Photos of Ted Bundy found in cracked Glenwood Springs Post Independent safe
Post Independent employees for years have walked by an old Glenwood Post safe, its combination long forgotten and its top most recently used as a table.
The thought that this safe might hold something consequential didn’t keep anyone awake at night. But when a local locksmith eyed the old safe and volunteered to take a crack at it, our curiosity was aroused. No one imagined it held the artifacts of a disturbing era of Roaring Fork Valley history — several photos of serial killer Ted Bundy and the search for him after his escapes from both the Garfield and Pitkin County jails in 1977.
Glenwood Post brass at some point decided negatives and contact sheets from the big story should be locked away — which probably was a good thing, because the PI — the Post’s successor — disposed of its non-digital photo files when it moved to its current office in 2011. But the safe made the move.
The Mosler #10 is hand-painted with ornate lettering identifying it as Glenwood Post property; the company labeled all the safes it sold. The Mosler Safe Co. of Ohio, noted for building vaults in Hiroshima, Japan, that withstood the atomic blast, was in business from 1874 until its 2001 bankruptcy. The exact age of the Glenwood Post safe is difficult to pin down, but documents inside showed that it was in the paper’s possession at its previous locations on south Grand Avenue and, before that, on Eighth Street.
The most recent documents inside were from the mid-1990s, and by now, no one at the paper remembers the safe being in use.
Having worked with similar antique safes in the area before, Wayne Winton, owner and operator of the Glenwood Springs-based Tri-County Locksmith Services, offered to crack the safe free of charge. He had noticed the safe more than a year ago.
He said that when old safes like this one are opened, the contents typically are rubber bands and paperclips.
Some people with such safes want to know the combination so they can be used again.
“Sadly, a lot of these just get discarded,” he said.
About 90 percent of the work is research to figure out the safe’s model and type of lock to identify what methods to use to open it, said Winton. “Mosler has been out of business for a while, so there’s no technical support line to call.”
He starts by observing the dial, the handle and the hinges, the three main indicators that can help identify what type of mechanism is inside.
“From there we just have to make an educated guess and match up what we see with information from other professionals in the industry. And luckily, we guessed right,” he said.
Winton said this safe was the first Mosler #10 he’d attempted to open, and it had one of the most difficult mechanisms he’s worked on. The Mosler #10’s mechanism is incredibly tight and well-concealed, built so that it couldn’t be drilled and “scoped” very easily. Scoping the inside of that mechanism requires some modern, expensive tools to achieve the right angle.
Winton used medical-grade scopes, the same kind used in surgeries, to get inside and take a look at the other side of the dial.
He is one of the few members (if not the only member) in the area of the Safe and Vault Technicians Association. Being a member of that organization gives him access to closely guarded technical information about the mechanics of safes. Not just anyone can join the group. Becoming a member of that organization requires background checks, fingerprints, getting a sponsor and proving that you have a legitimate business, he said.
Winton said opening the safe probably would have been easier if he didn’t mind destroying the safe in the process.
“But these are pieces of art. So we try to be as respectful as we can and do as little damage as possible,” he said.
Having drilled a pinhole to access the interior mechanism, Winton was then able to repair the hole and make the safe usable once again.
NO FORTUNE, BUT …
And once inside, the Post Independent found a lot more than expected.
Among miscellaneous documents in the safe was a $3,812.52 bond and 477 shares in a Michigan company that, sadly, went bankrupt before the bond matured.
In numerous envelopes were also dozens of photo negatives from the late ’70s, and most of these were of pretty typical news events from New Year’s babies to fatal car crashes.
But most interesting were a series of photos from June 1977, during one of the most surreal weeks in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Among the handwritten labels on one envelope was “Bundy Capture.” Holding the roll of negatives against the light, you could clearly see the wide grin of the infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, being hauled in by law enforcement.
Bundy, 30 years old at the time, was facing an upcoming murder trial in the death of a woman in Snowmass when he escaped from the Pitkin County Courthouse in June 7, 1977. A former Utah law student, Bundy had insisted upon representing himself in court and was given access to the courthouse’s law library to research his defense.
He apparently wasn’t being supervised closely enough. He leapt 25 feet from a second-story window. The deputies who were supposed to have him in custody didn’t realize anything happened until someone came inside saying they’d seen a man jump out of the window.
Aspen was thrown into a panic. School was canceled. Authorities set up roadblocks on Colorado 82. Businesses were barred from selling guns or ammunition. Residents were advised to travel in pairs and not go camping alone. The manhunt grew to include more than 150 people, and the search proceeded house to house. Tracking dogs were flown in to attempt to pick up his scent, and a helicopter searched from overhead.
“Bundy had been under investigation in several Western states in connection with the abduction, rape and murder of several women,” reads a Post story published at the time of his capture. Utah had seen a series of sex slayings, many of which were unsolved at the time.
A REAL NOTHINGBURGER
People seemed to be seeing him everywhere, as dozens of reports of Bundy sightings all over Aspen came in the first day, but none was fruitful. An Aspen merchant reportedly started selling Bundy T-shirts by the second day, and a restaurant was selling a “Bundy burger.”
The Bundy burger came as a hamburger bun, and when the diner opened it, they would find nothing inside, as reported by the Post.
Bundy was on the lam for nearly a week, being recaptured by authorities in Pitkin County on June 13, after wandering the mountains for six days.
The Post’s long-concealed photos captured Bundy being hauled in by law enforcement and grinning for the camera. These negatives also showed the efforts of the manhunt: shotgun-wielding police officers searching vehicles at roadblocks, tracking dogs sniffing Bundy’s shirt — even a hitchhiker holding a sign reassuring drivers that “I AM NOT BUNDY.”
He was taken to the Garfield County Jail, where about six months later he would escape custody again by sawing a hole in the ceiling of his cell. This time, he wouldn’t be found for about another two months, when he was captured in Florida.
Before his execution in Florida about 10 years later, Bundy would admit to having murdered 30 people, and some suspect he killed far more.
Apart from the astonishing photo gallery, some miscellaneous documents and a safe deposit box key, the Post’s old safe contained no pot of gold. It did, however, hold some cash.
An envelope addressed to the Glenwood Post also had a hand-written message — “Came in the mail this way” — and contained a $20 bill with no other explanation. The PI gave the $20 to Winton for lunch money in exchange for his hard work and for retrieving some fascinating views into history.
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