When Was Ted Bundy Executed? And What Was So ‘Ironic’ About How He Died?

Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy didn't go out without a bit of a fight after he was sentenced to death and sent to the electric chair.

By Gina Tron

Ted Bundy, the ruthless serial killer who eventually confessed to murdering over 30 people, was aggressive in the way that he murdered his victims. He'd often fake an injury in an attempt to look less threatening and then ask women for help before beating and abducting them. Often, after killing his victims, he'd return to their remains to have sex with their rotting corpses, as Bundy was known to like the way his victims looked post-death. Other times, he boldly entered sorority houses to bludgeon women to death.

These facts may make Bundy appear to be a monster, so it's quite a contrast when one learns how he composed himself when he died. 

The release of Netflix's "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes," coincides with the anniversary of his death, it's a fine time to get up to speed on the cowardly way Bundy left this earth. How was Bundy executed? Well, in life, he may have been a predator, but in death, he revealed himself as spineless. 

When did Ted Bundy die, and how?

Bundy died on January 24, 1989 in the unincorporated area of Bradford County, Florida after his “date” with “Old Sparky,” according to Ann Rule’s 1980 true crime novel “The Stranger Beside Me: The True Crime Story of Ted Bundy.” That was the nickname assigned to the electric chair in Raiford Prison, also known as Florida State Prison. It was made from an old oak tree and built by prisoners in 1924.

“It wasn’t infallible, and sometimes burned the flesh and hair of the convicted killers who sat in it for the last time,” Rule wrote. “Often, more than one jolt of electricity was required to kill them.”

What was Bundy's execution like?

Dr. Clark Hoshall, one of the doctors who helped identify the remains of one of Bundy’s victims, was present during the execution. He described the scene in Rule’s book, hours before Bundy was killed.

“When I arrived it was around three A.M. The moon was haloed and occupied a port-hole in the otherwise cloud-covered sky. The impressive guard tower next to the main gate surveyed neatly manicured grass that carpeted three separate areas of razor-wired coils. Additionally, the ten-foot fencing presented an aura of impermeability.”

A pane of clear glass separated 12 witness chairs from the death chamber. Those chairs were filled, and additional witnesses took up standing room to watch Bundy die.

He was 42 years old when he died.

What were Bundy's last actions?

“Guards with ‘iron claws —T-bar handcuffs— on each of Bundy’s wrists pulled him through a doorway behind Old Sparky. He was shaking his head and trembling when he was dragged in,” Hoshall stated, according to Rule’s book.

Bundy reportedly fought all the way to the electric chair, but the guards overpowered him. Hosall described his final moments: “Bundy was uneasy and failed to keep eye contact until his head was strapped to a fla-blacked, angular-sided headrest. A leather strap extended from below the right side of the lower jaw diagonally across his face, and was secured tightly above the left ear. The head strap compressed the nose laterally and squeezed Bundy’s left eyelids together. His right eye was open and looking straight forward.”

Hosall noted that he saw “feral fear in his disheveled face - but no tears.”

Bundy was clearly scared, and "white as a sheet," according to "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes."

A copper skull cap crowned with “a bolt-like electrode” was placed on the serial killer’s head and an electric cable was secured to that.

Beyond the electric chair, there was a landline phone. If the governor called, he could have delayed the execution. However, that didn’t happen. The phone rang, and the person who answered it shook his head no. Almost immediately, a prison official responded to that go-ahead by engaging a lever arm, which kicked off the execution process.

What was ironic about his death? 

“The electric force thrust through Bundy’s body,” according to “The Stranger Beside Me.” “His fingernails were turning cyanotic blue. Ironically, it was said that Ted’s favorite colors were cyanotic blue in the lips and fingernails of his ‘objects.’”

That one surge killed him. Smoke reportedly rose from Bundy’s right calf, which was cinched to a grounded electrode.

That wasn't the only ironic element

Bundy, who killed dozens of women, may have actually been killed by a woman, according to "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes." It is believed that his executioner, whose identity was concealed with a black hood, may have been female.

What did Bundy say before the execution?

Just hours before he was executed, Bundy granted an interview to conservative psychologist and Christian evangelical figure Reverend James Dobson.

In his last interview, Bundy made some bold claims in which he appeared to attempt to shift blame for the murders. He told Dobson that “pornography . . . was the fuel for his fantasies to do the things he did,'' Reverend James Dobson (who Bundy confided in before death) recited, according to a 1989 Chicago Tribune article.

A criminologist warned the public in a 1989 South Florida Sun-Sentinel op-ed not to blindly believe Bundy's violence-porn addiction claim, citing his contempt for society and visible "sneer" in his last interview. That op-ed states that it would be "naive" to accept that "Bundy knows the 'real reasons' for his behavior and that he would reveal those reasons to us if he knew them."

[Photo: Getty Images]

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