unabomber ted kaczynski

The Unabomber

This is the true story of the most intelligent serial killer our nation has ever produced. Ted Kaczynski had a higher IQ than Einstein and used the postal service to deliver handmade bombs to targets over the course of a 17 year long domestic terrorism campaign.

*This transcript may not be 100% accurate. Interviews are done by an automatic service and also sometimes I cut things in the edit that I don’t update in the script.

*got a review criticizing me for citing a quote from Keith Ablow. Turns out he’s not a very good dude. Going to pull it from the episode. Also had someone message me about Hans Asperger. Going to address that next episode.


A billion hours ago, homo sapiens evolved.

A billion minutes ago, Christianity began.

A billion seconds ago, the world wide web was launched.

A billion pieces of mail ago was yesterday.

Every day, around 50 million packages are delivered in the United States.

And if one is addressed to us, we don’t give it a second thought before opening it.

This is the true story of a mathematical genius who used the postal service to deliver explosives in a 17 year long campaign of terror.

He’s the most intelligent serial killer our nation has ever produced.

My name is Lowell Brillante and this is the dark side of Prodigy

Theodore John Kaczynski was born in Chicago in 1942. 

Seven years later, his brother David was born. They developed a powerful bond that became the most important relationship in his life.

It was obvious to everyone that Ted was not ordinary. He had a tendency to isolate, and studied mathematics religiously.

David recalls asking his mother one day what’s wrong with Ted? She told him that Ted was originally a joyful, giggling baby, but had an allergic reaction requiring a week in the hospital. When he got home he was never the same.

In the fifth grade Ted was administered a Stanford Binet IQ test and scored 167. This is higher than Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

After the test, the Kaczynskis met with the school guidance counselor, and determined that Ted should skip the sixth grade. 

He attributed this jump as a major hindrance to his social development.

Ted was not accepted by the older kids and called it a disaster that made him resentful and filled him with a desire for revenge.

Dr Schug: When we’re kids, you know, we develop at such a rapid rate and not just in terms of intellectually or mental abilities, but socially, right.

This is Dr Robert Schug. A forensic psychologist.

Dr Schug: And so, the difference between, you know, a fifth grader and a sixth grader, socially can be enormous.

Ted’s mother Wanda began to worry about her son’s mental health. She noticed that he was becoming even more withdrawn than usual. 

Dr Schug: He already was having challenges relating with other people. And this has been documented. Even his parents noticed this very early on, connecting socially with others was difficult.

She considered entering him into a program for autism. But decided against it, after observing how the doctor behaved with the other child.

Turns out her instinct was right. The doctor was Bruno Bettelheim. He attributed the disorder to parenting and popularized the term “refrigerator mother” because he believed autism was caused by emotional frigid mothers. His accounts of “curing patients” have been discredited. In fact there’s evidence that many of his patients were never even autistic at all.  After his death it was discovered that he had lied about his qualifications and had only taken a few introductory psychology courses. If you need another reason to dislike him, he criticized victims of the holocaust.

Academically Ted excelled in every subject but was exceptionally good at mathematics. Even advanced classes presented no challenge to him.

At the end of his sophomore year, the school recommended that Ted skip another grade. 

Dr Schug: When we’re adults, you know, a 25 year old can relate to a 30 year old or 35 year old, pretty much with no problem. But at that early age, I think because there’s so much going on with brain development, you know, socially, we’re just, we’re very different even from year to year.

Ted was now two years younger than his classmates. But, there was no sign of distress in his grades, and school reports show that he made a strong impression on his teachers. They routinely praised his character, paying special note to his “courtesy,” “self-discipline,” and “respect for law and order.”

Academically things were going very well and in the fall of 1958, 16-year old Ted Kaczynski began his first year at Harvard.

For his freshman year, Ted was reserved and quiet, but seemed to adapt well to campus life. In fact, he later wrote that his time at the school gave him, Quote “something that I had been needing all along without knowing it, namely, hard work requiring self-discipline and strenuous exercise of my abilities. I threw myself into this. … I thrived on it. … Feeling the strength of my own will, I became enthusiastic about will power.”

