Summary and Analysis of The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy: Based on the Book by Ann Rule

Summary and Analysis of The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy: Based on the Book by Ann Rule

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So much to read, so little time? This brief overview of The Stranger Beside Me tells you what you need to know—before or after you read Ann Rule’s book.

Crafted and edited with care, Worth Books set the standard for quality and give you the tools you need to be a well-informed reader. 
This short summary and analysis of The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule includes:
  • Historical context
  • Section-by-section summaries
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About The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule:
Among American serial killers, Ted Bundy is infamous not just for his crimes, but for the way he was able to charm his victims. Bundy’s friendly demeanor fooled many, including Ann Rule, bestselling true crime author and former law enforcement officer.
Rule and Bundy met while working together at a suicide hotline. The two remained friends throughout the period of Bundy’s crimes, trials, and fight against execution. This friendship gives the reader an intimate window into a man countless psychiatrists struggle to explain.
Get to know Ted Bundy, a true sociopath, and learn about his reign of terror in the Pacific Northwest, Florida, and perhaps beyond. Rule’s police background adds compelling perspective to one of the most popular, detailed, and personal books written about Ted Bundy.
The summary and analysis in this ebook are intended to complement your reading experience and bring you closer to a great work of nonfiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504044189
Publisher: Worth Books
Publication date: 02/14/2017
Series: Smart Summaries
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 30
Sales rank: 488,252
File size: 2 MB

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Summary and Analysis of The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy

Based on the Book by Ann Rule

By Worth Books


Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-4418-9



The Final Chapter? — 2008

Some characters in this book are referred to using a pseudonym. In these cases, an asterisk (*) appears after the name.

On the twentieth anniversary of publication, interest in Ted Bundy remained high. The author, considered a go-to expert on the serial killer, still received many letters from young women enthralled with Bundy, and from older women who thought they had escaped his clutches decades ago. Some survivor stories were more believable than others. Rule also answers the most common questions she is asked about Bundy, such as "Did Ted Bundy really father a child in prison?" (Most likely), "Were you in love with Ted Bundy?" (No), and "Was Ted Bundy ever cleared of homicides he was suspected of?" (Yes).

Preface — 1980

Rule, who began writing the book that would become The Stranger Beside Me, could never have imagined the vicious killer could be someone she considered a friend. Bundy was aware, even when he was incarcerated, that she was writing this book, yet he continued to confide in her. It became a deeply personal book, and Rule attempted to chronicle the horrors Ted Bundy committed while still showing the man that she knew.

The Stranger Beside Me

Ted Bundy was born to a single mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell, at a time in the United States when this was a shameful start in life. His father was unknown to him. Cowell, 22, gave birth to Theodore Robert Cowell at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont, on November 24, 1946. She returned home to Philadelphia with the baby, who would grow up believing Cowell was his sister.

When he was four, Cowell moved with him to Washington, where she met and married Johnnie Bundy. More children followed. After the marriage, the boy became Theodore Robert Bundy. Bundy was remembered as a good, well-liked student in high school. But in 1965, still a juvenile, he also had his first brush with the law on suspicion of burglary and car theft.

In 1967 at the University of Washington, twenty-year-old Bundy fell in love with a beautiful, wealthy student named Stephanie Brooks*. She had long, dark hair, parted down the middle. Nearly a year later, Brooks realized that aimless, timid Bundy was not for her. The breakup devastated Bundy and he began to wander, eventually to Philadelphia and Vermont, a trip during which he discovered that he was an illegitimate child. His mother had never told him the truth.

Ted Bundy was determined to become the type of man Stephanie was looking for. He found a new place to live and renewed vigor, even taking a ski trip to Colorado. He changed his major from Chinese to psychology, at which he excelled.

In September of 1969, Bundy met Meg Anders*, a divorced mother, who quickly fell in love with him. The two began a romance that seemed headed for marriage.

