Most of those who reject the idea that Zodiac might actually have been an earlier incarnation of Theodore Kaczynski do so based on differences, rather than similarities. This doesn't seem outlandish, on its face. Zodiac assailed his victims from close range, using such "intimate" weapons as gun and knife, while Kaczynski, in true "mad bomber" fashion, created elaborate explosive devices that killed from a safe, impersonal distance. Be that as it may, given the distance in time between the two, it seems both prudent and logical to inquire whether the similarities in the cases outweigh the differences, and whether those differences can be adequately explained.
Stripped to its essence, the Unabomber-Zodiac hypothesis comprises three major elements, namely (1) a common psychological profile; (2) proximity; and (3) a common criminal signature.
A Common Psychological Profile
What we know of Zodiacs personality and psychological constitution can be gleaned only through an examination of his writings and, most importantly, his victimology. In a span of only nine short months, from December 20, 1968 through September 27, 1969, Zodiac committed three crimes so alike in their nature as to suggest that it is through those three events that we are most likely to achieve a true knowledge of why Zodiac killed. The horrifying incidents at Lake Herman Road, Blue Rock Springs and Lake Berryessa each involved a young couple caught alone and unawares in an isolated trysting place where they were either engaged in sexual activity or could be mistakenly thought by the killer to be engaged in sexual activity.
There is little if any doubt that the turnout at Lake Herman Road served the teenage population of Vallejo and its surrounding environs as a private place for sexual or simply affectionate liaisons. Given the loneliness and isolation of the place we can scarcely think otherwise. The same can probably be said of the golf-course parking lot at Blue Rock Springs, as indeed it can probably be said of any parking lot at innumerable golf courses and public parks across the nation. Lake Berryessa and its environs no doubt contain a great many informal trysting places, and it is impossible to confirm with any degree of certainty whether the site occupied by Hartnell and Shepard had been used extensively for that purpose. A photo of the location taken at an unknown date shows a picnic table standing at the far end of the narrow peninsula, suggesting that it might have been a popular site for visitors to the park; at least popular enough that it might serve as a relatively common place for young people to be alone together.
It is therefore not unreasonable to conclude that in his first three Bay Area assaults Zodiac sought to murder young couples that he found alone together in isolated places. That is the first, and most significant, principle with which we have to work. It comprises a distinct pattern of victimology that suggests a particular mindset on the killers part. It suggests, particularly, that these initial murders were none other than acts of retribution fostered by the killers own sexual inadequacy. The brevity of the attacks and the abruptness of their conclusion preclude us from perceiving Zodiac as a killer for whom the act of murder served as a vehicle for sexual stimulation (see Mass Murder and Modus Operandi for an elaboration of this concept). Far more likely is the notion that Zodiac killed as an act of retribution against a class of persons who represented the sexual fulfillment that he himself could not attain.
Moreover, if we believe Zodiac to have been sexually frustrated, it almost assuredly follows that he suffered from social frustration as well. In fact (barring some physical problem) it is not illogical to assume that social ineptitude formed the precursor to any sexual dysfunction experienced by the killer. Sex is an act that is purely physical only in its culmination. The balance of the process (or rather, its precursor) is no different than that which is involved in cultivating friendships and acquaintances that are completely non-sexual in nature. People who lack the social skills necessary to form simple friendships or sustain themselves in everyday social situations are, as a matter of course, less likely to form the social relationships that will lead to sexual ones.
Zodiac became famous for his correspondences, rather than his murders. In many ways those correspondences support the supposition that he suffered from social ineptitude as well as sexual frustration. The very existence of the letters bears this out. In their essence they comprise a plea for attention from an individual who is mired in obscurity and seeks with desperation to be recognized. Thus it may be postulated that the murders and the letters bear something of a symbiotic relationship. Had the murders not occurred, there would have been no letters. This may seem obvious on its face, but it must be borne in mind that, without the measure of credibility fostered by the killings, Zodiacs letters would never have seen the light of day. To a lesser extent, the murders appear to have been driven by a need to achieve the credibility necessary to awaken the attention of the media. The murders and letters together comprised a complex relationship at the root of which lay a hatred of his fellow humans and a need for recognition that alike arose from the killers overwhelming sense of inferiority and his inability to function in society.
