It was a beautiful day to die.

An almost-full moon was setting on the western horizon. In the east, the rising sun bathed a patch of clouds in a deep, candescent pink. The windows of the Florida State Prison reflected an eerie, hellish orange.

It was a day Floridians will not soon forget. It was a dawn that serial killer Theodore Robert Bundy never saw.

Just as the day dawned Tuesday, Theodore Robert Bundy was escorted into the death chamber by three Florida State Prison correctional officers. His head shorn, he muttered a short statement into a microphone, was strapped to a oak chair and then executed with a 60-second burst of 2,000 volts of electricity.

Less than a mile away, placards read, "Ted Bundy Burn in Hell!"

Hundreds had traveled to the cow pasture across from the Florida State Prison - some coming from hundreds of miles away - to clamor for Ted Bundy's death. They got it.

In a far corner of another cow pasture a short distance away, a minister quietly turned his back on the blazing television lights and offered a silent prayer for Bundy's soul. "Man can only kill the body, but the soul belongs to God," he said quietly.

The dozen or so who gathered to oppose Bundy's execution were a subdued minority.

A festive crowd 40-50 times larger had begun its revelry two hours before the execution. When a plume of smoke billowed from the prison about 6:30 a.m. - a test-firing of "Old Sparky" - the crowd erupted into a frenzy of merrymaking.

The glare of television camera lights and the ready pens and pads of more than 100 news reporters from around the nation only fueled the uninhibited celebration.

In their revelry, Floridians created the very carnival atmosphere Bundy loved so much. Few probably realized that it was Bundy who had manipulated the events and circumstances that brought them to this cow pasture to clamor for his death.

The manipulation will continue for generations to come.

One young mother took her twin 6-year-old daughters out of school on a "field trip" to the cow pasture. The daughters had been chanting, "Kill Ted Bundy" for days.

"I thought it would be educational to bring them out here," she said.

There, the twins were educated to the chants of "Burn, Bundy, burn," and "Chi-O, Chi-O, it's off to hell you go" and scores of others. They were educated by two young women wearing "electrocution caps" fashioned out of tin foil and a gray-haired couple recording the festivities on their home video camera.

The execution was not a simple case of the state of Florida taking Bundy's life as a legally sanctioned punishment for his crimes. It was a case of a society bent upon revenge, a society consumed with hatred.

Floridians succeeded in turning the most serious penalty a society can impose - the taking of a human life - into an embarrassing spectacle. They turned the event into a carnival of fireworks, tasteless jokes and the hawking of souvenirs.

Ironically, Florida executed Ted Bundy for his callous, shameful disrespect of human life.

Perhaps Floridians, who watched in frustration as Bundy made a mockery of the legal system for 11 years, can be excused for their revelry. They were as much victims as the dozens of young women he abducted, sexually abused and then butchered.

They are victims as is every person in Washington or Utah or Colorado or wherever Bundy left a trail of missing and murdered women. In effect, Bundy raped the innocence of society everywhere.

But the bloody saga of Bundy did not end in the Florida electric chair. Law officers continue a futile attempt to piece together a jigsaw puzzle of Bundy's exploits. Bundy never gave them all the pieces to work with.

And that's probably just the way Ted wanted it to be. Bundy was not only a killer but an egotist who relished the attention the media showered on him. His declarations of innocence turned trials in Utah and Colorado into a media circus. His 1979 Florida murder trials were even worse.

It is not surprising to those who knew Bundy best that he would, once he knew his death was imminent, once again manipulate the events and circumstances for maximum media attention. His last "ace" was to confess to scores of unsolved murders and disappearances.

Law officers and news reporters flocked to Florida in unprecedented numbers. And Bundy was in control one last time.

Bundy was always a master manipulator. He used a variety of disarming techniques to lure young women into his car. He manipulated his parents and scores of people who came to his defense.

He manipulated scores of people who interviewed him over the years, dropping tantalizing clues.

He manipulated those who clamored for his death. By fueling the hatred, Ted Bundy, the man, became Ted Bundy the unforgettable myth.

Bundy even manipulated detectives who questioned him in the days preceding his death. Bundy talked only about the cases he wanted to talk about. "Maybe another day," was the response Bundy gave to a Utah detective trying to clear the homicides of Melissa Smith and Laura Aime.

That day will never come.

Even in death, Bundy continues the manipulation. By not providing enough information during his rash of "final" confessions, investigators will continue to speculate for decades to come whether Bundy could have been responsible for scores of other killings and disappearances that bear his trademark.