“Jamie Gehring’s book might well be the best attempt yet to understand the strange life and mind of my brother, Theodore J. Kaczynski.” —David Kaczynski, brother of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
DENVER, Colorado – In her new memoir – which has been praised by FBI agents, documentarians and even family members of the infamous Unabomber – author Jamie Gehring provides a haunting account of the 16 years she and her family lived closer than anyone to Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, sharing their Montana land, their home, and their dinner table with a hermit who had a penchant for murder. “Madman in the Woods” (April 19, 2022, Diversion Books) is Gehring’s investigative quest 25 years later to reclaim a piece of her childhood by answering the questions: why, how?
As a child in Lincoln, Montana, in the 1980s and ’90s, Jamie Gehring had no idea that Ted Kaczynski—the self-sustaining hermit in the adjacent cabin—was anything more than the neighbor who brought her painted rocks as a gift. Ted was simply Ted, and erratic behavior, surprise visits, and chilling events while she was riding horses or helping her dad at his sawmill were dismissed because he was “just the odd hermit.” He was, in fact, the Unabomber, for 17 years mailing explosives to strangers, the longest-running domestic terrorist in American history.
As an adult with this knowledge, the innocence of her youth robbed, Gehring needed to reconcile her lived experience with the evil that hid in plain sight. In this book, through years of research probing Ted’s personal history, his writings, his secret coded crime journals, her own correspondence with him in his Supermax prison cell, plus interviews with others close to Kaczynski, Gehring unearths the complexity, mystery, and tragedy of her childhood with the madman in the woods. And she discovers a shocking revelation—she and her family were in Kaczynski’s crosshairs.
A work of intricately braided research, journalism, and personal memories, this book is a chilling response to the question: Do you really know your neighbor?
“Madman in the Woods: Life Next Door to the Unabomber”
Jamie Gehring | April 19, 2022 | Diversion Books | True Crime Memoir
Hardcover | ISBN: 9781635768169 | $27.99
Ebook | ISBN: 9781635768183 | $14.99
Early Praise for Jamie Gehring’s
“Madman in the Woods: Life Next Door to the Unabomber”
“I imagine that at every dinner party, when the subject of strange neighbors comes up, Jamie Gehring wins every single time. That’s a good thing for readers. Not only does Ms. Gehring have a story to tell—in this case about growing up within a stone’s throw of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski—she finds a way to use his reign of terror as a pathway to her own self-discovery. No easy task. Madman in the Woods is the kind of book I live for . . . one that drives me through the drama of a story but gives me the unvarnished heart and soul of the storyteller. This one is a winner.” —Gregg Olsen, best-selling author of If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood
“Combining the observations of a one-time close neighbor with extensive research and empathy for the many lives affected, Jamie Gehring’s book might well be the best attempt yet to understand the strange life and mind of my brother, Theodore J. Kaczynski.” —David Kaczynski, author of Every Last Tie: The Story of the Unabomber and His Family
“Jamie Gehring has written a fascinating account of unknowingly growing up in an isolated rural area near the nation’s most wanted serial bomber and domestic terrorist. Her exhaustive research and numerous interviews of Kaczynski’s neighbors and Lincoln, Montana, townspeople give her account a unique perspective. I believe Madman in the Woods is a must-read for true crime aficionados.” —Max Noel, retired UNABOM investigative supervisor and arresting agent, and coauthor of Capturing the Unabomber: The FBI Insiders’ Story
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jamie Gehring is a Montana native who grew up sharing a backyard with Ted Kaczynski, the man widely known as the Unabomber. She was featured in Netflix’s Unabomber—In His Own Words where she discussed her family’s role in Ted’s capture. She earned her BA in visual communications and has worked in financial advising and graphic design. She currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and three children. You can find out more about Jamie on her website: www.jamiegehring.com
In an interview, Jamie Gehring can discuss:
- A view of a serial killer through the eyes of a child and her personal encounters with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski as her neighbor, who gifted her with painted rocks and shared meals with her family
- Exploring the literal and figurative common ground she shared with Kaczynski, the longest-running domestic terrorist in the United States
- Reconciling her childhood understanding of and relationship to her neighbor, after he was identified as the infamous Unabomber
- Her father’s integral role in the FBI investigation and capture of Kaczynski
- Her memories of Kaczynski, his arrest and the impact it had on her childhood and community
- How her book contemplates questions such as, “How could someone with an IQ of 167 take the leap from playing the trombone in high school, majoring in mathematics at Harvard, earning a masters and doctorate in mathematics from the University of Michigan, and then teaching at Berkeley—to calculated murder and maiming? How does a beloved little boy from a working-class family grow into a man who chooses to live alone and carry out his new life’s work as a violent attack on society?”
- What happened when she wrote to Kaczynski in prison
An Interview with Jamie Gehring
The question everyone will want to know: what was Ted Kaczynski like? Were you afraid of him as a child? In retrospect, was there anything that seemed to indicate he might be capable of the crimes he committed?
We thought of Ted as an odd hermit, especially in the early 80s. He was dirty, his clothes were tattered, and he smelled like he lived in the wilds of Montana. But it wasn’t unheard of to live an off-grid lifestyle in rural Montana. He seemed shy and kind in those early years when he was still coming to our house for dinner, playing cards with my parents, and bringing me handcrafted gifts. I wasn’t afraid of him as a young child, only as I got older did I start to fear him and his visits.
In retrospect, there are many red flags when it comes to Ted Kaczynski. There were the (then) unsolved mysteries, such as my father’s sawmill sabotage or our dog’s lethal poisoning. There were strange noises at night or ominous meetings in the woods. Additionally, there was his overall change in demeanor as the years progressed. But, still there isn’t one thing that happened that would have made me take the leap from “strange hermit to the Unabomber.”
We hear a lot of talk about nature vs. nurture. It’s fascinating that the same place you grew up – the environment that shaped and inspired you – was also home to Ted Kaczynski, the longest-running domestic terrorist. Did your home feel different after you learned about his crimes? Similarly, how did it make you feel to share both literal and figurative common ground with a serial killer?
I definitely felt different after I learned of Ted’s crimes. That change in perspective fueled me while writing this book. I needed to reclaim those parts of my childhood that felt changed after discovering the truth. But the way I felt about my home never changed. The woods may have provided Ted with the perfect place to build and test bombs. But for me, those woods were where I built forts, rode my horse, and learned about life. They are still beautiful to me. Only that 1.4 acre parcel that Ted lived on feels different, the rest remains the same.
Sharing common ground with a serial killer is definitely cause for deeper exploration. While writing this book I felt connected to other books, such as “The Stranger Beside Me” or “The Babysitter.” It’s a difficult thing to pinpoint exactly, the feeling of sharing anything with a serial killer. Whether that is a history, land, or a meal. It makes you look at the world through a different lens.
Why did you write this memoir? We know there are several books and documentaries about the Unabomber – what does your perspective add to the conversation?
I wrote this memoir as I was searching for answers, not only about my former neighbor but also about myself.
Before I started writing I had read many books about Ted’s crimes and the UNABOM investigation. But the answers I was searching for, such as, “What made this man—a man that could deliver a handmade gift to a little girl one moment and then plot a murder the next?” hadn’t been made clear to me. We are all messy and complicated, but the question remained, “How could someone extinguish that part of their humanity in order to kill?” I needed to try to understand the mind of the murderer, what motivated him, and what shaped him. This delivered through the eyes of a child that saw Ted through a softer light is a completely different look at this story.
What role did your father play in the investigation and the capture of Ted Kaczynski? Were you aware of it at the time? Or did you learn over time, as you got older? Do you think there are still pieces he left out?