But that sense of personal growth would be threatened in the fall of his sophomore year, when Ted volunteered to take part in a psychological study for the school’s Department of Social Relations. To participate, subjects were asked to submit detailed personal essays, espousing their philosophical beliefs and aspirations. They would then have a chance to debate their views with a fellow student.

Ted was among the 22 undergraduates accepted to the study.

Dr Schug: This was this very interesting time in research psychology when researchers and scientists were able to get away with things that would be impossible to do today.

The study in question was overseen by Dr. Henry A. Murray, a famed psychologist who had previously  worked for the Office of Strategic Services — a World War II precursor to the CIA. Murray’s role had been developing psychological screening tests for applicaticants and in training spies to better withstand intense interrogation, in the event that they should be captured by the enemy.

Dr Schug: And then after that war’s done, he gets a job at Harvard and a lot of folks thought that he just sort of continued his spy training methods under the sort of auspices of scientific research.

One of the goals of the Harvard study was to assess how the human psyche responded under stress. Ted was led to believe that the stress he would be subjected to would be that of a lively debate, one rthat would require him to defend his personal philosophies against rigorous critique. But when Ted and the other subjects showed up for their first debate, they found a much more intense experience waiting for them.

Dr Schug: This was before institutional review boards and people were not as critical about research. And it’s interesting in terms of the spirit of science, because they were out to get answers about human behavior and it was uncharted territory. So they really had a lot of liberty to do things that today would be considered harmful. 

The subjects were seated in front of a bright light and electrodes were attached so that researchers could measure their bodily responses. Instead of debating a fellow undergrad, they would actually be defending themselves against a Harvard law student.

But the law students were not there to take part in a genuine discourse. They had been instructed to attack the student’s most deeply held beliefs. 

Dr Schug: When you boil it down it was just a big bullying kind of scenario, where they put people through very stressful interactions with others to see how they responded. 

Dr. Murray himself described the ensuing attacks as quote “vehement, sweeping, and personally abusive.”

Ted reportedly became more withdrawn the longer the study went on. He spent less time with friends and began fantasizing about escaping to the wilderness to live a simpler life. It was also during this time that he began to finetune his personal philosophy, perhaps as a way to rationalize or legitimize the growing frustration he felt. 

Dr Schug: There are a lot of people that feel that this experience might have sort of helped to create the Unabomber or that it sort of shaped him in some way.

He determined that the advance of modern technology was at odds with both personal freedom and the natural world. The system, as he saw it, had been built in service of technology, not humanity, and as a consequence, people were compelled to adjust their lives to suit technology, rather than the other way around.

By the time Ted Kaczynski graduated in 1962, he had logged roughly 200 hours to the experiment.

Dr Schug: That’s a lot of time in any sort of psychological experiment. You, you wouldn’t be able to do that today

His defense team would later use his participation in the study as the foundation for an insanity plea — one that Ted would refuse to go along with.

When pressed by his attorneys about why he had continued with the study, why he had submitted himself for verbal abuse week in and week out, Ted said it was to prove that he could take it. To show them that he “couldn’t be broken.”

To this day, Ted maintains that the Harvard study had no lasting effect on him. A famous article was published in the atlantic by classmate Alston Chase titled “Harvard and the making of the unabomber.” Alston argues that Harvard’s general education studies delivered a twofold message of A. Science threatens civilization and B. Science cannot be stopped. Alston attributes this message and the Murray study as the ingredients that transformed Kaczynski into the Unabomber.

Ted graduated from Harvard and in 1962, enrolled at the University of Michigan. His academic success continued. One of his professor’s said, “It is not enough to say that he is smart.”

He made a few fitful attempts to connect with women but could never bring himself to actually ask for a date.  If you’ve never seen a picture of a young Ted, he was quite handsome, I’ll post a picture on the episode page. Even so intimacy seemed impossible for him.

