Robert D. McFadden
From a Child of Promise to the Unabom Suspect
It was just a dusty, cobwebbed cabin high in the Rockies, as remote as a cougar’s lair. But it suited a man who had always been alone, this genius with gifts for solitude, perseverance, secrecy and meticulousness, for penetrating the mysteries of mathematics and the dangers of technology, but never love, never friendship.
The furnishings were the fragments of his life: the books for companionship and the bunk for the lonely hours, the wood stove where night after night he watched dying embers flicker visions of a wretched humanity, the typewriter where, the authorities say, the justifications for murder had been crafted like numbered theorems.
Theodore John Kaczynski had been a brilliant mathematician at the University of California at Berkeley long ago, when he was only 25. But after teaching two years and publishing papers that dazzled his peers and put him on a tenure track at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, he quit in a tailspin of disillusionment with mathematics -- the sole passion of his life, suddenly dead.
Over the years since -- nearly half his life -- he found a kind of freedom as a backwoods hermit in Montana. The miseries of his boyhood in suburban Chicago, his humiliating undergraduate days at Harvard University, the bitterness of years wasted on graduate studies at the University of Michigan, the images of antiwar turmoil at Ann Arbor and Berkeley, had all dimmed with the passing seasons as the face grew old and the beard gray, as obstinate lines formed at the corners of the silent mouth.
Slowly, too, the instabilities he had taken into the woods -- the inability to cope with people, the misreading of intentions, the obsessions and rigidities, the anger lurking behind the calm eyes -- deteriorated at last, leaving someone even his family did not recognize on the rare occasions they saw him, or in the hundreds of letters that finally stopped.
“I think that truth from my point of view is that Ted has been a disturbed person for a long time and he’s gotten more disturbed,” David Kaczynski, the only brother of the man arrested last month in the Unabom investigation, said in a six-hour interview with The New York Times. It was David, the person closest to the suspect, who turned him in.
David recalled the terrible day last October when he first read the Unabomber manifesto, a killer’s scholarly vision of humanity enslaved in a nightmare world of technology, and found the echoes of his brother’s letters and his essays on science, politics and sociology.
“It was horrible to me that I would be considering my brother to be this person,” he said. But it was all too possible, he knew, that his brilliant and difficult older sibling, whose increasingly troubled and angry life had hurt and mystified his family for decades, might be the phantom who had already killed 3 people and maimed 23 in 18 years.
Throughout an afternoon tinged with regret, David Kaczynski, a gentle 46-year-old social worker and vegetarian, a former teacher and an outdoorsman who had lived for months in a tent, seemed out of place in a Manhattan hotel suite where he spoke.
But he maintained his composure until near the end. Then, as dusk sailed the Hudson and failing sunlight struck the walls with shafts the color of whiskey, his soft voice quavered and tears brimmed in his eyes as he spoke of his family’s anguish and of his love for his fallen idol.
“I think I love his purity,” David said. “I think he’s a person who wanted to love something and unfortunately, again, it gets so complex. He failed to love it in the right way because in some deep way, he felt a lack of love and respect himself.”
Six weeks after Theodore Kaczynski’s arrest at the cabin, where, the authorities say, the manifesto’s master copy and the typewriter used to create it were found with a mountain of evidence, the suspect has remained as silent in his cell in Helena, Mont., as he had been in his 25-year, self-imposed exile.
But conversations with people who have known him, and the interview with the brother who has been the most intimate observer of a secretive man, have provided a detailed and sweeping portrait of the 54-year-old suspect and his personality, mental problems and tortured relationships.
People who had known Ted as a boy, as a high school and college student, as a professor at Berkeley and as a recluse in Montana, as well as investigators and witnesses in the Unabom case, have drawn a picture of a man whose life seemed destined to be torn apart -- a mathematical genius who rose swiftly to academic heights even as he became an emotional cripple.
It is a funereal portrait of loneliness, obsession and contradictions -- a Harvard degree at 20, but no one to call a friend; rising success in one of the nation’s top mathematics departments, then total retreat from society; a concern for humanity and nature that led finally, officials say, to a one-man war against technology, and the cold calculation of the death of strangers.
Outside his family, Ted seems never to have had a real friend after boyhood. The closest thing to a relationship, perhaps, was a seven-year correspondence with a man in Mexico whom he never met; he revealed little of himself, and rebuffed his correspondent’s overtures to meet or draw him out. “If you want to be my friend,” he wrote bluntly, “don’t give me advice.”
Lengthy searches in Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Iowa, California, Utah and Montana, where he is known to have lived or visited in the last four decades, uncovered no one after his boyhood who had been anything but a casual acquaintance.
And aside from his mother, who doted on him as a boy, there appears to have been no substantive relationship with a woman in all his life. He dated a girl once or twice after high school graduation, but he ended it with a refusal to brook her Catholic precepts. His last date -- with a Chicago-area woman who rebuffed him -- took place 18 years ago, just after the first Unabom explosion.
“What amazes me the most about it is that somehow -- if he in fact did kill and maim people -- he had put a wall around that part of himself and hide it away or keep it inside,” David said. “I think his ability to have a conscience, to have sympathy for people, created for him a people problem he could not solve except by walling those feelings.”
As Ted built his walls of physical and psychological separation, David and others said, he cut himself off from a society in turmoil, from parents who he said cared more about his brain than his happiness, and from a brother who, by marrying, came to represent a kind of betrayal.
And as the years of backwoods solitude passed and his contacts with the world withered, his life came to be expressed in the written words he had always used as weapons -- hundreds of letters to his family, to his Mexican acquaintance, and to newspapers and magazines; then rambling tracts on society, and finally, the authorities say, the Unabomber manifesto.
David and his parents had long worried over Ted’s anger and wondered at its origins. And David recounted stories -- how Ted at 9 months had been hospitalized and denied almost all contact with his parents, and how Ted at 7 years had been left alone to sob in a hospital lobby while his father and grandmother went to the maternity ward where David had been born.
He told how the family had come to believe there was something deeply wrong between Ted and his parents, Theodore R. and Wanda Kaczynski. “I always had a sense that something was missing,” he said. “The bond was never complete there, the way it had been with me.”
As the years passed and the adolescent Ted became a friendless intellectual pariah, there were softball games in which David and boys his age were joined by his brother, who felt comfortable among children five, six and seven years younger. David recalled a brother who found it painful to err, who berated others for minor lapses, who shut himself up in his bedroom for days at a time, and who seemed incapable of sympathy, insight or simple connection with people.
In adulthood, David remembered an overbearing brother who could return his letter with grammatical corrections; who could turn a conversation about David’s term paper into a humiliating demolition of his ideas on Freudian analysis; who could cut himself off from a dying father who had always been generous; who could harass a woman for rebuffing his advances, and who could react to the news of David’s engagement with a denunciation of his fiancee -- a woman he had never met -- as manipulative, and of David for virtual betrayal.
There were times, David said, when in an effort to help, he dared ask Ted about his sense of injury. It only made his brother angrier, and he backed off. Now he seems haunted by the possibility that he somehow failed to understand or to find the magic words of comfort.
“I think back,” he said, “and I think I missed a lot of opportunities to be of help.” He even expressed regret over the times when he said he allowed himself to be angry with his brother’s imperious put-downs and dark moods. Indeed, he recalled the privilege he felt when, as a boy, he was permitted into the privacy of his brother’s room.
He remembered small acts of kindness, too: how Ted once nailed a spool to the bottom of a screen door so that David, a toddler too small to reach the handle, could go in and out; how Ted later imparted his knowledge of woodsmanship and plant life, and how Ted only a few years ago sent him a picture of a child in a baseball cap with a note flecked with nostalgia. It said, “This picture reminded me of you and what kind of child you were.”
“I had the sense,” David said, “that he wanted me to be the little brother.”
Most vividly, David recalled with a catch in his voice the tale of a moment -- nearly a decade ago -- when he came closest to his brother emotionally. In any other family, the moment might have been routine. He was visiting Ted’s Montana cabin, he said, and was sawing wood when the work table collapsed under him, and he and the saw went down.
Ted ran over, asking “Are you O.K?” David said he was worried about the saw, one of Ted’s few tools. “ ‘The hell with the saw. Are you O.K?’ “ he quoted Ted as saying. “He touched my shoulders,” he said, still amazed at the memory. “It was incredible and touching and human.”
On the same visit in 1986, Ted, playing the tutor, had David in the role of pupil read from a Spanish book. “It wasn’t a role that I at the time relished,” David said. But he said he went along with it for his brother’s sake. “I love my brother, and he seemed to really just kind of enjoy it.”
But Ted had always set the terms of their relationship, and it sometimes hurt. “The issue of being able to control how much he let a person in, and for how long -- it was important to him,” David recalled. In that sense, the very remoteness of the cabin was as much a means of controlling the access of others as it was a symbol of freedom.
A few years ago, Ted said he would not open letters from David unless the stamp was underlined as a signal of a family emergency or some other significant news. So when their father was dying of lung cancer, David made sure the letter to Ted was marked in that way. “Ted wrote back, and the response was fairly peculiar -- basically, that I had done well, that this was something worth communicating.”
