Unexplainable things happened in the Tacoma house where serial killer Ted Bundy grew up.
So many things, in fact, that a contractor hired to remodel the home penciled Bible scriptures on the walls and brought in two pastors to bless the house.
“I’m not one to believe a lot of this stuff, but this house made me a believer,” said Casey Clopton, the contractor.
A cry for help appeared on a window as crew members worked in the basement. Heavy furniture wedged into a wall toppled over. Doors and cabinets seemed to open themselves.
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Real estate broker James Pitts III shows the fully remodeled Tacoma home he just sold, desiccated birds and all. It was the childhood home of serial murderer Ted Bundy. Peter Haleyphaley@thenewstribune.com
It all started in September, when David Truong bought the 1,400-square-foot home with plans to redo and flip it.
He didn’t research its history, so he didn’t know the local lore or who had lived there.
The little blue house was built in 1946, the same year Bundy was born in Vermont. The Bundy family moved into the home in 1955, records show.
Louise Bundy was no longer living there in 1989, when her 42-year-old son was executed in Florida after being convicted of killing two sorority sisters and a 12-year-old girl.
Investigators linked him to at least 30 slayings, though they believe there were dozens more. His killing spree started in 1974 in Washington and continued for years across 11 states.
‘They were a really nice family’
Bundy was 9 when his family moved into the four-bedroom, 1 1/2-bathroom house. Neighbors recall him having a bedroom on the ground floor, though at least one record indicates his room was at the foot of the stairs in the basement.
He lived there with his mother, stepfather and four siblings.
“I don’t ever remember seeing Ted,” said Hope Murry, a neighbor who grew up a few houses down and later bought her childhood home.
She recalls playing with Bundy’s younger sisters and Louise Bundy babysitting her. Once, she went to their house but was told to stay out of Ted’s bedroom because he had the measles.
“They were a really nice family,” Murry said.
Bundy insisted he grew up in “a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents.”
Louise Bundy was a staunch defender of her eldest son and long insisted he was innocent. Her stance softened after he made several death-row confessions.
In his final interview with a psychologist just before he was executed, Bundy said his family regularly attended church and believed his violence stemmed from an obsession with pornography that fueled dark fantasies.
Some believe Bundy started killing when he was 14, and that Ann Marie Burr, an 8-year-old girl abducted from her North End home in August 1961, was his first victim.
Bundy denied it in a letter to the girl’s mother, written after he was imprisoned in Florida and named as a suspect in Ann Marie’s disappearance.
Louise Bundy said back then she was sure he didn’t commit any crimes while living under her roof. And DNA testing done in 2011 was unable to link Bundy to the missing girl.
He is, however, still listed as a suspect in the case because detectives could not clear him.
Despite Bundy being one of the most notorious serial killers, there is no evidence he committed any crimes in his childhood home.
That doesn’t stop some neighbors, and now the contractors, from believing there’s something spooky about the house.
‘Help me’ and ‘leave’
Clopton, the contractor, first visited the house after he was hired in October. He took along his 11-year-old daughter, who sometimes goes with him and takes dictated notes from her dad about the work that needs to be done.
“My daughter started crying,” Copton said. “She said she felt weird. She didn’t like it there.”
She refused to be alone in the house and was so uncomfortable they quickly left.
Clopton returned the next week with a demolition crew. One crew member echoed the sentiment that the house didn’t feel right.
Then things started happening, things Clopton kept dismissing as pranks among the crew.
There was the time they re-entered the house — which had been locked — and every door, every cabinet drawer — was open.
Or the time the workers were cleaning up the flooded basement and spotted the words “Help me” written on the glass. A screwed-on screen protector would have made it difficult for someone outside to write it, Clopton said.
A heavy dresser inset in the upstairs hallway wall somehow pulled itself out and landed face-down on the floor while the crew was downstairs.
Workers said it takes at least one strong man to pull it out and there was no way it could have fallen on its own.
“Periodically, throughout the course of the job, we had weird things keep happening,” Clopton said.
Cellphones and other electronics occasionally would get unplugged and immediately die. The word “Leave” was found written in sheetrock dust on a bedroom floor with no footprints around it.
Clopton eventually chatted with some of the neighbors about the odd occurrences, asking if there had been a rash of neighborhood break-ins.
That’s when he learned Bundy once lived in the house.
Clopton passed the information along to Truong and James Pitts III, the real estate broker. Pitts said he was shocked but excited by the discovery because he has an interest in true crime.
“It was really eerie but really neat,” he said. “We made sure to keep quiet initially because we weren’t sure how people would react to knowing a serial killer lived there.”
Although a handful of potential buyers asked Pitts about Bundy once calling the house home, he said the people who recently bought the house did not.
It’s unclear whether the new owners are aware. They were unable to be reached for comment.
Two pastors and blessings
After Clopton found out the house’s connection to a serial killer, he decided it was time to seek help. So he called a Puyallup pastor and asked him to bless the house.
Two pastors came out and went from room to room, reading scriptures and saying blessings.
They encouraged the crew to continue playing Christian music while they worked. They also suggested writing Bible verses on the walls, which the workers did.
The penciled writing can no longer be seen beneath the fresh paint, but Clopton hopes they will continue to offer protection.
“Everything in that house fought us, and I was kind of weird about it,” he said. “But I go to church and I have God with me.”
The house was completely redone with new paint, a bright yellow front door and renovated floors and ceilings. But the history remains.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653