By Russell Eisenman, Ph.D.
Ted Bundy, the famous serial killer, was once in an abnormal psychology class that I taught, years ago at Temple University. I did not know it was him at the time, but from subsequent photographs and from learning that he took Abnormal Psychology classes all over the United States, including at Temple U., I realized it was him.
It was a cold January in 1969. The Philadelphia wind seemed to blow right through one’s clothing, making it very uncomfortable. It was made worse by the tall buildings at Temple which served as wind tunnels. In fact, when it rained and was windy, many people had their umbrellas blown inside out and would throw them in the outside trash cans. I would pick out a nice one and try, mostly successfully, to push it back into shape.
Bundy made one statement that made me remember him. I had just said that measures of mental health were, some said, discriminatory against women, since mental health was defined disproportionately in male terms: aggression, assertiveness, etc. So, I said, women may score lower in mental health than men, but it may not really be accurate. A handsome young man, Bundy, spoke up and said “Perhaps women really are more mentally unhealthy than men.” Very interesting since he tortured, raped, and killed many women. He once told his lawyer that he killed more than 100 women. This is not well known, but I heard his lawyer say it on a television show.
Another Thing __Very Weird
Something else occurred that same day, in the same class with Bundy; something very weird. A young woman came up to my desk before class started and said “I want you to delay that date of the midterm test.” I said “No, I am not going to change the date” and she said “To make sure that you, do I brought a gun to class.” She opened up her pocketbook and showed me a pistol.
I thought to myself “This is probably a joke, but, just in case, I better try to get the pistol from her.” So, I said to her “I like guns, can I see it?” and held out my hand. She gave it to me and said “It’s just a starter pistol,” in other words the gun they shoot to start a race. I handed it back to her. I assumed she would go back to her desk and I turned around to write something on the blackboard. Then I heard a BANG and a gasp from the class. She had pointed the gun at my back or head and pulled the trigger.
When I have told this story to others they often ask if I reported her to the school, but I did nothing. I was just relieved that it was not a real gun, and felt no need to take action against her. Although now I wonder if she was psychologically disturbed and could have used help. Perhaps I should have done something. We will never know.
So, that day was a really weird day. Ted Bundy was in the class—although I knew nothing about him at the time–and a young woman did
what I have described, above, making me and the class thinking she had a real gun.