Concerning the psychological background of Theodore Kaczynski there is little need for guesswork or extrapolation. Extensive documentary evidence presents a portrait of Kaczynski as an individual plagued by social and sexual pathologies that originated in his early teens and persisted unabated for the duration of his life. Prodded by the indefatigable efforts of a doting mother (herself an intellectual), Kaczynskis youth was marked by a rapid intellectual advancement that progressed at the expense of his adjustment to social life and situations. Kaczynski entered his senior year of high school two full years in advance of his peers and two full years behind his normal classmates, both in age and social adaptation. A classmate observed:
While the math club would sit around talking about the big issues of the day, Ted would be waiting for someone to fart. He had a fascination with body sounds more akin to a 5-year-old than a 15-year-old. [New York Times, May 26, 1996]
In his autobiography, written ca. 1979, Kaczynski claimed that during his high school years he developed a personal philosophy of hatred and amorality. This is important to bear in mind when delving into the possibility of his implication in later crimes:
By the time I was, say, 12 years old, my system of morality had evolved into an abstract, artificial construction that could not possibly be applied in practice. I never told anyone about this system, since I knew they would never take it seriously.
By and by I got bored with this game. One day when I was 13 years old, I was walking down the street and saw a girl. Something about her appearance antagonized me, and, from habit, I began looking for a way to justify hating her, within my logical system. But then I stopped and said to myself, "This is getting ridiculous. I'll just chuck all this silly morality business and hate anybody I please." Since then I have never had any interest in or respect for morality, ethics, or anything of the sort. [United States v. Kaczynski, GX 18-2014C, p. 11]
In his sixteenth year, Kaczynski entered Harvard University, leading an obscure existence marked only by extreme solitude and study. During the entire period of 1958 through 1962, Kaczynskis list of relationships with the opposite sex consisted of a single, short-lived friendship with an unknown woman. Obscurity and isolation continued during his graduate years at Michigan, from 1962 through 1967. The psychological profile taken of Kaczynski during the course of the Unabomber trial (the Psych Report) lists only one female relationship during five years of study, involving a woman identified by Kaczynski only as Ms. Z. [Psych Report]
Constant study, part-time work, and a frustrating series of setbacks involving a doctoral dissertation may have diverted Kaczynskis attention from the lack of social interaction and sexual gratification that marked his first four years at Michigan. By the beginning of his fifth year, however, social and sexual ineptitude appear to have boiled over into a crisis that, by Kaczynskis tacit admission, would color his worldview for the remainder of his life. The nature of this crisis, based on Kaczynskis 1978 autobiography, is related by Dr. Sally Johnson in the Psych Report:
While at the University of Michigan he sought psychiatric contact on one occasion at the start of his fifth year of study. As referenced above, he had been experiencing several weeks of intense and persistent sexual excitement involving fantasies of being a female. During that time period he.became convinced that he should undergo sex change surgery. He recounts that he was aware that this would require a psychiatric referral, and he set up an appointment at the Health Center at the University to discuss this issue. He describes that while waiting in the waiting room, he became anxious and humiliated over the prospect of talking about this to the doctor. When he was actually seen, he did not discuss these concerns, but rather claimed he was feeling some depression and anxiety over the possibility that the deferment status would be dropped for students and teachers, and that he would face the possibility of being drafted into the military. He indicates that the psychiatrist viewed his anxiety and depression as not atypical. Mr. Kaczynski describes leaving the office and feeling rage, shame, and humiliation over this attempt to seek evaluation. He references this as a significant turning point in his life. [Psych Report]
In a later section this incident is given further elaboration, including Kaczynskis own account, written ca. 1979:
In the summer after his fourth year, he describes experiencing a period of several weeks where he was sexually excited nearly all the time and was fantasizing himself as a woman and being unable to obtain any sexual relief. He decided to make an effort to have a sex change operation. When he returned to the University of Michigan he made an appointment to see a psychiatrist to be examined to determine if the sex change would be good for him. He claimed that by putting on an act he could con the psychiatrist into thinking him suitable for a feminine role even though his motive was exclusively erotic. As he was sitting in the waiting room, he turned completely against the idea of the operation and thus, when he saw the doctor, instead claimed he was depressed about the possibility of being drafted. He describes the following, "As I walked away from the building afterwards, I felt disgusted about what my uncontrolled sexual cravings had almost led me to do and I felt humiliated, and I violently hated the psychiatrist. Just then there came a major turning point in my life. Like a Phoenix, I burst from the ashes of my despair to a glorious new hope. I thought I wanted to kill that psychiatrist because the future looked utterly empty to me. I felt I wouldn't care if I died. And so I said to myself why not really kill the psychiatrist and anyone else whom I hate. What is important is not the words that ran through my mind but the way I felt about them. What was entirely new was the fact that I really felt I could kill someone. My very hopelessness had liberated me because I no longer cared about death. I no longer cared about consequences and I said to myself that I really could break out of my rut in life an do things that were daring, irresponsible or criminal." [Psych Report] [Authors italics]
