In Our Own Backyard..Evil lurks - where?As we stared into the densely forested roadside, a fine sense of tension hung in the air as our eyes probed for something as yet unseen and unknown.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The four of us huddled in the cab of the SUV and from time to time leaned out the windows with our eyes trained on the stretch of Montana wilderness outside. It was one of the unseasonably mild days that marked our entire vacation in “Big Sky Country” last week. We were headed for a cross country ski outing in the Stemple Pass area of the Helena National Forest, and the ride up to the 6,376-foot summit was long, winding and extremely scenic.
As we stared into the densely forested roadside, a fine sense of tension hung in the air as our eyes probed for something as yet unseen and unknown. Though I had been hoping the entire trip for a sighting of an elk or moose, this was different – and far more sinister. This wasn’t wildlife that we were searching for, or scenic mountain passes, or even falling rocks or avalanche sightings.
Instead, it was the “Unabomber” we were seeking.
In the unlikely chance that the nickname might not resonate with anyone alive today, I will explain that the infamous “Unabomber” – one Ted Kaczynski – was the brilliant-but-mad backwoods scientist who engaged in a mail bombing campaign that spanned nearly 20 years, killing three people and injuring 23 others. And though Kaczynski is currently serving a life sentence in prison without parole, we had heard that the rustic, 10x12-foot cabin where he hatched his insidious plans and assembled his bombs was located somewhere in the very wilderness outside our car windows, near the small community of Lincoln where we’d stopped for lunch.
That was all the information we had, but the appeal of a possible sighting of the cabin held us in its grip. I’m not sure just what we were expecting to see. I highly doubted there would be a mailbox out at the road that said “Kaczynski” on it, or a wooden signboard with the initials “UB” posted in the right-of-way. It was just that eerie sense of being in the vicinity of something so insidious, and so evil, that had us straining our eyes into the wilderness for a possible sighting.
We spotted several small cabins and a few run-down trailer houses, some of which looked inhabited and some of them abandoned, but of course we had no way of knowing if any of them was “the one.”
At one bend in the road we came across a handful of local residents chatting along the edge of a yard. As we slowly drove past, they stared unsmilingly back at us. I’m certain we were only the latest in a steady stream of curiosity-seekers to have plagued the otherwise peaceful neighborhood since agents arrested Kaczynski at his remote cabin in 1996, unearthing a wealth of bomb components, thousands of handwritten journal pages that included bomb-making experiments and descriptions of his crimes, and one live bomb, ready for mailing.
All of us, being reasonably intelligent adults, felt a little sheepish in our lurid pursuit, but I confess I had my camera all ready to go “just in case.”
We were still holding out hope for some sort of sighting when we arrived at Stemple Pass and the trailhead for our ski junket. All thoughts of the Unabomber and his cabin were soon overtaken by the breathtaking scenery, the heady exhilaration of the trail and the beauty of the Montana wilderness.
A still, small part of me harbored bitter disappointment, nonetheless, over not having spotted Kaczynski’s hidden headquarters.
It wasn’t until we arrived home several days later that my curiosity got the better of me and I did a Google search on the computer for “The Unabomber.” The search yielded pages and pages of information on the infamous criminal’s life and times, but there was one fact that leaped out at me.
It seems that after Kaczynski was sent to prison, his cabin was inexplicably donated to a member of his defense team and it turns out I could have gotten a photo of it after all – at a museum in Washington, D.C.!