The Stranger Beside Me

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The Stranger Beside Me
First edition
AuthorAnn Rule
GenreTrue crime
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Publication date
August 17, 1980
Published in English

The Stranger Beside Me is a 1980 autobiographical and biographical true crime book written by Ann Rule about serial killer Ted Bundy, whom she knew personally before and after his arrest for a series of murders.[1] Subsequent revisions of the book were published in 1986, 1989, 2000, and 2008.

Plot summary[edit]

The first few chapters following the brief introduction about Bundy's birth and family describe Rule's friendship with Bundy, her first impressions of him, and her reluctance to consider the evidence that he might be responsible for the crimes of which he was accused. She met Bundy in 1971 when he was a psychology student at the University of Washington and contemplating a career in law and politics. They worked together at a crisis center taking telephone calls from those at risk of suicide or facing other difficulties. Rule considered Bundy "kind, solicitous, and empathetic".[2]

Rule and Bundy developed a close friendship, sharing meals and conversations. Over a decade older than Bundy, Rule later stated that she would have trusted Bundy to care for her young children. They fell out of contact in late 1973 after he stopped working at the crisis center.

Starting in early 1974, a series of brutal murders of young women in the Seattle area shocked the city and gained major attention. Women were killed at a rate of roughly once every 30 days. Bundy was considered a possible suspect from the summer of 1974, when the unidentified killer was observed by several witnesses talking with two young women who later disappeared at Lake Sammamish State Park.

The man was described as tall, handsome and identified himself as "Ted." A sketch based on eyewitness descriptions was noted by several people—including Rule—to resemble Bundy. Rule thought it unlikely that Bundy was a killer but nonetheless reported him to police. However, authorities were overwhelmed with tips regarding the murders and did not initially believe Bundy was a likely suspect due to his superficially respectable persona.

Bundy relocated to Salt Lake City in late 1974 after being admitted to law school at the University of Utah. The killings in Seattle suddenly stopped, but young women in Utah, Colorado and Idaho began disappearing and being murdered under similar circumstances to the Seattle-area crimes. Police investigators in several states began sharing information, increasingly narrowing down on Bundy as their suspect in the string of unsolved murders.

In September 1975, Bundy telephoned Rule from Salt Lake, requesting help via her police department contacts to know why police in Seattle were serving subpoenas for his school records from Utah. He did not mention that in August 1975 he had been arrested and charged with the November 1974 kidnapping of a young woman who had been abducted by a man who posed as a police officer in Murray, Utah. After a bench trial, Bundy was sentenced to 1 to 15 years in Utah.

He was extradited to Colorado to face murder charges, but Rule was still resistant to admitting that her friend was a possible killer. Bundy twice escaped from custody in Colorado, sending letters or postcards to Rule while on the run. He proclaimed his innocence and asked for money to help enter Canada. The fugitive eventually made his way to Florida.

In January 1978, he went on a rampage at a Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University, beating several women (two of whom later died). In The Stranger Beside Me, this incident is narrated in third person, but not omnisciently, as the perpetrator is not identified as being Bundy, thus keeping the documentation of these events in-sync with the knowledge available to officers at the time Rule wrote. Bundy went on to kill another adult woman and rape and kill a 12-year-old girl whom he snatched from outside her school.

It is not until Bundy's capture in February 1978, and his subsequent trials in Florida when Bundy represented himself in court, that Rule fully accepts that Bundy is a serial killer. The turning point, Rule states, came after forensic dentists testified that Bundy's teeth matched the deep bite mark on the body of one of the Florida State victims. This was the first physical evidence that definitely linked him to the crimes, making it impossible for Rule to maintain doubt about his guilt. Rule finds the idea shocking to the point that she "[runs] to the ladies room and throws up."[3]

An afterword, following Rule's lament for Bundy and his victims, describes the trial of Bundy for the murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach in Florida. Bundy was sentenced to death in Florida. He continued to assert innocence for several years, but shortly before execution confessed to over 30 murders in an apparent bid to delay his death.

The 1989 update outlines Bundy's execution, and the 2000 update touches on many things, including various women claiming to have encountered Bundy in the 1970s, Robert Keppel's retirement from detective work and his employment at the University of Washington, and Bundy's possible involvement in the unsolved disappearance of Ann Marie Burr, a girl who disappeared in 1961 when Bundy was 14.[4]

A 2008 update of the book includes more stories from women who have contacted Rule with stories of their "near-miss" contacts with a man they believe was Ted Bundy, and also a "Ted Bundy FAQ" section in which Rule tries to answer the questions most frequently asked by readers, including the fact that he was not responsible for the 1973 murder of Kathy Merry Devine, for which he was long suspected. DNA profiling linked that killing to an ex-convict named William Cosden, who was subsequently tried and convicted of her murder.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 2003, The Stranger Beside Me was adapted into a made-for-TV film starring Billy Campbell as Bundy and Barbara Hershey as Rule.


  1. ^ Moyer, Justin Wm. "The twisted friendship of crime writer Ann Rule and serial killer Ted Bundy" – via
  2. ^ Rule, Ann (2000). The Stranger Beside Me (Paperback; updated 20th anniversary ed.). New York: Signet. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0-451-20326-7.
  3. ^ Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me. Signet, 2000, paperback. 548 pages. ISBN 0-451-20326-7. Updated 20th-anniversary edition. pp. 390.
  4. ^ Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me. Signet, 2000, paperback. 548 pages. ISBN 0-451-20326-7. Updated 20th-anniversary edition.

External links[edit]