Unabomber Arrested: April 3, 1996


fbi.gov Ted Kaczynski, a/k/a the Unabomber.

On April 3, 1996, Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a/k/a the Unabomber, was finally apprehended after the authorities raided his cabin in the remote woods of Montana, thus ending a 17-year bombing campaign. From 1978 to 1995, Kaczynski, a maligned genius, kept the country gripped in fear.

From inside his 10-by-12-ft. cabin in the woods, Kaczynski manufactured homemade bombs. In time, his crude technique improved, and his bombs increased in sophistication. Over the course of his reign of terror, Kaczynski would be responsible for three deaths and the injuries of 23, many of whom were maimed and disfigured.

Kaczynski sent out manifestos which he demanded to be printed in major publications, or he would kill again. As such, his letters were printed in several major newspapers in an attempt to explain and justify his actions, in a sort of revolt and protest against modernization and technology. However, it was a linguistic tic within one of his letters that would ultimately lead to his capture.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Kaczynski Was Considered a Genius With a High IQ, But Was a Social Misfit

Ted Kaczynski

GettyKaczynski in high school.

Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942 in Evergreen Park, Illinois. From a young age, it was clear that Kaczynski was brilliant and a childhood prodigy. He especially excelled at math and science. He skipped several grades in school and enrolled in Harvard at 16.

Kaczynski was described by those who knew him as a misfit and socially awkward, especially around girls. It has been speculated that skipping several grades in school affected Kaczynski’s social development. As a result, Kaczynski largely kept to himself at Harvard. Despite his social struggles, he continued to do well academically, but not as well as he would have liked to, graduating from Harvard with a GPA of 3.12. There are rumors that Kaczynski was subjected to controversial psychological experiments while an undergraduate student at Harvard which may have contributed to his rapid mental deterioration. Kaczynski, recognized as being brilliant but vulnerable, may have been the subject of an extremely unethical experimental program.

After earning his BA, he earned his MA and PhD from the University of Michigan in mathematics at the young age of 25. Kaczynski would soon enter the world of academia professionally.

2. Kaczynski Briefly Worked As a Mathematics Professor

Ted Kaczynski

WikipediaTed Kaczynski as a young professor.

25-year-old Kaczynski, having just earned his doctorate in mathematics, accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, but left after just two years, abruptly leaving academia for good. He was described as uncomfortable in the classroom, and rarely made eye contact with students or answered questions. One former student described him as pathologically shy.

His former colleagues recognized his brilliance, and had initially expected him to rise among the ranks and quickly become a tenured professor. However, Kaczynski’s behavior had become increasingly bizarre. When the other faculty members would invite Kaczynski out for a beer, he would always refuse, and turn and walk away. He did not fit in, nor did he try to. It had become clear to Kaczynski’s students and coworkers that Kaczynski was troubled, though no one thought he was capable of becoming a serial bomber.

3. Kaczynski Built a Tiny Cabin in The Remote Woods of Montana Where He Became a Recluse


fbi.govTed Kaczynski built this 10×12 ft. cabin in the woods of Montana.

In the early 1970s, Kaczynski began to shun all aspects of modern technology. After leaving his position at Berkeley, he relocated to the remote woods of Montana, where he built a 10X12-ft. cabin. Of course, Kaczynski still needed money to survive as he was unable to live entirely off the land. His cabin was remote, yes, but not so remote that he could not get to a store or the post office within a reasonable amount of time. Wanda Kaczynski, Ted’s mother, financially supported him during this time. In his tiny cabin, Ted built a workshop, shelves and a small area for sleeping. He also had a typewriter, which he would use to type his infamous manifesto.


GettyCabin on display in the Newseum.

It is unknown what exactly was the impetus for Kaczynski’s bombing campaign. According to his manifesto, Kaczynski wanted to live an entirely self-sufficient life in nature. However, he was unable to do so after the wilderness surrounding his cabin was destroyed as a result of real estate development. As such, Kaczynski became focused on the escalating conflict between technology and nature, and took it upon himself to declare war. In 1978, he would mail out his first bomb.

4. He Became Known As The Unabomber; His Campaign of Bombings Would Last Almost 20 Years


fbi.govTed Kaczynski, a/k/a the Unabomber.

In 1978, Kaczynski would begin mailing out his crudely built homemade bombs. As a result of his targets, as outlined below, the FBI used the acronym “UNABOM” (UNiversity and Airline BOMber) to refer to Kaczynski, as his identity was unknown. Thus, the media began calling him the “Unabomber.”

