The Truth About the Unabomber’s Cabin in Montana

Theodore Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, came to the attention of the FBI in 1978. Between then and 1995, he would be responsible for over a dozen explosive devices and many deaths. During this 17 year period, the FBI says that he would mail or hand-deliver an increasingly-sophisticated series of explosives.

The Unabomber had a cabin in the woods of Montana, and this was his base of operations. This small cabin was outside Lincoln, and Kaczynski lived there for decades. The small cabin had an uncomfortable looking cot, a lot of unfinished wood surfaces, and was filled with all sorts of parts for making his devices, along with supplies and odds and ends.

5. He Would Write Letters

Theodore Kaczynski would write letters from inside his small Montana cabin. In fact, it was a 35,000 letter that he sent to the FBI that ultimately assisted in them catching him in 1996, when he was arrested.

Some of his letters were released publicly, but presumbily there are also plenty that weren’t. Here’s one that was released publicly by the FBI.

Text of Letter from Unabomber to Dr. David Gelernter

Dr. Gelernter:

People with advanced degrees aren’t as smart as they think they are. If you’d had any brains you would have realized that there are a lot of people out there who resent bitterly the way techno-nerds like you are changing the world and you wouldn’t have been dumb enough to open an unexpected package from an unknown source.

In the epilog of your book, “Mirror Worlds,” you tried to justify your research by claiming that the developments you describe are inevitable, and that any college person can learn enough about computers to compete in a computer-dominated world. Apparently, people without a college degree don’t count. In any case, being informed about computers won’t enable anyone to prevent invasion of privacy (through computers), genetic engineering (to which computers make an important contribution), environmental degradation through excessive economic growth (computers make an important contribution to economic growth) and so forth.

As for the inevitability argument, if the developments you describe are inevitable, they are not inevitable in the way that old age and bad weather are inevitable. They are inevitable only because techno-nerds like you make them inevitable. If there were no computer scientists there would be no progress in computer science. If you claim you are justified in pursuing your research because the developments involved are inevitable, then you may as well say that theft is inevitable, therefore we shouldn’t blame thieves.

But we do not believe that progress and growth are inevitable.

We’ll have more to say about that later.


P.S. Warren Hoge of the New York Times can confirm that this letter does come from FC.

4. There Was No Electricity

When authorities arrived to arrest the Unabomber, they also found a big pile of firewood. There was no electricity in Kaczynski’s cabin. He had to burn firewood for warmth, and even to heat up his foods.

This allowed him to stay off the grid, without a permanent address on file with the electric company or any of the things that come with that. Even though he worked with electrical devices, his cabin was warmed by wood.

3. It Was Like a Small Cell

Kaczynski is probably used to what it’s like inside a prison cell, since his cabin itself was like a small cell of sorts, where he spent many, many years. However, inside his prison cell, he doesn’t have access to any of his devices anymore, and he’s not able to continue the series of attacks he was responsible for.

2. It Had a Small Library

Kaczynski had a small library of books inside of his Montana cabin. Other than gathering firewood and plotting attacks, there wasn’t a ton to do out in the wilderness. Filmmaker James Benning had recreated the cabin and the library.

Some of the numerous books from the Unabomber’s small personal library included The Stranger (Albert Camus), 1984 (George Orwell), The Wasteland (T.S. Eliot), Selected Poems and Letters (Emily Dickenson), A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens), and many more.

1. You Could Visit It

In the past, the FBI had a self-guided tour in Washington, DC where you could walk around and read different things about the Unabomber, look at various pieces of evidence and things that were found by his cabin, and even see the cabin itself. The actual cabin where he toiled away was actually something you could visit, inside a museum, but it doesn’t appear that it’s open for tours anymore.

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