Most people can’t fathom the idea that their significant other might harbor a dark secret. You live with your spouse, eat with them, sleep beside them, you share your life with them. It seems impossible that they could hide something so big from you. Most people have a secret or two but there are some so dreadful in nature that even entertaining their possibility feels like a cloud of darkness eclipsing an entire household and that’s why when someone such as Ted Bundy emerges, their usually unsuspecting partner gets the brunt of the “how could you not know?” questions. They become a target of blame because they didn’t stop the monster sooner, exactly how a lot of people once viewed Elizabeth Kendall.
Elizabeth Kendall, real name Elizabeth Kloepfer, was Ted Bundy’s longtime girlfriend whom he was dating and practically living with during the bulk of his murders between 1974 to 1978. He murdered young women and then would come home to have dinner with her and her young daughter Molly, putting on that charming façade he was best known for.
Despite the public perception of Kendall being some innocent, naive moron who had no idea her boyfriend was a serial killer, she actually did have a hand in turning him in or at least raising suspicions against him. She reported him to the police hotline at least twice, gave multiple statements back when the police had him prematurely cleared, and actively cooperated with their requests. All while she was still dating him.
No one gives her credit for this though because, in the end, she was still standing beside him in court, choosing to love him rather than brokenly believing the truth. She wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Everyone who knew Bundy was shocked by the accusations. They couldn’t believe someone so intelligent, charming, and “handsome” could do such heinous things. So no, Kendall was not a starry-eyed moron who alone fell for one man’s tricks, but if she has one major personality flaw it’s that she’s incredibly indecisive.
The Obsession with Bundy
Let me say a few things about Mr. Theodore Bundy. Stop obsessing over the way he looked, and stop being shocked about his charm. He wasn’t the only charming motherf***er with a knife but unlike him, the likes of Ramirez, Manson, Shobhraj, Maeue, and Knowles all had at least one noticeable character flaw that allowed the public to believe in their accusations whether it was being a drug addict with rotten teeth or being a hippie with a cult. There is a persistent obsession with Bundy’s physical appearance and higher education that highlights our ridiculous assumptions when it comes to the Hollywood engrained perception of “good vs evil.” It’s not his crimes most people talk about, but how he didn’t fit the mold. Killers are not masked goons stalking the night, living on the streets, or slum houses with grotesque features and facial scars. They’re also not the embodiments of Satan as the press likes to present them.
Bundy was a psychopath, plain and simple. A psychopath that suffered from an inferiority complex. Two very real traits that when put together happen to make for a bad, angry combination. And if your under the notion that he was like Stu Macher and had no motive for his crimes, I advise you to look more closely at his victims.
Bundy’s targets each represented former girlfriend Diane Edwards, a woman he dated in college who dumped him for being, in her own words, “pitifully weak.” Matching her physical characteristics with softer and more inverted personalities, he murdered women in place of her. In a blunt analysis, Ted Bundy was a pathetic egotistical man who murdered in an attempt to overcompensate for the dominance he lacked on an emotional and intellectual level.
Even if it’s not the basis for the book, all this is shown further in Kendall’s memoir, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. Although it might not have been her intentions, Kendall’s words smooth some of the edges that was Theodore Bundy. She describes him not as a monster, but as a man, an extremely vulnerable and unpredictable man that wrote annoying love letters and cried in her lap when he found out he was illegitimate. All his fears and doubts are put out on display as Kendall almost twiddles down this hellish beast into something made of flesh and bone, something insignificant. It’s actually a powerful thing because in humanizing Bundy, she’s almost stripped him of his power.
The Phantom Prince was originally published in 1981, just one year after Bundy received his third death sentence, and ironically, was the same year Carole Ann Boone gave birth to his first and only child. Knowing he probably read this while on Death Row actually makes me laugh because I’m sure he just loved to hear about how many times he got on his knees and begged Kendall not to break up with him.
There are at least two editions of this book. The 1981 original and the updated edition republished on January 7, 2020. They offer different endings and introductions as the republished edition contains an afterthought Kendall added after gaining different perspectives over the years. The updated edition comes with photos and a special chapter written by Kendall’s daughter Molly who details her own memories of Bundy. The book is largely Kendall defending herself against the public. She describes the love she felt for the killer, as well as the all-consuming guilt she felt once she started to suspect him of the horrible crimes occurring on college campuses. It’s a compelling statement of emotional defense because as much as The Phantom Prince is Kendall explaining herself, it is also a long personal note to herself about coming to terms with what happened.
“It took years of work for me to accept who he was and what he had done. I still felt lingering shame that I had loved Ted Bundy. It was healing for me when women started telling their stories of sexual violence and assault as part of the #MeToo movement. I could relate to keeping experiences secret for fear of being judged.”The Phantom Prince
The book starts a little before the year 1969 when the couple meets and then patiently runs throughout the course of their relationship. Kendall recounts memories she clearly ran over a thousand times in her mind during times of loneliness and confusion, detailing how she met and fell in love with who she thought was a soon-to-be successful lawyer. A man far out of her league. She describes him like a high school jock in a John Hughes movie who magically falls in love with the introverted nerdy girl. A jock that peaked senior year and loses nerdy girl well before she succeeds in post-graduation life.
This becomes the spine of her story, their back-and-forth turbulent romance that builds towards the breaking of the author. The actual crimes are not covered in depth because everything told in The Phantom Prince are things that Kendall herself was actively involved in. It covers her thoughts and feelings only, so while the murders are largely absent, we learn what she was feeling every time a new girl went missing and we see parts of the investigation that aren’t often shown.
There were a few moments that made me want to throw the book out the window. Points when I wanted to throttle Kendall for the amount of worship she gave a man who, even based on her own personal accounts, never seemed like much of a catch. Everything this guy did screamed, “give me attention!! Tell me I’m smart, I’m the smartest man in the world, right? Say right!” No, Teddy, the answer is no, but love is blind so I guess she disagreed. That line from American Beauty could’ve been his motto: “I don’t think that there’s anything worse than being ordinary.”
This book is actually a good companion read to the Netflix documentary series, The Ted Bundy Tapes. I would recommend reading The Phantom Prince after watching the four-episode series as it not only fills in some of the blanks but it also shows the other side of his personal life, a behind-the-scenes look. The book, even though it was written long before the series came out, almost plays off against the information revealed in the series as if Kendall is watching with you, commenting on what’s being shared with the audience.
The Phantom Prince is an interesting side to the Ted Bundy story, one that sheds some light on a figure who has often been brushed aside despite earning her place in true crime history. The book would be enjoyed by anyone interested in Bundy, and anyone else for that matter since it comes off as a sad soap opera with a slow mystery unfolding.(4 / 5)