Interview With James Dobson – Part 1
When I arrived, I discovered a circus-like atmosphere outside the prison. Teenagers carried signs saying “Burn, Bundy, Burn,” and “You’re Dead, Ted.” Also in the crowd were more than 300 reporters who had come to get a story on the killer’s last hours, but Bundy wouldn’t talk to them. He had something important to say, and he believed the media couldn’t be trusted to report it accurately. Therefore, I was invited to bring a camera crew to record his last comments from death.
I’ll never forget that experience. I went through seven steel doors and metal detectors so sensitive that my tie tack and the nails in my shoes were enough to set off an alarm. Finally, I reached an inner chamber where Bundy and I were to meet. He was brought in, strip-searched, and then surrounded by six prison guards while he talked to me. Midway through our conversation, the lights suddenly went dim.
Ted said, “Just wait a moment, and they will come back on.”
I didn’t realize until later what had happened. The prisoner knew that his executioners were testing the electric chair that would take his life the next morning.
James C. Dobson: It is about 2:30 in the afternoon. You are scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning at 7:00, if you don’t receive another stay. What is going through your mind? What thoughts have you had in these last few days?
Ted: I won’t kid you to say it is something I feel I’m in control of or have come to terms with. It’s a moment-by-moment thing. Sometimes I feel very tranquil and other times I don’t feel tranquil at all. What’s going through my mind right now is to use the minutes and hours I have left as fruitfully as possible. It helps to live in the moment, in the essence that we use it productively. Right now I’m feeling calm, in large part because I’m here with you.
JCD: For the record, you are guilty of killing many women and girls.
Ted: Yes, that’s true.
JCD: How did it happen? Take me back. What are the antecedents of the behavior that we’ve seen? You were raised in what you consider to be a healthy home. You were not physically, sexually or emotionally abused.
Ted: No. And that’s part of the tragedy of this whole situation. I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents, as one of 5 brothers and sisters. We, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not drink or smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home. I’m not saying it was “Leave it to Beaver”, but it was a fine, solid Christian home. I hope no one will try to take the easy way out of this and accuse my family of contributing to this. I know, and I’m trying to tell you as honestly as I know how, what happened.
As a young boy of 12 or 13, I encountered, outside the home, in the local grocery and drug stores, softcore pornography. Young boys explore the sideways and byways of their neighborhoods, and in our neighborhood, people would dump the garbage. From time to time, we would come across books of a harder nature – more graphic. This also included detective magazines, etc., and I want to emphasize this. The most damaging kind of pornography – and I’m talking from hard, real, personal experience – is that that involves violence and sexual violence. The wedding of those two forces – as I know only too well – brings about behavior that is too terrible to describe.
JCD: Walk me through that. What was going on in your mind at that time?
Ted: Before we go any further, it is important to me that people believe what I’m saying. I’m not blaming pornography. I’m not saying it caused me to go out and do certain things. I take full responsibility for all the things that I’ve done. That’s not the question here. The issue is how this kind of literature contributed and helped mold and shape the kinds of violent behavior.
JCD: It fueled your fantasies.
Ted: In the beginning, it fuels this kind of thought process. Then, at a certain time, it is instrumental in crystallizing it, making it into something that is almost a separate entity inside.
JCD: You had gone about as far as you could go in your own fantasy life, with printed material, photos, videos, etc., and then there was the urge to take that step over to a physical event.
Ted: Once you become addicted to it, and I look at this as a kind of addiction, you look for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder and gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far – that jumping off point where you begin to think maybe actually doing it will give you that which is just beyond reading about it and looking at it.
JCD: How long did you stay at that point before you actually assaulted someone?
Ted: A couple of years. I was dealing with very strong inhibitions against criminal and violent behavior. That had been conditioned and bred into me from my neighborhood, environment, church, and schools.
I knew it was wrong to think about it, and certainly, to do it was wrong. I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint were being tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fueled, largely, by pornography.
JCD: Do you remember what pushed you over that edge? Do you remember the decision to “go for it”? Do you remember where you decided to throw caution to the wind?
Ted: It’s a very difficult thing to describe – the sensation of reaching that point where I knew I couldn’t control it anymore. The barriers I had learned as a child were not enough to hold me back from seeking out and harming somebody.
JCD: Would it be accurate to call that a sexual frenzy?
Ted: That’s one way to describe it – a compulsion, a building up of this destructive energy. Another fact I haven’t mentioned is the use of alcohol. In conjunction with my exposure to pornography, alcohol reduced my inhibitions and pornography eroded them further.
JCD: After you committed your first murder, what was the emotional effect? What happened in the days after that?