The campaign of bombings was as follows:

No. 1
Date: May 25, 1978
Victim: Terry Marker, police officer, Northwestern University
Injuries: Cuts and burns

No. 2
Date: May 9, 1979
Victim: John Harris, student, Northwestern University
Injuries: Cuts and burns

No.: 3
Date: November 15, 1979
Victims: 12 passengers on American Airlines flight 444
Injuries: Smoke inhalation; non-lethal

No.: 4
Date: June 10, 1980
Victim: Percy Wood, president of United Airlines
Injuries: Severe cuts and burns to body and face

No.: 5
Date: October 8, 1981
Victim: none – bomb defused
Injuries: n/a

No.: 6
Date: May 5, 1982
Victim: Jane Smith, secretary, Vanderbilt University
Injuries: Severe burns, shrapnel wounds

No.: 7
Date: July 2, 1982
Victim: Diogenes Angelakos, engineering professor, UC Berkeley
Injuries: Severe burns, shrapnel wounds

No.: 8
Date: May 15, 1985
Victim: John Hauser, graduate student, UC Berkeley
Injuries: Loss of four fingers and severed artery in right arm; partial loss of vision in left eye

No.: 9
Date: June 13, 1985
Victim: none – bomb defused
Injuries: n/a

No.: 10
Date: November 15, 1985
Victims: James V. McConnell, psychology professor; Nicklaus Suino, research assistant, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Injuries: McConnell: temporary hearing loss; Suino: burns and shrapnel wounds

No.: 11
Date: December 11, 1985
Victim: Hugh Scrutton, computer store owner
Injuries: fatality

No.: 12
Date: February 20, 1987
Victim: Gary Wright, computer store owner
Injuries: Severe nerve damage – left arm

No.: 13
Date: June 22, 1993
Victim: Charles Epstein, geneticist
Injuries: Severe damage to both eardrums, hearing loss, loss of three fingers

No.: 14
Date: June 24, 1993
Victim: David Gelernter, computer science professor, Yale University
Injuries: Severe burns and shrapnel wounds, damage to right eye, loss of right hand.

No.: 15
Date: December 10, 1994
Victim: Thomas J. Mosser, advertising executive
Injuries: fatality

No.: 16
Date: April 24, 1995
Victim: Gilbert Brent Murray, timber industry lobbyist
Injuries: fatality

FBI/ATF reproduction of Unabomber bomb.

WikipediaFBI/ATF reproduction of Unabomber bomb.

Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski’s technique and sophistication would improve greatly. He would even embed false clues in the construction of his bombs, greatly frustrating the FBI. A break in the case would finally come when Kaczynski’s essay, Industrial Society and Its Future, was printed and circulated.

5. A Linguistic Tic Within His Manifesto Would Lead To His Identification

Unabomber letter.

GettyUnabomber letter.

What would become known as the Unabomber’s manifesto, the essay Industrial Society and Its Future, would ultimately lead to Kaczynski’s identification. Kaczynski demanded that his essay be printed in a major newspaper, or else he would kill again. His request was granted. Among the millions who read his essay was his brother, David Kaczynski.

Wanda Kaczynski, David Kaczynski

GettyWanda Kaczynski, David Kaczynski

David picked up on certain idiosyncrasies and linguistic tics throughout the essay. It sounded like something his brother Ted would write, and Ted, a reclusive genius with a contempt for society, frighteningly fit the profile of the Unabomber. There was one phrase in particular that stood out for David. The Unabomber had tried to use the common expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” but he had reversed it and written “you can’t eat your cake and have it too.” David immediately picked up on this linguistic tic – it was a mistake that both Ted and their mother, Wanda, commonly made.

Ted Kaczynski

GettyTed Kaczynski

Encouraged by his wife, David Kaczynski contacted the FBI about his brother, Ted, and a team of linguistic analysts was put on the case. The manifesto was ultimately the key to identifying and charging Kaczynski. He was apprehended on April 3, 1996 in his Montana cabin. Kaczynski entered a guilty plea and is currently serving eight life sentences in a supermax cell in Colorado.

The Unabomber CaseMore at: fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/april/unabomber_042408/view On April 3, 1996, Kaczynski was captured shortly after opening his door. "One of the agents who was there pulled Kaczynski out, and it was a struggle," said Terry Turchie, FBI Agent in Charge, UNABOM Task Force. "He was handcuffed and he was walked away from his cabin, and that was the…2013-05-01T15:31:49.000Z
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