The Unabomber

Rita d’Escoto ’09

Ted Kaczynski is best known as the Unabomber, but what many do not know is his family lived at 307 E. Main in Lisbon, Iowa, from 1966 to 1968. This placed the community, as well as Cornell, in the middle of one of America’s most-publicized crime stories.

The FBI searched for Kaczynski for 18 years after he mailed and placed bombs that killed three people and maimed 23 others. His arrest brought a storm of reporters to Lisbon, where his parents, Ted Sr. and Wanda, had resided. Former neighbors were not surprised, as they had been questioned by the FBI about a month before Ted’s arrest.

Kaczynski is believed to have visited his family in Lisbon for only a few weeks a year. Cornell librarian Greg Cotton remembers when ABC’s 20/20 stopped by Cole Library to see if Kaczynski had checked out Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, considered an influential book in the Unabomber’s life, on any of those visits. It is against the law in Iowa to share this information. The reporters were eventually chased out of the library when they were caught snooping.

Kaczynski’s younger brother, David, did return to Lisbon after living there with his parents, teaching English for two years in the mid-1970s at Lisbon High School. It was David, after finding writings and other materials of his older brother’s, who tipped off the FBI, leading to the arrest on April 3, 1996.

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