15 Terrifying Facts About Ted Kaczynski, The Unabomber

For 18 years, an American anarchist named Theodore Kaczynski waged a one-man bombing campaign against individuals and a system that he abhorred. He killed and injured multiple people over the course of his long-running criminal career. Usually depicted in media as a deranged serial killer, the man who was ultimately dubbed the Unabomber was one of the most unusual criminals of the 20th century.

But who was the Unabomber, exactly? A psychotic, feral creature who practically walked on all fours, or a sinister, criminal mastermind who might have evaded capture indefinitely if a family member hadn't snitched? Facts about Ted Kaczynski ultimately reveal a tragic story of alienation, unfulfilled potential, and the ravages of mental illness. Read on to discover more about this shocking figure.

  • He Murdered By Mailing Bombs To His Targets

    He Murdered By Mailing Bombs To His Targets
    Photo: Queerbubbles / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    From 1978 until 1996, Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski waged a one-man terror campaign involving mailing bombs to pre-selected individuals. He chose his targets based on their connection to industrialization and technology, and ultimately killed three people and seriously injured 23 others.

    Kaczynski believed that mankind was being systematically subjugated in an immoral, machine-controlled society. His bombing campaign was a means of attacking those he felt were part of an abusive system, as well as a demand for the public release of his essay, Industrial Society and Its Future.

    Operating from a remote Montana cabin with no electricity or running water, Kaczynski confounded the FBI for 17 years and involved the bureau in the one of the costliest investigations in US history. The case was known by the acronym UNABOM, which stood for "University and Airline Bombing." Eventually Kaczynski was dubbed "the Unabomber."

  • He Vandalized Neighborhood Property And Poisoned Dogs

    Ted Kaczynski did not start his crime wave by attempting to murder via mail bombs. In 1975, he began a clandestine campaign of vandalism that targeted both residents and visitors to his remote Montana community. Kaczynski rendered snowmobiles, logging equipment, and mining gear unusable. He strung wire along forest trails to injure motorcyclists, and even broke into vacation cabins and destroyed them with an ax.

    Because they might potentially alert people to his presence, Kaczynski also routinely shot and killed dogs during these sprees. His neighbor, Chris Waits, claimed that Kaczynski poisoned nine of his dogs with strychnine-laced oats over a 10-year period. This destruction continued right up until Kaczynski's arrest by the FBI. 

  • He Was Experimented On At Harvard

    He Was Experimented On At Harvard
    Photo: George Bergman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Ted Kaczynski was an intelligent child who skipped grades in school. At the age of 16, he entered Harvard on a scholarship, on the urging of his father. There, Kaczynski became involved with experiments conducted by psychologist Henry Murray. These experiments focused on humiliating subjects and deliberately placing them in stressful situations.

    This psychological study has been associated with Kaczynski's alienation and ultimate rejection and loathing of academia. Ten of his 16 bombs were sent to educational institutions.

  • He Met Timothy McVeigh In Prison

    He Met Timothy McVeigh In Prison
    Photo: Olaf Growald / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Ted Kaczynski is serving his life sentence at the "Alcatraz of the Rockies," the US federal prison in Florence, Colorado. His exercise periods are limited to one-hour outdoor sessions in a subterranean enclosure that allows for proximity to other prisoners. During his time in prison, Kaczynski had a number of interactions with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Although McVeigh never discussed the specifics of what he did, Kaczynski did have this perspective on the Oklahoma City incident:

    The media teach us to be horrified at the Oklahoma City bombing, but I won't have time to be horrified at it as long as there are greater horrors in the world that make it seem insignificant by comparison. Moreover, our politicians and our military kill people in far larger numbers than was done at Oklahoma City, and they do so for motives that are far more cold blooded and calculating.

    Kaczynski also offered this personal assessment of McVeigh:

    On a personal level I like McVeigh and I imagine that most people would like him. He was easily the most outgoing of all the inmates on our range of cells and had excellent social skills. He was considerate of others and knew how to deal with people effectively. He communicated somehow even with the inmates on the range of cells above ours, and, because he talked with more people, he always knew more about what was going on than anyone else on our range.

  • His Brother Received A $1 Million Reward For Turning Him In

    When David Kaczynski, Ted's younger brother, read what the media called the Unabomber Manifesto, it prompted him to contact the FBI and give them the information that resulted in his arrest. David compared the publication to letters he had received from his brother, and became convinced that Ted Kaczynski was the Unabomber. After reporting Ted to the FBI, David was paid the previously publicized $1 million reward for Ted's arrest.

    It was not possible for David to contact Ted directly, as Ted had cut off their relationship in 1989. At the time, David was living a reclusive existence in West Texas, in a small cabin without electricity. He returned to civilization to marry his wife Linda, something that Ted considered a betrayal.

  • His Bombs Couldn't Be Traced Back To Him

    His Bombs Couldn't Be Traced Back To Him
    Photo: FBI / Flickr / Public Domain

    Ted Kaczynski avoided capture for almost two decades, partly because his bombs were deliberately constructed so that they could not be traced back to him. All of his devices were built by hand, without power tools. His creations were largely made of wood, and occasionally included random pieces of trees or moss. Unfortunately for Kaczynski, his use of wood instead of metal parts limited the force of his devices, which frequently only maimed and did not kill his intended victims.

    Any items that Kaczynski purchased for his bombs were bought far away from his cabin, and occasionally were included to deliberately mislead investigators as to his whereabouts. All serial numbers or identifying marks were filed off and obscured.