The Stranger Beside Me

The Stranger Beside Me

by Ann Rule
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The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416559597
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 12/30/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 672
Sales rank: 899
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Ann Rule wrote thirty-five New York Times bestsellers, all of them still in print. Her first bestseller was The Stranger Beside Me, about her personal relationship with infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. A former Seattle police officer, she used her firsthand expertise in all her books. For more than three decades, she was a powerful advocate for victims of violent crime. She lived near Seattle and passed away in 2015.


Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:

October 22, 1935

Place of Birth:

Lowell, Michigan


Creative Writing Program, University of Washington

Read an Excerpt


No one glanced at the young man who walked out of the Trailways Bus Station in Tallahassee, Florida, at dawn on Sunday, January 8, 1978. He looked like a college student — perhaps a bit older — and he blended in smoothly with the 30,000 students who had arrived in Florida's capital city that week. He had planned it that way. He felt at ease in a campus atmosphere, at home.

In truth, he was almost as far away from home as he could get and still remain in the United States. He had planned that too, just as he planned everything. He had accomplished the impossible, and now he would begin a new life, with a new name, a contrived, "stolen'' background, an entirely different pattern of behavior. By doing this, he felt confident that his heady sense of freedom would continue forever.

In Washington State, or Utah, or Colorado, he would have been recognized instantly by even the most desultory of media watchers and readers. But here in Tallahassee, Florida, he was anonymous, only another handsome young man with a ready smile.

He had been Theodore Robert Bundy. But Ted Bundy would be no more. Now he was Chris Hagen. That would do until he decided who he would be next.

He had been cold for so long. Cold in the frigid night air of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, as he emerged undetected from the Garfield County Jail. Cold on New Year's Day as he mingled with the tavern crowd in Ann Arbor, Michigan, cheering for the Rose Bowl game on TV. Cold when he decided that he would head south. Where he went didn't really matter as long as the sun was hot, the weather mild, and he was on a college campus.

Why had he chosen Tallahassee? Chance more than anything. Looking back, we see it is often casual choices which chart a path to tragedy. He had been enthralled with the University of Michigan campus, and he could have stayed there. There'd been enough money left from the stash he'd hidden in jail to pay for a twelve-dollar room at the YMCA but Michigan nights in January can be unrelentingly icy, and he didn't have warm clothing.

He'd been to Florida before. Back in the days when he was an energetic young worker for the Republican Party he'd received a trip to the 1968 convention in Miami as part of his reward. But, as he pored over college catalogues in the University of Michigan Library, he wasn't thinking of Miami.

He looked at the University of Florida in Gainesville and dismissed it summarily. There was no water around Gainesville, and, as he would say later, "It didn't look right on the map — superstition, I guess.''

Tallahassee, on the other hand, "looked great.'' He had lived the better part of his life on Washington's Puget Sound and he craved the sight and smell of water: Tallahassee was on the Ochlockonee River, which led to the Apalachee Bay and the vastness of the Gulf of Mexico.

He knew he couldn't go home again, ever, but the Florida Indian names reminded him a little of the cities and rivers of Washington with their Northwestern tribal names.

Tallahassee it would be.

He had traveled comfortably up until New Year's Day. The first night out was a little hard, but walking free was enough in itself. When he'd stolen the "beater'' off the streets in Glenwood Springs, he'd known it might not be up to making the snow-clogged pass into Aspen, but he'd had little choice. It had burned out thirty miles from Vail — forty miles from Aspen — but a good Samaritan had helped him push the car off the road, and given him a ride back to Vail.

From there, there was the bus ride to Denver, a cab to the airport, and a plane to Chicago, even before they'd discovered he was gone. He hadn't been on a train since he was a child and he'd enjoyed the Amtrak journey to Ann Arbor, having his first drinks in two years in the club car as he thought of his captors searching the snowbanks farther and farther behind him.

In Ann Arbor, he'd counted his money and realized that he would have to conserve it. He'd been straight since leaving Colorado, but he decided one more car theft didn't matter. He left this one in the middle of a black ghetto in Atlanta with the keys in it. Nobody could ever tie it to Ted Bundy — not even the FBI (an organization that he privately considered vastly overrated), who had just placed him on their Ten-Most-Wanted List.

The Trailways bus had delivered him right into the center of downtown Tallahassee. He'd had a bit of a scare as he got off the bus. He thought he'd seen a man he'd known in prison in Utah, but the man had looked right through him, and he realized he was slightly paranoid. Besides, he didn't have enough money to travel any farther and still afford a room to rent.

