Auction of Unabomber Mementos Nets About $190K

By Beacon Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – The very technology that the Unabomber railed against during his murderous spree was used Thursday to help some of his victims.

An unusual online auction of Ted Kaczynski’s personal items that ended Thursday garnered about $190,000 for his victims and their family members. They want the so-called Unabomber to pay for the 16 explosions he set off that killed three and injured 23 others across the country.

Kaczynski’s personal journals fetched $40,676; the iconic hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses depicted in police sketch artist renderings accounted for $20,025; and his handwritten “manifesto” sold for $20,053. Other popular items included $22,003 for the Smith Corona typewriter used to write manifestos sent to newspapers and later seized from the cabin and $17,780 for his autobiography.

The manifesto laid out Kaczynski’s belief that modern technology was eroding human freedoms and that his bombings were necessary to spark a large-scale revolution. The pursuit of Kaczynski became one of the longest and costliest investigations in the FBI’s history.

The auction was a culmination of a seven-year legal battle designed to block Kaczynski from regaining ownership of the property seized from his remote Montana cabin during a 1996 raid.

Kaczynski, representing himself in court, demanded return of the property so he could donate it to the University of Michigan, his alma mater. But because Kaczynski was ordered to pay his victims $15 million, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the property auctioned.

“He wanted his stuff back, and this way he doesn’t get it back,” said Susan Mosser, whose advertising executive husband Thomas was killed by a parcel bomb in 1994. “He also hasn’t paid a cent of restitution.”

Mosser said she hoped that some of the 40,000 pages of documents would end up in academia.

John Hickey, a consignment director at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, said that several types of collectors could be expected to compete for the items.

“People who deal in historical events and lean toward the bad guys will be interested in this stuff,” said Hickey, whose company auctioned off a poem written by Lee Harvey Oswald and the infamous wooden gun John Dillinger used to break out of prison. Kaczynski “has also crossed over into pop culture and will attract those collectors.”

Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C., was the winning bidder for the Unabomber’s black-and-white passport photos, along with his hand bowed wood saw and Hanson Model 1509 scale that he used in his bomb-making. Total cost for all three items: $1,766.

Vaccarello spent the day monitoring the bidding.

“I didn’t bid on the manifesto,” she said. She was unsuccessful on other items, among them two of Kaczynski’s typewriters, the price for which doubled in five minutes to $3,600.

The museum in Washington, D.C., includes a crime lab, the filming studios for the show “America’s Most Wanted” and hundreds of interactives and artifacts.

In all, collectors snatched up 58 items seized during the raid of Kaczynski’s remote Montana cabin in 1996. Those bidders remained anonymous.

Some victims and others opposed the auction as unseemly. They feared the publicity surrounding the event would add to Kaczynski’s renown at a time when they want him to languish quietly in the so-called supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo.

There was concern that some of the writings contained Kaczynski’s gloating over the bombings between 1978 and 1995. He was arrested after his brother tipped off authorities in 1996.

FBI agents painstakingly censored all references to Kazcynzki’s victims in the 40,000 pages of documents and other items seized from the cabin and put up for sale.

“This is really the best option,” said Jeffrey Dion, director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “The proceeds go directly to the victims.”