The Infamous Unabomber

Driver's license photo of Kaczynski from 1978, around the time the first bombs were mailed
Driver’s license photo of Kaczynski from 1978, around the time the first bombs were mailed


Theodore John Kaczynski, commonly known as the Unabomber, is a name that strikes fear and intrigue in the hearts and minds of many. His reign of terror spanned nearly two decades, as he meticulously crafted and sent mail bombs that killed three people and injured many others.

Ted Kaczynski died on the 10th of June of 2023, at the ripe old age of 81 after having been sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Kaczynski’s story is not just one of violence, but also of a troubled mind that eventually succumbed to radical ideologies, fuelled in part by more than 200 hours of MK ULTRA experiments he was subjected to at the hands of the CIA’s doctor Henry Murray.

Early Life and Academic Brilliance

Theodore John Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. He displayed exceptional intellectual abilities from a young age, showing particular aptitude in mathematics. Kaczynski had an extremely high IQ of 167, which allow him to skip sixth grade and later eleventh grade.

Ted and David Kaczynski as children. Copyright - David Kaczynski.
Ted and David Kaczynski as children. Copyright – David Kaczynski.

Ted Kaczynski’s upbringing and academic brilliance caught the attention of Harvard University, where he was admitted at the age of 16. He graduated from Harvard University at the age of 20 and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan. It was during his time at Michigan that his mental health began to deteriorate, leading him down a path of isolation and radicalization.

The MK Ultra Experiments and Ted Kaczynski

The MK Ultra experiments, a covert CIA program conducted during the Cold War era, remain one of the most controversial chapters in the history of mind control and unethical human experimentation. While the program aimed to explore the potential of mind-altering substances and psychological manipulation, one of its unintended consequences may have had a significant impact on the life of Ted Kaczynski, the man known as the Unabomber.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) initiated the MK Ultra program, with the goal of exploring mind control techniques and developing methods to counter the perceived threat of Soviet mind control capabilities. The program involved a range of experiments, including the administration of LSD and other psychoactive drugs to unwitting subjects, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, and psychological manipulation.

As a young adolescent enrolled at Harvard University, Kaczynski participated in an MK Ultra experiment led by Henry Murray. Henry Murray was a psychologist at the same university who worked for the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA) and was famous for conducting brutally abusive and psychologically damaging experiments on minors and undergraduate students.

Henry Murray
Henry Murray

Kaczynski was part of a “purposely brutalizing psychological experiment” filled with verbal, physical and substance abuse that lasted 200 hours over the course of 3 years. While the youngster claimed back then that the experiments had “no significant effect on his life” and that he was “confident” in the abilities of Henry Murray, it is clear that the anger, rage and humiliation he suffered as part of MK Ultra experiments changed his life and his mind forever. He would later claim that it was “the worst experience of his life”.

It has been argued that that the psychological trauma resulting from potential experimentation could have contributed to his later radicalization and violent acts.

While the mind manipulation aspect tends to be ignored by almost every mainstream outlet when reporting on his crimes, it is worth mentioning that Lee Harvey Oswald (alias A.J. Hidell), much like Kaczynski, was also a subject of MK Ultra experimentation and was pushed to kill the then president of the United States, J.F Kennedy. This was a “conspiracy” until newly declassified documents came about last year which proved beyond reasonable doubt that not only was the CIA behind the killing of one of the greatest presidents the US has ever had, but they had done so by means of brainwashing Lee Harvey Oswald (whose 201 file was opened under the name Lee Henry Oswald) and forever ruining in the process the life of a young man who had a bright future.

The trigger that altered Lee Harvey Oswald’s state of mind and pushed him over to kill President Kennedy, was the book “Brave New World”, by Aldous Huxley. He received a copy in the mail that morning. Interestingly, Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby, is said to have received the same book the day that he killed Lee Harvey Oswald.

The MK Ultra program remained largely undisclosed to the public until its exposure in the 1970s, when investigations and congressional hearings shed light on its existence. However, due to the destruction of most of the program’s records in 1973, many details regarding the experiments, including possible connections to individuals like Kaczynski, remain shrouded in secrecy.

Revised FBI sketch of serial bomber known as the Unabomber, based on witness recollection after killing of store manager Hugh Scrutton. (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Revised FBI sketch of serial bomber known as the Unabomber, based on witness recollection after killing of store manager Hugh Scrutton. (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

In 1966, only a few short years after the MK Ultra experiments, Ted Kaczynski began to suffer from intense gender dysphoria and was consumed by sexual fantasies centred on being a woman. This inner struggle led him to contemplate undergoing a gender transition. It has been speculated that this was brought about because he was experiencing extreme cognitive dissonance due to episodes of paranoid schizophrenia. Whether paranoid schizophrenia was an innate condition Ted suffered or was brought about by the extreme mental pressure he was put under Henry Murray’s MK Ultra experiments, is something that we will never know.

