The Mystery Of Ted Bundy's Father Remains To This Day

The man who would grow to murder at least 30 women stated in numerous interviews that his upbringing was not to blame for his horrific crimes (per All That's Interesting). After he was incarcerated, Ted Bundy claimed that he had a normal childhood in a loving home. According to the Los Angeles Times, he maintained that he was raised by "two dedicated and loving parents" that made a home for him and his siblings that was free of abuse. In the 2019 Netflix docuseries "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes," he talked in detail about how his home life as a child was absent of anything that would have made him into the monster that he grew into. "There's nothing in my background which would lead one to believe that I was capable of committing murder," he said (per Oxygen).

Bundy's childhood has been well documented, as former girlfriends, neighbors, and childhood companions have come forward and given interviews to various media outlets, sharing their experiences with him from his early years (via Biography). But when it comes to Bundy, one aspect of his youth is still enshrouded in mystery — there has been much speculation about who fathered him, paving the way for some interesting theories. Depending on the source consulted, he could have been one of several men, including a blood relative.

Bundy was said to have found his original birth certificate as a teenager

Ted Bundy was born on November 24, 1946, in a home for unwed mothers in Burlington, Vermont (via Biography). His mother, Eleanor Louise Cowell, wanted to give up Bundy for adoption but later took her son home to her parents in Philadelphia. There, he was raised to believe that his grandparents were his parents and that Cowell was his older sister. When Bundy was 3, Cowell left Philadelphia for Tacoma, Washinton, taking him with her. She met and wed Johnnie Bundy, who later adopted him and gave him his surname.

Cowell never acknowledged that she was anything other than Bundy's sister, a lie that Bundy claimed he was able to see through at a young age. In "A Stranger Beside Me" (via Biography), Ann Rule pens that Bundy told her that he "just figured out that there couldn't be 20 years difference in age between a brother and a sister, and Louise always took care of me. I just grew up knowing that she was really my mother."

Bundy claimed that he discovered his birth certificate as a teenager, taking note that the "father" section was marked "unknown." Rule points out in her book that Bundy's mother remained fairly quiet on the subject of who impregnated her, saying only that it was a sailor (via Oxygen). According to Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, his name was Jack Worthington, and little is known about him. Though Worthington is the man that Cowell said fathered Bundy, his name hasn't been associated with Bundy's original birth certificate.

Lloyd Marshall is the man named on the original document

Ann Rule describes a man named Lloyd Marshall as the one whom she believes fathered Bundy. Or, at the very least, he was the one man originally tied to the birth certificate. Marshall, an Air Force veteran and salesman, was put down as Bundy's father on the document (via Oxygen), which was stamped with the word "illegitimate." Rule says that even though Marshall was the one listed, nothing has ever been done to establish him as Bundy's biological father. 

Bundy's birth certificate now shows that his father is Johnnie C. Bundy, a man who married his mother and adopted him. The original copy of the birth certificate cannot be located, so an independent verification of the claim that Marshall's name was once there cannot be established. The Burlington Free Press sheds some light as to why this is. The publication reports that authorities in Vermont will issue a new birth certificate once an adoption has taken place. The original is then sent to the state department of health. With that in mind, you'd believe that this department could search its records, locate a copy, and confirm whether Marshall was once listed as Bundy's father. But as it turns out, it's not that simple. The original birth records of adopted children are sealed for 99 years in Vermont so that women living in the era in which the law was passed would not face social stigmas related to giving birth out of wedlock. 

It's been speculated that Bundy was a product of incest

Another man who was rumored to be Ted Bundy's real father was Samuel Cowell, his maternal grandfather (per Oxygen). In her book "The Stranger Beside Me" (via Cosmopolitan), author Ann Rule says that some speculated that Bundy was the product of an incestuous act and was "fathered by his mother's father." Rule, however, maintains that this rumor could never be validated, as there wasn't DNA testing to back it up. Dr. Dorothy Lewis (above), a psychiatrist who interviewed Bundy the day before his 1989 execution, claims otherwise. She goes so far as to state that she was able to obtain a sample of Bundy's blood so that a DNA test could be performed, which proved that Bundy's biological father was not Samuel Cowell. Oxygen reports that, despite Dr. Lewis' insistence, no one has ever been able to verify the DNA test.

With proper DNA testing, it would certainly be possible to determine who Bundy's real father was. But with each of the subjects long since passed, it is a mystery that won't likely be solved and will be left up to speculation by true crime enthusiasts and armchair investigators for years to come.