How Elusive Serial Killer Ted Kaczynski Was Unmasked As The Unabomber

The self-professed anarchist was captured in 1996 hiding out in a primitive Montana cabin.

Ted Kaczynski, pictured here in a mugshot, was indicted on multiple counts of bomb-related activity and three counts of murder in connection with the 16 explosions he created.

The Unabomber was unmasked in 1996 as Theodore John “Ted” Kaczynski, a certified genius and reclusive former math professor.

Photo by: FBI


By: Aaron Rasmussen

Who was the Unabomber?

Beginning at a Chicago university in 1978, a mail-bombing campaign by an unknown criminal mastermind killed three recipients and injured another 23. After an exhaustive yearslong manhunt, the Unabomber was unmasked in 1996 as Theodore John “Ted” Kaczynski, a certified genius and reclusive former math professor.

How did the FBI get involved in the Unabomber case?

According to former FBI agent and profiler Candice DeLong, host of ID’s Deadly Women and Facing Evil with Candice, Kaczynski initially chose targets at random but then started going after specific individuals. “He targeted United Airlines and the president of United Airlines,” she told CrimeFeed. “Then he mailed a bomb that got onto a plane, and it was fortunately not a good bomb. It was supposed to detonate at 5,000 feet, but instead it just smoldered in a bag of mail. That smoked up the plane, and they had an emergency landing.” A crime on an airplane is a Federal violation and that got the FBI officially involved in investigating the case.

Did anyone ever get close to catching the Unabomber?

Shortly after Kaczynski planted a device in a parking lot, a woman looked out her window and saw him dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and aviator sunglasses. “He stood up, and she looked right at him. Then he walked away,” former FBI agent DeLong said. “That’s where that famous composite sketch comes from. But because of that, he kind of went underground. He didn’t do any more activity for maybe five to six years.”

Why did they call Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber?

In 1979, the FBI teamed up with the ATF and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to form a task force to investigate the case they codenamed “UNABOMB” — a shorthand way of referring to the UNiversity and Airline BOMBing targets, the FBI says on its website.

Why did Ted Kaczynski do it?

Kaczynski was a self-professed anarchist and he claimed his mission was to fight mechanical technology, which he found dehumanizing. As a result, he initially went after scientists and computer specialists before expanding his campaign of terror.

When did the Unabomber get caught?

Kaczynski stopped mailing bombs in 1995 after The New York Times and The Washington Post agreed to published his 35,000-word manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future. On April 3, 1996, FBI agents raided Kaczynski’s primitive cabin in Montana and placed him under arrest.

Who turned in the Unabomber?

After Kaczynski’s manifesto was published, his brother, David, noticed similarities with what was written and facts about his troubled sibling’s life. According to the FBI, Ted Kaczynski grew up in Chicago, was once a teacher at the University of California at Berkeley, where two bombs detonated, lived in Salt Lake City and then moved to a tiny cabin near Lincoln, Montana. David also provided investigators with personal letters and other documents that linguist experts were able to use to conclusively connect Ted Kaczynski to the bombings.

What happened to the Unabomber?

Kaczynski was indicted on multiple counts of bomb-related activity and three counts of murder in connection with the 16 explosions he created. He eventually pleaded guilty to all charges against him in 1998, and a judge sentenced him to eight life terms without the possibility of parole. He turned 81 on May 22, 2023.

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