Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber

Bright Beginnings

Kaczynski's childhood home (AP)
Kaczynski's childhood home (AP)

Ted Kaczynski had a normal entry into the world. With the exception of a brief stint in hospital at nine months old, the usual childhood illnesses made little impact. His mother, Wanda felt the early hospital stay — for a severe allergic reaction to medication — made him withdrawn and fearful of separation from her. A teacher, she recalled the boy was generally bright, but not sociable.

David (left) & Theodore Kaczynski as children (AP)
David (left) & Theodore
Kaczynski as children (AP)

Kaczynski remembered an uneventful childhood but alleged he was verbally and emotionally abused — a problem he first identified in his twenties. He inferred his mother was pretentious because she encouraged him to speak using a better accent than the other kids.

He was bright in school, but when he skipped grade six he simply wasn't able to fit in with the older kids. He claimed he was the target of verbal abuse and teasing. His closest contact was probably his younger brother David.

Ted Kaczynski in his high school yearbook (AP)
Ted Kaczynski in his
high school yearbook (AP)

In high school he skipped grade eleven and at the early age 16 commenced studies at Harvard. By the time he was 25, he had completed his masters and Ph.D. He recalled no involvement in sport or other group activities, other than taking trombone lessons.

Kaczynski as a Berkeley professor (AP)
Kaczynski as a Berkeley
professor (AP)

On graduating in 1967, he became an assistant professor in Math at University of California at Berkeley but quit in June 1969. He said he failed to see the relevance in what he taught. His employment history was patchy from then until 1971 when he began to live off the land. Necessity forced him to find occasional jobs from time to time, but was mainly unemployed until his arrest.

He had a few brief contacts with mental health systems and only underwent psychological testing as part of a routine study of young men while attending Harvard.

At the University of Michigan he became deeply troubled about his sexuality. He began to question his sexual identity when he experienced intense and persistent sexual excitement involving fantasies of being a woman. He became convinced he should undergo sex change surgery and went to the University Health Center to start the process.

As he waited to see a doctor, he planned on ways to convince the medicos he was a prime candidate for the sex change. But when his time to see the doctor actually came, he pretended to be there for a different reason. He claimed he left feeling shame, rage and humiliation.

The other health systems he contacted over the years represented various attempts to find support in establishing a meaningful relationship with a woman. He never did.

Instead, he formed a dual relationship with the wilderness — and murder.

They came together in the small cabin he built on a piece of land in Lincoln, Montana.

 

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