for women on the edges of society.”
Louise was 22 when she gave birth. The real father’s identity has never been made public or at least is not available via online searches. And the research and anecdotal information on Bundy is its own library.
The child was raised believing she was his sister, not his mother. There’s been speculation that Louise bore her fathers’ child, which would have made her both sister and mother to Ted. Those reports have never been confirmed.
It’s been widely reported that then-Ted Cowell grew up nonplussed about the true nature of he and Louise’s relationship. After giving birth, she moved in with her parents and would stay until her son was almost three. Louise’s father Samuel was an oppressive figure who was reported to have been a violent persecutor. But Bundy told the late true crime writer Ann Rule, who wrote ‘The Stranger Beside Me,’ about her experience with the serial killer, he looked up to his grandfather, who he thought of as his father. The grandmother, Eleanor Cowell was reported to have suffered from mental illness, namely depression.
2. Louise & Ted Moved to Washington Where She Married John Bundy, Who Adopted the Boy. Ted Reportedly Did Not Respect His New Father
In 1950, Louise moved she and Ted to Tacoma, Washington where her uncle Jack Cowell, a music educator lived. There, she met and married cook John Bundy, who adopted Ted. The new family, Louise, Ted, then 9, John Bundy and his children, moved into a Tacoma, Washington home in around 1955.
Reports in true crime fiction stories and books paint a picture of Ted Bundy as being removed from his father and thought the man, a cook by trade, to be unintelligent and too working class. By the time Ted was a young teen, he’d been seen as a suspect in a number of burglaries, although online records show no convictions.
Louise Bundy got an administrative job at the University of Puget Sound and it was around this time that Bundy began his life as a serial rapist and murderer of young girls and women.
3. Louise Bundy Stood by Her Son
After being dumped by his girlfriend, Bundy would go on to become involved in Washington state Republican politics. A few years later, in 1974, when Elizabeth Kloepfer took him back and agreed to marry him, in an apparent act of vengeance, Bundy ditched her. Right after that, he attacked Karen Sparks, believed to have been his first victim, though likely was not, by his own admissions.
Indeed, many attribute the unsolved 1061 disappearance of Bundy’s neighbor – and a girl who took piano lessons from his great-uncle – 8-year-old Anne Marie Burr to Bundy and may have been his first killing.
Louise Bundy told the Tacoma News Tribune, “I resent the fact that everybody in Tacoma thinks just because he lived in Tacoma he did that one, too, way back when he was 14. I’m sure he didn’t.”
Of her son, she was a staunch defender.
She also told the News Tribune that despite his confessions, “Ted Bundy does not go around killing women and little children! Our never-ending faith in Ted – our faith that he is innocent – has never wavered. And it never will.”
Louise Bundy described the confessed and convicted rapist and murderer who decapitated 12 women and kept their heads for souvenirs as the “best son in the world – thoughtful, responsible, and fond of his siblings.”
It’s been widely reported that on the day of her son’s execution, Louise Bundy spoke with him twice, and her reported last words to him were, “You’ll always be my precious son.”
4. Louise Bundy, Who Died in 2012 at Age 88, Spoke to the Mother of One of Her Son’s Victims on a Daytime TV Show
Dana Middleton Silberstein was then host of Northwest Afternoon. On the day of her son’s execution in 1989, Louise Bundy agreed to talk with the show’s guest, Vivian Rancourt, mother of Susan Rancourt who went missing until her skull was found. Two days before the interview, Bundy confessed to killing her. Louise said she’d tell Rancourt, “how bad I feel. How sorry I am for …”
An hour or two later, both women in their respective living rooms were patched in to the show via telephone, with a live studio audience stunned, some angry, that Bundy would be on the show; it wasn’t planned.
The full story is a long, fascinating read, but suffice that Louise Bundy said she spoke to her son earlier in the in the day, hours before he would be electrocuted.
“He was just full of remorse…I know Ted well enough to know he was sincere…”
Louise Bundy died in December of 2012. She was 88.
5. ‘Spooky Things’ Happened at the Bundy House Long After the Family Was Gone
The story goes that years after the Bundy family left the house at North 20th Street, a contractor had it exorcised of sorts.
As the Star Telegram reported, Casey Clapton, a contractor remodeling the Bundy family house in Tacoma “penciled Bible scriptures on the walls and brought in two pastors to bless the house” after he, his daughter and workers encountered some “spooky things,” it was reported. Closed doors, drawers, and cupboards suddenly open, heavy furniture moved of its own accord, the words “help me” written on window glass from the inside of the locked-house, “cellphones and other electronics occasionally would get unplugged and immediately die. The word ‘Leave” was found written in sheetrock dust on a bedroom floor with no footprints around it.”