Inside Ted Kaczynski's Relationship With His Brother

It's tough to imagine having the revelation that someone you know may be wanted in connection with a series of crimes. It would be even more stressful if that person was your brother. This was the case for David Kaczynski in 1995 when he one day realized that his brother, Ted, could be the man behind a 35,000-page manifesto written by the person behind a series of bombings that terrorized the United States, known as the Unabomber.

Ted Kaczynski was responsible for killing three people and injuring many others, but his undoing was that manifesto where he laid out his thoughts and feelings about technology and industrialized society (via The Guardian). David Kaczynski recognized the style used in writing the manifesto and thought it seemed similar to letters he had received from Ted over the years. Sure, enough, linguistic experts took a look at the letters and confirmed that they had been written by the same person who penned the manifesto. This led to Ted Kaczynski's arrest at his cabin in the Montana wilderness.

David and Ted growing up

The Kaczynski's grew up near Chicago, Illinois, and both of them were known to have been highly intelligent from an early age. They came from a working-class family, and their parents tried to instill those values in them. According to The Guardian, their father used to take them out to the woods on weekends so they could explore — something that helped cultivate a love for nature in the Kaczynskis.

The two of them were close when they were kids, but David Kaczynski later recalled that he noticed something unusual about Ted, even at an early age. Despite his unquestioned intelligence, he seemed to have an aversion to people. Their mother attributed this to a stint in the hospital Ted had when he was just an infant.

Nonetheless, Ted — the older of the two — used his smarts to skip 11th grade and enter Harvard University when he was just 16 years old, according to All That's Interesting. David followed suit, and, like his older brother, ended up at an Ivy League school — in his case, Columbia University, where he studied to become a social worker. Ted studied mathematics at Harvard, and by the time he was 24 years old, he had moved across the country to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, where he became one of the youngest professors in the school's history. However he wasn't there all that long and returned to Chicago just two years later to move in with his family.

The Kaczynskis in the wilderness

In 1971, Ted Kaczynski decided to leave Chicago and venture into the Montana wilderness. On a plot of land near Lincoln, Montana, he built a small cabin with no running water or electricity. Despite Ted's obvious social hangups, David still looked up to his older brother the same way he did when they were kids. According to The Guardian, the two of them had bought the land in Montana together, but when David traveled there to build his own cabin, Ted wouldn't let him. David then moved to West Texas, where he took up a simple life, living off the land, just like his brother adopted in Montana, spending eight years in a simple cabin with no electricity or running water.

They wrote letters back and forth, but they started to drift apart. While they had adopted similar, spartan lifestyles, their reasons for doing so were completely different. David was on a journey of self-discovery, while Ted just wanted to shut out the rest of the world. David wasn't the only one who received letters from Ted during this time — their parents did too. The mail they received courtesy of their Montana-dwelling son was scathing and accused them of being responsible for his social inabilities (via All That's Interesting).

Ted becomes the Unabomber

The postal system was practically Ted Kaczynski's only way of connecting with the rest of the world, and in 1978, he started using it to commit his notorious crimes. According to the FBI, he sent a homemade bomb to a professor at Northwestern University near his hometown of Chicago. That same year, Kaczynski returned to Chicago and took a job at a factory where his brother also worked (per Britannica). However, his time there was short as David had to fire him for harassing a female co-worker by posting offensive limericks around the factory, per The Guardian.

From 1978 through 1995, Kaczynski sent more than a dozen mail bombs that killed three people and injured many others. In 1995, he sent his manifesto to major newspapers, and it was published for the public — including his brother, David — to read. David and his wife Linda noticed the similarities between the manifesto and the letters he had received from Ted, though by this point, he hadn't heard from his brother in several years. Sure enough, the letters appeared to be a match, and Ted was arrested.

The Kaczynskis today

Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his cabin in Montana, where authorities found supplies for making bombs as well as 40,000 handwritten pages of journal entries, some of which described his crimes and bomb-making process, per the FBI. David was in attendance for his brother's first court appearance, and while the two had once been close and hadn't spoken in years, Ted ignored him (via The Guardian).

Kaczynski was found guilty of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison, skirting the death penalty in the process — something authorities had initially told David they wouldn't seek when he initially turned him in. Today, Ted Kaczynski is being held at a super-max prison facility in Colorado. The Kaczynskis have not had any contact with each other since Ted's incarceration, but David has still said that he loves his brother despite his crimes (via All That's Interesting). In the years that followed Ted's arrest, David was at one point the head of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty.