Years ago I went out to dinner with my neighbor. I asked her to tell me one of her most memorable experiences. I couldn’t believe what came out of her mouth! She told me she had gone on a date with serial killer Ted Bundy! Because of her quick whit, she is still alive today. I decided that since this is the 30th anniversary of his execution, I would tell her exclusive story that shows exactly how to Stand Up and Live!
It was late in the summer of 1974, and I was working as a carhop at Yankee Lunch, a burger joint in Bountiful, Utah. One day at work, I saw this really cute guy in a little blue compact car that was very charming. I thought he looked like Mark Spitz, the seven-time gold medal winner in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
This guy had short curly brown hair and a mustache. When I brought out his food and hung the tray on his windshield, he had asked how old I was. I wish I could remember his name. I do remember he was attending the University of Utah. I was in high school and someone in college was paying attention to me. He asked for my name and phone number. He called the next day to see if I wanted to go swimming.
(picture from The Seattle Times.)
He actually did call me and he came over to my house on a Saturday morning. He walked with me through the house and out the back door to the backyard. My mom and dad were picking apricots.
Our dog, Mike snarled and barked ferociously.Â I should have seen that as an omen. Mike was an overweight, blond, cocker poodle mix. Although she was not large, she had a fierce growl. She displayed the certainty that she would be happy to take a chunk out of your leg if you were someone not invited into her territory by her owners.
Dad didn’t like this guy either because he made sure to escort us back through the house and up to the front door. The guys black gym bag was sitting on the front hall bench. My father picked it up and looked inside and didn’t act very friendly.Â\ I was surprised he did that. My father was not usually so bold or stern. That was my second omen.
As I walked this man to his car, my dad watched from the front door screen door. I knew there was no way that my parents were going to let me go on a date with someone in college. I didn’t even bother asking them. Stupidly, I decided that I would meet this charming new guy at my girlfriends house instead. Darlene lived only a couple of streets away so directions were easy to give.
Just as I predicted, both my mother and father said something like, I hope you aren’t planning on going out with him. He is way too old for you. I readily agreed. My lying heart was more interested in this handsome new guy than listening to old fashioned parents. I told my parents that I was riding my bike to my Darlene’s house and that we were going swimming. Darlene wasn’t even home. I rode my bike there. I climbed into this college boys waiting car and drove away with this complete stranger with no one knowing where I was.
Naively, I assumed we would be going to one of the local community pools. I was busily rattling off locations when he asked if I had ever gone swimming in the Great Salt Lake.
I immediately heard a loud voice in my head yelling, GET OUT OF THE CAR.Â GET OUT OF THE CAR. GET OUT OF THE CAR. I looked at the door handle as we stopped at the stop sign by the old highway. It would not be easy; the door did not open from the inside. Although the window was down, opening it from the outside would have been much harder. Looking down, I remember wondering what the crow bar was for on the floor.
I could have jumped out right there, but I hesitated. I just didn’t want to look stupid. The lake was far away. Hundreds of cautionary tales flooded my mind about girls who were raped. I reminded myself again that no one knew where I was. No one would be able to save me.
He said in a sly voice, Oh, maybe you aren’t mature enough to go to the lake. You are only seventeen, right?
What an insult. Oh course I was mature; but, this was my last chance to run, there would be no stopping, once we turned onto Highway 89.
I waved my hand at him and bragged, Oh, sure everyone goes to the lake, as I shrugged my shoulders.
Off we went. My heart was pounding loudly in my head. What was I thinking? I was immediately filled with worry and dread. Thanks to my brothers teasing I had spent years learning how to act as if they weren’t bothering me at all. I knew I was good at faking it so I flirted, laughed and tried to entertain him and not let on that I was completely and utterly scared to death as we drove to a desolate, hidden, deserted beach.
I was relieved when we parked by a yellow Volkswagen Bug. It gave me a little comfort to think that other people might be nearby, but I never saw another single soul.
I jumped out of the car and stretched. We were too far from the road for me to run and safely get help. I grabbed my bag with my swimsuit. Oh my gosh, there weren’t any bathrooms to change in.
Go ahead and change into your suit, he said as I looked at him dumbly. What? Don’t you trust me? There was that sly tone again. I’ll turn around, I won’t peak. Really.
What choice did I have? I put on my two-piece suit faster than I had ever done so in my entire life.
Okay, I said. He did have a nice smile. Maybe I had misjudged him. Then I turned around for him to change.
