Remembering the Unabomber

A visit to the little town in Montana that Ted Kaczynski once called home. For my collective art and writing zine, Wolf Boy.

To the world, he was the Unabomber – Ted Kaczynski, the man whose homemade mail bombs killed three and wounded 23 in a decades-long terror campaign against what he perceived as the evils of technology.

But to the residents of Lincoln, a sleepy town in the Montana foothills, he was just Teddy.

“You always knew when Teddy was around, because he stunk,” said Gayle Steinbach, 38, who with her mother Vicki Krause owns the Sportsman Tavern on Lincoln's main street.

“Whenever he'd leave the grocery store, the cashiers would walk down the aisles spraying air freshener.”

“He was just another of the cabbage people,” said Krause, 60. “We called all the weird hippie squatter types cabbage people. There aren't many of them around anymore. When Teddy showed up there were lots of them.”

Kaczynski was convicted in 1998 of 10 counts of illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs, as well as three counts of murder. He is currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole at ADX Florence, a federal supermax prison near Florence, Colo.

Kaczynski manufactured the bombs in a hand-built cabin about three miles outside Lincoln, on a winding dirt road that passes sporadic small ranches and modest log homes. He occasionally rode a bicycle into town to buy groceries or to spend long hours in the library.

Roger Cochlin spoke with Kaczynski briefly outside a coin laundry one morning in the early 1990s.

“It was a cold, miserable morning,” said Cochlin, 65. “He said, 'Brisk morning, isn't it?' I said, 'Yep, no good for hunting.'”

“Yeah, except he was hunting people!” said Steinbach.

Kaczynski, who moved to the Lincoln area in 1971, was captured after a 35,000-word essay detailing his political and social views and opposition to technological society was published by the New York Times and Washington Post in 1995.

“If he hadn't written that manifesto, he'd still be up here,” said Krause. “This is Montana – you can just hide out and go nuts.”

FBI agents arrived in Lincoln in early 1996.

“They were so obvious,” said Ethel Peterson, 60, co-owner of The Wilderness Bar. “One night all these guys show up in big black SUVs with tinted windows, and they're all wearing brand-new camo outfits from Cabela's.”

“They just hung around shooting pool, but we knew something was up,” said Wilderness bartender Joyce Cheney, 49. “We figured it was a drug bust.”

“We were all pretty shocked when we found out they were here for Teddy,” Peterson said. “Some people thought he was D.B. Cooper,” referring to the suspect in an unsolved 1971 skyjacking.

After Kaczynski's arrest, international media attention was turned on Lincoln.

“They wanted to know what people here thought about what Teddy did,” Peterson said.

“I told them, 'I hate it when my computer crashes, but I'm not going to go kill somebody over it.'”

“The reporters and the news crews just wouldn't leave you alone,” Steinbach said. “One of them came running up to me while I was putting gas in my truck and asked if I knew Teddy. I rolled my eyes and said 'Yeah, he was my boyfriend.' By that night, I was on CNN and the caption said 'Unabomber's girlfriend'! I could have died.”

With the passage of time, the attention waned.

“Things just kind of went back to normal,” Krause said. “It's over, it's done. We can't change it. I guess the town ought to be famous for something.”

“It'd be nice to be famous for the nice people and the snowmobiling,” Krause said. “We just get a few strange ones now and then.”


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