In 1966, over a period of several weeks he experienced intense sexual fantasies of being a female.

Ted visited a psychiatrist for the required evaluation before a sex change operation. He ultimately talked himself out of the idea while in the waiting room.

Ted believed that this was a transformative moment in his life. Later he wrote, “As I walked away from the building afterwards, I felt disgusted about what my uncontrolled sexual cravings had almost led me to do. And I felt humiliated, and I violently hated the psychiatrist. Just then there came a major turning point in my life. Like a Phoenix, I burst from the ashes of my despair to a glorious new hope.”

Ted’s initial thought had been to kill the psychiatrist and then himself. But because of his newfound “hope,” he decided to be more methodical, more patient.


“I will kill,” he wrote, “But I will make at least some effort to avoid detection, so that I can kill again.”


Later prosecutors would argue that he was not actually pursuing a vendetta against the oppression of technology, instead he simply wanted to kill people.

Ted wrote, “ I tended to feel that I was a particularly important person and superior to most of the rest of the human race. . . . It just came to me as naturally as breathing to feel that I was someone special.”

The next year Ted’s PHD dissertation was awarded Michigan’s best mathematical dissertation of the year. His advisor said it was the best he’d ever directed and a member of the committee said only a few people in the country could understand or appreciate it.

After earning his doctoral degree, 25-year-old Ted Kaczynski took a job as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. The youngest in history to hold the position. This would be a proud achievement for most, but for Ted, it was just a means to an end. His escape to the wilderness would require money, and teaching was the fastest way to get it.

Ted Wrote: “True I would not fit into the present society in any case but that is not an intolerable situation. What makes a situation intolerable is the fact that in all probability, the values that I detest will soon be achieved through science, an utterly complete and permanent victory throughout the whole world, with a total extrication of everything I value. Through super human computers and mind control there simply will be no place for a rebellious person to hide, and my kind of people will vanish forever from the earth. It’s not merely the fact that I cannot fit into society that has induced me to rebel as violently as I have, it is the fact that I can see society made possible by science inexorably imposing on me.”

So after just two years on the job, Ted resigned.

The administration tried convincing Ted to stay but he saw little worth in the field.  In his 2003 book, he wrote: “If I had worked on applied mathematics, I would have contributed to the development of the technological society that I hated, so I worked only on pure mathematics. But pure mathematics was only a game.”

Ted moved to rural Montana where he bought an acre of land and bu ilt a small cabin. He grew vegetables, hunted for food and used an old bicycle to get around town. He kept in touch with his parents and brother, though this would change by the late 1970s, when Ted began to accuse his parents of emotional abuse. He resented the importance they had placed on his education and blamed them for his social inadequacies.

Ted once said that his brother was the only person he’d ever truly loved. Yet when David got married, Ted cut him out, too. In a letter to David, he wrote “that every last tie joining me to this stinking family has been cut FOREVER and that I will never NEVER have to communicate with any of you again.”

By 1975, Ted had grown disillusioned with life in the woods. Real estate development and industrial projects had begun to encroach on his peaceful surroundings. There was no escape, it seemed, from the march of technological progress.

Ted’s response was to lash out through petty acts of sabotage. He dumped sand in the engines of a nearby sawmill and ransacked the cabin of a group of noisy bikers. But his efforts were futile, and the perceived loss of peace in what was meant to be his oasis proved to be his breaking point.

In a 1999 interview, Ted recalled the anger he felt upon discovering that one of his favorite hiking spots had been paved over:

“That summer there were too many people around my cabin so I decided I needed some peace. I went back to the plateau and when I got there I found they had put a road right through the middle of it … You just can’t imagine how upset I was. It was from that point on I decided that, rather than trying to acquire further wilderness skills, I would work on getting back at the system. Revenge.”

