I'm actually pretty excited to write about this story, because I know very little about the Unabomber. He's a person that every true crime enthusiast knows about, but his name and general modus operandi are all I really know about him. So let's learn more, shall we?
Ted Kaczynski is a domestic terrorist, anarchist, and a former professor of mathematics. Between 1978 and 1995, he killed 3 and injured 23 while trying to start a revolution by conducting a nationwide bombing campaign, targeting people involved with modern technology.
In 1971, he moved to a remote cabin near Lincoln, Montana with no electricity or running water, trying to learn survival skills. There, he witnessed the destruction of the wilderness, which lead to the planning of his bombing campaign.
The investigation into the Unabomber was the largest and most expensive investigation int he history of the FBI. He was eventually caught from a tip from his brother, David, after his manifesto was published 25 years ago today. He was arrested in 1996, and while his lawyers pushed him to plead insanity, he refused. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
ABOUT TED KACZYNSKI
Theodore John Kaczynski was born to working class, second generation Polish immigrants Wanda and Theodore Kaczynski on May 22, 2942 in Chicago. He had a younger brother named David. Ted had been a happy child until severe hives but him in a hospital isolation unit, after which he showed little emotion. However, he showed sympathy to caged or otherwise helpless animals, likely because he understood their experience.
In elementary school, he was "healthy" and "well-adjusted", according to teachers and administrators. He was intelligent, receiving an IQ score of 167 in junior high. He skipped 6th grade, which was a pivotal event in his life. Before then, he got along with peers and was even seen as a leader, but when he skipped ahead, he was bullied and di not fit in with the older kids.
Neighbors claimed that the Kaczynski's were good people who sacrificed everything for their children. Both of their boys were intelligent, but Ted stood out. Some claimed he didn't play with other kids and was an "old man before his time", but that he was extremely intelligent. At one point, Wanda believed that he may be autistic, but did not enter him in a study she had considered.
Kaczynski went to Evergreen Park Community High School where he continued to excel. He played in the marching band and was involved in the math, biology, coin, and German clubs. But despite various extracurriculars, his classmates considered him an outcast. "He was always regarded as a walking brain, so to speak," a classmate remembered. Ted became very interest in math and made some likeminded friends. He was shy, according to the group, but said once you got to know him, he could talk for a long time.
He skipped 11th grade and graduated at the age of 15. He was one of his school's 5 National Merit finalists, and applied to Harvard. He started at Harvard in 1958 at the age of 16. However, he was unprepared. He couldn't even drive and was years younger than all of his other classmates. His first year, he lived at 8 Prescott Street, designed to accommodate the youngest freshman on campus. For the rest of his undergrad, he lived at Eliot House. He was, again, regarded as a quiet, shy guy, but also brilliant. Some said he was friendly. He got his degree in mathematics from Harvard in 1962.
Another potential pivotal moment in Kaczynski's life was a psychological study he was involved in by Harvard psychologist Harvard Murray. Subjects were told they'd be debating philosophy with other students, but essentially, they'd just get verbally abused and humiliated each week. Ted spent 200 hours as a part of the study over 3 years, and some believe that this experience could have motivated his criminal activities in some way.
In 1962, after graduation, Kaczynski enrolled at the University of Michigan, earning master's and doctoral degrees in mathematics in 1964 and 1967 respectively. He said later in life that his memories at the University of Michigan were not pleasant.
In 1966, Kaczynski experienced the intense sexual desire to become a female, and decided to undergo a gender reassignment surgery. However, while in the waiting room, he changed his mind. He said he considered killing his psychiatrist and others he hated around this time, another "major turning point" in his life. In 1967, he became the youngest assistant professor of mathematics in The University of California, Berkeley history at age 25. However, his students didn't really like him as he seemed uncomfortable, taught straight from the textbook, and wouldn't answer any questions. He resigned with no prior warning on June 30, 1969.
After his resignation, he moved back in with his parents in Lombard, Illinois, but 2 yeas later, he moved to a remote cabin outside of Lincoln, Montana, to live a simple life with no electricity or running water. He wanted to become self-sufficient so he could live with no help. He learned how to track game, identify edible plants, farm organically, and various other skills. He used a bike to get to town, and volunteered at the library to learn other languages.
