The Unabomber, Zodiac, and the Tylenol Killer — that’s about as unholy a trinity as one could ever hope to never come across
Each notorious slayer became cultural brand-name bad guys by plotting in private and killing in patterns that used internal logic only the perpetrator could understand. They all also executed victims to whom they apparently had no personal connection, and at least two of them claimed they were serving some kind of twisted “higher purpose.”
And perhaps most chillingly, only the Unabomber — real name, Theodore John “Ted” Kaczynski — ever got caught.
Now, in our present era of armchair sleuthing, an increasingly popular theory suggests that the Unabomber, the Zodiac, and the Tylenol Killer may have all actually been Ted Kaczynski.
Welcome to a whole new level of a true-crime mind-blow … or just a crackpot notion run wild. The jury seems likely to be out forever on this one.
As the Unabomber, mathematician turned terrorist Ted Kaczynski launched a mail-bombing campaign in 1978 that went on to kill three recipients of his deadly deliveries and severely injure 23 others.
Kaczynski declared himself an anarchist and said he was combating the dehumanizing progress of mechanical technology. Thus, he largely targeted scientists and professionals in the computer field before trying to blow up a packed American Airlines flight and college campuses in hope of causing mass casualties.
The bombs stopped in 1995, as Kaczynski said they would, after The New York Times and The Washington Post published the “Unabomber Manifesto” — a 35,000-word treatise actually entitled Industrial Society and Its Future.
On April 3, 1996, FBI agents concluded their multi-year hunt for the Unabomber after raiding Kaczynski’s electricity-and-water-free cabin in Montana. It had been the most expensive search in the agency’s history.
While apparently no one argues against Kaczynski being the one and only Unabomber, some theorists contend that Kaczynski is only connected to either the Zodiac or the Tylenol case. Numerous other amateur investigators connect him to both of the other supervillain-style homicide campaigns.
Let’s check out what some of what passes for evidence.
UNABOMBER AS ZODIAC
“The Zodiac Killer,” who simply referred to himself as “Zodiac,” stalked northern California throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. He wore a hooded costume, shot young couples in public places, and ultimately claimed seven victims.
Zodiac grew grew notorious after sending complexly coded cryptograph letters to journalists and authorities. That, and further similarities to the Unabomber, include:
• Ted Kaczynski lived in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1967 to 1969, when Zodiac was most lethally active.
• Both the Unabomber and Zodiac were brilliant cryptographers who “signed” their work with arcane symbols and taunted the police with “catch me if you can” phone calls.
• Each outlaw contacted newspapers and magazines to demand their personal screeds be published in order for the slayings to cease. In doing so, both killers directly reached out to The San Francisco Chronicle, made grandiose threats to commit large-scale mass murder, and then followed up with a retraction after police replied to the messages.
• Handwriting experts have cited numerous distinct patterns and marks made by Unabomber and Zodiac.
• Analysts point out that the writings of the Unabomber and Zodiac distinctly take aim at entire classes of people they blame for “ruining” society and even attempting to destroy the entire planet.
• Physical descriptions of the Unabomber and Zodiac by witnesses can seem uncannily parallel, particularly in regard to big, brooding facial features and a powerful, square jaw. Sketch artists working years apart on the two separate cases occasionally appear to have rendered the same man.
UNABOMBER AS THE TYLENOL KILLER
“The Tylenol Murders” occurred in the Chicagoland area over several days in September and October 1982. Seven victims succumbed to Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules that had been tampered with and dosed with potassium cyanide.
The deaths horrified the public and led to industry-wide reconfiguring of tamper-proof medicine bottles. Disgustingly, the initial wave of poisonings prompted a number of copycat crimes that caused further fatalities. No one, though, has ever been identified or arrested as being “The Tylenol Killer.” Could it have been Ted Kaczynski?
In 2011, the FBI requested a DNA sample from Kaczynski to see if it connected him to the Tylenol case. Kaczynski agreed, on the condition that the government would not auction off the personal affects from his cabin. The feds said no deal, so they got no DNA.
Still, here are Unabomber-Tylenol coincidences some theorists claim could implicate Kaczynski:
• Kaczynski grew up in suburban Chicago and commenced his Unabomber campaign in 1978 from his parents’ home in Lombard, Illinois. He would later return to the residence to send out more bombs.
• The only known Tylenol fatality to occur outside of Illinois happened in Sheridan, Wyoming, a town along the interstate that connects Chicago to where Kaczynski lived in Montana.
• Potassium cyanide is plentiful in Montana due to the state’s gold mining and gold processing industries.
• Between 1970 and 1982, Kaczynski upped his Unabomber game from individual targets to attempted mass murder. He built bombs intended to generate a multitude of indiscriminate casualties and placed them, respectively, on a crowded airliner, at the University of Utah, and UC Berkeley. None of the weapons successfully discharged.
• Once again, forensic sketches of the Unabomber and the Tylenol Killer suspects do come off as strikingly related.
So what do you think? Is Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber, Zodiac, and the Tylenol Killer all-in-one?
Whatever your conclusion, it’s a topic that’s bound to continue to fascinate and frustrate going forward. Let’s just hope nobody suggests he was Jack the Ripper, too!
Watch the premiere of Investigation Discovery’s Manhunt: Unabomber on Tuesday, August 1 at 9/8c!
Main photo: Ted Kaczynski mug shot [FBI]