The Phantom Prince - updated and expanded edition

by Elizabeth Kendall. Review by Rose.

Some girls are brought up to believe in the concept of the prince: a man who is romantic, caring, dependable, ready to save the fragile female and whisk her into safety. This concept is often repeated in books and film and was perhaps even more powerful in the past. The prince is romantic and strong, he will guard the castle against the howling wolves pacing outside and protect the princess. He is found in fairy tales, though his personality is usually one dimensional. The idea of meeting one's perfect prince is repeated in sayings such as ‘wait till you find your prince’ or ‘have you met prince charming yet?’ The little girl that dreamed of a prince-like figure she saw in childhood books, may still exist somewhere within the grown woman. Perhaps she is still looking for that fairy tale ending: that wonderful white wedding when she and her prince walk into the sunset. But what if a person that projects all the traits of that fairy-tale prince in her head: the beautiful romantic words and chivalrous actions, yet underneath he is a monster? A monster so horrific, that to see the real person behind the pretence could destroy a girl forever?

When Elizabeth Kendall met a young handsome man in a local bar in Seattle, she was only twenty-four years old. She was instantly attracted to him and placed him on a pedestal. He seemed self-assured, handsome, stylish, and intelligent. She felt dull stood next to him, unsophisticated, not quite as bright, nervous, and shy, stumbling over her words. Why would he spend time with her if he had a choice of so many other women? This tells us something about the personality of Elizabeth at this time, she was a vulnerable young woman who struggled with self-confidence. And the man with blue eyes that stared into her smiling cheerful face, he may have seemed like the prince she had dreamed of at that moment. He was a man that had methodically perfected a pleasing social image. He had trained himself to keep the ‘beast’ concealed from everyone he met in his ordinary life. Sometimes, innocent people find themselves in the centre of vast darkness, they find themselves in unimaginable places through no fault of their own. The Phantom Prince is the story of Elizabeth Kendall, her daughter Molly, and her memories of her time with the serial killer Ted Bundy in Elizabeth’s own words.

Is it possible to lie in bed next to someone night after night, to wake, eat breakfast to share your life without knowing that the person sat with you is killing other people?  Is it possible that this person you watch playing with your daughter, while she laughs and rushes through the house being chased in a flurry of innocence could be one of the most lethal killers in society? Could someone dream of marriage to a person they believe is their ‘everything’, an individual they think they share the deepest connection of their lives, a man that declares his undying love in letters and to and not see behind his ‘perfected and stylised social mask’? Behind the self-assured smile, the palpable charm, the honed intelligence, could there be a monster who will kill and torture with a ferocity that would leave veteran detectives shocked? The answer is yes, it is conceivable. This was not the first time though, no other cases were on the same scale as the psychology graduate who deceived educated intelligent members of society.

Throughout their dating years, Bundy justified his motives for not marrying Elizabeth, by referring to his long-term student status, which he claimed made it financially impossible to support her. The truth was undoubtedly more sinister, as Bundy knew that if married, he could not continue stalking females at night. A wife would notice the times he was missing; she would ask too many questions. When he was finally arrested for the first time, some people criticised Elizabeth Kendall calling her a fool. Ultimately, she did name him as a suspect. Yet, even then, she admits in this novel that she was still telling him she loved him at this beginning stage of his arrest and she did not believe that he was a killer, and still fantasised about them ‘being together’ one day and sharing a loving home. It was hard for Elizabeth to let go of that dream of a prince; of that fairy-tale ending. Sometimes people are so desperate for a dream that has played like a film in their mind, it is hard to let it go, to understand that it can never be the way you envisioned, or that it was never real in the first place. It will also have been impossible for Elizabeth to comprehend the unimaginable, that this man she had shared her life with was a brutal sadistic killer. The two faces of Ted Bundy were so conflicting, even an actor would have struggled to divide the different personalities that Ted Bundy presented to other people.

This is a man that arrives to the dinner table late, after kidnapping a victim, laughs and jokes with his girlfriend’s parents, exhibiting no outward signs of psychological or physiological  stress, with the parents regarding him as someone ‘going places.’ Ted Bundy was a master of disguise, he knew how to design and exploit a compelling and trustworthy psychological image, to project the type of personality that would be accepted by educated middle-class society. He knew what people wanted to see and hear.

Kendall was brought up into the Mormon Church with her family, a place where women were ‘homemakers’ a life that did not suit her and she left when she was old enough and had her daughter, Molly. She suffered from crippling shyness in groups with strangers, though she could talk easily with people she knew. She may have had symptoms of social anxiety, that might not have been recognised or diagnosed in those days. The book and her memories give us an image of a young girl with a very low self-esteem constantly comparing herself to others who she considered more intelligent or sophisticated, not recognising her own talents and gifts. Kendall was a good mother who cared deeply about her daughter, though she did develop a drinking habit to cope with her shyness in social situations, something she eventually conquered. She was desperate to be loved and feel love, this meant that when reading Bundy’s dramatic romantic proclamations of his eternal feelings, depicting their union, he was feeding directly into what she desperately desired and wanted. The problem was, it was not real. After reading some of his love letters, it is understandable why a shy girl with a ‘low’ self-esteem may have stayed with him so long hoping for marriage. There is also some evidence in this book that symptoms of love addiction may have been a problem for Kendall, as without Bundy's love and presence, she was destraught, going through painful withdrawal symptoms. The love she felt was overwhelming, these can be symptoms of love addiction. She did put Bundy on a pedestal as ‘better than her’ and this will have caused problems with his dominant personality. She was an intelligent, caring, loving person that unfortunately met a man that sold an image to her and took advantage of her shyness and lack of confidence.

Bundy like most prolific liars had an answer for every question she posed when she eventually became suspicious, why were there crutches in his room? They belonged to someone else. Why had he been missing for hours and hours on end and not returned her calls? He'd fallen asleep and was sorry. Why did the man in the park call himself Ted when two girls were kidnapped? What a coincidence he'd say laughing. He never hesitated when telling a lie, he'd trained himself to be an accomplished liar but he also relied on the fact that most human beings would not suspect him in the first place, by the way he carried himself, the way he dressed, the way he smiled.

These events all occured at a time women were fighting to have the same rights as men in University and in work and jobs, life was changing for women for the first time, they were making headway, in the middle of this fight for rights, the murders began. These were girls treated as sexual objects and nothing more. They were not seen as human beings by Bundy, possibly this is the most devastating fact of all. Many of these girls were graduates, trying to make a life as women that previous generations had not been able to do, to take advantage of education and better jobs, more rights. Instead, they ended up being dispensible objects for a male's abnormal sexual fantasies.

People that have experienced being close to evil, or being betrayed, in a way that is impossible to imagine by a loved one or a family member, often spend an entire lifetime trying to understand it. They seek an explanation for the unfathomable. It can shake them to the very core. It can be like a presence they see in the rear view mirror of their car into the backseat, it is there behind them at times and is impossible to erase entirely, their life is infinitely changed. It can affect their identity and there responses to people in the future. This does not mean they cannot triumph over these experiences, Elizabeth went on to create a life with her daughter that was fulfilling, it’s just that now and again when they look into that rear view mirror, that presence sometimes appears, the darkness is there. In the Amazon documentary where Elizabeth and Molly talk, you can tell it’s still part of them, it’s affected their identities and personalities, but it has not destroyed them. They won a difficult battle.  
This is the first time Elizabeth's daughter Molly has written about her experiences with Bundy and what happened.