But he soon learned it was impossible to live peacefully in nature because of the destruction all around him for industrial and real estate projects. It was most notable during a hike to one of his favorite spots.
"It's kind of rolling country, not flat, and when you get to the edge of it you find these ravines that cut very steeply into cliff-like drop-offs and there was even a waterfall there. It was about a 2 days' hike from my cabin. That was the best spot until the summer of 1983. That summer there were too many people around my cabin so I decided I needed some peace. I went back to the plateau, and when I got there I found they had put a road right through the middle of it. You just can't imagine how upset I was. It was from that point on I decided that, rather than trying to acquire further wilderness skills, I would work on getting back at the system. Revenge."
In the spirit of revenge, between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski mailed or hand-delivered a series of bombs that killed 3 people and injured 23 others. 16 total bombs were attributed to him.
His first bomb was directed at Buckley Crist, a professor of materials engineering at Northwestern University. When he thought it was suspicious, he contacted the campus police. The officer on duty, Terry Marker, opened the package, which explored, injuring his left hand.
That bomb was followed by bombs sent to airline officials. His next bomb in 1979 was placed in the cargo hold of an American Airlines Flight. Though it didn't explode, it released spoke requiring an emergency landing. It had enough power to completely obliterate the plane had it explored as planned. This bomb got the FBI involved, who named him the Unabomber after designating the case a UNABOM (University and Airline Bomber).
Kaczynski left false clues at every bomb, and always tried to hide them so they'd seem more believable.
Most of his bombs were sent or delivered in 1985, which was post road-in-the-waterfall, so he was angrier. In 1985, a graduate student and captain in the United States Air Force John Hauser lost 4 fingers and vision in one eye to one of Kaczynski's bombs. 38-year-old Hugh Scrutton, a computer store owner, was killed in 1985 when a nail-and-splinter bomb placed in his parking lot exploded. Similarly, in 1987, Gary Wright, a computer store employee, was injured when trying to remove a bomb from his store parking lot, leaving 200 pieces of shrapnel in his body.
In 1993, he had been on a 6-year-break, when he mailed a bomb to a computer science professor at Yale University, David Gelernter. The same week, Charles Epstein lost several fingers to a Kaczynski bomb. In 1994, a PR and communications firm executive Thomas J Mosser was killed when a bomb was mailed to his home.
Here is the total list of people injured or killed by Kaczynski:
May 25, 1978: Terry marker, University Police officer (minor cuts/burns)
May 9, 1979: John Harris, Grad student (minor cuts and burns)
November 15, 1979: 12 passengers of American Airlines Flight 444 (non lethal smoke inhalation)
June 10, 1980: Percy Wood, President of United Airlines (severe cuts and burns over most of body)
May 5, 1982: Janet Smith, Vanderbilt University secretary (severe burns to hands, shrapnel wounds)
July 2, 1982: Diogenes Angelakos, engineering professor (severe burns and shrapnel wounds)
May 15, 1985: John Hauser, Graduate student (loss of 4 fingers, loss of vision, severed artery in right arm)
November 15, 1985: James McConnell, psychology professor (temporary hearing loss)
November 15, 1985: Nichlaus Suino, research assistant (burns and shrapnel wounds)
December 11, 1985: High Scrutton, computer store owner (killed)
February 20, 1987: Gary Wright, computer store owner (severe nerve damage)
June 22, 1993: Charles Epstein, geneticist (severe damage to eardrums, loss of 3 fingers)
June 24, 1993: David Gelernter, computer science professor (severe burns, loss of right hand)
December 10, 1994: Thomas Mosser, advertising executive (killed)
April 24, 1995: Gilbert Brent Murray, timber industry lobbyist (killed)
Kaczynski also detonated 2 bombs with no injuries, including one at the University of Utah in October of 1981, and one at the Boeing Company in Auburn in June of 1985.
