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Unabomber's cabin lives on in Washington, D.C., exhibit

Unabomber's cabin lives on in Washington, D.C., exhibit. Credit: NBC Montana
Unabomber's cabin lives on in Washington, D.C., exhibit. Credit: NBC Montana
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We went to Washington, D.C., a couple weeks ago to take you behind the scenes of our lawmakers in action. While we were there, we couldn’t miss seeing a piece of history that put Montana in the national headlines for years.

On display in our nation’s capital is a piece of infamous Montana history.

“Everyone who comes here remembers the Unabomber cabin, and we have a lot of people coming in wanting to see it,” said Maeve Scott, the director of collections at the Newseum.

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s cabin, once in remote Lincoln, Montana, was resurrected from an FBI storage facility in California and moved 2,300 miles to the Newseum.

“We knew that when we were doing this exhibit that we wanted to have something remarkable related to that case,” Scott said. “It's one of the biggest pieces we have in this exhibit and the most eye-catching.”

For 17 years, Kaczynski led more than 500 agents on a nationwide manhunt mailing bombs that targeted universities, airlines and computer stores. He’s blamed for 16 in all that killed three people and injured 23 others.

“You hear the stories, but I think it's something very different to come and see this 10-by-12-foot cabin in person and see how rustic it really was,” Scott said.

In 1995, Kaczynski mailed a 35,000-word anti-technology manifesto to the Washington Post and the New York Times. He said if it was published he would stop the bombs. The Post printed it, and Kaczynski’s brother led authorities to the cabin in the wilds of Montana nearly 23 years ago.

"I think they literally saved potentially hundreds of lives, because Kaczynski had threatened to blow up an airliner out of the sky, and I think he was capable of doing that at the time,” said former FBI agent Cliff Van Zandt.

Kaczynski lived there 20 years with no running water. It was filthy.

“The cabin smelled as if you might start to think if you really think about this,” said a former FBI agent on the UNABOM task force featured in a video at the Newseum. “This was a person who lived in this cabin. It had a cutaway spot in the floor to go to the bathroom if he needed to.”

It was so filthy, markings on the wall show where his bed was set up.

“If you look closely you can actually see the outline of Ted Kaczynski’s body up against this wall here on the right,” Scott said. “All the body oils have gotten into the wood over time. And you can see a pretty clear outline of him.”

Also inside, agents found the hoodie shown in the suspect sketches, bomb-making materials on his work bench and an unmailed bomb under his bed.

“This exhibit was originally only supposed to be only for one year, but this whole exhibit was so popular we kept renewing it now through 2020,” Scott said.

Kaczynski is currently serving more than four life sentences at a supermax prison in Colorado.

Filming began last year on a feature film about him called “Ted K.” Helena native Matt Flanders is producing it. It stars South African actor Sharlto Copley, known for roles in Maleficent, District 9 and Elysium to name a few.

“When we were filming, people were constantly craning their heads, because they'd see this man that looks familiar riding a bike that looked familiar,” Flanders said.

Filmmakers built an exact replica of the cabin and even placed it on the original footings in Lincoln.

“Same stove, shelves were the same. Everything inside the cabin was based on FBI evidence photos,” Flanders said. “Having worked in that for weeks and weeks and weeks and how small that is, I can't imagine someone living in it for 20 years.”

He’s hopeful the film will be released sometime next year. Flanders says he hopes the story will introduce people to the beauty and special quality of the town of Lincoln and look past the Unabomber story and a town of kind people. He hopes to have some sort of screening in Lincoln once it’s finished.

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Our trip to Washington, D.C. was made possible through a grant from the Greater Montana Foundation.

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