He loved Tallahassee. It was perfect: dead, quiet — a hick town on Sunday morning. He walked out onto Duval Street, and it was glorious. Warm. The air smelled good and it seemed right that it was the fresh dawn of a new day. Like a homing pigeon, he headed for the Florida State University campus. It wasn't that hard to find. Duval cut across College and he turned right. He could see the old and new capitol buildings ahead, and, beyond that, the campus itself.

The parking strips were planted with dogwood trees — reminiscent of home — but the rest of the vegetation was strange, unlike that in the places from which he'd come. Live oak, water oak, slash pine, date palms, and towering sweet gums. The whole city seemed to be sheltered by trees. The sweet gum branches were stark and bare in January, making the vista a bit like a northern winter's, but the temperature was nearing 70 already. The very strangeness of the landscape made him feel safer, as if all the bad times were behind him, so far away that everything in the previous four years could be forgotten, forgotten so completely that it would be as if it had never happened at all. He was good at that; there was a place he could go to in his mind where he truly could forget. Not erase; forget.

As he neared the Florida State campus proper, his euphoria lessened; perhaps he'd made a mistake. He'd expected a much bigger operation in which to lose himself, and a proliferation of For Rent signs. There seemed to be very few rentals, and he knew the classifieds wouldn't help him much; he wouldn't be able to tell which addresses were near the university.

The clothing that had been too light in Michigan and Colorado was beginning to feel too heavy, and he went to the campus bookstore, where he found lockers to stow his sweaters and hat.

He had $160 left, not that much money when he figured he had to rent a room, pay a deposit, and buy food until he found a job. He found that most of the students lived in dormitories, in fraternal houses, and in a hodgepodge of older apartment and rooming houses bordering the campus. But he was late in arriving; the term had started, and almost everything was already rented.

Ted Bundy had lived in nice apartments, airy rooms in the upper stories of comfortable older homes near the University of Washington and the University of Utah campuses, and he was less than enchanted with the pseudo-Southern-mansion facade of "The Oak'' on West College Avenue. It drew its name from the single tree in its front yard, a tree as disheveled as the aging house behind it. The paint was fading, and the balcony listed a bit, but there was a For Rent sign in the window.

He smiled ingratiatingly at the landlord and quickly talked his way into the one vacancy with only a $100 deposit. As Chris Hagen, he promised to pay two months' rent — $320 — within a month. The room itself was as dispirited as the building, but it meant he was off the streets. He had a place to live, a place where he could begin to carry out the rest of his plans.

Ted Bundy is a man who learns from experience — his own and others'. Over the past four years, his life had changed full circle from the world of a bright young man on his way up, a man who might well have been governor of Washington in the foreseeable future, to the life of a con and a fugitive. And he had, indeed, become con-wise, gleaning whatever bits of information he needed from the men who shared his cell blocks. He was smarter by far than any of them, smarter than most of his jailers, and the drive that had once spurred him on to be a success in the straight world had gradually redirected itself until it focused on only one thing: escape — permanent and lasting freedom, even though he would be, perhaps, the most hunted man in the United States.

He had seen what happened to escapees who weren't clever enough to plan. He knew that his first priority would have to be identification papers. Not one set, but many. He had watched the less astute escapees led back to their prisons, and had deduced that their biggest mistake had been that they were stopped by the law and had been unable to produce I.D. that would draw no hits on the "big-daddy'' computers of the National Crime Information Center in Washington, D.C.

He would not make that fatal error; his first chore would be to research student files and find records of several graduates, records without the slightest shadows on them. Although he was thirty-one, he decided that in his new lives, he would be about twenty-three, a graduate student. Once he had that secure cover, he would find two other identities that he could switch to if his antennae told him he was being observed too closely.

He also had to find work — not the kind of job for which he was infinitely qualified: social service, mental health counselor, political aide, legal assistant — but a blue-collar job. He would have to have a Social Security number, a driver's license, and a permanent address. The latter, he had; the rest he would obtain. After the rental deposit, he had only $60 left, and he'd been shocked already to see the inroads inflation had made into the economy while he'd been incarcerated. He'd been sure that the several hundred dollars he'd begun his escape with would last him a month or two, but now it was almost gone.

He would rectify that. The program was simple. First the I.D., next the job, and last, but most important, he would be the most law-abiding citizen who ever walked a Florida street. He promised himself that he would never get so much as a jaywalking ticket, nothing whatever that would cause law enforcement officers to ever glance his way.

