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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links