INVESTIGATION AND ARREST
Because of the material used to create the bombs, he was called the "Junkyard Bomber" by the U.S. Postal Inspectors, who initially were investigating the case.
In 1979, the FBI took over the case and created a task force of 150 full-time team members. A psychological profile was released in 1980, describing a man with above-average intelligence and connections to academia. They believed he had a degree in hard sciences, but the profile was thrown out in 1983, and investigators deferred to an alternate profile which characterized him as a blue-collar airplane mechanic.
In 1995, Kaczynski would publish his manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future. He had sent various letters to the media, demanding his 35,000 word essay was printed verbatim by a major newspaper. He said he would "desist from terrorism" if his demands were met. 25 years ago today, The Washington Post published the essay. But even before then, his brother David's wife had encouraged him to follow up on suspicions that his brother may be the Unabomber.
After the publishing of the manifesto, the FBI received over 1,000 calls a day for month, as they had offered a $1 million reward for any information leading to the arrest of the Unabomber. David Kaczynski hired a private investigator to investigate his brother's activities discreetly. Then, he hired a Washington D.C. attorney to organize the evidence and make contact with the FBI to avoid a Ruby Ridge or Waco-esque type siege that he felt could be dangerous for his brother.
David tried to stay anonymous, providing helpful information through his attorney, but he was identified. An FBI agent was dispatched to interview David and his wife, where he provided letters from his brother that spoke to a writing style that matched that of his manifesto. The FBI said they would not let his brother know he had turned him in, but his identity was eventually leaked. He said that the decision to report his brother was very painful, but he felt the moral obligation to do so.
Kaczynski was arrested on April 3, 1996 in his cabin. Lots of bomb equipment, 40,000 hand-written journal entries, and one live bomb prepared for mailing were found inside. After his capture, some believed that Kaczynski was also the Zodiac Killer given his proximity to the crimes, both in time and location, but he was never actually considered a suspect.
Kaczynski was indicted on 10 cunts of illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs, and 3 counts of murder in April of 1996. His lawyers tried to convince him to enter an insanity plea to avoid the death penalty, but he rejected the strategy. Psychologists do not believe he had any time of psychotic or schizophrenic traits. He was declared competent to stand trial on January 21, 1998.
He is serving 8 life sentences without the possibility of parole in a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. In 1999, he said he was not afraid he would lose his mind or break his spirit while in prison, but that he would lose his memories of the mountains or the woods and his sense of contact with nature.
In 2016, it was reported that early on in his time in prison, he became friends with Ramzi Yousef and Timothy McVeigh of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing respectively. They discussed religion and politics until McVeigh was executed in 2001.
David Kaczynski received the $1 million reward posted for the Unabomber's capture, which he said he would distribute most of to the bombing victims and their families, saying it might "help us resolve our grief over what happened".
The Unabomber is a terrible person, but he didn't believe terrible things. Most serial killers kill because they want to. They like the feeling of power, or they're filled with rage, or they're sexually aroused by it. But Ted Kaczynski saw the beautiful word around him beginning to turn into an industrial hell hole, the nature he so loved being replaced with streets and apartment complexes, and it made him angry. And it sucks, because he was a smart guy. Perhaps if he had taken that anger and passion and intelligence and tried to make real, actionable strides toward a more sustainable planet, things would have actually changed. But instead, he chose violence. Which is where my understanding ends.
You're allowed to be angry about things, but as soon as you start injuring and killing people, that's where the line is drawn. I even understand the point - he likely saw these people as sacrifices. People who's careers contributed to the digitization of the world and worthy sacrificial lambs to his cause. But that didn't even matter to anyone. His manifesto was used to catch him, and the most famous thing about the Unabomber is the sketch drawn of him. His affinity for the planet and nature and sustainability was entirely lost because of his actions. And he was passionate and smart enough to actually do something about it.
3 people died, 23 people were injured, and many of those 23 people have suffered permanently because of Ted Kaczynski. And yet, computers still run the world, trees are still cut down so apartment complexes can go up, and the world around us gets more polluted daily. All he did was end the lives of innocent people for a cause that was actually worth fighting for.