The potential connection between Ted Kaczynski and the MK Ultra experiments raises significant ethical concerns surrounding human experimentation and its long-lasting effects. The experiments conducted under MK Ultra violated fundamental principles of informed consent and the well-being of the subjects involved. These actions not only undermined the trust between citizens and their government but also had far-reaching consequences for the lives of those unwittingly subjected to experimentation.

A Life of Isolation and Radicalization

After completing his doctorate, Kaczynski became a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. However, the pressures of academia and his growing discontent with modern society led him to abandon his career and retreat to a secluded cabin in the Montana wilderness in 1971. Living off the grid, Kaczynski began to develop his anti-technology and anti-industrialization beliefs, which formed the foundation of his later manifesto.

Kaczynski as an assistant professor at UC Berkeley in 1968
Kaczynski as an assistant professor at UC Berkeley in 1968 – Oberwolfach Photo Collection

His anti-technology beliefs grew increasingly radical, ultimately leading him to carry out a series of bombings targeting technological institutions.

The Unabomber’s Reign of Terror

Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski orchestrated a series of meticulously crafted mail bombs that terrorized the United States. He targeted universities, airlines, and other institutions associated with modern technology.

His methodical approach involved crafting and mailing homemade explosive devices, which earned him the moniker “Unabomber” from the FBI (short for “University and Airline Bomber”). His actions caused widespread panic and uncertainty as law enforcement agencies struggled to identify and apprehend the perpetrator.

Kaczynski meticulously constructed his explosive devices using common materials, such as wood, metal, and wiring, making them difficult to trace back to their source. He carefully packaged and mailed his deadly creations, often under the guise of innocent-looking packages, perpetuating a climate of fear and uncertainty.

Ted Kaczynski's cabin, 1996.
Kaczynski’s cabin, 1996. From 1971 until his arrest, Mr Kaczynski lived in a shack he built himself in rural Montana. He forsook running water, read by the light of homemade candles, stopped filing federal tax returns and subsisted on rabbits.

The Unabomber’s bombings claimed the lives of three innocent individuals and injured at least 23 others.  His first victim, Hugh Scrutton, was killed in 1985 when he unsuspectingly opened a package left outside his computer store in Sacramento, California. Over the years, Kaczynski’s bombs caused injuries ranging from minor burns to severe mutilation, forever altering the lives of those caught in the blast.

Beyond the physical damage caused by the bombings, the psychological impact on the victims, their families, and society as a whole cannot be underestimated. The fear instilled by the Unabomber’s reign of terror lingered long after each explosive event, as people became wary of opening packages or became hyper-vigilant in public spaces. The bombings fuelled a sense of vulnerability and paranoia, reminding society of the potential for violence to strike unexpectedly.

Theodore J. Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, was flanked by federal agents as he was led from the federal courthouse in Helena, Mont., in 1996.Credit...Associated Press
Theodore J. Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, was flanked by federal agents as he was led from the federal courthouse in Helena, Mont., in 1996.Credit…Associated Press

The FBI launched one of the longest and largest manhunts, with a task force of over 150 different personnel and spent over $50 million throughout the course of the investigation. Meanwhile, Ted Kaczynski sent at least 16 different to various newspapers between 1978 and 1995.

In 1995, Kaczynski mailed several media outlets demanding to print verbatim his 35,000-word manifesto titled “Industrial Society and Its Future” (commonly known as the Unabomber manifesto”. The Manifesto was published on September 1995 by the Washington Post. It was his brother David, at the urging of his wife, who recognize Ted’s words in the manifesto and other letters he had sent to newspapers previously who turned him to the authorities. Ted Kaczynski was arrested on April 3, 1996.

An FBI reproduction of one of Kaczynski's bombs, once on display at the now-defunct Newseum in Washington, D.C.
An FBI reproduction of one of Kaczynski’s bombs, once on display at the now-defunct Newseum in Washington, D.C.

In 1998, Ted Kaczynski pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Incarcerated at the ADX Florence Supermax prison in Colorado, he has had limited contact with the outside world. Over the years, Kaczynski has expressed some remorse for his actions but remained steadfast in his belief that his bombings were necessary to convey his anti-technology message. Ted Kaczynski died on the 10th of June 2023.

Kaczynski after his arrest in 1996
Kaczynski after his arrest in 1996

Industrial Society and Its Future: The Unabomber Manifesto

In an attempt to justify his violent acts and anti-technology and anti-industrialization message, Kaczynski composed a lengthy manifesto titled “Industrial Society and Its Future,” also known as the “Unabomber Manifesto.” In it, he outlined his beliefs, arguing that the advancement of technology and industrialization was destroying nature, human freedom, and individuality.

