Ted Bundy tales come out of the woodwork

Ryan Summerlin
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Ross Dolan had been a Glenwood Post photographer only a short time when he took this photo of serial killer Ted Bundy in 1977.
Ross Dolan / Glenwood Post |

After the Glenwood Springs Post Independent ran a story about finding 1977 photo negatives of serial killer Ted Bundy in its long-locked safe, the story spread around the globe.

The out-of-date photo medium got a big boost from the viral effect of the digital age.

After getting plenty of media attention around the state, The New York Times, Washington Post and CBS News picked up The Associated Press version of the story. Across the Atlantic, the Daily Mail in London ran a story, and on the other side of the globe it was picked up by the New Zealand Herald.

Such is human fascination with the macabre, which also prompted an outpouring of strange new stories surrounding Bundy’s escapes from the Pitkin and Garfield County jails before his capture in Florida and execution in 1989.

Another strange web of this story started years before Bundy, who would confess to murdering 30 women, was a household name.

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In 1974, Ross Dolan, about 29 or 30 years old at the time, was living in Aspen, working odd jobs to keep afloat in the mountain town. One of those jobs was driving for the Quicksilver Cab Company. One day, shortly after Christmas, he was driving a man to the airport. His passenger leaned forward and showed him a photograph of a woman and asked if he’d seen her. It was his fiance, and she’d gone missing in Aspen.

Unfortunately, Dolan couldn’t be of any help that day; he didn’t recognize the woman.

But about two weeks later in a snowbank, Caryn Campbell’s naked body would be found in Snowmass. And Ted Bundy would eventually be on trial for her murder.

In 1977, while that trial was upcoming, Bundy would escape from the Pitkin County courthouse by leaping from a second-story window.

And after a weeklong manhunt that turned the town upside down, when law enforcement was finally hauling Bundy back in at the courthouse, it was the former cab driver Dolan who captured Bundy’s infamous smile in a photograph.

On Thursday, Dolan recalled these events for the Post Independent. He’d been working for the Glenwood Post for only a few months when he got the Bundy shot.

He’d long been a hobbyist photographer, but his career before that was as an English teacher in New York.

There was a buzz of excitement in the air in Aspen; Bundy’s escape just added to the already circus-like atmosphere of Aspen in the ’70s, Dolan said.

“I don’t think anyone took him as seriously as they needed to. He was a dangerous, vicious person,” he said.

Lee Caughman commented on the story that someone created a Bundy wanted poster that identified the wanted man as “Aspen’s foremost jumper and cross-country specialist.”

Merchants were selling Bundy T-shirts and one restaurant offered a Bundy burger as a joke menu item.

When he was captured, a sign hung at the Sheriff’s Office that read “Welcome Home Teddy.”

It seems plenty of people who were around at the time have their own piece of the Bundy story to tell.

Nathan Traul commented that he knew someone with the door from the Garfield County jail cell from which Bundy escaped.

Others claimed to have given Bundy a ride on Interstate 70, only suspecting it was him after learning of his second escape.

A Colorado Mountain College student at the time said law enforcement flooded the campus when Bundy escaped, knowing that their suspect had an inclination for colleges.

Caughman added that he had an uncle who was locked up with Bundy in the Garfield County jail. The uncle told him that young women would come to the jail and leave Bundy candy and cigarettes.

Shannon Lukens posted that the uniformed officer in the Bundy photos is former Pitkin County Sheriff Don Davis.

“In Bundy’s book, he said that the only person who ever scared him was Don Davis,” Lukens wrote. “I asked Mr. Davis what he said to scare Ted Bundy so much. He simply replied, ‘That’s only for me and Mr. Bundy to know.’”

Dolan, now 72 years old, is modest about the photos he took at the courthouse.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about the shot. I was just another working stiff with a camera,” he said.

There were plenty of other photographers there getting very similar shots. But Dolan’s photo caught that split second that seemed to show Bundy’s character — that smile that Dolan called an “evil sneer.”

True to his reputation, Bundy was very personable and cunning, he said. “He looked like a regular yup at the time, a very clean-cut guy. He wasn’t ugly, I guess.

“When you’re out doing the daily news, you don’t think that you’re writing history, but you are,” Dolan said.

“One thing I would like to add is that the Bundy saga, as gruesomely notorious as it was and is, should highlight the fact that violence against women has not abated. If anything, it has increased, and our society needs to step up its game and confront the realities of sexual predation, domestic abuse and human trafficking,” Dolan said.

The Post Independent’s recent find of Dolan’s Bundy negatives was actually the second time they’d been discovered, he said. The Glenwood Post’s photo chief, Casey Cass, found them in 1999 collecting dust in a bin in the back of the paper’s darkroom. The photos got some significant media play at that time, too. It being the turn of the century, they were selected for an AP online “Photos of the Century” collection — one out of 570 selected photos.

According to a Glenwood Post story from Sept. 30, 1999, after Cass found the negatives and submitted the photo to the AP, he secured them in the paper’s safe — secured for so long actually that they outlasted any employees who knew they were there.

Locksmith Wayne Winton, owner and operator of Glenwood Springs-based Tri-County Locksmith Services and member of the exclusive Safe and Vault Technicians Association, cracked the vintage Mosler No. 10 to bring them back to light.

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