As part of a pandemic project suggested by his wife, Jack Epstein began last month going through his papers that were taking up space in their attic.
While cleaning out old letters from readers of his budget travel book on Latin America, the journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle made an unexpected discovery, that he’d corresponded with the Unabomber.
Epstein told CNN the letter was from 1979 and read something like: “I’m looking for a refuge in South America, where the closest person is five miles away, you seem to know South America well, can you give me some advice.”
Epstein, who has been a journalist since 1980, looked at the return address and it said TJ Kaczynski. “The first thing that came to mind was Ted Kaczynski, and I thought “It can’t be him, it can’t be the Unabomber,”‘ he said.
He Googled Kaczynski and found out his middle name is John, and he knew it had to be him.
At the time that Epstein received the letter, Kaczynski was unknown to the general public. The Unabomber first came to the attention of authorities in 1978 after a homemade bomb exploded in a Chicago university. It was followed by a series of attacks that killed three people and injured dozens. He wasn’t caught until 1996 after his brother identified his prose from his published manifesto.
But Kaczynski not only sent one letter, but two. The second being a thank you note for giving him advice and being “helpful and courteous.”
“I’m glad I was helpful and courteous, because you know, this guy was sending bombs to people he doesn’t know,” Epstein said.
After confirming the authenticity of the letters, Epstein had to do what he does best.
“I’ve got to write something. This is so weird. I have to write something down,” Epstein said.
He published his own story about the letters in the Chronicle on Friday.
“Who would have thought going through your attic that you had two letters from the Unabomber,” he said.
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