David explained, with evident pain, why he had felt obliged to identify his brother as the prime suspect in a case that had bedeviled law-enforcement authorities since the beginning, generating the longest, most extensive Federal manhunt in the nation’s history, and why he was speaking out now.
“If he did attack people and kill people, that was wrong,” David said. “But by the same token, I feel it would be very wrong if he was killed in the name of some notion or principle of justice. I think it’s important that people see him as a human being.” He added, “It serves no one’s interest to put him to death, and certainly it would be an incredible anguish for our family if that were to happen.”
Having Trouble Fitting In
The Kaczynski forebears were Polish Catholics, solid working-class men and women, and they arrived in America early in the 20th century with their frayed immigrant suitcases and their New World hope.
Ted Kaczynski’s paternal grandparents, Jacob and Helen Kaczynski, after a sojourn in Pittsburgh, were drawn to Chicago because other Kaczynskis had preceded them and were prospering in the manufacture of sausages. Theodore Richard Kaczynski, born in 1912, and his brothers Stanley and Alex, all went to work at Kaczynski’s Sausages, a factory owned by an uncle, on the fringe of the stockyards on Chicago’s South Side.
Wanda Dombek was born of Polish immigrant parents, John and Mary Dombek, in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1917. But her family, too, moved to Chicago. There in the 1930’s, she met young Theodore. They were married on April 11, 1939, and moved into a rented house on South Wolcott, a blue-collar Polish enclave of neat homes and tiny well-tended yards close to Kaczynski’s Sausages.
Theodore R. Kaczynski was gregarious and an outdoorsman who loved to go hunting, fishing and camping. As teen-agers, he and his wife had dropped out of high school to work, but had earned night school diplomas. They were both readers who valued education and liked to talk about politics. By all accounts, Mr. Kaczynski was also hard-working, thoughtful and kind.
Wanda Kaczynski was especially well-read and articulate, familiar with science and the works of Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Thackeray and other authors whose books crowded her shelves. The Kaczynskis also shared progressive social and political views, were active in Democratic clubs and wrote letters to newspapers in defense of liberal programs. Though they were raised as Catholics, they became atheists.
In the early 1940’s, the couple moved to Carpenter Street, two blocks from where the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois would be built. It was a bigger house in a better area. Their first son, Theodore John, was born there on May 22, 1942. They called him “Teddy” and doted on him.
But when he was only 9 months old, an unusual medical problem arose. David, who had been told the story by his parents, said the infant Teddy developed a severe allergy and was hospitalized for a week. “There were rigid regulations about when parents could and couldn’t visit,” David said. He recalled that on two occasions, his parents “were allowed to visit him for one hour.”
After Teddy came home, “he became very unresponsive,” David said. “He had been a smiling, happy, jovial kind of baby beforehand, and when he returned from the hospital, he showed little emotions for months.”
Wanda kept a diary about her boy and read to him daily from children’s books, then from classic boys’ literature and later from surprisingly advanced materials. A neighbor said Teddy was in grade school when Wanda began reading him articles from Scientific American that a college student might find challenging. But with her help, he seemed to grasp concepts with ease.
While bookish, Teddy was remembered by an aunt as affectionate. But the aunt, who asked to remain anonymous, said she saw a change after David was born on Oct. 3, 1949. Teddy was 7 then, and the aunt said he seemed crestfallen at having to share the attention his parents had lavished upon him.
“Before David was born, Teddy was different,” the aunt said. “When they’d visit, he’d snuggle up to me. Then, when David was born, something must have happened. He changed immediately. Maybe we paid too much attention to the new baby.”
David said his parents told him about how his father, grandmother and Teddy had gone to the hospital after his birth. But children were not allowed in the maternity ward. “So my father and grandmother left Ted in the lobby and went up to visit me,” he said. “When they all went down to the lobby -- I guess I was coming home -- he was sitting there alone in tears and very deeply upset.”
Neighbors said there were no signs that the Kaczynskis favored David over Teddy. One remembered loving parents who were “exceptionally interested” in both children. David said his mother told him that she gradually encouraged Ted to hold him, and that “from that time forward, he showed a great deal of gentleness toward me.”
By 1952, the Kaczynskis had saved enough money to leave the crowded city, and they bought a three-bedroom, brick Cape Cod home in Evergreen Park, a middle-class South Side suburb of tradesmen, teachers and office workers, where life centered on children, school and church. The Kaczynski house was on South Lawndale Avenue, a quiet street of similar, equally spaced houses set on rectangular lawns shaded by elms.
Dr. Roy Weinberg, a neighbor, remembered the Kaczynskis as “a serious family.” “They read books all the time,” he said.
But he remembered Teddy as skinny and self-absorbed. “He was strictly a loner,” Dr. Weinberg said. “This kid didn’t play. No. No. He was an old man before his time.”
In an era of postwar prosperity, when suburbanites gathered on weekends to grill hamburgers, sip martinis and let the children romp, the Kaczynskis were different. “They weren’t part of the wild parties we used to have,” one neighbor said. “They were civic-minded folks. They really sacrificed everything they had for their children.”
Dorothy O’Connell, who lived next door, said Wanda not only read to both boys, but took them to science and art museums and other cultural institutions. Both were bright, she said, but David was more outgoing, an avid learner and listener, and children and adults took to him more naturally.
But Teddy was increasingly withdrawn, lurking in the background and taking refuge in his reading and his thoughts. “Both boys were more interested in books than sports,” Dr. Weinberg said. “But the younger brother seemed to have friends, while his older brother was a loner. They were completely different, night and day.”
By the time he was 10 and in fifth grade, Teddy was deeply interested in science and math, with intellectual gifts obvious to teachers and other adults. His mother, a member of the parent-teacher association, made no secret of her pride in her son’s mind.
It was also apparent that Teddy was far ahead of his classmates, and his school let him skip a grade, further isolating the friendless boy, placing him with a new group of older children and reinforcing the message he had heard all his life -- that he was valued only for his intellect.
“The system needs scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It can’t function without them. So heavy pressure is put on children to excel in these fields. It isn’t natural for an adolescent human being to spend the bulk of his time sitting at a desk absorbed in study. A normal adolescent wants to spend his time in active contact with the real world.
“Among primitive peoples the things that children are trained to do tend to be in reasonable harmony with natural human impulses. Among the American Indians, for example, boys were trained in active outdoor pursuits -- just the sort of thing that boys like. But in our society children are pushed into studying technical subjects, which most do grudgingly.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
Teddy became an obsessive reader. When he was 10, the Kaczynskis went on a camping trip -- the father often took them out in the summer and taught them to appreciate the woods, plants and animals -- and for vacation reading, Teddy took along a volume of “Romping Through Mathematics from Addition to Calculus,” Ms. O’Connell recalled.
Teddy had also begun using his intellect as a rapier. Ms. O’Connell recalled that one day he overheard her 3-year-old daughter mispronounce “grasshopper.” He stopped on the sidewalk and lectured the bewildered child on the genealogy of grasshoppers.
His aunt still remembers the cut of his arrogance. “Once when I was over to his home, he was just sitting there, and his father said to him, ‘Why don’t you have some conversation with your aunt?’ And he answered: ‘Why should I? She wouldn’t understand me anyway.’ “
As Teddy entered his teens, his social handicaps were increasingly apparent. David said his brother sometimes joined him and his friends in a softball game on the playground, even though they were far younger. The same thing happened later in life, too. “The contacts were through me in a sense,” David said. “The important thing was the relationship with me, or I’m a buffer. That made him feel safe.”
“The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not.
“In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term oversocialized to describe such people. Oversocialization can lead to low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, defeatism, guilt, etc. If a particular child is especially susceptible to such feelings, he ends by feeling ashamed of HIMSELF.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
By the time he entered Evergreen Park Community High School, Teddy was having more trouble fitting in. He joined the band, playing the trombone; he joined math club, coin club, biology club, German club.
But most classmates and club members regarded him as alien, or not at all. To Bill Phelan, Teddy was a nerd: thin, short, quiet, painfully shy. “He was reading books, and I was playing sports and drinking beer,” Mr. Phelan said. “He wasn’t in my world. He was in his own world.”
Jerry Peligrano’s fleeting memory was of a bespectacled kid with pencils in a pocket protector. And Loren De Young remembered him as a kind of nonperson. “He was never really seen as a person, as an individual personality,” he said. “He was always regarded as a walking brain, so to speak.”
Eventually, Teddy moved into a small coterie of intellectual boys who were drawn together by a mutual passion for science and math. With one exception, perhaps, the half-dozen boys, members of the math club, were not real friends. They regarded him as immature, but tolerated him as a fellow oddball: They were chess players with Elvis pompadours, teen-age pipe smokers marveling at Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury and fantasizing about landing on the moon.
“Ted was technically very bright, but emotionally deficient,” said Patrick Morris, a group member. “While the math club would sit around talking about the big issues of the day, Ted would be waiting for someone to fart. He had a fascination with body sounds more akin to a 5-year-old than a 15-year-old.” Once, Mr. Morris said, they were talking seriously about their futures. “Ted seemed more interested in smearing cake frosting on this guy’s nose,” he said.
They all had a passion for devilish pranks, especially explosive ones, and sometimes they mixed compounds of ammonia and iodine that would pop loudly but harmlessly in a classroom, sending up purplish smoke. “It was our way of fitting in, showing we could be cool too,” a math club member said.
