Netflix is no stranger to the world of shocking true crime documentaries, but on the 30-year anniversary of Ted Bundy’s execution the streaming service is going all in. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is a four-episode docuseries that revolves around letting Bundy explain his many, many crimes in his own words. And it’s as shocking as you might imagine.
Taken from the interviews that led to the book Ted Bundy: Confessions of a Killer, the series features never-before-heard audio from the famed serial killer while he was on death row. The series comes from Joe Berlinger, known best for his work on the Paradise Lost trilogy and Unspeakable Crime: the Killing of Jessica Chambers.
There have been many books, films, and documentaries about Bundy, including the upcoming and buzzed about film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. But what sets The Ted Bundy Tapes apart? And is this four-hour documentary worth your time? Here’s everything you need to know.
Who was Ted Bundy?
Everyone likely knows Ted Bundy’s name but some may not remember why. Bundy was (and remains) one of the most notorious serial killers in history. Back in the 1970s, he was accused (and convicted, in many cases) of crimes not limited to rape, murder and, uh, necrophilia. In total, he confessed to 30 murders in seven different states, though researchers believe he killed a whole lot more.
When you think of serial killers, you probably picture someone inbred, disgusting, their outer shell mirroring the horror they hold inside. Bundy was far from that: he was extremely handsome, and was able to lure female victims to their deaths with his looks alone. He’s also well known for keeping trophies, including decapitated heads. Yikes.
When was Ted Bundy arrested?
The serial killer was first sent to jail in 1975 for aggravated kidnapping, but his time in Utah didn’t last long. While he was being connected to a series of homicides in other states, he made two prison escapes and murdered three more people before being recaptured in Florida in 1978. Once there he received three death sentences over the course of two trials.
Bundy was executed via electric chair at Florida State Prison on January 24, 1989. The Netflix documentary Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is being released on the 30th anniversary of his execution.
What are The Ted Bundy Tapes?
Because Bundy was a compulsive liar, it’s difficult to find a full and accurate account of the many murders he committed. However, Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth’s interviews are largely regarded as the most honest account of his crimes.
While in prison Bundy allowed a journalist to interview him about his many cases in the hopes that they would clear his name. Michaud and Aynesworth took him up on that offer, interviewing the convicted killer over the course of several weeks. They asked him to speak mostly in third person as a way to get a clearer answer from Bundy while avoiding, in his own words, “the stigma of confession.”
The interviews were later published in the book Ted Bundy: Confessions of a Killer. The Ted Bundy Tapes are a combination of this raw interview footage as well as interviews with Michaud and Aynesworth, criminal and psychological experts, and people who used to know Bundy personally. It’s compiled from over 100 hours of previously unheard footage from Bundy himself.
Can I watch The Ted Bundy Tapes if I’m unfamiliar with the case?
Absolutely. Between explaining how Michaud and Aynesworth got access to these interviews, the four-part documentary starts with the killer’s early years and chronologically details the homicides he committed. The series as a whole serves as an expansive look into one of the most haunting criminal figures in American history. Only this time it’s also a documentary literally being narrated by its killer.
Can I watch The Ted Bundy Tapes if I’m a true crime mega-fan?
For people already familiar with Bundy’s case, The Ted Bundy Tapes doesn’t offer much in terms of new details. Hearing Bundy recount how these crimes “could have” occurred is deeply chilling, but overall the docuseries just tells one bloody chapter in criminal history very well. But there is one area where The Ted Bundy Tapes excels: showing the interrogation techniques used on serial killers.
A lot of attention has rightfully been paid to the countless crimes Bundy committed, but what brought out his confessions is often unexplored. Much like Mindhunter,David Fincher’s dark drama about interviewing serial killers in the 1970s, The Ted Bundy Tapespulls back those processes a layer, showing exactly how two men were able to get one of the most disturbed minds in recent history to talk.