Unabomber's effects to be auctioned off

US government will sell famous terrorist’s most humdrum possessions to fund compensation for victims

For sale: one set of spanners, some chisels, and a blowtorch. Condition: used. Would suit: any would-be domestic terrorist who happens to be looking for battle-tested equipment that will help him build a selection of deadly explosive devices.

Fifteen years after Ted Kaczynski was arrested at a remote cabin in Montana, ending the biggest FBI investigation in modern history, the personal effects of the so-called "Unabomber" are to be sold at auction to raise money for his victims.

The US Department of Justice has grouped the belongings into 51 lots, which will go under the hammer later this month. They include everything from Kaczynski's grey hooded top and aviator sunglasses to a typewriter he used while composing his notorious "manifesto".

Interested parties will also be able to buy the Unabomber's shoes and knapsacks, the bow and arrow he used to hunt rabbits, and the endless notebooks he filled with comments about his one-man terrorist campaign, which lasted two decades and left three people dead and 23 injured.

The worldly goods of convicted criminals are commonly sold by US authorities in order to compensate victims. But, usually, items on offer at Department of Justice auctions range from cars and yachts to luxury properties and ornate jewellery. It is, as far as is known, the first time a government has tried to trade on the celebrity of a criminal by selling off his more humdrum possessions in such a way.

Given his frugal lifestyle, Kaczynski – who has been ordered to pay several million dollars in restitution – didn't acquire much "bling". But the headline-grabbing nature of his campaign lends interest to even mundane possessions. The cabin where he lived, for example, is displayed at the Newseum – or museum of news – in Washington DC.

Among the array of memorabilia due now to be sold to the highest bidder between 18 May and 2 June are some 20,000 pages of documents expanding on the beliefs that inspired the Unabomber to kill: namely that, as he put it: "the Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race."

Kaczynski began sending bombs to universities and people associated with the airline, advertising and computer industries in the 1970s, hoping to start a revolution that would reverse the technological progress that he believed was destroying the planet and eroding human freedoms. It is ironic, given that stated aim, that the auction will be held online. Pictures of the lots have been uploaded to a government Flickr account.

"We will use the technology that Kaczynski railed against in his various manifestos to sell artifacts of his life," said US Marshal Albert Najera of the Eastern District of California. "Proceeds will go to his victims and, in a very small way, offset some of the hardships they have suffered."

The items on sale illustrate the strange path their former owner took. A collection of academic diplomas and degree certificates serve as a reminder that he was a childhood maths genius, who went to Harvard at 16. Happy family photographs appear to suggest that he came from a perfectly normal Chicago home. Yet the psychological withdrawal and subsequent decline that would eventually see court psychiatrists declare Kaczynski a paranoid schizophrenic (one reason why he was sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death) is evident from some of the impenetrable entries in his notebooks.

The upcoming sale also includes such curious items as driving licences, chequebooks and the box of Tide detergent that Kaczynski used to keep his tools in. Some critics have therefore likened it to a sale of Nazi memorabilia, saying it will attract bidders who regard him as a glamourous figure. "To sell them off as trophies and relics, if they will, is misguided," his biograpaher Mark Olshaker told The Washington Post. "This feeds into the worst aspects of American popular culture," he added, saying it created a "cult of glorification".

Kaczynski himself, however, is strongly opposed to the auction, and has spent recent months in his cell in a maximum-security facility at Florence, Colorado, filing court petitions that he hoped would have it declared illegal.

David Skrbina, a professor at the University of Michigan who wrote the introduction to the recent book Technological Slavery, in which the Unabomber discussed his neo-Luddite philosophy, told The Independent on Sunday that he believes Kaczynski is worried that the sale of the items will lead to their destruction. "He has always wanted to make sure that the ideas are out there and that they are recognised, and that his legacy is preserved," Professor Skrbina said. "After his arrest, he had several boxes of manuscripts sent to my university's library, where they are now in our anarchist collection."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick