In 2018 I read The Stranger Beside Me for the first time, and prior to reading it I knew little about Ted Bundy. However, finishing it sent me into a rabbit hole of searching for more information about the survivors, victims, and other people in his personal life. I enjoyed The Stranger Beside Me because it was written from a perspective of a coworker and friend, this element is what sets this book apart from other true crime books in my opinion. Finding out that Ted’s long term girlfriend, Liz Kendall, had written a book called The Phantom Prince about her own experience was exactly the news I had wanted, another perspective of someone close. Unfortunately, it had been long out of print and proved very difficult to track down. I found it eventually, read it in one afternoon and was left feeling even stranger, it felt unfinished and written too early.
Fast-forward to 2020 and we have a movie based on Liz Kendall’s experience, we have a new Bundy documentary on Netflix, and a new docuseries on Amazon Prime based on the experiences of Liz and Molly, friends and family of victims, as well as survivors. We also have The Phantom Prince rereleased and expanded with new sections from Liz, as well as Molly. While I am sick of hearing about Ted Bundy, I am not sick of listening to victims, survivors, and their families. I think that living in 2020 amidst a cultural movement of exactly that– victims and survivors standing up and telling their truth, there is no time better than this to listen to and read their stories.
The Phantom Prince is not by any means a literary masterpiece. This book is not written to take you to a fantasy world or tell you a romantic love story. The Phantom Prince is a book that feels very cathartic and raw. I certainly feel like you can tell that Liz is truly in the middle of her journey to come to terms with her situation. It feels almost like finding someone’s diary from years ago and not being able to stop yourself from wondering how they are now because they were not okay when they wrote this piece. This is what makes me hold back my judgment on Liz throughout reading this book. You know she is in a relationship with an incredibly sick, twisted monster of man, who is no doubt manipulative and is gaslighting her from start to finish. Following along with her intuition, telling her to report her suspicions to the police over and over, all the while knowing the truth is gut-twisting.
I said previously that I felt this book was very unfinished when first published more than 30 years ago, and I still stand by that. However, the new and expanded version, with a new intro, outro, as well as a new section written by Liz’s daughter Molly is 100% worth the reread to me and completely rounds out the book exactly the way it needed all along. The growth that radiates from these new chapters made me emotional and felt so satisfying to read, sort of like finding out your old friend from school who shared all her trauma with you years ago, finally went to therapy. What I didn’t expect to move me the way it did were Molly’s chapters and just how much she was aware of, as well as how she saw cracks in Ted’s facade even as a child. She shares her own disturbing stories of Ted after all these years as a survivor herself. I am impressed with how far these women have come and grown, the proof of that was worth the rereading of this entire book.
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