Theodore John Kaczynski: The Unabomber


In a case that made history, lies a classic example of how the mentally illâÂ?¦are often overlookedâÂ?¦Ted Kaczynski the famed Unabomber terrorized America’s universities and airlines for a period lasting eighteen years. Ted, born a healthy baby on May 22, 1942, in Chicago, experienced mysterious illness at ten months. After staying in the Hospital he was released back home to his mother, where she noted he was “unresponsive” (Ferguson 1997). This unresponsiveness grew the older Ted got, he remained a loner, antisocial. His family said that he would go through “shutdown” phases, where his responses, especially emotional ones, could not be seen. At the age of fifteen the University of Chicago granted him a scholarship. He was later accepted in to Harvard where he graduated and joined a top graduate program in mathematics. He never made any friends while in college, but graduated with honors. Graduating with a worthy award he was offered (and accepted) a teaching position, assistant professor in math, at University of California at Berkley, but resigned shortly thereafter in 1969 (Ferguson 1997, Ottley1998). His resignation from the university was the beginning of his drop from society, he slowly became more reclusive. Ted and his only brother David purchased a small plot of land in the hills of Montana. He demanded that his family cease to write him anymore unless it was urgent. He remained isolated in his shack, where Ted would proceed to terrorize the society he sought to retreat from. There in his small shack where he had planned, plotted, and built bombs, for almost eighteen years, until April 1996, when Ted Kaczynski was arrested.

The Crimes

The first of the bombings took place in May 1978 at the University of Chicago. The result of this bomb was minor compared to the wrath that Ted unleashed on later victims. The second bomb was at another university. The third and the one to receive much news recognition, was aboard American Airlines flight 444. Luckily Mr. Kaczynski’s bombs had not reached their full potential, it did only minor damage [the potential harm was far greater] (Ottley 1998). The next was to the president of United Airlines, after this bombing Mr. Kaczynski stopped sending bombs for a little over a year. The first of the bombs after his returned activity was recognized, reported and de-activated. The next bomb harmed the secretary of the intended victim; she survived but was wounded badly. In 1982, another was sent, to Berkley University. This bomb was still not perfect, so it did not detonate with its full potential, but badly wounded the victim. May 1985 another bomb, the victim, a Berkley graduate student, was severely wounded. In June he had tried another airline attempt, but the package was turned over to authorities. This was the last attempt Mr. Kaczynski made on any airline company. Two days later another professor was targeted. The professor’s assistant was the unlucky one that opened this bomb, but luckily did survive. Another bomb placed in a parking lot detonated on another victim causing severe injury. Then the bombings ceased for almost six years, but during these six years Mr. Kaczynski found new more potent additives and improved his bomb making skills. In 1993 he returned with amazing power. June 18, 1993 he targeted a professor at University of California, then Yale. Then his desire to publish his writings emerged. He had written “The Manifesto” an article that professed his cause for the bombings. His enemies were as he proclaimed technology, computers, social progress, genetic engineering and environmental issues. He demanded that his “manifesto” be published by a scholarly journal to spread his message and the bombings would stop. December 10, 1994 Mr. Kaczynski killed his first victim. This bomb exploded so violently that Mr. Mosser died. Another bomb was sent out and several threats were also made via mail, but contained no explosives.

The Trial

His defense attorney’s had hoped to argue that their defendant suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. His refusal to be examined by psychiatrists and even by his own doctors inhibited the defense. Psychiatrists know that a paranoid schizophrenic person will almost always resist examination by doctors because they do not want to be thought of as mentally ill. The person often attributes their “differences” to something some one else did, e.g. bad parenting, poor government, or just some outside source for their difference. But Mr. Kaczynski decided he wanted to represent himself and fire his lawyers (Jackson 1997). The judge granted this, but conditioned that he would have to undergo the psychological testing that he was refusing to prove his compentcy. He agreed, though he reportedly attempted suicide that same evening. Upon completing his psychological evaluation, January 1998 Dr. Sally Johnson diagnosed Mr. Kaczynski with Paranoid Schizophrenia (Ottley 1998).

The Diagnosis

The DSM-IV holds that schizophrenia, subtype paranoia, exhibits the following features for a period lasting longer than six months:

1. Delusions, usually of the persecutory type. Where the person feels that they are being “tormented, followed, tricked, spied, ridiculed.” Mr. Kaczynski expressed his delusions about technology and societal advancements in his “Manifesto.” Computers and genetic research were destroying the nation and the human race. He also asserted that engineers attending Berkley were creating plans to produce things that would also destroy. He said that he had to quit because he did not support what they were planning, learning, etc.

2. Dysfunction in one or more areas of functioning: Mr. Kaczynski could not properly function in interpersonal relationships. He never had any and his relationship with his family was never stable. His inability to build relationships shows a dysfunction in an area of functioning. His inability to hold a job for any length of time is another example, or the fact that he never had a girlfriend (or boyfriend).

3. Suicide, it is noted that approximately 20-40% attempt. Mr. Kaczynski tried this at least once while in his jail cell during his trial.

4. A higher frequency of assaultive attacks and violent behavior can be found in persons suffering schizophrenia. His crimes are examples of this type of behavior. His bomb making in effort to stop the progress of work being done is an example of the violence he put forth to support his delusion.

5. Increased risk of developing schizophrenia has been linked to prenatal and childhood factors. This factor can be satisfied by Mr. Kaczynski “mysterious” illness that hospitalized him as an infant.

6. Later onset for the subtype paranoid schizophrenia, Mr. Kaczynski made his way through college and graduate school and did not begin to “loose it” at a later time in his life.

7. DSM-IV states that a majority of schizophrenic persons have poor insight that they are mentally ill, which is a “manifestation of the illness itself.” Mr. Kaczynski shows this in his refusal of a psychological evaluation.

8. A symptom of the onset of schizophrenia is documented by a slow and gradual signs of withdrawal, loss of interest, unusual behavior, and outbursts of anger. Mr. Kaczynski expressed the withdrawal at an early age, his loner status. Which continued the older he got and progressed to more severe, for example when he abruptly quit his job and soon moved away for society to his shack in the woods. His anger was always present, his mother and brother had stated that he was loving one moment and angry the next but, overall hi was bitterly unhappy and angry. They also noted his “shutdowns.”

9. The diagnostic manual provides that persons with paranoid type schizophrenia “tend to show little or no impairment on neuropsychological or other cognitive testing.” Mr. Kaczynski showed no cognitive impairments. He was actually very intelligent; he graduated with honors from a prestigious University.

10. DSM-IV also holds that the other symptoms apparent in other types of schizophrenia, e.g., “disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, or flat or inappropriate affect,” may not be present. Mr. Kaczynski did not display any of these signs that would disqualify this portion of the diagnosis criteria.


Though Mr. Kaczynski delusions may not be that strange, as there are people who want to live off the land and do not wish to conform to societal and technological advancements, they do not go about the grand ways of expressing themselves. Mr. Kaczynski does show many of the other features of paranoid schizophrenia and the diagnosis Dr. Johnson gave is probably correct. Given that past history and known information Mr. Kaczynski satisfies the criteria provided in the DSM-IV.


American Psychiatric Association. (2002). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.
Ferguson, Paul. (1997). The Unabomber Trail: A loner from youth. CNN interactive report.
Jackson, David S. (1997). Man behind the mask. Time. Vol. 150 No. 21.
Ottley, Ted. (1998). Ted Kaczynski: the Unabomber. The crime library.

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