On Thursday the National Museum of Crime & Punishment held an unveiling ceremony for Ted Bundy's Beetle, the car into which he lured his victims and in which he killed many of them during a vintage serial killing spree in the 1970s.
"This was kind of like a death wagon," said Wyndell C. Watkins Sr., a retired D.C. police deputy chief, who was on hand to help introduce the latest iconic celebrity murder object joining Washington's museum collections.
The car has been stored in a private collection owned by New York-based Arthur Nash, who owns many of the most grisly objects on display in the museum's main exhibition. Also from the Nash collection: clown and serial killer John Wayne Gacy's painter's box, on display in a room dealing with other delightful "murderabilia."
Bundy's VW replaces the 1933 Essex-Terraplane car used as a getaway vehicle by John Dillinger. With Dillinger's car shipped off to the Southwest terminal of Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, where it will help present the capital region's best face to visitors, the crime museum needed a marquee object to grace its front lobby.
Of all of the notorious cars in the world -- the white Ford Bronco that O.J. Simpson rode in, the D.C. snipers' shabby Chevy Caprice retrofitted with gun placements -- Bundy's Bug may be the most notorious because it was so intimately connected to its owner's crimes. "Bundy killed in this car" is what you're supposed to feel when looking at something that was not just a tool, but a container for death. Yes, I have chills all over just thinking about it.
Compared with the D.C. snipers' car, on display at the Newseum, Bundy's VW has the edge of authenticity. The snipers' car is a mock-up, used at trial, not the actual vehicle from which John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo hunted their victims.
The Bundy car, with a brittle and faded 1976 Utah vehicle inspection sticker (No. 264924) still stuck to its dirty and cracked windshield, was not just the site of murder, but part of the strange, all-American charm and innocence that helped Bundy coerce women to get fatally close to him. It was advertising for a man who made himself an avatar of a free and unfettered age.
Maybe it's time for a visit to Washington. This stuff is the Holy Grail for those of us who are Crazy 4 Crazy.