Mr. Morris recalled that Teddy once showed a school wrestler how to make a more powerful mini-bomb. It went off one day in a chemistry class, blowing out two windows and inflicting temporary hearing damage on a girl. Everyone was reprimanded, but Teddy was unfazed. He later set off blasts that echoed across the neighborhood and sent garbage cans flying.
Russell Mosny, a math club member, may have come closest to friendship with Teddy. In the young Kaczynski’s attic bedroom, they played chess and talked of equations and physics. Mr. Mosny had expected to read about Teddy someday as the winner of the Nobel Prize or the inventor of a new mathematical theorem.
“He was the smartest kid in the class,” Mr. Mosny said. “He was just quiet and shy until you got to know him. Once he knew you, he could talk and talk.” But when the others began attending dances and dating, Teddy stayed home, Mr. Mosny said. “I’d try to get him to go to the sock hops, but he always said he’d rather play chess or read a book.”
Concerned over his social development, the Kaczynskis consulted school guidance counselors, but never took Teddy to a psychiatrist or psychologist, David said. Teddy often went into moody depressions, retreating to his bedroom for days on end, coming down only for meals. “He was not happy in school,” David said. “I think he had become during adolescence more withdrawn.”
Teddy skipped another grade and after only three years, graduated from high school in 1958, and won a scholarship to Harvard. He was only 16. “The thought was, if he went to a university, such as Harvard, he might not have the pressure to conform in a working-type class community like Evergreen Park, and that the experience might be liberating for him socially,” David explained.
Just after graduation, David recalled, Teddy dated a girl once or twice, but ended the relationship by expressing exasperation with her Catholic beliefs. It was typical of Ted, David said, that he would seize upon some pretext for finding fault, and then use it as an excuse to cut off communication.
With all his social handicaps, Teddy was about to be thrust onto a high-powered, prestigious campus. He was younger by two years than most, and by all accounts, emotionally unprepared for the competition that lay ahead.
“They packed him up and sent him to Harvard before he was ready,” Mr. Mosny said. “He didn’t even have a driver’s license.”
The College Student
Trying to Stay In His Own World
“The oversocialized person is kept on a psychological leash and spends his life running on rails society has laid down for him. In many oversocialized people this results in a sense of constraint and powerlessness that can be a severe hardship. We suggest that oversocialization is among the more serious cruelties that human beings inflict on one another.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
He may have been brilliant, but what they remembered about him at Harvard were his annoying trombone blasts in the dead of night, the primordial stench of rotting food that drifted from his room, his odd metronomic habit of rocking back and forth on a chair as he studied, and his icy aloofness as he strode through the suite, saying nothing, slamming his door to shut them out.
Theodore J. Kaczynski seemed to spend all his time studying, but he was an undistinguished undergraduate. He made no honors lists and earned only average grades. A dozen mathematics department professors and tutors who had been his contemporaries said they had no recollection of him.
At Harvard, some of the most talented students in the nation compete not only for grades, but for leadership in a galaxy of extracurricular activities. But Mr. Kaczynski’s yearbook entries list no activities outside his studies, and there is no record of an optional senior thesis by him.
In his freshman year, 1958-59, he lived in a small house at 8 Prescott Street, outside Harvard Yard in Cambridge. A housemate, Ronald L. Bauer, a California judge now, called it a low-rent place for a dozen freshmen. The house proctor, Francis Murphy, remembered Mr. Kaczynski as a lonely boy with poor hygiene who befriended no one.
In the next three years, Mr. Kaczynski lived in a seven-man suite at Eliot House, one of a dozen residential dormitories overlooking the Charles River, but he had almost no contact with his suitemates.
One suitemate, Patrick McIntosh, now a Colorado astronomer, said that in three years, “I don’t recall more than 10 words being spoken by him.” What was memorable, he said, were the trombone blasts and foul odors from his junkyard room.
“Ted’s room had a good view of the river, but I never saw anybody live in such an unkempt place,” Mr. McIntosh said. “In some places, the papers and such were a foot deep. That disturbed me, that someone could live in such filth. The worst part was when it began to smell. Maybe it was rancid milk.”
Another suitemate, Keith Martin, said Mr. Kaczynski would march in from class, walk to his room past everyone and slam his door. That would be it for the night, he said.
“He was intensely introverted,” Mr. McIntosh said of Mr. Kaczynski. “He wouldn’t allow us to know him. I never met anybody like him who was as extreme in avoiding socialization. He would almost run to his room to avoid a conversation if one of us tried to approach him.”
In the Eliot House dining room, a large, elegant, wood-paneled chamber that suggests images of England’s Oxford or Cambridge, Mr. Kaczynski often sat alone in an unfashionable jacket and tie. The dress code at all-male Harvard in the 1960’s required jackets and ties in classes and at meals.
But sometimes he was joined in the dining room by Richard Adams, a classmate who is now an investor from Stratham, N.H. He recalled that Eliot House at that time was the most preppie of the Harvard residential houses, full of cliquish extroverts, blue bloods and blustering athletes whose insider airs and bubbly chatter only compounded the problems of the mousy mathematician.
“The whole varsity crew was in Eliot House,” Mr. Adams said, referring to a muscular team that was a perennial national power. “They were all very tall and athletic and preppie. Kaczynski and I weren’t part of that. He was sallow, humorless, introverted, a guy who couldn’t make conversation. Kaczynski wore non-modish clothes: a kind of unpleasant plaid sports jacket and a tie that didn’t go with it. He didn’t look happy.”
There were many reasons for his isolation -- his age, his noninvolvement in extra-curricular activities, his lack of sophistication, his single-minded focus on academics, his alienated outsider’s pride. But Mr. Adams summed up the Kaczynski problem more tersely. “He was a wonk. He epitomized that,” Mr. Adams said. “He felt fairly comfortable in that role.”
David Kaczynski said his brother wrote some letters home, and one mentioned “a girl he kind of admired from afar.” He added, “He eventually asked her for a date and was rebuffed.” If Ted was miserable, he never mentioned it, David said. He was “a person who nursed a sense of injury.”
Ted returned to Evergreen Park in the summers and spent most of his time in his room. David said his brother liked classical music and folk singers, but disliked “products of the mass culture.” He did not like television or rock ‘n’ roll, and loud noises infuriated him, David said.
Mr. Kaczynski graduated from Harvard with a mathematics degree in 1962, just days after he turned 20. He never recorded his feelings toward the school or his classmates, except perhaps in the most oblique way. In a report for the 20th and 25th reunions of the Harvard Class of ‘62, he listed his address as 788 Banchat Pesh, Khadar Khel, Afghanistan.
No such place exists.
The Graduate Scholar
Colleagues Awed By His Brilliance
The nation stood on the brink of space and the Vietnam War in the autumn of 1962, when Mr. Kaczynski arrived at Ann Arbor to begin five years of graduate studies at the University of Michigan. He went about his business, enrolling in a master’s degree program in mathematical analysis, and taking a part-time job as a teaching fellow. He would hold that job for three academic years.
In contrast to Harvard, Michigan was vast and impersonal, a city-sized campus with 35,000 students of diverse backgrounds, most of them fiercely competitive. But there was a niche for everyone: a team, a club or a cause, and a cave for those who wanted none of it. That suited Mr. Kaczynski, who took a single dormitory room in Prescott House in his first two years, and then an apartment on Packard Street. Mr. Kaczynski is not known to have developed any friendships or interests outside his academic work.
“Mathematics seemed to be the only thing he was interested in,” said Prof. Peter L. Duren, who taught one of Mr. Kaczynski’s first-year courses. He said he was not aware of Mr. Kaczynski’s having any social life, but did not regard that as unusual. “A lot of mathematicians are a little bit strange in one way or another,” he said. “It goes with creativity.”
Other professors also remembered him as a quiet loner, unusually dedicated to mathematics even by the standards of graduate students. He was meticulous, wrote with a draftsman’s hand and provided more proofs than needed. He was one of the few students who regularly wore a jacket and tie to class. And he stood out in other ways, too. While teachers at Harvard could not even remember Mr. Kaczynski, professors at Michigan were impressed.
“He did not make mistakes,” said Prof. George Piranian, who presided over a full-year course in advanced function theory in Mr. Kaczynski’s second year. “He was very persistent in his work. If a problem was hard, he worked harder. He was easily the top student, or one of the top.”
The professor was especially impressed with the young man’s original research into the properties of functions in circles. “Another mathematician, a very competent man, had worked with me on that problem, and we got nowhere on it,” he recalled. But Mr. Kaczynski solved it and submitted his solution to academic journals for publication without telling his professors or classmates.
When articles bearing his name as author began to appear in respected academic journals, professors and students in the mathematics department were amazed. “The faculty, I think, wasn’t aware of this until he had published papers coming out in the journals,” Professor Duren said.
David Kaczynski said there had always been a “covertness” in his brother’s creative work. “It was something he did not talk about,” David recalled.
Fellow students were awed. “While most of us were just trying to learn how to arrange logical statements into coherent arguments, Ted was quietly solving open problems and creating new mathematics,” said Joel H. Shapiro, now a mathematics professor at Michigan State University. “It was as if he could write poetry while the rest of us were trying to learn grammar.”