Ann Rule, a true crime writer and former police officer, met twenty-four-year-old Ted Bundy in 1971 at the Seattle Crisis Clinic. She liked the handsome, amiable man right away. He seemed a throwback to the young men of her generation — short hair, a clean shave, conservative. The two worked late at night alone in a Seattle building, taking calls from, and sometimes saving, suicidal people.

Bundy confided in Rule about his illegitimacy, his relationship with Meg, and his abiding fixation on winning Stephanie back. And Bundy always walked Rule to her car on the nights they worked together, for her safety.

By June of 1972, Ted Bundy graduated from college and Rule, about to be divorced, quit volunteering at the hotline. Bundy worked for the Republican party, attending functions and rubbing elbows with politicians (including the soon-to-be governor), and began studying law at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

A "new" Ted Bundy contacted former flame Stephanie Brooks in summer of 1973 and swept her off her feet. Still in a relationship with Anders, Bundy made Brooks his fiancée. But by the new year, he turned cold and broke her heart. They would never speak again.

During their brief, second stint, Brooks noticed a dark, brooding side to Bundy. She believed that Bundy had planned to break her heart in revenge for breaking his.

Young women were being attacked in the Seattle area in early 1974. One woman survived a brutal sexual attack on January 4. The next morning, twenty-one-year-old Lynda Healy did not show up for work. Her roommates discovered she was missing from her basement bedroom, and that the door to the outside was unlocked.

Detectives on the scene discovered blood on the sheets of Healy's made bed as well as on her nightgown, found hanging deep in the closet. Her backpack and clothes from the night before were missing. If there had been an intruder, he or she had left no trail.

Law enforcement received a call from an anonymous male who said that one man was responsible for the attacks on January 4 and 5, and had been spotted at both crime scenes. But that was all. None of Healy's associates turned out to be suspects, and without any useful evidence, the case went cold.

On March 12, nineteen-year-old Donna Manson, a rebellious and troubled student at Evergreen State College nearby, also disappeared. Police thought she may have committed suicide, but no body was found.

Rule was trusted by law enforcement, who often shared information about cases she would use in her writing. Seattle police were desperate to solve the disappearances and enlisted the local author to help find a link between the abductions. She and detectives began to see a pattern.

On April 17, 1974, Susan Rancourt, eighteen, vanished from Central Washington State College. Soon college girls were reporting strange encounters with a tall, handsome man who drove a VW Bug with the passenger seat missing. Some witnesses spoke of the man as wearing an arm sling.

On the night of May 6, Roberta "Kathy" Parks, twenty, didn't return from getting coffee — this time in Oregon. Brenda Ball, twenty-two, never made it home from a Seattle bar on the night of May 31.

Georgeann Hawkins was an eighteen-year-old attending the University of Washington when she disappeared from campus on the night of June 10. Detectives were quickly on the scene, since young women were going missing in astonishing numbers. But as with the other cases, the alleged abductor did not leave a trace.

Or did he? Witnesses came forward with the story of a man on crutches and in a leg cast asking sorority girls for help. This piqued detectives' interest because of the report of a man wearing an arm sling associated with the Rancourt disappearance.

The word was out that someone was taking young, beautiful college girls — nice girls, good girls — and the public was terrified. On July 14, a handsome young man wearing a sling at Lake Sammamish State Park outside Seattle was having little luck convincing a pretty girl to help him load his boat onto his VW Bug — at first. Janice Ott, twenty-three and married, agreed to help shortly after noon. Someone overheard the man say his name was "Ted" before the two walked off, Ott never returned. A witness would recall the man's strange, vaguely British accent.

Denise Naslund was also at the lake that day with her boyfriend and friends. At 4:30, the man with the sling was back, again asking for help with his boat. Some women turned him down, but not Naslund. She vanished with the man, just like Ott hours before, never to be seen again.

The missing girls had much in common. They were all white, attractive, intelligent, and had long hair, parted in the middle. Each was missed by a loving family. The disappearances, until the incidents at Lake Sammamish, took place at night and the perpetrator left no physical evidence to incriminate himself. The abductions at the lake in broad daylight were devilishly bold.

