Madman in the Woods
Life Next Door to the Unabomber
by Jamie Gehring
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 19 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 21 Mar 2022
A haunting account of the sixteen years when a young Jamie Gehring and her family lived closer than anyone to Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber
As a child in Lincoln, Montana, Jamie Gehring and her family shared their land, their home, and their dinner table with a hermit with a penchant for murder. But they had no idea that the odd recluse living in the adjacent cabin was anything more than a disheveled man who brought young Jamie painted rocks as gifts. 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.” In fact, he was much more—Ted eluded the FBI for seventeen years while mailing explosives to strangers, earning the infamous title of Unabomber.
In Gehring’s investigative quest twenty-five years later to reclaim a piece of her childhood and to answer the questions, why, how, she recalls what were once innocent memories and odd circumstances that become less puzzling in hindsight.
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?
“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
“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 ShadowMan
“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