He was now a man without any past at all. Ted Bundy was dead.

As all of his plans had been, it was a good plan. Had he been able to carry it out to the letter, it is doubtful that he would ever have been apprehended. Florida lawmen had homicide suspects of their own to keep tabs on, and crimes as far afield as Utah or Colorado held little interest for them.

Most young men, among strangers, in a strange land, with only $60 to their names, jobless, and in need of $320 within the month, might be expected to feel a stirring of panic at the unknown quality of the days ahead.

"Chris Hagen'' felt no panic. He felt only a bubbling elation and a vast sense of relief. He had done it. He was free, and he no longer had to run. Whatever lay ahead paled in comparison with what the morning of January 9th had meant to him as 1977 drew to a close. He was relaxed and happy as he fell asleep in his narrow bed in The Oak in Tallahassee.

He had good reason to be. For Theodore Robert Bundy — the man who was no more — had been scheduled to go on trial for first-degree murder in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at 9 A.M. on January 9. Now that courtroom would be empty.

The defendant was gone.

Copyright © 2009 by Ann Rule

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The Stranger Beside Me 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 129 reviews.
JoB58 More than 1 year ago
When The Stranger Beside Me was first published, I bought a copy to read on vacation in Florida. I had to take it with me to the beach, because I couldn't put it down. Ms. Rule had me hooked from the beginning, and she can't write fast enough for me. I've read every one of her books, and she never fails to fascinate with her telling of true crime stories. Her style of writing is so easy to read, and she treats the victims with great compassion. For my birthday this month, I received a copy of the new 2008 reprinted version of The Stranger Beside Me, and look forward to re-reading the book that got me hooked on Ann Rule!
1louise1 More than 1 year ago
Every woman or parent should read this book! This book had to be an emotionally difficult one for the author to write because of her friendship with the killer, Ted Bundy! I was tense and on the edge of my seat all the way through this. We each have that weak, vulnerable spot, that we can be taken in. This was bone chilling!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a advid reader of Rules's bookand this one takes the cake. Ted Bundy was a remarkable seriel killer and she captures eveything about him so that it seems almost like you know him yourself. If you are going to read a book by Rule, read this one.
coalminersdaughter More than 1 year ago
This is the best book about Ted Bundy I have ever read. I bought the book thinking it would be good because it was written by Ann Rule. I was surprised to find out that she actually knew Ted Bundy personally. This book gives insight into the mind of a horrific killer and lets everyone who reads it know how a person looks does not determine what type of person they really are. Ted Bundy was handsome, charming, etc., but at the same time a serial killer who seems to have actually taken pleasure in killing. I loaned this book to a co-worker, and she had the same response to the book. We both loved it!!!
AnonymousLR More than 1 year ago
The scariest book I have ever read. Ann Rule is a great writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book at least 3 times and each time it amazes me how he could steal all of those womens lives in what seemed a moment --- Ann Rules writes the info & puts you where it happens. You feel the fear thru her writing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an Anne Rule fan and have read this book at least four times. Every time I read it, it is just as compelling as the time before. it is an absolute must read in the true crime genre. You will never forget this book.
Ainwena More than 1 year ago
This is the scariest book I have ever read. After page 80, I could not read it alone at night in my own house. I lived in Tacoma, Washington (Bundy's hometown) and I went to UPS (like he did briefly). Every place Rule wrote about in Washington I am familiar with which is why I think it has extra creep factor for me. I was constantly amazed throughout the entire book how Bundy could lure females to him. This guy was a sicko and literally the stuff of nightmares. One of the top must reads if you are a true crime buff.
Jennifer-Lamas More than 1 year ago
One of the reasons I read the book was because it was recommended to me through a friend. At first I didn't think I would get much out of it;but, I think it really did change my life. And for the better! Ted Bundy was a charismatic, smart, and easy for someone to trust...until he killed them. This book is a case in point for showing that the face of a serial killer has the face of both me and you. I am much more alert of my surroundings at night. And no way will I stop and walk with someone to their car. The problem is so many women are too trusting of anybody. That's too bad. I stayed up with this book until 4am for about three nights in a row. It is really hard to put down. Ted Bundy has been dead for quite some time. But he is still very alive as an American crime icon. You will learn a substantial amount of facts and information in this book regarding both his life and that of Ann Rule's. Its a great view point coming from the Author, because she knew Ted Bundy as a friend! Before he was a murderer. It's unbelieveable. Did you know Ted Bundy had a wife and a daughter? Or that he escaped prison twice? It's a good book.
Trumpetkris More than 1 year ago
If Ann Rule can be taken in by a man like Ted Bundy, anyone can. As usual Ann Rule's book did not disappoint me. If anyone wants to know the real story of Ted Bundy they should read this book.