Okay, he said. I turned back around and smiled at him, I guess we were ready to go into the murky, dirty salty lake.
He said, Do you like my swimming suit? As he raised his hand to eye level. In his hand was his suit. I quickly looked down. He was entirely naked. I had looked back up so fast that I didn’t really see anything at all.
It is amazing how fast the neurons in your brain can fire when you are acutely aware of immediate danger. I felt like I knew exactly what to say to put him off the game he was playing.
Boys! I shook my head and walked towards the water. You are all the same. By the time my foot sunk into the gooey mud he had scrambled to put on his swim suit. I turned around to see the locked car. He was carefully hiding the car keys on the top of the back tire.
What is in your gym bag? I said.
Why? He said. He seemed suddenly nervous. Did your dad say something about it?
I avoided the remainder of his probing questions by asking questions back until we had reached the remains of an old pier. It was just the framework with salty watermarks and dusty old cobwebs. I could barely touch the slimy lake bottom and hung onto the wood.
He tried to kiss me. I laughed and pushed him away and asked some question to dissuade him from this intimacy. He was treading water and unbeknownst to me was pulling off that stupid swimsuit. He then laughed and started swinging it around flinging water into my face.
That was it. I had had enough. This was my chance. If I could get back to that blue car and get the keys from off that tire, I could drive back home. The thought entirely empowered me.
I said, You remind me of my brother. I pushed off the pier and swam as fast as I could to shore.
Again, he was entirely intrigued. As he scrambled to put on his suit he called after me, What do you mean? How am I like your brother? Did your brother do something to you?
By the time he caught up to me I was walking onto the beach and I grabbed those life-saving, beautiful silver keys in my wet, wrinkly, water-dripping hand and said, Oh, good, I need to practice driving a car with a stick shift.
I was euphoric. I said to him, What’s the matter aren’t you mature enough to let a seventeen-year-old drive? I had beaten him at his own game. The entire time I had been with him, I acted as happy, silly and confident as I could muster. It might have saved my life.
I had been fascinated with Darlene’s Volkswagon Bug. It had a clutch. She had already taught me to drive in the parking lot after work. I jumped in the driver’s seat and pushed in the clutch. It started right up. He hurried and jumped in the passenger side.
I acted dumb.I narrated how one drives a manual transmission and asked if that was right. I practiced going through the motions of shifting.
He was really nervous. He reminded me that he had borrowed the car from his friend and maybe he should drive it for fear something might happen.
Nonsense! I had said. I drove that car right up to the highway and turned left onto its newly paved surface. Am I making you feel nervous?
He didn’t answer vocally, but I could see in his eyes that he did not like being the one not in control.
I tilted my head back as the wind crazily blew through my long brown hair. I always wore my hair parted down the middle and put my long bangs behind my ear. I laughed, Now you know how you made me feel!
What do you mean?
I didn’t answer him but continued to act light-hearted. I laughed, talked and asked him stupid questions. I drove back to my girlfriends house and gratefully got out of the car. I left him there hoping to never see him again. It wasn’t until I was back on my bike riding back home that I noticed my hands started shaking and I was barely able to hold onto the handlebars.
No sooner than getting home, the phone rang. It was Darlene’s little sister. In a frantic voice she said that my cousin had asked to use her shower and was now walking around the house naked in a towel. My cousin? This crazy weird guy had told her we were related. I told her to get out of the house as quickly as possible because he wasn’t my cousin. She was home alone with him. She watched from the neighbors and returned home after he had left. I was flabbergasted. This guy had some serious boundary issues. Just a side note, I was a very innocent young girl and didn’t call the police because he hadn’t hurt me. Maybe I thought I would get in trouble for taking off with him. At any rate, he didn’t hurt Darlene’s little sister either.
That night I couldn’t go to sleep. I finally had enough courage to tell my mother what I had done. I made her promise never tell my dad. I was feeling just too stupid and embarrassed for him to know. Of course I got a lecture about how unsafe it was and how I could have gotten raped etc. I knew this more clearly than she did. Never would I put myself in a scary position again.
Once I got enough courage to pour out this secret to a guy I was dating. I had never told anyone except my mother before. He just shook his head and expressed his opinion that I was never in any kind of danger. He was just trying to see what he could get. Maybe he was right. Feeling foolish, I decided I had over reacted after all and put it out of my mind and chalk it up to a good learning experience.
In 1986, I had 2 children and was living in Mountlake Terrace in Washington State. I rarely watched the news, but on this occasion the news media was doing an expose on a serial killer that had terrorized the northwest and Utah for several years in a rampage of killing. He had been arrested and had received another stay of execution. The authorities had hoped he would tell them where the rest of his known victims were buried.
As I watched this news report, they flashed a picture of my classmate, Debi Kent, from Viewmont High School. She went missing during my junior year of high school. Â She was my friend, and I was very sad when she went missing.Â An entire page in the yearbook was dedicated to her memory. For years, no one knew what had happened to her. All I had heard was that she had left a school play early to pick up her brother from the roller skating rink.Â She never made it to her car in the parking lot.Â It sat there alone, along with a small key on the asphalt.Â I had attended that play. I probably said hello to her as I did every day at school. Although Debi’s body was never recovered, the small key unlocked a pair of handcuffs that this serial killer had slapped onto the wrist of the only girl that had escaped from him.Â She was able to identify him and this led to his arrest and conviction.
They explained that most of his victims had long dark hair parted in the middle with no bangs, which is exactly how I wore my hair back then.Â He drove a yellow Volkswagen, which was parked at the beach when we had arrived. He was a law student at the University of Utah in 1974. He would drive his victims to remote areas.Â He carried a black gym bag with handcuffs, rope and other items inside.Â He would first hit the girls he lured into his car over the head with a crowbar if they tried to get out of the car and run. Then killed them and violated their bodies.Â He changed his appearance by growing beards or moustaches. All of the women he murdered were between the ages of 15 and 25.Â He had killed 8 girls in Utah that same winter.Â He felt an obligation to rid the world of easily dominated women and felt they invited his abuse.Â He thought he was doing them a favor.Â Conversely, he also had a charismatic personality that charmed women.Â He had many girl friends he befriended and didn’t kill.Â He even married a woman while he was in prison and fathered a child.
They showed a picture of this man when he as thinner and had a mustache. I was completely, utterly flabbergasted. There on the TV screen was a picture of the man that I had gone on a date with 12 years earlier. No, there is no word in the dictionary to describe how I felt at that very moment.Â In my heart, I honestly, truly feel that I survived a date with the very same killer, whose name was Ted Bundy.
Over the years I have become more and more willing to tell people this story. It’s not that I have forgotten but the gripping fear of it has left decades ago. I am embarrassed that I was so irresponsible and hate that I have to take responsibility for my ignorant choice. My father died in 2007 and it has only been since that time that I have spoken much about my experience to people outside of the family. My mother never told my dad the story. I have had friends wonder about the contents of the black gym bag. My dad never had any reason to tell anyone what was in that black gym bag, because he didn’t know I went out with a guy he told me not to go out with. My father didn’t ever know while he lived that I went on a date with Ted Bundy. I was reluctant to tell him. It didn’t occur to me to ask him what was in Ted Bundy black gym bag until after my Dad died. It was so long ago I doubt he would have even remembered the incident. I really don’t think about Ted Bundy much today, and have told my story to my children and others as a cautionary tale.
I never thought something good would come out of my experience as a 17 year old, but I was changed forever with strength and fortitude. I attribute my strong instinct to protect my family because of my date with Ted Bundy. I am a strong advocate for each of my children and their specific needs. I have vowed to never be in a position where my family is in danger. As a result my husband and I have tried to raise strong children who can stick up for themselves when we cant be there for them.
Soon after I had watched the news story about Ted Bundy, a man knocked on my door while still living in Washington and asked to use my phone because his car had broken down.Â He was clean cut and nicely dressed Because of my experience with Ted Bundy, I did not know if he was innately good or bad.Â So I easily said, â€œNo you can’t use my phone. You might be a psycho-murderer-killer. There is a gas station around the corner. They have a phone. I quickly shut the door, ignoring his stunned look on his face.Â I relocked the door and scolded my 3-year-old for opening it to a stranger.
I feel very lucky that I was able to learn from my rash impulsiveness and feel bad for all the girls who weren’t as lucky as I was. My heart breaks for Debi Kent’s family. They still don’t know where she is buried. I wish there were no Ted Bundy’s in the world, but because there are, we all need to be careful. I truly believe that Heavenly Father was with me during the entire ordeal to know what to say, how to act and what to do. Because my senses were heightened and all the right words came to my mind, I bear testimony that the Holy Ghost prompted me the entire time to save my life. I am so very grateful that my life was spared, to be a mother of five awesome children has been my greatest joy. I think God saved me so I could help save them. I am truly happy to be alive and I pray that this story can help others stick up for themselves and be strong. ~ Allisha