In 1978, Ted Kaczynski began sending parcel bombs to scientists, airline officials, business executives, and others whose work he considered linked to the technological system he despised. 

Tracking Kaczynski proved extremely difficult and would become the longest and most expensive manhunt in FBI history. 

We’ll get into that after a quick break.

Ted’s first 2 bombs were sent to Northwestern university resulting in minor wounds. His 3rd bomb was triggered while aboard American Airlines Flight 444. Due to a faulty timing mechanism no one was injured but attacking an airplane is a federal crime so the FBI opened a case. They called it Unabom because the targets had been a university and airline. The media quickly dubbed him the Unabomber.

Jim: Yeah. without a doubt, the most personnel assigned to it at a separate task force and, in San Francisco was established in 94.

That’s James R. Fitzgerald, an FBI profiler who worked the case. He was one of the first people to use forensic linguistics in criminal profiling.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Since everyone writes and speaks differently, it’s like a fingerprint. You can use it to identify all sorts of information about a person.

And that there were, at any given time, at least a hundred agents and analysts working it not to mention it was the first time ever, I think, in the world, but certainly in the U S. Better reward is high as $1 million was ever offered. it doesn’t sound like that much today. it was 25 million for Osama bin Laden after nine 11, but $1 million was a lot of money in 1994 when it was put out there.

His bombs were handcrafted, cobbled together from spare wood and machine parts stolen from neighbors. The bombs became increasingly complex as Ted refined his methods and learned how to make them more powerful. 

Jim: With a serial bomber and tied into that, is also the, practice, if you will. And the perfection that the bomber was accruing, undertaking, and then accruing as he was making these IED improvised, explosive devices, he was in fact getting better with everyone

With bombers, it’s not just making more sophisticated, the power sources, the detonators, the, the, the wrappings, the packages, the plunger, the timer, the altimeter whatever’s hooked to it, but they also have to, But if they’re really getting angry and frustrated, they’ll put more shrapnel type material in their devices.

And that’s what we saw in the Unabomber case. There were more tax, more nails, more metallic pieces, and they’re only designed for one purpose. That is to rip flesh. So we knew our Unabomber was getting more and more, frustrated, angry, you know, anxiety filled and his, his, his weapons of choice. His IED were certainly an expression of that.

 In a 1987 computer store bombing in salt lake city, the elusive Kaczynski was finally spotted. This led to the famous Unabomber sketch complete with hood and aviators. After that sketch Ted was dormant for 6 whole years. This is probably the most intriguing part of Ted’s story to me. The fact that he was able to wait for 6 years before resuming.

Jim: If a composite sketch goes out and the person keeps offending. It means the sketches is a poor one and it doesn’t, it doesn’t look anything like them.

So we felt the Unabomber, whether it actually looked like him or not. he, he was concerned. He was scared and he said, Whoa, you know, this was a close call. And someone for the first time actually saw me, I got to take some time off. And of course for six years he did, he laid low. And, when I finally came into the investigation, I was told people thought, which was common sense, thinking, that either he killed himself with one of his bombs, or blew his hands off and couldn’t work on him anymore.

In many cases like the Unabomber, like BTK, just to name a few, they can’t keep away from re-offending or at least taunting the public or law enforcement. And that’s certainly what we had with the Unabomber. He came back with a vengeance in 93.

One of the most interesting things about the unabomber case was his ability to evade capture for so long.

Jim: He left. No. evidence whatsoever on his devices, in fact, or, or any documents that he wrote. So he was very careful, not to have any fingerprints. Not to have any indented writing on the documents and nothing, o  f course, in the devices, themselves, even the batteries. Cause every, every device needs a power source. Even the batteries had their skins ripped off very meticulously and very carefully. So even a lot number could not be determined from it. Like what part of the country they were brought in. So he was so clever.

The only clues left in his bombs were false ones, red herrings intended to throw law enforcement off his trail.