My father was referred to by FBI agent Max Noel as, “the eyes and ears of the investigation.” At the time of the investigation the FBI knew that the only person that wouldn’t look out of place around Ted’s cabin was my father. He was tasked with regularly reporting back to Max Noel about any footprints he may have seen close to Ted’s cabin or if smoke was coming out of the chimney. Directly before the arrest, my father was asked to videotape the terrain surrounding Kaczsynski’s home and the cabin itself. My dad agreed, but it wasn’t without some trepidation. At this point, he knew that Ted could be the Unabomber. I was able to obtain this footage from the case files and it was a very proud moment to witness my own father contributing in such a monumental (and dangerous) way.
Dad didn’t talk much about the investigation. He did share a few stories with me before his passing, but most of the information I gathered for the book (even about my late father’s part in the investigation and the Unabomber’s arrest) was shared with me by Max Noel. I feel this is another really interesting component of the book: my fact-finding mission years after my father had passed.
What impact did his arrest (and ultimately, the discovery that he was the Unabomber) have on your childhood and your community in Lincoln, Montana?
I was only 16 when Ted was arrested. It definitely was shocking at the time. The small community of Lincoln was taken over by reporters. There were people showing up at our home constantly, looking for a story or for a tour of Ted’s land. I joke in my book that everyone except Oprah called us for an interview. But my dad was very private and only agreed to a couple interviews. At one point there was even a helicopter that landed in our front yard!
The community with a population of around 1,000 residents was also completely shaken by the news of Ted’s true identity. There wasn’t one person (that I have heard of at least) that suspected Ted of being a criminal. He was known in the town as the odd hermit. But, criminal? The Unabomber? Never.
Does Ted Kaczynski know that you wrote this book?
I did tell Ted in one of my letters that I was writing a book. I am still waiting to hear about how he feels about that. For a behind the scenes on that you can view here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CWWcXp2FXDc/
Additional Praise for Jamie Gehring’s “Madman in the Woods: Life Next Door to the Unabomber”
“Every time a madman commits a ghastly crime, TV reporters find that dumbfounded neighbor who swears, ‘He was such a nice boy.’ It only proves that we cannot see through the darkest windows, no matter how close we get. But Jamie Gehring’s compelling, smartly-written memoir peers through the smoky glass of memory to glimpse a complex lunatic—and her own reflection. This is a worthy addition to our canon of intimate crime stories.” —Ron Franscell, USA Today-bestselling author of The Darkest Night and Shadow Man
“I was captivated by Gehring’s memoir of a rural Montana childhood abruptly divided into before and after by the arrest of the hermit next door—Ted Kaczynski. Her search for the truth about her family, Kaczynksi, and the evil within that familiar cabin in the woods is riveting.” —Liza Rodman, author of The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer
“Jamie Gehring sets off on an epic quest across the Big Sky landscape of Montana into the heart of a murderer and her own soul. In doing so she gives voice to those who live behind the headlines. And what an extraordinary voice it is—compassionate, challenging, unerringly honest, and always poetic. Both universal and deeply personal, this is not just true crime, it’s true life. It will linger in the imagination long after the final page has been turned.” —Mick Grogan, writer & director for the Netflix documentary Unabomber: In His Own Words
“Gehring’s Madman in the Woods is a captivating look at Ted Kaczynski—the Unabomber—from a perspective that no one else on the planet has. It is insightful, unique, and fascinating! A must read for all true crime fans and anyone who loves to know the real story behind the story.” —Jim Clemente, retired FBI supervisory special agent/profiler and writer/producer of the Audible Original Series Where the Devil Belongs
A former award-winning journalist with national exposure, Marissa now oversees the day-to-day operation of the Books Forward author branding and book marketing firm, along with our indie publishing support sister company Books Fluent.
Born and bred in Louisiana, currently living in New Orleans, she has lived and developed a strong base for our company and authors in Chicago and Nashville. Her journalism work has appeared in USA Today, National Geographic and other major publications. She is now interviewed by media on best practices for book marketing.