Bronc_Ridin_Babe More than 1 year ago
The Stranger Beside Me is an intense book to read. Ted Bundy was a typical good looking man, who started out with a normal promising life. But then he turned on the world and murdered a mass amount of women who were all alike. They had long hair parted in the middle and were all successful and smart. Ted traveled around the United States committing these crimes, and even though he got put in prison multiple times, he escaped. Ann Rule wrote this book showing that you cannot trust people. Ted Bundy would act crippled and get a girl to help him to his car. The thing I liked about this book is that it kept me thinking, and turning back pages to try and figure things out before the story told the reader. There was never a dull part in this investigating book. There's not really anything I disliked about it, it was very good and would give it five out of five stars. People should read this because it makes you want to keep reading. Rule is very descriptive and tells you exactly how it happened. I have read Rule's other books such as "The Want-Ad Killer" and "Lust Killer". I loved them just as much. Ann Rule is famous for writing these killing, mystery books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book by Ann Rule. The fact she actually knew him makes the book more personal. I recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing more about Bundy.
ddreaderNE More than 1 year ago
The book about a monster takes on a whole set of different perspectives when the author knows the killer personally. I found myself almost liking him. I could see why he was able to get the women he killed into his car. The fact that he unraveled in Florida is really his own undueing. Ann does a good job keeping the information in perspective.
jlev01 More than 1 year ago
Ann Rule tells it like it is. very good read for anyone interested in why people kill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This newer, updated version of Ann Rule's original "Stranger Beside Me" is even better than the first two times I read it. She is brilliant at giving you the feeling that you yourself are there living it. In addition to her humbling herself with corrections from the past book and answers to a few questions from readers. Highly recommended.
Wingcomm-3 More than 1 year ago
Ann Rule wrote a truly scary and insightful look into the mindset and workings of the quintessential serial killer. It was not difficult to imagine the terror that his victims must have felt as he was leading them to their deaths. Her unique perspective into the life and mind of Ted Bundy allowed her write a book that almost transports you to those quiet streets and lonely back roads of Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Utah,Colorado and Florida where these terrible crimes occured and where the bodies were disposed of. She has a singular talent. This book really opened my mind concerning the reality and existance of these horrible predators. Kudos to Ann Rule.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best Ted Bundy stories I have read. This book keeps you very interested and I read it in one day because I could not put it down.
vincy More than 1 year ago
... that someone you think you know so well is a serial killer. You just cannot make this stuff up. Ann Rule engages with this book. It has been, by far, one of the best books I have ever read. Very well written and captivating. It is a page turner!
Abigail22 More than 1 year ago
This book was extremely compelling and sets into motion the security changes that would take place in colleges and schools across our nation. Ann Rule is superb in relaying the life and background in one of the countries most notorious serial killers. For Ann Rule to have actually worked beside and being a confidanat to Ted makes the book all the more terrifying. I could not put this book down.
catseye More than 1 year ago
This is the definitive book by someone who actually knew Ted Bundy. This isn't just a great book about a notorious serial killer, it's just a great book, period. I really appreciate the insider's view point on a Jekyll and Hyde killer. Also, the periodic updates to the book are fascinating. One of the things I like most about The Stranger Beside Me is the author's portrayal of the victims as human beings who didn't deserve what happened to them. Not all true crime authors are that considerate of the victims and their families.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This view of Bundy will keep you very engrossed as you hear of much of the personal side of Bundy as a close friend of Ann Rule. She is sympathetic and unsure of his guilt at first, but by the end she realizes he has become a 'monster' and someone she really doesn't know.
according2kimberly 4 months ago
AMAZING!!! This book is so detailed, I could not put it down. Page after page was so addicting and a real nail biter. I could not believe that Ann was friends with Ted and alongside worked with him at a Suicide hotline. This book is a must read. I could go on and on talking about this book, but these women that Ted killed.....had me so speechless on the gruesome hurt and damaged that was this book and take your time reading this because as your done with this book you will an OMG this is crazy type feeling....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book and how Ann Rule was honest about her feelings towards who was an alleged killer and was found to be guilty, even though she didn’t want to believe it. Life is scarier than fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like that, Ann writes about the facts, evidence, and events without sensationalizing them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read