Why the Unabomber Auction Is Boring

More

Ted Kaczynski never wanted his personal items sold, but the man must, for his part, be humiliated by the low bidding prices they're receiving

Tenner_TedPhotos_5-19_banner.jpg

GSA


The low bidding in the auction of some of the papers and possessions of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, must be a disappointment. After the first day, even the handwritten manifesto is still only slightly over $12,000, modest indeed for such a notorious document, and considering the costs even to the four of 23 victims and surviving families who have opted to receive restitution. Kaczynski, who fought the sale through the courts for years, must, for his part, be humiliated by the low prices, even if they do make it more likely that the University of Michigan or some other library will acquire the papers.

Even the weapons collector market is surprisingly slow. A homemade, foot-long black knife with a unique street-gang aesthetic, worthy of the prop department of some apocalyptic film production, is at a relatively paltry $305.

On the page for a portable manual typewriter -- not the one used to type the manifesto -- the GSA's "Go Green" carbon savings tool helpfully notes:

Reusing this item instead of buying new is like saving the carbon equivalent of...

3.04 gallons of gasoline used

What does the apparently weak interest mean? I think it's that the longevity of a good crime story depends on continuing uncertainty. I visited the Newseum in Washington a few weeks ago and saw the FBI's relics of both the Lindbergh and the Unabomber cases. The replica of the kidnapping ladder is infinitely more interesting than Kaczynski's Montana cabin, if only because many people (if not the FBI) still aren't sure whether Richard Bruno Hauptmann actually built it. Zodiac and even Jack the Ripper theories continue to appear. In his bid for fame as an anti-technology theorist by publishing a manifesto long and personal enough to incriminate himself, Kaczynski surrendered his greatest asset: mystery.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to a Seaside Town in Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

From This Author

Just In