In January 2019, Netflix released the unexpectedly popular Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. Joe Berlinger, true crime director, compiled interviews with Bundy, law enforcement authorities involved with Bundy’s arrest and trial, and members of Bundy’s community to create a four-part docu-series focusing “on a man whose personality, good looks, and social graces defied the serial-killer stereotype, [which allowed] him to hide in plain sight” (Berlinger). The somewhat romanticized Ted Bundy Tapes serve as an example of modern folklore, in which the archetypal bogeyman has been narrativized for contemporary society as a charming, rather than hideous, monster. This bogeyman trope—a child-snatching, fear-inducing, paranoia-provoking monster—can be traced back through a number of famous folkloric tales, like The Pied Piper, through the fairytale realm, as illustrated with Peter Pan, and into popular contemporary media with productions like the Ted Bundy Tapes and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. These folkloresque narratives help to explain how certain trials or traumas were overcome. The Ted Bundy Tapes opened a discourse community surrounding Ted Bundy as more than a historically recorded villain, but as an almost fictive evil hiding behind a “hot” façade. Forming Bundy as a charming child-snatcher and then presenting this character in a widely available docu-series promulgated the surrounding lore, making Bundy into a bogeyman. Instead of romanticizing Bundy now, we have to recognize his form as a bogeyman character in order for this archetype to serve in a truly useful cautionary capacity and to help us work through inevitable trauma.



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Humanities; English



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Ted Bundy, Bogeyman, bogeyman, Pied Piper, Peter Pan, trauma studies, Caroline Levine, form, child-snatcher, folklore, folkloresque, romanticization