Mr. Kaczynski was awarded his master’s degree in 1964, and stayed on at Michigan to work for a doctorate, a task that would consume the next three years and lead to his most productive academic period.
The time was one of tumultuous protests over civil rights and the expansion of the war in Vietnam. At Michigan, birthplace of the radical Students for a Democratic Society, the movement came almost to dominate life.
But Mr. Kaczynski took no part, professors and classmates said, although his principal thesis adviser, Prof. Allen L. Shields, was a vocal critic of the war. Nor did Mr. Kaczynski join Project Michigan, an Army weapons development program that some graduate students worked on at Willow Run Laboratory, which became a main target of protests. “I am not aware that Ted was in any way involved with that or was taking any side,” Professor Piranian said.
During the summers, Mr. Kaczynski lived with his parents, who by 1966 had moved to Lisbon, Iowa, a town of 1,450, 15 miles east of Cedar Rapids. His father had taken a job there as manager of Cushion-Pak, a maker of foam stuffing for pillows and sofas, and his mother had enrolled as an English major at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City. David was a student at Columbia University, majoring in English.
Diana Shelton, a grocery clerk who then worked as a foam-cutter at Cushion-Pak in Lisbon, remembered how the young Mr. Kaczynski had appeared at Cushion-Pak after a few days camping alone at nearby Coralville Lake, a semi-wilderness area. And his comments -- in retrospect, a harbinger of his Montana hermitage -- were so remarkable she never forgot them.
“He brought in a bunch of roots and weeds and things, and he was showing them to us,” Ms. Shelton recalled. “He said they were all good to eat. He told us that some of them tasted like potatoes. He was kind of shy and unusually quiet. But he didn’t seem strange. I mean, the roots were edible.”
“An ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideal as well as a negative one; it must be FOR something as well as AGAINST something. The positive ideal that we propose is Nature. That is, WILD nature: those aspects of the functioning of the earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. . . .
“When primitive man needed food he knew how to find and prepare edible roots, how to track game and take it with home-made weapons.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
Back at Ann Arbor, Mr. Kaczynski devoted himself to writing about ever-deeper mathematical ideas. One of his articles, “Boundary Functions for Functions Defined in a Disk,” was published in the Journal of Mathematics and Mechanics in 1965, and another, “On a Boundary Property of Continuous Functions,” appeared in the Michigan Mathematics Journal in 1966.
Both were close to the cutting edge of mathematics at the time. “I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 people in the country understood or appreciated it,” said Prof. Maxwell O. Reade, who was on Mr. Kaczynski’s dissertation committee.
Mr. Kaczynski rarely consulted with his professors. Professor Duren said, “He just came in with carefully prepared sheets of manuscripts and said, ‘Here’s what I’ve done.’ “ But his streak of independence brought on a serious setback.
After he had put in considerable work, it was discovered that someone else had already solved the problem that was the subject of his doctoral thesis. Rather than start anew, Professor Duren said, Mr. Kaczynski combined the work of his two academic journal articles into a single paper.
His dissertation, “Boundary Functions,” focused on a pure mathematics problem of functions -- quantities whose value depends on other quantities -- as they relate to circles. His ideas had no apparent practical application, but the paper was brilliant. He was awarded not only his doctorate, but also the University of Michigan’s $100 Sumner B. Myers Prize for the best mathematical dissertation of 1967.
He also secured a position as an acting assistant professor on a tenure track at Berkeley. He stopped in Iowa to see his parents on his way to California that summer, and despite his accomplishments, David recalled, “He didn’t seem particularly gratified or proud or full of himself.”
Indeed, David said, Ted seemed “more and more interested in the woods.”
‘I Can’t Recollect This Guy’
“University intellectuals constitute the most highly socialized segment of our society and also the most left-wing segment. The leftist of the oversocialized type tries to get off his psychological leash and assert his autonomy by rebelling. But usually he is not strong enough to rebel against the most basic values of society.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
When Mr. Kaczynski arrived in 1967, Berkeley was a dope-smoking, burn-your-bra, rock ‘n’ roll haven for rebels and anarchists, gurus and hippies, Black Panthers, Third World Liberationists and LSD freaks in headbands. Sex and drugs were rampant; radicals staged rallies and sit-ins. Even mathematicians were lining up with the counterculture and antiwar movements.
But not Theodore Kaczynski.
He rented a small cottage on Regent Street, bought a tan, used 1967 Chevelle and began teaching. An old catalogue listed his courses as Numbers Systems, Introduction to the Theory of Sets, General Topology and Function Spaces.
Student questionnaires suggest that Mr. Kaczynski’s students, who were only a few years younger, did not like him. They called his lectures next to useless, straight out of the textbook. Despite small classes, they said he did not seem to care for them or their concerns. “He absolutely refuses to answer questions,” one wrote.
Faculty colleagues also called him standoffish. Once, after playing host to the department’s weekly faculty seminar, he declined to accompany the others for the traditional beer and pizza. Most could not even remember him, and those who did called him shy, quiet and withdrawn.
Lance W. Small, an assistant professor at the time, said there were about 60 members of the mathematics department. “I can go down and probably tell you something about every one of those people, and picture them in my mind. But I can’t recollect this guy, nor does anybody I know recollect him.”
Still, Mr. Kaczynski was apparently well regarded by his superiors. Calvin Moore, who was vice chairman of the department, said Mr. Kaczynski got off to a promising start. In 1968, another of his articles, “Note on a Problem of Alan Sutcliffe,” appeared in Mathematics Magazine.
In September 1968, at the start of his second academic year at Berkeley, Mr. Kaczynski was elevated to assistant professor, a sign that he was regarded as on track for tenure. Outside his classroom, he spent most of his time writing; in 1969, he published two more articles in the journals of the American Mathematical Society. “That’s a very respectable output, and they’re in very good journals,” Mr. Small said.
Despite his promising future, Mr. Kaczynski resigned at the end of the term, on June 30, 1969. He did not give a reason, either to colleagues or his family.
“He said he was going to give up mathematics and wasn’t sure what he was going to do,” Prof. John W. Addison, the department chairman, wrote a colleague. “He was very calm and relaxed about it on the outside. We tried to persuade him to reconsider, but our presentation had no apparent effect. Kaczynski seemed almost pathologically shy, and as far as I know, he made no close friends in the department.”
Mr. Small saw a connection between campus turmoil and Mr. Kaczynski’s decision. “I really think his views are a product of what was in the air in Berkeley in those days,” he said. “You could become infected by this feeling that society had taken a wrong turn. Terrible things were going on, and you couldn’t help but be affected.”
But David Kaczynski disagreed. “It was not an antiwar gesture, something to do with the counterculture,” he said. “Both of us were in love with nature. I assume he wanted to live a richer life.” As for turmoil on campus, David said: “I think if he viewed it in any way at all, he viewed it as a fad.”
David saw the decision to quit mathematics as part of a pattern in his brother’s life. “He was a person who seemed capable of closing doors on things, on people, on stages of his life,” he said. “That cutting himself off was part of what he was about. At some point, it happened with me. At some point, it happened with our parents. As a kid, he loved his coin collection, and then he stopped collecting the coins. It was also true with a friend of his who would call in high school. ‘Hi, it’s Mosny. Is Ted around?’ ‘I don’t want to talk to him.’ You can expand that whole theme of cutting oneself off.”
Of Depression And Discontent
In the summer of 1969, at the age of 27, Mr. Kaczynski left Berkeley, determined to seek a simpler life in a remote area. His brother had just finished his junior year at Columbia. Together, the two drove to Canada to find some land for Ted to buy. “I had a year of college to finish up,” David said. “I was purely accompanying him, to do something together as brothers.”
In a two-month odyssey of exploration and camping, and of long talks in the car, walks in the woods and nights under the stars, they were together almost continuously, and David learned a great deal about the brother he had idolized but never understood.
David recalled a disagreement over Freudian interpretations of a piece of literature. David was “argued down.” But he recalled the trip as “good times.” Ted was a skilled woodsman and taught David much about plants. “I was very strongly influenced by my brother,” David said.
They drove through Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon, looking at sites. In Prince George, British Columbia, 500 miles north of Vancouver, and not far from the Continental Divide, they found a spot. “It was woods, a couple of miles’ walk in from the highway,” David said.
They staked out the property to prepare for filing an application for purchase, but then something happened. “He became depressed,” David said. “I saw this a number of times in his life. There must be something triggering it, but I didn’t know what it was. Looking back, I’m not sure. I believe it was the day before he was to put in his application for this piece of land. He shut down for a day. There was no interaction. It was like he was unreachable.”
But the application was filed, and at summer’s end they went home. On the way, they drove through Montana, and both were struck by the state’s natural beauty.
David returned to school, and Ted moved in with his parents, who by then had moved back to the Chicago area. Cushion-Pak, the Iowa company that his father had managed since 1966, had fallen on hard times, but its owner had offered the elder Kaczynski a new job with another business, Foam Cutting Engineers Inc., in Addison, Ill., just west of Chicago, in 1968.
The elder Kaczynski and his wife, who had earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa, bought a one-story, three-bedroom frame house for $6,500 in the west Chicago suburb of Lombard. Mrs. Kaczynski began to teach English in an elementary school in nearby Geneva.