Jim: Under one of the, of the stamps on one of those letters around that timeframe was a blonde human hair. And everyone, including me as the new profiler assigned to the case said, this is way too sloppy for this guy. And it’s probably, it’s probably some sort of counter. evidentiary, movement on his part. And actually it turned out once he was arrested, we read his, his notes and journal in his cabin. We determined he purposefully. found a human hair in a men’s room on one of his bus trips, from, Lincoln Montana to San Francisco. And he purposely put that hair under a stamp. So not just not leaving his own evidence, but purposefully planting, false evidence, that is a highly sophisticated criminal.

By the early 1990s, the bombing campaign had taken on new meaning in Ted’s mind. No longer solely an act of personal revenge, he now saw it as the first painful step toward what could be a true societal shift. He believed that the only way to bring down the current oppressive system was through violent force, but he had no delusion about accomplishing the task on his own. Instead, he sought to incite a gradual revolution by 1. showing why such a revolution was necessary, and 2. by demonstrating how violence can be used to create the tense environment in which wide scale rebellion blooms.

In the late summer of 1995, with Unabomber headlines dominating the news, David’s wife Linda Patrik asked her husband, “Has it ever occurred to you, even as a remote possibility, that your brother might be the Unabomber?”

Linda had never met Ted. He declined to come to their wedding and never followed through on his promises to visit. She had read Ted’s letters to David, though, and she had heard all the stories from their mother, Wanda. She believed that Ted suffered from mental illness and that he might be capable of extreme violence.

But David thought the idea was beyond belief, and Linda dropped it.

In 1995, Ted delivered a 35,000-word manifesto to several major newspapers  and demanded that they distribute it nationwide. In exchange, he pledged that the bombings would stop and that he would quote “desist from terrorism.

After lengthy debate, Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh decided the work should be published in its entirety. They hoped that, perhaps, there was a reader out there who would recognize the author’s words.

Opinions varied on whether it was the right move to provide a platform for the philosophical musings of a serial killer. Many worried that the author’s goals might strike a chord with some readers and that they would be inspired to carry-out similar acts of violence in pursuit of them — as Ted Kaczynski had surely hoped.


The first line of the manifesto reads: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.”


With that assertion as his starting point, Kaczynski argued that the technological advances of the last few centuries have had crippling effects on both human life and the natural world. They’ve made us anxious and agitated and more unfulfilled and aimless than we were in “wild nature.” He predicted that, unless this tech-based system was demolished, future advances will lead to even greater suffering.

“It is very probable,” he wrote, “That in their attempt to end poverty and disease, engineer docile, happy personalities and so forth, the technophiles will create soci al systems that are terribly troubled, even more so than the present one.  . . . So it is not all clear that the survival of industrial society would involve less suffering than the breakdown of that society would. Technology has gotten the human race into a fix from which there is not likely to be any easy escape.”

He wrote that most people spend their time engaged in useless activities like consumption of entertainment, politics and following sports teams. He predicted that future technology would lead to human genetic engineering, and people would be made to fit the social system instead of the other way around. Freedom would be eroded because the system has to regulate human behavior closely in order to function. He stated many people understand these negative consequences but believe it to be inevitable.  However the struggle was not yet over and could still be stopped, but in the next 40 years or so will be determined. 

It’s been nearly that long since the manifesto and technology has made our lives more comfortable in nearly every way. We live longer, and suffer less but I want to pause here for a moment and ask you a question. Was Ted wrong?

Alston Chase wrote that the manifesto was greeted by many thoughtful people as a work of genius, and quite sane. A political scientist said it was carefully reasoned and artfully written also that If it is the work of a madman, then the writings of many political philosophers are scarcely more sane.

Psychiatrist Keith Ablow stated on Fox News that Kaczynski was “reprehensible for murdering and maiming people” but “precisely correct in many of his ideas”

Ted also wrote that leftism is driven primarily by feelings of inferiority and one of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world. Then he described conservatives as fools who whine about the decay of traditional values, yet enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth.”

Whether or not you agree with Ted’s philosophy, it’s impossible to dispute that his method was wrong. Not just morally but inefficient as well. He was filled with resentment from perceived injustices and lashing out in anger. If his goal really was to throw off the chains of technology, then he should have used words not bombs.


While the public was debating the content of the manifesto, the FBI was analyzing it.


Jim: The paper itself, the manifesto itself was set up like a 1940s, 1950s dissertation or a thesis. So we knew this guy had academic background. Highly educated exactly how far, a big debate about that. but, but just everything about this bomber lasting 17 years without getting caught, we knew he was, we knew he was different than your average, everyday criminal or even other serial bombers that the FBI had experienced in the past. This guy was an outlier. He was special. It was going to take something, if not unique, certainly highly idiosyncratic to identify them and arrest them.

Ted’s views were influenced by a book titled “the technological society” which he read over and over

Jim: So it isn’t like the Unabomber was just making this stuff up out of nowhere. 

It was written by French philosopher Jaques Eullul who explains that the goal of technology is absolute efficiency. People are molded to fit into the system which threatens our humanity.

Jim: But he never cited or mentioned it at all, which is interesting. He did mention a few other people, of course, in, in his, in his writings, but, in the manifesto, but not him. So. Yeah. And I said, you know, his argument is not original. It’s not unique. but we knew also from a behavioral perspective, a profiling perspective, you know, the anti-technology stuff was sort of his excuse. For doing it, but we realized there were deeper issues, you know, mental health, psychological to some degree that was actually behind him killing

When news broke that the Unabomber’s manifesto was to be published, Linda made her husband promise that he would read it. David agreed.  He figured he would be able to tell her it wasn’t
Ted and could put the matter to rest. 

However when he started reading  he realized the voice was so much like Ted’s. And then he noticed the phrase “cool headed logicians” which is how Ted referred to philosophers in a letter he had written him.

I think there’s a 50/50 chance it’s him, he told Linda.

Since there were innocent lives on the line, the couple decided to come forward. After taking steps to limit the chance of a violent FBI raid, David shared Ted’s letters and some of his other writings with law enforcement. Because the manifesto had been typed, there was no way to compare it with Ted’s handwriting.

However, FBI profilers still found plenty of connections between the writings. Linguistic analysis revealed striking similarities in the grammar, tone, and phrasing of the Unabomber Manifesto and the personal writing of Ted Kaczynski. For example, both cases included a distinctive misuse of an idiomatic phrase — Instead of saying “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” the author wrote, “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” Ironically Ted was actually ordering the phrase correctly, while everyone else was not.

Jim: I always had an interest in language and, and all of a sudden it all paid out, especially when I saw the expression. You can eat your cake and have it too, which was really the key to, the prosecutor finally saying. That’s the kind of smoking gun we need. Have we called it a linguistic smoking gun and, and that’s when the search warrant was officially, written up my affidavit and we, and, took it to the judge in Montana. It was signed off and, the arrest made and what we know the restaurant there. Great.

This transposition of verbs, along with other linguistic clues, helped the FBI determine that Ted and the Unabomber were one and the same. When these findings were paired with evidence from the bombings, the FBI had a strong enough case to obtain a search warrant for the Montana cabin.

On April 3, 1996, FBI agents arrested Ted Kaczynski and discovered a mountain of incriminating evidence in his cabin including the original manuscript of the manifesto, a live bomb ready to be mailed, another under construction and a 40,000 page journal documenting his crimes.

Over the course of a 17 year terror campaign, Ted had constructed and mailed 16 bombs, resulting in 3 deaths and 23 injuries. The longest and most expensive manhunt in history had come to an end but Ted’s story isn’t over. 

After 17 years, America’s most infamous terrorist was captured and in April 1996 Ted was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of murder and 10 counts of illegally transporting, mailing and using bombs. 