To garner attention for his manifesto, Kaczynski struck a deal with major newspapers, promising to halt the bombings if they published his manifesto, hoping to disseminate his ideas to a wider audience. In 1995, Kaczynski’s brother recognized his writing style in the manifesto and ultimately turned him in to the authorities, leading to his arrest and subsequent conviction.

These notes written by Mr. Kaczynski included a map with information on hidden food supplies.
These notes written by Mr. Kaczynski included a map with information on hidden food supplies. Associated Press/KPIX-TV San Francisco

Key Points and Controversies

Kaczynski’s central argument revolves around the notion of the “industrial-technological system.” He asserts that modern industrial society, driven by technology and its ever-increasing influence, poses significant threats to individual freedom, nature, and human well-being. He criticizes the system for prioritizing efficiency and productivity over individual autonomy and argues that it perpetuates a dehumanizing and environmentally destructive way of life.

The Manifesto presents five key arguments, each shedding light on our relationship with technology and its potential consequences.

Firstly, it posits that modern technology exists as an all-encompassing, self-sustaining ‘system’ beyond the reach of human control. Secondly, it highlights the biological and psychological mismatch between humans and life within a technological society. Thirdly, it asserts that the relentless advancement of this technological system will inevitably result in catastrophe, either through the annihilation of humanity or its complete subjugation to the system. Fourthly, recognizing the futility of attempting to control or reform the technological system, it advocates for a revolutionary upheaval to avert the impending disaster. Lastly, it critiques leftist activism, labelling it as a superficial form of rebellion that serves to divert attention away from the fundamental issue of technology.

FBI poster offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the Unabomber's capture
FBI poster offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the Unabomber’s capture
The Loss of Freedom

According to Kaczynski, technological progress and industrialization lead to the erosion of personal freedoms. He believes that individuals become increasingly dependent on complex systems and institutions, sacrificing their autonomy in exchange for convenience and comfort. He warns of a future where people are enslaved by technology, manipulated by mass media, and stripped of their ability to think critically and independently.

The Destructive Impact on Nature

Another key aspect of the Unabomber Manifesto is Kaczynski’s critique of the environmental consequences of industrial society. He argues that the relentless pursuit of economic growth and technological advancement is ravaging the natural world, leading to the degradation of ecosystems, the loss of biodiversity, and the destruction of the planet’s delicate balance. He highlights the urgent need to re-evaluate our relationship with nature and adopt sustainable practices to mitigate environmental harm.

The Discontented and Alienated Individual

Kaczynski contends that the industrial-technological system generates profound psychological and social consequences. He suggests that individuals in modern society experience a sense of alienation, disconnected from authentic human experiences and trapped in a cycle of consumerism and materialism. He argues that this disconnection from meaningful relationships and a sense of purpose contributes to widespread unhappiness, anxiety, and a pervasive feeling of emptiness.

Kaczynski Against Leftism

“Leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology. Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to bind together the entire world (both nature and the human race) into a unified whole.”

Kaczynski devotes a large chunk of his manifesto attacking leftism

But in a powerful paragraph, he argues that the conservatives are fools too.

Unabomber on Why Conservatives are fools
Unabomber on Why Conservatives are fools


In the years since his capture, Kaczynski’s writings and actions have been studied by psychologists, criminologists, and sociologists to better understand the factors that contribute to radicalization and violent extremism. His case underscores the need for improved mental health support, early intervention, and social connectivity to prevent individuals from descending into extremism and resorting to violence.

While Kaczynski’s manifesto raises valid concerns about the impact of technology and industrialization, it is essential to separate the ideas from the violent actions associated with it. The Unabomber’s bombings, intended to garner attention for his beliefs, overshadow any potential legitimacy his arguments may hold. The extreme and indiscriminate nature of his violence undermines the credibility and moral authority of his message.

Moreover, critics argue that Kaczynski’s analysis is excessively simplistic and fails to acknowledge the benefits and progress brought about by technological advancements. They assert that technology can be harnessed for positive change, such as advancing medical research, improving communication, and enhancing quality of life. They contend that the focus should be on responsible innovation, ethical practices, and finding a balance between progress and sustainability.


Ted Kaczynski’s bombings left an indelible mark on American history, serving as a grim reminder of the destructive potential of radical ideologies and violence. His case raised important questions about the impact of technology on society and the erosion of personal freedoms. The Unabomber’s bombings also shed light on the ethical considerations surrounding the responsible use of technology and the potential consequences of unchecked technological advancement.

While the alleged connection between the MK Ultra experiments and Ted Kaczynski’s radicalization remains speculative, it highlights the broader ethical questions surrounding covert government programs and the long-term effects of unethical human experimentation. The MK Ultra experiments continue to serve as a stark reminder of the potential abuses that can occur when scientific curiosity is allowed to run amok without proper oversight and safeguards.

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