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From Hand-Carved Gifts To A Dead Dog: What's It Like To Be Neighbors With The Unabomber?
Jamie Gehring recalls an eerie encounter with Ted Kaczynski in the wooded area between her home and his cabin that still haunts her.
Just like you can’t choose your family, you can’t choose who moves in next door to you. While many people have nuisance neighbors, not many can claim to have lived next to the Unabomber.
Jamie Gehring grew up as a neighbor to Ted Kaczynski prior to the latter's 1996 arrest for a mailbomb spree that killed three people and injured 23 between 1978 and 1995. While Kaczynski often feuded with Gehring’s father, as noted in the Netflix docu-series “Unabomber-In His Own Words,” the family was shocked when he was arrested for his heinous crimes.
Kaczynski’s infamous little cabin in Lincoln, Montana — where he spent years seething and crafting bombs — sat about a half-mile away from the Gehring household. Their family's home and Kaczynski's survivalist cabin were separated by an area of dense timber woods. Only a few other homes and hunting cabins were in close proximity.
It was a secluded section of an already tiny town. The current population of Lincoln is only a little more than 1,000. At first, Kaczynski seemed like he wanted to be a part of that community after leaving academia for a simpler life. At minimum, he tried to connect with the Gehring family.
Initially, at least.
Jamie Gehring told Oxygen.com that after she was born in 1980, Kaczynski carved a wooden cup for her as a present. He would gift her little painted rocks as well and he’d travel through the wooded area separating their properties to deliver the presents.
“He had a certain kindness toward me, the way he would speak to me,” Gehring recalled.
However, she said as the years went on, he became “more disheveled and appeared agitated.”
While he used to come to her family’s home for visits, those had tapered off before Gehring reached her teenage years. The households were still civil, though. Gehring said her parents would sometimes give Kaczynski a lift into town. But, as the docu-series pointed out, the domestic terrorist was agitated by the Gehring family. Because of his hatred of technology, he even sabotaged machinery at her father Butch Gehring’s lumber mill.
It was an eerie hike that stuck with Gehring the most, however.
She was 15 years old when she took a stroll in the woods that separated her property from the Unabomber’s, passing by a rock quarry she liked. She ran into Kaczynski and she instantly felt bad vibes.
“We almost literally ran into each other and there was just something about him and it’s hard to put into words,” she told Oxygen.com. “It’s just an intuition, a feeling that he had changed. For the first time I was terrified of him and scared to be in the woods alone.”
She said they both said hello before parting ways but she noted that she literally ran away, looking over her shoulder the entire time.
While the Unabomber’s brother remembered he was kind to animals growing up, Gehring told Oxygen.com that wasn't the Kaczynski she knew. Kaczynski admitted to shooting a dog, according to a 1999 New York Times piece. Gehring even alleged Kaczynski also fatally poisoned her own family dog.
Additionally, she said the animals on her property “would get incredibly territorial when they saw Ted. [...] It was obvious that they did not like him.”
She said “he always had a smell of the wild and we thought maybe it was that. Clearly they were trying to warn us.”
Gehring has spent the last few years working on a book about her experience with her former neighbor. The book’s working title is “Life With Ted K.” She said that during her research, she was surprised to learn about the more tragic elements of Kaczynski's life, including his traumatic childhood hospital stay.
“It didn’t excuse his horrific acts in any way but it helped me to understand him and provide a reminder that everyone has a story,” she told Oxygen.com.
Furthermore, she said the research and her experience alike taught her to always ‘take a deeper look” and “to follow your gut.”
Kaczynski is currently serving a life sentence at a supermax prison in Colorado. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to 10 counts of illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs, and three counts of murder.
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