Lombard was a working-class town of modest homes and well-kept lawns, a Republican stronghold. But the Kaczynskis joined the local Democratic Club; they worked locally in Eugene J. McCarthy’s antiwar Presidential campaign in 1968.
Living again at home, Mr. Kaczynski kept mostly to his bedroom. Awaiting word on his land application, he did nothing for more than a year. His parents urged him to get a job, not to make money but to give him something to do, to ease his mind. But the effort failed. Investigators who had access to letters Mr. Kaczynski wrote later said the parents’ efforts were interpreted by their brooding son as unwarranted intrusions, pressure to conform to a world he hated.
During this period, Mr. Kaczynski wrote letters to publications and public figures on various topics. He opposed logging and had an intense dislike for the advertising industry, which he felt manipulated people and generated excessive consumption in society. He once wrote an angry letter to a politician accusing him of using the manipulative techniques he despised in advertising.
“The average American should be portrayed as a victim of the advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying a lot of junk that he doesn’t need and that is very poor compensation for his lost freedom.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
He also wrote two letters to The Chicago Tribune, one on snowmobiles, the other on motorcycles. He denounced both as noisy, air-polluting machines that spoiled the beauties of nature.
“Technology exacerbates the effects of crowding because it puts increased disruptive powers in people’s hands. For example, a variety of noise-making devices: power mowers, radios, motorcycles, etc. If the use of these devices is unrestricted, people who want peace and quiet are frustrated by the noise.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
Another letter from Mr. Kaczynski was published in the Feb. 28, 1970, issue of The Saturday Review, a magazine that reviewed books and the arts. The letter attacked highway construction and the proliferation of automobiles. “Perhaps a better solution would be to change the structure of society so that it becomes possible to allow people some of the freedom and independence that they seem to crave,” Mr. Kaczynski wrote.
He continued: “A happily married man does not daydream about romantic love. Similarly, a man does not romanticize frontier freedom unless he is suffering from a lack of personal autonomy. Most of the problems are direct or indirect results of the activity of large organizations -- corporations and governments.
“It is these organizations, after all, that control the structure and development of society. Perhaps the most unfortunate thing that has ever happened to individual liberty was its being used as an excuse for the misdeeds of huge corporations.”
“Science marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government officials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research. . . . Industrial-technological society cannot be reformed in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing the sphere of human freedom.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
His arguments with his parents over his unwillingness to work intensified. Finally, early in 1970, a disappointing response came from Canada on his application to buy the land. “It seemed very poorly worded, to the effect that the land was not available,” David said. “He shouldn’t try to visit it. It seemed they changed the policy for acquiring land.”
Ted was crushed. “He got very depressed,” David said. “My sense is that it went on for a couple of months, and eventually he got a job. It was just a job to earn a little money, laborer or construction, something like that.”
In the spring of 1970, David graduated from Columbia. Unsure what to do with his life, he remembered the beauty of Montana and decided to return. “I got a job in a smelter, in Great Falls,” he said. Meantime, Ted continued to live in Lombard. Then in the spring of 1971, David recalled, Ted “showed up one day” in Montana, and soon he found the piece of land he wanted.
David, who put up some money for the property, continued to work at the smelter and took education courses at the College of Great Falls, until 1974, when he moved to Lisbon, Iowa, where his parents had lived, and became a high school teacher. But by the early 1980’s, he had retreated to the Christmas Mountains of West Texas, where he bought 30 acres in one of the remotest areas of the nation. For years, he worked summers in the Chicago area and spent winters in a lean-to on the Texas property.
In bad weather, he would stay in a neighbor’s bunk house. His hair and beard grew shaggy, and he became as much of a loner as his brother in Montana.
An Austere Life In the Montana Woods
When Ted Kaczynski retreated into the Montana wilderness, the world was in turmoil: Vietnamese were being massacred, and Charles Manson was laughing at slaughters. It was a world that to Mr. Kaczynski had offered no happiness, only an education in useless mathematics with a minor in loneliness, and a job of lifetime irrelevance.
Lewis and Clark County records show he bought his property in June 1971. The land is a shady, 1.4-acre plot a few miles southeast of the small town of Lincoln. The setting is strikingly beautiful, a mountain woodlands near Stemple Pass, just west of the Continental Divide. Cougars, bobcats, elk and the occasional grizzly bear roam the high country. The Blackfoot River runs through it like a dagger, carrying cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout.
In the winter, the snows lay deep and silent. Temperatures often plunged to 40 or 50 below. In the summer, the sun was molten gold, and the rain tapped softly on shingles and gently bent the branches of the trees. He would have a vegetable garden. There would be deer and rabbits to hunt. He would need little money. There would be no trappings of modern life, no technology. And best of all, he would be free, almost, of people trying to control his life.
“Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a SMALL group) of the life-and-death issues of one’s existence: food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people, but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life. One does not have freedom if anyone else (especially a large organization) has power over one.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
He built a wooden one-room cabin, 10 by 12 feet, with a storage loft and a dugout cellar. The cabin’s faded brown planks blended into the juniper woods like clever camouflage. There was no electricity, no telephone and no running water, though he dug a well, installed a pump, got a Coleman stove and put in a kerosene lamp for nights and a wood stove against the dangerous winters.
In the yard, he had a block and an ax for firewood and a ring of stones and a metal grill for cooking. The property was small, but the cabin was set back on a dirt road and the nearest neighbor was a quarter-mile away. He could scare people off with a rifle, if he had to, or with his shaggy mountain-man face.
The county assessor’s office valued the land at $4,200 and the cabin at $350. The annual real estate tax was $110.26.
Dressed in black denim or army fatigues, he occasionally rode a battered old bicycle into town for supplies. He knew people, but did not invite small talk. “He never would really offer any conversation,” said Rhoda Burke, a cashier at the food store. “He’d come in once or twice a month and buy his staples and put them on the back of his bike and ride out of town.”
Now and then he used the post office pay phone. More often, he stopped at the Lincoln Library where Beverly Coleman worked. “Sometimes he came in once a week because we saved newspapers for him and he picked them all up,” she said. “Just our local tribunes, from Missoula and Great Falls and Helena.” He also wanted scientific books and classic literature, she said, usually in English, but often in the original German or Spanish. These had to be ordered from the University of Montana in Missoula, or Montana State at Bozeman.
Aside from his taste in books and his rarely displayed articulateness, the usually unwashed Mr. Kaczynski did not raise eyebrows around Lincoln, where many people live secluded lives. “He was just a private person and enjoyed being up there by himself,” said Joseph Youderian, who interviewed him for the 1990 census and was one of the few locals who entered his cabin. He saw shelves of books, a bunk, a wash basin and a man of few words. “I didn’t push it. That’s the way he wanted to live.”
He made his own candles and bread. He grew potatoes, parsnips and other vegetables, hunted rabbits, and managed with little money. Butch Gehring, whose house and lumber mill are a quarter-mile off, said he once heard him complain about his costs rising to $300 from $200 a year.
“He kept a careful record,” said David, who visited Ted at his cabin in 1974 and again in 1986. “It cost 30 cents a day,” or about $110 a year. His life was largely financed by his parents, who gave him $1,000 to $1,500 a year in birthday and Christmas gifts. Ted wrote some 200 letters to his parents and brother, but until 1994, David said, he never requested money.
And he worked odd jobs. In the winter of 1973-74, David said, Ted wrote to his parents that he was working for several months in Salt Lake City. David, learning of this and on his way back to classes at the College of Great Falls, stopped in Salt Lake City for a visit. He found his brother staying in an old hotel. “He told me that he was working on some kind of construction job with a small contractor,” David said.
In the late summer of 1974, Ted also pumped gas and sold tires for a few weeks at Kibbey Korner Truck Stop in Raynesford, 100 miles east of Lincoln. It was a drifter’s job -- a bunk went with it -- and no one held it for long, but the truck stop’s retired owner, Joe Visocan, remembered Mr. Kaczynski after 22 years because of a letter he received after the worker quit.
Addressed to “Dear, sweet Joe, You fat con-man,” Mr. Kaczynski complained of being misled about the amount of money he might make on the job, demanded his last paycheck and threatened to tell the authorities about some equipment irregularity in the garage if he did not receive it.
Ted’s brief sojourn in Raynesford was also notable for a crude romantic overture he made to a 19-year-old college student who was working as a waitress in the truck-stop restaurant, and for what seems to have been a revealing expression of his growing antipathy toward technology.
To the waitress, Sandra Hill, he was just a shy, clean-shaven co-worker, a dozen years her senior. She said she had paid him little attention, and had no idea he was interested in her until she went back to school that fall and received three letters from him.
One invited her to move with him to northern Canada and be his squaw. The second was almost a resume, in which he, as if applying for work, told her he was a Harvard graduate who had written and published papers in scientific journals. The third said he assumed she was not interested because she had ignored the first two.
Ms. Hill also remembered what may have been a glimpse of Mr. Kaczynski’s anti-technology sentiments. An aircraft flew over one day, and Mr. Kaczynski, looking up, remarked that it represented something terrible for humanity. He spoke of air pollution and said something else about a world in which speed was too important.
In and around Lincoln, people did not keep track of Mr. Kaczynski’s comings and goings. He sometimes did not appear in town for months. He occasionally got a ride from an acquaintance, like Dick Lundberg or Carol Blowars, or took a Rimrock Stage bus from Lincoln into nearby Helena or Missoula. He might have been gone for months at a time without anyone noticing.
Ted Kaczynski’s cabin was far less remote than his brother’s in West Texas. Indeed, it was only two hours from transcontinental highways traveled by intercity buses. Missoula on Interstate 90 linked Seattle and Chicago. Helena is on Interstate 15, which reaches from Canada to San Diego through Salt Lake City, with branches to Sacramento, Berkeley, San Francisco and all of Northern California.
Barbara McCabe, proprietor of the Park Hotel, a cheap place for transients in downtown Helena, said Mr. Kaczynski had stayed the night off and on for many years, taking a Spartan, $14 room with a sink and bed. “He was very quiet,” she said. “He’d just take his key and go to his room.”
Across the street at Aunt Bonnie’s Bookstore, Mr. Kaczynski would stop to buy a book from the 25-cent rack, said Anne Haire, the owner. They were usually old, obscure sociology or political science texts, she said, “the books nobody else wants to buy.”
Nearby, the in-state buses leave for Butte, where one can board a Greyhound bus for practically anywhere in the country. Stacie Frederickson, a Greyhound agent in Butte, remembered ticketing Mr. Kaczynski -- “a geeky-looking guy” -- about 15 times on intercity buses south to Salt Lake City or west to the Coast.
But it was east, to Chicago, that Mr. Kaczynski traveled in the spring of 1978.
Prof. Donald Saari, of the mathematics department at Northwestern University in Evanston, just north of Chicago, said a man he thought was Mr. Kaczynski appeared at his office, without an appointment, one day in the spring of 1978.
Investigators have expressed some doubts about Professor Saari’s account of what happened in what he said were four or five meetings with the man.
“The first time, he just arrived, standing shyly outside my door, and I invited him to come in,” the professor recalled. His clothes and awkwardness suggested a working man, but there were odd things about him. “He was shy, his social graces were not the best and he tended to wear working clothes and working shoes. On the other hand, he did not have the firm handshake of someone from the working class.”
Professor Saari said he thought the man had come to him because he wanted to attend a lecture series he was arranging, but the man wanted him to read a treatise he had written on the evils of technology. The professor said it had not been his understanding that the man wanted to get his 10- to 20-page treatise published.
The professor read it, nevertheless. It made an argument that technology was profoundly harming society, he said, but he found the ideas clumsily expressed. The man seemed intelligent, but the professor thought he needed guidance.
“I’m dealing with a person that I think has a future, that should go back to school,” Professor Saari said. “He’s expressing ideas amateurishly. They’re not well defined or well thought out. But with going to school, they could be polished.” He suggested that Mr. Kaczynski go to the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois. It was less expensive than Northwestern.
When Professor Saari next saw him, Mr. Kaczynski was trembling with rage at his treatment at the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois, where his manuscript had been rejected.
“He was quite angry -- never raised his voice -- but he was enraged, and he was trembling,” Professor Saari recalled. “He told me that these highfalutin’ Ph.D.’s had dismissed him from their offices. I guess they had looked over his manuscript and summarily dismissed him.”
What happened next made a deep impression on the professor.
“I’ll get even,” Mr. Kaczynski said, shaking with rage.
Professor Saari next saw Mr. Kaczynski at a lecture by a British scholar, Joseph Needham, who had written extensively on the history of science and industry in China. The subject was gunpowder.
The first device was quite crude, a piece of pipe that might have come from a kitchen sink. The explosive was gunpowder and shavings of wooden matchheads. The wire had been pulled from an old lamp cord, and the triggering device was simple and dangerous.
But the container was almost a work of art, carefully fashioned from four kinds of wood, meticulously sanded, polished and stained, like a piece of fine furniture from an old-world artisan.
The package was addressed to a professor at the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois, where it was left in a parking lot on May 24, 1978. But instead of being forwarded to its addressee, it was returned to its apparent sender, a professor at Northwestern University. Since that person had not actually sent the package, it was turned over to Northwestern’s campus security force. It exploded the next day, badly injuring a guard who opened it.
It seems mere chance that the bomb went off at Northwestern in Evanston, rather than at the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois. But the address and the return address on the package suggests that either may have been a satisfactory target to the Unabomber.
The Rejected Suitor
Date Brings Joy, Then Despair
He went back to Lombard, back to his parents’ home. This time, he did not resist their blandishments about work. On June 23, he took a job at the plant where his father worked part-time as a draftsman and where his brother, David, was now a supervisor. Ted was put to work as a press operator, cutting pieces of foam for cushions.
His supervisor was Ellen Tarmichael, a soft-spoken but no-nonsense woman who is still a production manager with the company. One employee, Richard Johnson, called her “a wonderful boss, the best I’ve ever had,” and added: “She’s always kind-hearted and nice to people. I can see why somebody would get interested in her.”
Ted Kaczynski became interested in late July 1978. He was 36, and she was 29.
It was a Sunday, and he had gone for a walk. “He happened to see her car,” David recalled. “She was filling the gas tank. I don’t know exactly what transpired. He actually went to her apartment and played cards with her and her sister and her boyfriend.”
Later Ted came home. “He was obviously in a really good mood,” David said. “He told me he had gone to see Ellen, that they had spent the day together and had played cards, and that some gestures indicating affection had passed between them. I was very happy about that.” He remembered something his parents had said once, about Ted eventually marrying and losing his “rough edges.”
They had two dates, Ms. Tarmichael recalled. She said he seemed intelligent and quiet, and she accepted a dinner invitation in late July. It was a French restaurant, David said, and Ted “ordered wine and he smelled it, he made a big deal of it.” David added, “He had a good time.”
Two weeks later, they went apple-picking and afterward went to his parents’ home and baked a pie. That was when she told him she did not want to see him again. “I felt we didn’t have much in common besides our employment,” she said.
“Ted did a total shutdown,” retreating into his room, David said. He also wrote an insulting limerick about Ms. Tarmichael, made copies and posted them in lavatories and on walls around the factory. He did not sign the limerick, but his relationship with the woman was known.
David confronted his brother. “I was very, very angry,” he said. “Part of me was disappointed. He was so close to being integrated in the most primal rite of integration. He had an interest in a member of the opposite sex, and to have him go back to this kind of angry, inappropriate behavior -- to the family it was embarrassing, adolescent kind of behavior.”
David told him to cease the offensive conduct. But Ted put the same limerick up the next day, above David’s desk. David told him to go home. Ted asked if he was being dismissed, and David again told him to go home.
“At that time, Ted asked me if his brother could fire him,” Ms. Tarmichael said. “I replied that David could fire him and told him I, as David’s manager, would support David’s decision.”
Ted, regarding himself dismissed, walked off.
At a recent news conference, Ms. Tarmichael said that at no time was she “romantically involved with Ted Kaczynski.” She also scoffed at accounts that her rejection had somehow led to acts of terrorism attributed to him. Since the day of his dismissal, she said, she has had no contact with him.
David said Ted wrote Ms. Tarmichael a letter that “had elements of an apology about it.” But investigators said the letter, which probably was not sent, partly blamed the woman for what had happened and said Ted had considered harming her. One investigator quoted the letter as saying she was lucky he had decided not to harm her.
After Ted’s dismissal, with tensions between the brothers continuing, David left the house in Lombard and moved back to Texas. But Ted stayed until the late summer or early fall of 1979. It is not clear whether he returned to Montana then or later.
The Unabomber struck three more times in the Chicago area. On May 9, 1979, a year after the first attack, a bomb in a box left at Northwestern University’s Technological Institute injured a student who tried to open it. Six months later, on Nov. 15, a bomb mailed from Chicago to an unknown location went off on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Washington; 12 people were injured, but the plane landed safely. On June 10, 1980, a bomb mailed to the Lake Forest, Ill., home of Percy A. Wood, the president of United Airlines, injured Mr. Wood when he tried to open it.
In the early 1980’s, David said, Ted’s letters to his parents began to grow increasingly angry. The parents had visited him several times at his cabin until the mid-1980’s, and each time they had come away pleased at his cordiality, only to find another angry letter in the mail soon after returning home.
“With Ted, I have a sense of a person who appeared to deteriorate with time,” David said. “I recall letters he wrote to our parents that were quite loving for quite a few years. How you get from that to some of the angry letters, I don’t know.”
But Ted continued to write to his brother. “Ted always seemed interested to know about my experiences in the desert,” David said. “He had told me on a number of occasions that Lincoln was getting too crowded. He felt stifled. I understand perfectly how he felt. A cabin coming up two miles away. It changes your lifestyle. Someone could look at you through binoculars, especially when your bathroom is outside. It could be a concern.”
Over the next five years, from 1981 to 1985, there were seven more bombs -- at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City; at Vanderbilt University in Nashville; two at Berkeley (at a faculty lounge and in a computer room); at the Boeing Company in Auburn, Wash.; at a professor’s home at the University of Michigan, and at a computer store in Sacramento.
The authorities knew the attacks were related because the initials “FC” were either engraved on metal parts of the bombs or spray-painted near the scene of the explosions. And the explosions were becoming increasingly dangerous.