Now detectives, the media, and the public had a name —"Ted." Law enforcement from several jurisdictions and two states worked together closely, but much of the pressure was on the young detectives of King County, Washington, including Bob Keppel. A composite drawing based on witness accounts was nondescript, depicting an average-looking man. More distinguishing clues were "Ted's" vaguely British accent, his winning smile, and his brown VW Bug — a popular car.

Seattle psychiatrist Dr. Richard B. Jarvis created a psychological profile of the suspect as a man between twenty-five and thirty-five. The man was a sexual psychopath whose mental illness could go unnoticed. The suspect was not insane, but was deeply afraid of women.

As the public called in leads on countless "Teds" and VWs, Ann Rule realized that her friend Ted Bundy fit the suspect description, resembled the composite, and sometimes affected a similar accent as "Ted." Bundy also lived close to the missing women. But she didn't know of him owning a car.

Rule called a friend at the Department of Motor Vehicles and discovered that Bundy did have a car — a 1968 bronze VW Bug. The friend passed on the information to police. Rule felt guilty for even considering that nice, respectful Ted Bundy could be the suspect and put it out of her mind.

Meanwhile, in spring of 1974, Bundy dropped out of law school in Tacoma after poor performance, planning to attend the University of Utah law school in the fall. He began work at the Washington State Department of Emergency Services, where he was not universally liked. One person who did become friends with Bundy was Carol Anne Boone Anderson, who teased him about being the "Ted" from Lake Sammamish. Several people noted his resemblance to the suspect; none took it seriously. The Ted Bundy they knew would never do such things. Still, in addition to Ann Rule, a woman from the Department of Emergency Services and a professor at the University of Washington gave Bundy's name to the police. They described his similarities to the "Ted" suspect, but also said that his behavior wasn't suspicious at all.

Only Lynn Banks, a close childhood friend of Meg Anders, thought Bundy could really be the criminal. She tried to get Meg to see the similarities to her long-term boyfriend, but Anders refused. She still did not know that Bundy had briefly reconnected with Stephanie Brooks.

On September 6, 1974, a construction worker near Lake Sammamish discovered human bones in the mountains. Though the remains had been scattered and destroyed by animals, detectives found hair and numerous bones, but five femur bones. Janice Ott and Denise Naslund were identified among the remains, but the femur bones indicated there could be at least two more victims. The Seattle Police Department and King County Police Department created a Task Force to investigate the thousands of leads in the "Ted" case.

As Bundy settled in at the University of Utah for the fall 1974 semester, he began dating local women while still in a long-distance relationship with Meg. Women stopped disappearing in Washington, but in Utah, a familiar pattern was emerging.

Seventeen-year-old Melissa Smith, daughter of a police chief, went missing near Salt Lake City on the night of October 18, 1974. Her beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted body was found in a park over a week later. Detective Jerry Thompson led the investigation, which had little to go on. On Halloween, Laura Aime, also seventeen, went missing. Her body, with trauma similar to Smith's, was found on Thanksgiving in Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Anders's friend Lynn Banks read about the murders when visiting family in Utah. This time she would not allow Anders to shrug off Bundy's resemblance to the suspect. Anders called King County police, who added Ted Bundy's name to the vast pile of tips for a fourth time.

Carol DaRonch, eighteen, went to the mall in Murray, Utah, on November 8, where she was approached by a man who said he was a police officer. He said he got a report that her car had been broken into, and wanted her to come check for anything missing. When she saw that her car was fine, he told her they had to file a report at the police station and that he would drive her there in his car. DaRonch didn't listen to her intuition; instead she got into the man's VW Bug. But she was on edge, and when he stopped the car and tried to handcuff her, she fought, managing to escape and flag down a car for help. DaRonch's statement described the man as wearing patent leather shoes.

Later that night, just miles away, Debby Kent, seventeen, did not return to her family at a high school play after leaving to pick up her brother.

By November of 1974, Ted Bundy was doing poorly in law school and drinking heavily. Meg Anders, egged on by Lynn Baker, called Salt Lake City police to report Ted Bundy's name to investigators. Bundy visited Anders in Seattle in January 1975, seeming so much like his old self that her secret calls to police made her feel guilty. She felt silly for doubting him after he left, allegedly to return to Utah.