This, then, was the precipitating factor in Kaczynskis determination to embark upon a career of murder, beginning in September, 1966:
He describes his first thought was to kill someone he hated and then kill himself, but decided he could not relinquish his rights so easily. At that point he decided "I will kill but I will make at least some effort to avoid detection so that I can kill again." He decided that he would do what he always wanted to do, to go to Canada to take off in the woods with a rifle and try to live off the country. "If it doesn't work and if I can get back to civilization before I starve then I will come back here and kill someone I hate." In his writings he emphasized what he knew was the fact that he now felt he had the courage to behave irresponsibly. [Psych Report]
At approximately the same time, other events were transpiring that may have affected Kaczynskis ever-increasing sense of sexual frustration and resentment. As described by Kaczynski in his autobiography:
I often had fantasies of killing the kind of people whom I hated (e.g. government officials, police, computer scientists, behavioral scientists, the rowdy types of college students who left their piles of beer-cans in the Arboretum, etc., etc., etc.) and I had high hopes of eventually committing such crimes. The back half of the house where I roomed during my fifth year at Michigan consisted of an apartment occupied by a bunch of rowdy jocks who belonged to the hockey team. My room was adjacent to their apartment, and, as the wall was thin, I heard a great deal of what went on there. These jocks were respectable bourgeois: They were clean-shaven, short-haired, neatly dressed, and went to church on Sunday like typical clean-cut college boys. They also smoked pot, held wild parties at which they would get drunk and continually shout words like fuck and cunt at the tops of their voices, and they would go to bed promiscuously with various girlsno great sin perhaps, but one of them [redacted], had a girl named [redacted], whom he was engaged to marry. When [redacted] was at Michigan for . [United States v. Kaczynski GX 18-2014F, p.4]
The Psych Report elaborates:
It was during that period of time that he was staying at a rooming house, managed by a graduate student, (REDACTED). He began to experience difficulty with the noise from the other rooms, particularly the sounds resulting from sexual activity of other renters. He reported the noises he heard in the house to the University System, with the hope that action would be taken against Mr. (REDACTED). He describes three experiences where he perceived he overheard the landlord providing negative information about him which subsequently resulted in a negative outcome. The first involved an Engineering student by the name of (REDACTED), who was coming over to get help with math problems. Although Mr. Kaczynski couldn't clearly hear a conversation, he eventually heard a statement by (REDACTED) indicating that he had "only come to get help with math." He perceived that Mr. (REDACTED) must have said something negative to (REDACTED) about him. On the second occasion, he had given an individual information about rooms to rent at the house where he was residing. Again, he heard a voice which he thought belonged to the individual he had spoken with, but he never came up to see him, and the next time he saw him, he was snubbed by him. On the third occasion, he had received a letter from his mother referencing that the daughter of some of their friends was interested in the woods and might like to look him up; they had given her his address. Subsequently, several weeks later he thought he overheard a woman's voice in the foyer area of the house and Mr. (REDACTED) say "Oh hi (REDACTED)" and then he said something negative about him, and the woman left without ever visiting him. [Psych Report]
These incidents sketch a portrait of an individual alienated from normal human society. They depict the young Kaczynski as both sexually and socially dysfunctional, immature, and sexually frustrated to the point where he began to question his sexual identity. They show faint but distinct signs of a growing resentment toward a specific class of individuals (the rowdy jocks and rowdy types of college students) and their social and sexual habits (i.e., beer drinking and promiscuous sex).
They also show, quite clearly, a definitive correlation between those resentments and a growing desire to kill, expressed in a series of plainly stated resolutions beginning with the psychiatrist whose only fault was to have presided over the humiliation and shame surrounding Kaczynskis pondered sex-change operation.
During the two years spanning June of 1967 and June of 1969, Kaczynski worked as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, a very short drive from the scenes of Zodiacs murders at Lake Herman Road and Blue Rock Springs. Compared to the wealth of information available concerning Kaczynskis life and movements at all stages of his life, this period has proven frustratingly spare of documentation. Perhaps the most cogent (and relevant) observation concerning this two-year period is that given by Kaczynskis younger brother, David, in a statement tendered to agents of the FBI:
TEDs inability to make friends or establish any ongoing relationships is also a lifelong characteristic of his. Since he had not thought TED was much interested in relationships with women, DAVE was surprised when TED told him he had advertised in the paper for female companionship during TEDs time at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) in 196869. DAVE believes TED continued to be unsuccessful in his quest. [FBI Interview, February 24-25, 1996]
Many years later, in a letter to his brother, Kaczynski poignantly wrote: for 37 years Ive desired women. Ive wanted desperately to find a girlfriend or a wife but have never been able to make any progress toward doing so because I lack the necessary social self-confidence and social skills. I am tormented by bitter regret at never having had the opportunity to experience the love of a woman.