While stuck in an internet rabbit hole, I stumbled onto a story I could not believe I had not heard before. I write for epicPew and have a master’s degree in criminal justice. If the rosary had stopped a serial killer’s rampage, how had I not heard that story before? After reading the alleged story, I shifted the focus of my Google searching. I had found this story on a less-than-credible blog, so I decided to find a legitimate source to verify the story. There were many websites that shared various versions of the story. However, none of the legitimate websites where one would expect to find this story mentioned, leading me to question its validity.
At this point, one must ask: If the story is of questionable validity, why discuss it? First of all, if it is true, we should be shouting it from the rooftops! However, if it is not true, we need to be clear on the facts. It does the Faith no good if false stories are being circulated to promote the Faith. For an example of this, check out the forum on Snopes with regards to this story. They do not look kindly upon people of Faith. Some blogs that mention this story include an Associated Press attribution which is blatantly false. The Associated Press did not write about this story and to insinuate otherwise adds fuel to fire of the negative opinions of those on the Snopes forum.
The Alleged Story
There are two versions of the story, and I will relate the most fantastic version of the two. This will allow for a more in-depth discussion of the topic.
On January 13, 1978 Ted Bundy broke into the Chi Omega Sorority House on the campus of Florida State University and went on a rampage. He killed two girls and only one girl in the house was left unscathed. That night, then-Father (later Monsignor) William Kerr was called in to administer Last Rites to the victims. One girl told Father Kerr that she believed she had survived because she had been praying her rosary during the attack. Before leaving for college, she had promised her mother and/or grandmother that she would pray the rosary before bed every night even if she fell asleep doing so. She was following through on that promise when Bundy attacked. Then, after he was arrested, Ted Bundy asked Father Kerr to be his spiritual advisor in prison. During their visit, Father Kerr asked Bundy why he did not kill the survivor. Bundy replied that he felt a mysterious force preventing him from entering her room.
This story did not appear anywhere until 2002 when it was mentioned in a 2002 article in a Pittsburgh newspaper (a really good article; I recommend it). The next mention was a third-hand account on a blog in 2009. This 2009 blog post appears to have set in motion the crazy spread of this story across the blogosphere.
What, if anything is true in the above story?
Ted Bundy did attack the Chi Omega Sorority House on January 15, 1978. He attacked four girls, killing two, Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, and leaving Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler severely injured. Levy was also sexually assaulted. However, there was more than one survivor. It was a sorority house. Around 30 girls lived in that house at the time. Furthermore, on the night of the attack, Father Kerr was indeed called to the sorority house that night, and later he was called in to be a spiritual advisor to Ted Bundy, a role he continued to do for years. However, Bundy did not request him specifically, and it is not known if Bundy knew Father Kerr was at the scene of the crime that night.
The Girl with the rosary
What about the girl who was praying the rosary that night? Did she exist? It is entirely possible. No name is ever given for this girl, so there is no way to verify her part in the story. However, the more credible sources on this story relate that she had fallen asleep. The late hour of the attack leads credibility to the assertion she fell asleep.
The Mysterious Force
If the girl with the rosary was real, did a mysterious force prevent Ted Bundy from killing her? No, absolutely not. There is no evidence to conclude that a mysterious force prevented Ted Bundy from continuing his slaughter that night. The two primary sources (and I use that term loosely in this case) for this story do not mention the mysterious force. The 2009 blog did originally mention something to the effect of Bundy said he could not continue the attack. However, he later retracted that part of the story, and the phrase “mysterious force” was never mentioned.
First of all, after leaving Chi Omega that night, Bundy went on to attack another girl, Cheryl Thomas (she survived), that night. If he really did feel that mysterious force, would he not have ceased his rampage entirely? Furthermore, if Bundy did make that claim, this would have been a more well-known story.
I contacted Bill Zlatos, the Pittsburgh reporter who wrote the profile on Monsignor William Kerr (whom he called one of the holiest persons he had ever met), who said he probably would have used the “mysterious force” part of the story if he had heard it from Monsignor Kerr. However, because it did not appear in his story, he assumes he was not told about it.
Furthermore, if Bundy did make that claim, this would have been a more well-known story. I contacted Bill Zlatos, the Pittsburgh reporter who wrote the profile on Monsignor William Kerr, who said he probably would have used the “mysterious force” part of the story if he had heard it from Monsignor Kerr. However, because it did not appear in his story, he assumes he was not told about it.
Let us assume, for a brief moment, that Ted Bundy did say a “mysterious force” did prevent him from continuing his rampage at Chi Omega. If he did say that, we still should not believe the “mysterious force” part of the story simply because Bundy said it. Just before his execution, Bundy announced he would sit down with any investigator from any jurisdiction who had unsolved murders that they thought Bundy might have committed. He had no actual intention of clearing up his wrong doings. It was merely a way to stall his execution. He lied and played games during those conversations. After the time allotted for those interrogations, Bundy had talked to only a small portion of the investigators who had traveled to Florida to speak with him, and he told the State of Florida it was going to take much longer than he had anticipated. Everyone saw this charade for what it was, and the conversations ceased. If Bundy did Monsignor Kerr about a “mysterious force,” it should be assumed he did so simply to mess with him.
Ted Bundy killed Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy and injured Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler at the Chi Omega Sorority House on January 15, 1978. I am willing to accept that one of the survivors believes she survived because she fell asleep holding her rosary that night. That is plausible, but what I cannot accept is the assertion that a “mysterious force” prevented him from continuing his rampage. Police believe he stopped his attack because he was spooked when a girl used the bathroom at the far end of the hallway around 3:15 A.M. There is no justifiable way to conclude Bundy felt a “mysterious force” that night. I want it to be true, but I cannot believe something I know is most likely not true.
I also believe that all of the blog posts that state a “mysterious force” stopped Ted Bundy that night should be deleted. There have even been two books about the rosary that mention this story that include a reference to a “mysterious force.” The publishers of those books should be embarrassed that they allowed those books to be published and sold before they had verified that story.
One Final Note
I thought hard about not mentioning Ted Bundy’s name in this article and simply referring to him as “the killer” because Bundy had the personality that would have enjoyed the attention. Ultimately, I decided that, because Bundy is no longer alive to enjoy the attention and his name is mentioned in the articles I have linked to in this post, there would be little point omitting his name. However, I did make an effort to mention the names of the victims. I firmly believe that the most important names in this story are Margaret Bowman, Lisa Levy, Kathy Kleiner, and Karen Chandler. We ought to be giving more attention to the victims of horrendous crimes and not those who perpetrate those crimes. Okay, I will get off my soapbox now.