Six people were injured during this five-year period. One person, the owner of the computer store in Sacramento, was killed in 1985. The Unabomber, after nearly eight years, had committed a murder.
In 1986, David visited his brother in Montana for almost two weeks. David slept in a tent outside because, he felt, the cabin was too cramped. David was surprised that Ted had a battery-operated radio. “He said -- maybe he was embarrassed because I pictured him as a purist -- it was not for entertainment, just the weather.”
David saw no chemicals or other items that might have aroused suspicion. “In retrospect,” David said, “he wanted to be very specific about the day I was coming.”
One day, Ted showed him a book on Roman coins. Another day, David drove him to town to shop for supplies and go to the library. “He introduced me to people that he knew,” David said. “I remember feeling pleased and reassured that he was a familiar character in town.”
Back at the cabin, Ted “spent some time tutoring me in Spanish,” David said. “He would have me read from some of the Spanish books. I had a sense that he really enjoyed doing that.” David said he did not relish the role, but went along with it because it seemed to please his brother.
It was on this visit, David recalled, that the table collapsed under him as he was sawing wood outside. Ted touched his shoulders, and David felt a closeness to his brother greater than any he could remember.
The Unabomber was always careful. He never left fingerprints. The stamps on his packages were never licked, lest saliva become evidence for DNA experts. He was always well away when his explosions occurred. But on Feb. 20, 1987, when one of his bombs went off outside a Salt Lake City computer store and injured an employee, something extraordinary happened. A woman nearby spotted the man who had left the bomb package. He looked right at her, and she remembered him clearly: a hooded sweatshirt, a mustache, reddish-brown hair, a square jaw and menace lurking behind the aviator sunglasses.
He panicked. The bomber, who had meticulously covered his tracks for nearly a decade, had made a mistake.
And as the woman’s description became a sketch that found its way into newspapers and magazines across the country, he retreated into the shadows and halted his bombing campaign for six years.
Letters of Friendship, Letters of Anger
Ted Kaczynski began a strange new interlude in 1988 -- a correspondence with a man he would never meet. It would last seven years and become his most sustained relationship with a person outside his family.
He had continued to receive letters and cash holiday gifts from his parents and David. But that autumn, he received an unusual letter in Spanish from Ojinaga, Mexico, from Juan Sanchez Arreola, who introduced himself as a friend of his brother. He said he had been hurt in a pickup truck accident and asked for financial help.
In a meticulous handwritten response in stilted Spanish on lined three-ring binder paper and dated Nov. 14, 1988, Mr. Kaczynski said he would try to help, though he made no promises. He wrote: “I am pleased that you call yourself my friend. And I, in turn, call myself your friend.”
Thus began a correspondence -- an odd blend of warmth yet distant formality sometimes associated with communications across a linguistic or cultural gap -- between “Teodoro” and a married, 60-year-old farmhand with two years of schooling. They would eventually write some 50 letters each, and Mr. Kaczynski would offer a circumspect picture of his life, from mundane weather reports to detailed descriptions of rabbit-hunting, from expressions of concern over his poverty to confessions of loneliness.
David recalled, “Ted said he didn’t know what it was, but Juan touched him very deeply, and there are a number of instances throughout Ted’s life when he was very, very deeply touched and sympathetic toward someone’s pain he could understand, and Juan was one of these cases.”
David said Ted wanted to do something for Mr. Sanchez, but his solution “reveals that in some ways he was out of touch.” “He read about a millionaire who would receive requests for money and decide who to give it to. Ted decided this was the best way to get help for Juan, to pay his medical bills, and he drafted a letter that he sent to me. I was supposed to get an O.K. from Juan and send it to the millionaire. And of course, we never heard. For an intelligent person it seemed so . . . extremely naive.”
Mr. Sanchez had continued to write to David, as well, and had encouraged him to write to Linda Patrik, a girl he had remembered as a friend and lab partner from high school. “He had to teach me to write a love letter,” David said.
In 1989, David told his brother he had a relationship with Linda and had decided to go to Schenectady, N.Y., to be with her. He also said he expected to marry her.
“At that time he decided to end his relationship with me, end communicating with me,” David said. “It was an extremely angry, total surprise to me. He tended to view me as someone who was easily manipulated by others and for some reason he had gotten the notion that Linda was a manipulating female who was using me.” The accusation seemed particularly bizarre, David said, because “he has never met her to my knowledge.”
One interpretation of his brother’s letter, he said, might be that Ted was disappointed that he would give up the lifestyle they had shared. “It may have just been terrible for him to think I would rejoin society,” David said. “I think it goes deeper than that.”
David said the letter had contained “a long litany” of his presumed faults but it added that “he did care about me” and said that “I was throwing away my life.”
By marrying? he was asked.
Seeing Linda as manipulative, though he had never met her, was typical, David said. “He would remember something that my father said or my mother said, and it would be great weight, and he would attach some significance to it. He would build out of a few facts a picture that was unrecognizable.”
From then on, Ted told David, he would not open a letter from his brother unless it had a line drawn under the stamp to indicate a family emergency. David had been cut off. Then, a few weeks later, David received an amendment from Ted.
“It was an awkward apology for the tone of what he said,” David recalled. But there was a new element: Ted said he had developed a heart arrhythmia that “made him fear for his life.” It had been brought on by anger, and he said he had decided to limit his communications to ease the stress.
David said he had no idea whether Ted actually had a heart problem, but he said there had been no apparent ill effects after years of talk about it. He also said his brother had expressed frequent concerns about germs, infections and other health matters. “This kind of worry about -- not hypochondria -- just worry about his health is a recurring theme,” David said.
“My reading of things is that Ted did not have a real good grip on his own emotions, and this was clearly an example of an effect, the way his emotions became something he could not control. Clearly, he was afraid of the way his heart would beat when he got angry. He couldn’t control it. The only way he could control it was by eliminating the trigger.
“The only way was, don’t write me any more. Don’t make me angry any more.”
In later letters to “My very dear and esteemed friend,” Mr. Sanchez, Ted told of being alienated from his family. Mr. Sanchez quoted him as saying he was “on bad terms” with his parents and “doesn’t want anything to do with them.” And Mr. Sanchez said: “David once told me that Teodoro called his mother a dog. It is very sad when someone doesn’t love his parents.”
Ted’s father, who had visited him at his cabin and had left in disgust at the way his older son was living, had retired from part-time work when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in the late 1980’s. When his condition began to deteriorate, his family informed Ted in a letter. His response was a brief call from the Lincoln post office.
On Oct. 2, 1990, Theodore R. Kaczynski shot himself to death in his home in Lombard. Ted was informed of his death, but did not attend the memorial service in Illinois. But he did call during that service to offer condolences to his mother, and David’s reaction was to worry about his brother. “I often thought about that conversation,” he said. He envisioned Ted at a pay phone, awkwardly trying to express condolences to a mother he had ignored for years. “That’s a Ted that’s human, who I understand and love,” David said.
His mother afterward wrote Ted and, David said, “invited him to talk about the things that had been painful to him as a child and in their relationship.”
The answer was scathing.
“It began sort of mildly and in the course of the letter it built up and up, and by the end of the letter he was using fairly offensive epithets,” David said. It was a 17- or 18-page indictment of his parents, accusing them of being “more interested in having a brilliant son than seeing that son happy and fulfilled.”
Was it a valid accusation? “No,” David said, “I believe he may very well believe that. When he decided to end his career after they invested so much of themselves . . .”
Ted also said he had never had a real friend in all his life, and recalled a painful incident in gym class when he was 16. “The kids had picked out their sides, and he was the odd man out. Nobody picked him. He said, ‘I am crying as I write this.’ “
The exchange continued, David said. “My mother wrote back saying, ‘Look, Ted, you know you’re handsome. You know you’re smart. There’s no reason you can’t have the kind of life you want.’ He was so angry about that. To me it sounded like encouragement, but he took it to be something -- a part of him I absolutely can’t explain.”
Ted did not attend David’s 1991 wedding to Ms. Patrik in a modest backyard Buddhist ceremony in Schenectady. Marriage drastically changed David’s life. He gave up the Texas outback for a home in Schenectady and a job at Equinox, an Albany agency that helps runaway youths. His wife has been a professor of philosophy at Union College, in Schenectady, for 18 years.
The marriage also apparently snapped Ted’s last thread to David, though he would make later requests for money.
Early in the summer of 1993, a few months after an enormous explosion rocked the World Trade Center in New York, killing six people and injuring hundreds, the Unabomber resumed a campaign that had been suspended for six years. His new bombs were far more sophisticated and deadly. They were mailed from, or planted in, Utah or Northern California.
On June 22, a bomb mailed to a Tiburon, Calif., home exploded and severely injured a University of California geneticist. Two days later, a similar bomb badly injured a computer science professor at Yale University in New Haven. Both bombs had been postmarked in Sacramento.
On the day of the Yale blast, the Unabomber spoke to the world for the first time. A letter to The New York Times, postmarked San Francisco and bearing the “FC” trademark, claimed that the bombings were the work of an anarchist group. It promised further communiques and gave a nine-digit code -- 553-25-4394 -- that it said would be included for authentication on future writings.
