When most people think of serial killer Ted Bundy, executed in Florida in 1989, most people associate him with Washington, Utah, Colorado, and, of course, Florida. Did you know he began his life on the East Coast? Armed with Ron Franscell’s The Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Pennsylvania, I set out to find two locations relative to Bundy.
The killer spent ages 1 to 4 in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. He lived with his mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell, in the home of his grandparents, Samuel and Eleanor Cowell. Had there not been a stigma toward unwed mothers at the time, Louise may have birthed Ted in Philadelphia. Instead she was sent away to have her baby, and so Burlington, Vermont, became Ted’s birthplace.
The story goes that mother and son returned to live in Philadelphia. Ted was raised believing his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his sister. He eventually learned the truth, but never knowing his birth father’s identity troubled him throughout his life.
I visited the former site of the Cowell residence and nursery, now a restaurant. Of course, I had to eat lunch in what would have been Ted’s house, wondering what part of the house I could be sitting in if it still stood today. I also wondered if the knife incident took place in this house. His aunt awoke to find herself surrounded by kitchen knives, and Ted was believed to be the three year old culprit.
From there we searched for another house significant in Ted’s life. This is another home of his grandparents, where Ted stayed as a young man when he attended Temple University from January to May in 1969. It remains a private residence today, located in the Lafayette Hill section of Philadelphia. The street is narrow, and I thought about the killer cruising this road, a young college student at the time.
Most people believe Ted’s murderous ways began when he moved out west. However, it’s possible the killing began when he attended Temple. I read that Ted killed two women from the Philadelphia area while he was going to school. Some sources claim the victims were kidnapped from Temple’s library, and we know Ted had an affinity for anything academic. I’ve also read that he kidnapped someone from Ocean City, New Jersey, but I’ve also read that he failed in that attempt. I heard that he told a psychologist that he killed two women in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1969. Were they the missing women from the city? Are these claims true or are they sick creations of a madman? We may never know for sure, but it’s fascinating for true crime enthusiasts who live in the area.