Caryn Campbell, twenty-three, was vacationing in Aspen, Colorado, when she disappeared from her hotel on January 12, 1975. Her body was discovered on February 17 with signs of blunt force trauma to the head, deep cuts to the neck, and sexual assault. One witness from California recalled seeing a handsome young man in the hotel hallway around the time Campbell disappeared.

On March 1, the skull of Brenda Ball was found in the Washington mountains, just miles from the remains of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund. On March 3, Bob Keppel and investigators found Kathy Park's skull and Lynda Healy's jaw bone in the same area.

Colorado women continued to vanish. In Vail on March 15, Julie Cunningham, twenty-six, never reached a tavern to meet her roommate. On April 6, Denise Oliverson, twenty-five, disappeared from Grand Junction. Eighteen-year-old Melanie Cooley vanished from Nederland on April 14; her body was discovered about a week later, strangled and bludgeoned. On July 1, Shelly Robertson, twenty-four, disappeared in Golden and was found dead in August. As before, the victims shared several qualities in common: they were beautiful, intelligent, and unlikely to go off with a stranger, and they all had long hair, parted down the middle.

By March of 1975, the Task Force had investigated 2,247 lookalikes and 916 vehicles. There were still 200 suspects to go, and Ted Bundy was on that list. After Shelly Robertson, the killings stopped.

In June of 1975, Ted Bundy and Meg Anders made plans to wed the next Christmas. On August 16 at around 2:30 a.m., Sergeant Bob Hayward of the Utah Highway Patrol approached a suspicious VW Bug, which sped off without its lights on. After a short chase and running two stop signs, the VW pulled over and the driver, Theodore Robert Bundy, said he was lost.

Hayward noticed the VW's front passenger seat sitting on the backseat and searched the car with Bundy's permission. Hayward found some tools of the burglar's trade: crowbars, an ice pick, ski masks, rope, a flashlight, and wire. He also found handcuffs and another mask made of pantyhose. Bundy was arrested and taken to the station where Detective Jerry Thompson released him on his own recognizance.

Days later, Thompson reviewed Bundy's file and made some connections. Ted Bundy was the man Meg Anders from Seattle reported to Salt Lake City police. The Carol DaRonch and Debby Kent case files included handcuffs and a crowbar, and Melissa Smith had disappeared nearby. On August 21, Thompson arrested Bundy for possession of burglary tools. Bundy wasn't concerned. He had an excuse for each item.

Detectives photographed Bundy's VW, and a search of his immaculate apartment turned up patent leather shoes and a map of Colorado ski resorts on which someone had circled the hotel where Caryn Campbell had last been seen. By his scheduled police interview on August 22, Bundy clammed up and lawyered up.

Bundy's mug shot was recognized by a witness in the Kent case, but DaRonch was not sure Bundy was her abductor at first because in his police photos, he did not have a moustache. Utah police began following Bundy everywhere. They subpoenaed his credit card and school records and contacted Meg Anders.

Ted Bundy called Ann Rule in late September 1975. It had been some time since they spoke. Bundy said he trusted her and asked that she find out from her police contacts why his school records were being subpoenaed — and to say that Ted Bundy wanted to know. Rule sensed her contacts were stalling when she called. They told her to reassure Bundy that he was just one of many names on the list.

But Rule knew better and felt torn. Subpoenas were serious and here she was writing a book about a killer that authorities apparently thought was one of her friends. On an intellectual level in keeping with her law enforcement background, Rule saw that Bundy made a good suspect. But the man she knew on a personal level made that difficult to face.

On October 2, Bundy was arrested in Utah for the aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault of Carol DaRonch, who, along with witnesses in the Debby Kent case, identified him in a lineup.


Excerpted from Summary and Analysis of The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy by Worth Books. Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents


Cast of Characters,
Direct Quotes and Analysis,
What's That Word?,
Critical Response,
About Ann Rule,
For Your Information,

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