Ted’s public defense lawyers wanted to use an insanity plea but he rejected it and requested to dismiss his lawyers for one that would base his defense on anti-technology. After his request was denied Ted attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself with a garment of clothing. As his vision began to dim he realized his attempt may fail, and possibly cause brain damage so he stopped.

The attempt wasn’t even noticed until he showed up at court the next day with a red bruise around his neck and no underwear.

The judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine if Ted was mentally competent to stand trial and properly understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him. The report was unsealed in 1998 with a few parts redacted. The report mentions his experience at Harvard where he began to fantasize of living a primitive life and rousing mobs to frenzies of revolutionary violence. He would often become angry but couldn’t express it for fear of being caught and punished. Ted also describes the transformation he felt after deciding against the sex change. “What was entirely new was the fact that I really felt I could kill someone. My very hopelessness had liberated me because I no longer cared about my death.”

Dr Sally Johnson, the psychiatrist appointed to evaluate Ted, gave him a provisional diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and declared him competent to stand trial.

Jim: He hated the field of psychology and psychiatry. He rails against them in the manifesto, in his personal writings. He fought tooth and nail with his defense about, about even having a psych of our dealing at all with the, with the shrinks and he, you know, for weeks and weeks and weeks, he refused to talk to them about it. He did not want to be seen as crazy. He did not believe in the field of psychology. So. who knows what the actual results are? I, I’m not sure he’s a, you know, paranoid schizophrenia or not. He definitely has some, you know, what they call access to personality disorders, paranoia, what have her, what have you

In order to avoid the death penalty, he pled guilty and was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole, to be served at the ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.


He remains there to this day.


The curious thing about Ted Kaczynski is even with all the information we have, we still aren’t really certain why he did it.

Jim: I think most of his were just personal self-loathing, and, and, and anger and anxiety towards his parents and his upbringing and the fact that he could never meet a woman and never get in a relationship. He went to prison as a Virgin. He never had intimate relations with a woman. He was a straight man. He wrote in his journal. And what have you? so, a lot of frustration there too. And as I’ve said in recent times, I didn’t invent that term in cell involuntary celibacy. others did. And we now know more about that in the last five to 10 years.

There are websites devoted to it. There’s been killings in California, in Toronto, by people subscribing to this. To me, it’s clear. Cause Minsky was an insult. Again, he didn’t use that term. He didn’t write it in his letters to the public or the New York times, but reading his own, notes, journals, diaries, all that stuff. He was very, very frustrated about his lack of interpersonal relationships with women and, There, no doubt that that anger, manifested itself with him, aiming at and targeting these representational victims for various reasons. And they’ve sort of morphed over time in his 17-year career. So, so yeah, he’s a complicated guy with a lot of issues going on there, but it’s, and again, his stated cause was, you know, he was anti-technology and we should move back to an agrarian society of tribes of 30 people or less. But, but in, you know, in reality he was a very angry man frustrated by his life and, his way of reacting was to kill people.

Incel is short for  involuntary celibate. Meaning a person who is unable to attract a sexual partner. The word is associated with angry, misogynistic, socially inept males. But it’s not an explanation, it’s a symptom.  of an underlying issue. 

Why was Ted unable to connect with people? He came from a stable home, he was attractive, intelligent and on an excellent career path. I realize that disorders don’t manifest themselves the same way in everyone but the provisional diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia by Dr Sally Johnson is definitionely questionable.  First off it was provisional because he wasn’t displaying symptoms. In fact there were only a couple isolated incidents during graduate school where Ted recalled believing that people were talking negatively about him when he couldn’t be certain they actually were. I think most people have had moments like that.

Her diagnosis was mostly based on 2 things. 1. That Ted’s view on technology was paranoia and 2. The intense blame he focused on his parents.

Although Ted has repeatedly denied further evaluations, which makes him impossible to officially diagnose, Arturo Silva and colleagues published an article in the american journal of forensic psychiatry presenting a different explanation for his behavior.