Under great pressure to find the bomber, investigators developed a profile calling the suspect a loner, highly intelligent, meticulous, a quiet man who made lists and had trouble dealing with people, especially women, perhaps a sullen student or teacher. Tens of thousands of leads were pursued, all to no avail. They needed something more.
In Lincoln, Mr. Kaczynski was always short of money. In the summer of 1994, the bearded, unkempt hermit approached Becky Garland, then manager of a clothing-sporting goods store. He told her he was almost broke and needed work. They agreed to meet and talk. They sat on the store porch a few days later, and he gave her a letter, part resume and part self-description.
It was an extraordinary revelation, mentioning his Harvard and graduate degrees, and making brief references to his loneliness. It had been 16 years since his date with Ellen Tarmichael.
“I think he wrote the letter so he didn’t have to speak about these things, so he didn’t have to talk a lot,” Ms. Garland said. “He wrote about being with classmates who were older, and about being very shy. He did write about a relationship with someone at one time that didn’t work out.” A 20-minute talk ensued, and minimal as it was, he revealed more of himself than he had in 23 years in Lincoln.
“We use the term ‘surrogate activity’ to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the ‘fulfillment’ that they get from pursuing the goal. . . . The pursuit of sex and love (for example) is not a surrogate activity because most people, even if their existence were otherwise satisfactory, would feel deprived if they passed their lives without ever having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. But pursuit of an excessive amount of sex, more than one really needs, can be a surrogate activity.”
from the Unabomber manifesto
Ms. Garland did not keep the letter, and no job came of it. Mr. Kaczynski did not press the matter. He may have been too busy, investigators say, for it was then that he began to spend a great deal of time at his cabin writing on a battered old typewriter. He also wrote to David, requesting money.
While investigators have denied it, several published reports have suggested that Mr. Kaczynski’s name appeared in 1994 in an Federal of Bureau Investigation file in connection with Earth First, an environmentalist group that uses confrontational tactics against timber and other development companies.
According to these reports, Mr. Kaczynski was said to have gone to the campus of the University of Montana at Missoula in November 1994, and attended a meeting of 500 environmentalists from all over the world who gathered to coordinate opposition to multinational corporations.
Thomas Fullum, an organizer of the meeting, did not recall Mr. Kaczynski specifically, but said that the discussions had alluded to the role of a public relations agency, Burson-Marsteller, a unit of Young & Rubicam Inc., and its work for Exxon Corporation. There were erroneous assertions at the meeting that Burson-Marsteller had tried to repair the company’s image after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Among the many publications available to those who attended the meeting was The Earth First Journal, which contained denunciations of the timber industry and its lobbyists.
On Dec. 10, 1994, a mail bomb killed Thomas J. Mosser at his home in North Caldwell, N.J. Mr. Mosser, an advertising executive for Young & Rubicam who specialized in crisis communications, had once worked for Burson-Marsteller, but neither he nor that agency had been employed on the Exxon Valdez incident.
In mid-April 1995, Mr. Kaczynski, having again asked for and received money from his brother, left Lincoln and traveled by bus to Sacramento. At a Burger King restaurant next to the bus terminal in Sacramento, Mike Singh, the manager, remembered him. He was carrying what appeared to be an armful of books. He had a sandwich and a cup of coffee and left.
Mr. Kaczynski took a room at the Royal Hotel, next door to the bus station. A desk clerk, Frank Hensley, remembered him because he had stayed there periodically in recent years, usually in spring or summer, for three days to a week at a time. He used the name Conrad to sign the registration book, and took a $22.50-a-night room without a bath.
The hotel was not far from the Sacramento post office.
On April 24, 1995, five days after the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people in the worst act of terrorism in the nation’s history, a package arrived at the Sacramento office of the California Forestry Association, a timber industry lobbying group. It was addressed to a former association president, but was opened by his successor, Gilbert P. Murray, who was killed by the explosion.
It was the Unabomber’s last bomb.
That same day, a letter that had been mailed from Oakland a day after the Oklahoma City bombing arrived at the offices of The New York Times in New York. The letter was crudely typed, with phrases crossed out with X’s, more typical of work on a typewriter than a computer. But it gave the Unabomber’s nine-digit code, and it offered an explanation for 17 years of deadly serial bombings.
“The people we are out to get are scientists and engineers, especially in critical fields like computers and genetics,” it said. The goal, it said, was nothing less than “the destruction of the worldwide industrial system.”
The letter ridiculed David J. Gelernter, a Yale computer professor who lost an eye in one of the 1993 bombings, and said Mr. Mosser had been killed because he worked for Burson-Marsteller and that company “manipulated people’s attitudes.” It was mistaken in asserting that Mr. Mosser currently worked for Burson Marsteller and that that agency had tried to “clean up” Exxon’s image.
But the significance of the letter was unmistakable. After 17 years of seemingly random attacks, the Unabomber had changed tactics and offered a statement on his motives. Moreover, he said he wanted to fully detail his reasons for bombing and was working on a long manuscript for publication.
But talking to the world entailed enormous risks. It meant that his words, his vocabulary, his typewriter and the very paper he would write upon, would all become clues to his hidden identity.
Two months later, he threatened to blow up a jetliner out of Los Angeles, causing wide panic and security precautions. Then he called it a prank. With the nation paying attention at last, he sent his 35,000-word manifesto to The Times and The Washington Post and said he would stop the killing if it were published in three months. The Post published it, with The Times sharing the costs, last September.
David Kaczynski read the manifesto and, with growing alarm, began a private inquiry, comparing the document with his brother’s old letters and essays. He saw striking similarities in the prose style and the anti-technology content. He had already begun thinking about the locales of Unabom explosions and how similar they were to the places where his brother had lived or studied. By February, David, after agonizing over his findings, had turned to the F.B.I.
Agents searching a shed at the old Kaczynski home in Lombard found matches, traces of gunpowder and other compounds like those used in the earliest Unabom explosions in the Chicago area in 1978, 1979 and 1980. Wanda Kaczynski knew nothing about all this. She had just sold the home in Lombard for $100,000, and had moved to Schenectady to be near David.
The county trunk is an unpaved road that snakes south out of Lincoln, turns east and rises up into the high country toward Stemple Pass, which cuts through the Rocky Mountains at 6,373 feet. Five miles from town, just short of the pass, a muddy side road branches off up a hillside and disappears into the dense aspen and juniper woods. That’s where the men went.
They might have been taken for hunters, if anyone had noticed them out in the snow. They had guns and binoculars, and they moved cautiously, like stalkers. They had rented rooms at a hotel in town in February, but people had been too nosy and they had moved to two cabins on a ridge up near the pass. Only Butch Gehring, who lived up there, knew who they were, and he had been sworn to secrecy.
For 18 days, they watched, peering down through the winter woods with their binoculars and telescopes. Elk and deer, and once a cougar, crossed their lenses. But by late March, they had not seen the mountain man. They knew he often stayed in for weeks, but they began to wonder. Mr. Gehring was sent to check. He and a forest ranger confirmed that the hermit had not slipped away.
Waco and Ruby Ridge preyed on the watchers’ minds: They wanted no blunders, no needless violence. But their force was growing -- up to 50 men were holed up in the area -- and secrecy could not be assured indefinitely.
They picked a cold, overcast day, April 3. Showers of snow and sleet fell from time to time. A mountain wind moaned and lifted the pine boughs. Canyon Creek gurgled with the spring melt. They formed a great circle, moving down the hillside and up the muddy road. Mr. Gehring went along.
As they drew near, they came across a shed where the carcasses of several animals had been dressed and hung out to dry. Nearer still, a plot of ground lay cleared for a garden, enclosed by a tall wire fence to keep out the deer. A ring of cold stones marked a campfire-cookery.
The cabin, with a steep roof of green tarpaper, was a crude wooden shack, its reddish-brown walls faded by many winters, a rustic coarseness against the gnarled bark of the woods. It was impossible to see in; two small windows were set high up to catch the light but keep out prying eyes. A jumble of bottles and cans lay heaped like a medieval midden beside the cabin door.
The door itself was hinged and fitted with a hasp for a padlock, useful for locking up when the mountain man was away. But he was here now, silent inside, his door secured by a deadbolt.
They used a little ruse. Mr. Gehring shouted, something about the ranger needing help to fix the line between their adjoining properties.
The door opened, and a shaggy man stepped out.
They took his arms from both sides.
“Ted,” one of them said. “We need to talk.”
The following reporters for The New York Times participated in the preparation of this article: Lizette Alvarez, William J. Broad, James Brooke, Pam Belluck, Keith Bradsher, Fox Butterfield, Christopher Drew, Timothy Egan, Edward A. Gargan, Carey Goldberg, Robert Hanley, Lynette Holloway, Dirk Johnson, David Johnston, John Kifner, Donatella Lorch, Neil MacFarquhar, Robyn Meredith, Richard Perez-Pena, Sara Rimer, Janny Scott and Lawrence Van Gelder. Also contributing were David Barboza, Rebecca Carr, Jay D. Evenson, Barbara Lloyd, Rohan B. Preston, Gretchen Reynolds, Jim Robbins, Scholle Sawyer, Joe Schoenmann, Rebecca Shay and Michael J. Ybarra.