Dr Schug: They did a really nice job of kind of connecting the dots from his childhood to adolescence, to adulthood, again, sort of painting the picture of the type of man who at least be capable of this series of bombings.

The article makes a convincing argument that Ted has Asperger’s syndrome combined with antisocial disorder and/or narcissistic personality disorder. Two or more disorders in an individual is called comorbidity. 

Here are the main symptoms of anti-social disorder that Ted displayed. Disregard for right and wrong, a sense of superiority, criminal behavior, ignoring the rights of others, violence, lack of empathy, poor relationships, and failure to consider the negative consequences of behavior.

In the DSM 5, Asperger’s was combined into the autism spectrum. But this was controversial because some experts argue that individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s do not always meet the definition of autism. They agree it’s related to autism but different enough to be classified separately. Individuals with Asperger’s are high functioning, with normal to above average intelligence and don’t experience a language delay. They primarily experience some form of social deficiency a

In order to consider this diagnosis a possibility for Ted I think we need to look at it through the lens of asperger’s and not autism.

Here are a few observations. 

First social difficulties are common to both. Ted was plagued by the inability to develop meaningful relationships throughout his life. He misinterpreted social interactions. For instance he asked out a cardiologist who medically evaluated him just once. However he was able to engage in social interactions with normal levels of eye contact and non-verbal gestures which is uncommon for individuals on the spectrum.

The pediatrician who discovered Asperger’s in 4 boys, Dr Asperger, described them as “little professors” because of their intense interest and knowledge in a subject. Ted was described by his neighbor Dr. Weinberg as “an old man before his time.” Asperger’s is also characterized by a lack of empathy, little ability to form relationships and intense absorption in special interests. Ted meets all of these criteria.

His specialty was in mathematics which is conducive to a repetitive, pervasive and isolated environment. Later his obsession became anti-technology and his focus shifted to the construction of bombs. Even more specifically he developed an obsession with wood. The bombs were primarily constructed of it and some victims seemed to be chosen based on their relation to it including Percy Wood, Leroy Wood and a timbre industry lobbyist.

His manifesto included irregular spelling, hyphenation and other linguistic idiosyncrasies which meets another criteria.

Aspergers is heritable, however it is also believed to be activated by environmental factors, so it is actually possible that Ted’s childhood infection was the catalyst.

Although this seems to be a better explanation of his behavior, it is very difficult to differentiate his behavior from schizoid personality disorder without clinical observation. Since Ted notoriously refuses psychoanalysis, we’ll likely never know one way or another. 

I want to emphasize that in no way am I attributing Ted’s actions to Asperger’s. His mind was like a cocktail and since Ted notoriously refuses psychoanalysis, we’ll likely never know the ingredients.

When asked if he was afraid of losing his mind in prison, Theodore Kaczynski said, “No, what worries me is that I might in a sense adapt to this environment and come to be comfortable here and not resent it anymore. And I am afraid that as the years go by that I may forget, I may begin to lose my memories of the mountains and the woods and that’s what really worries me, that I might lose those memories, and lose that sense of contact with wild nature in general. But I am not afraid they are going to break my spirit.”


I have so many questions to answer, and a ton of really interesting topics to cover. So please subscribe to the show, because I’ll be back next week, with another episode of Prodigy. 

Prodigy was created and produced by me, Lowell Brillante. The executive producer is TK which stands for Tyler Klang, not Ted Kaczynski. 

Ted’s quotes were voiced by Ben Bowlin, he’s the executive producer and host of the shows, “stuff they don’t want you to know” and “ridiculous history” Show him some love on twitter @benbowlinHSW

Dr Robert Schug is a Professor of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Forensic Psychology at California state university long beach.

James R. Fitzgerald is a retired FBI criminal profiler and author. If you like true crime definitely grab a copy of his book series, a journey to the center of the mind. You can find more info at jamesrfitzgerald.com

Very special thanks to Rob Lamb and Joe McCormick, if you like prodigy then check out their brilliant show “stuff to blow your mind”