"In this work... Gehring looks back over her childhood sharing the Montana woods with Kaczynski for 16 years, when her father, Butch, leased him the very acres on which the bomber constructed his rudimentary shack and workshop. There are the fond and unpleasant memories she holds (receiving a handmade toy as a gift from Kaczynski, hearing him creep and rummage through her parents’ yards), the fond and unpleasant stories from her family (Kaczynski and Butch making the land deal, then the former yelling at the latter for using herbicides on surrounding grasslands)... and the dissonance of finding that your former fine-if-kinda-strange neighbor was one of America’s most notorious killers—who had it out for you, too. It all makes for a fascinating, heartfelt, complex reflection."
"When the FBI came knocking on the Gehring’s door in 1996, they called him the Unabomber. He was Ted Kaczynski, the longest-tenured domestic terrorist in American history. 'You’re not supposed to grow up next to a murderer, but I did,' writes a grown Jamie Gehring in her ‘Madman in the Woods: Life Next Door to the Unabomber’ (Diversion Books), out now."
—New York Post
“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, Kaczynski, 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
"Gehring’s arresting debut recounts how she has tried to reconcile her memories of her bucolic childhood in Lincoln, Mont., sharing a backyard with a friendly hermit, with the later revelations that the hermit, Ted Kaczynski, who held her as a baby and gave her painted rocks as a child, was, in fact, the Unabomber. For 16 years she had no idea that Kaczynski, though often erratic and reclusive, was the nation’s longest running domestic terrorist, using bombs to kill three and maim 23 people from 1978 to 1995. It wasn’t until Kaczynski published his manifesto in September 1995 that his own brother realized he was the likely bomber. The FBI recruited Gehring’s father to spy on him and aid in the operation that led to his arrest in 1996. Only then did the author realize that her entire childhood had been lived in the shadow of danger: by Kaczynski’s own account, he had poisoned her dog, sabotaged her father’s sawmill, and once almost murdered her stepmother and baby sister. In 2017, Gehring began researching this book and even wrote to Kaczynski, but his reply changed nothing. It was like the man himself, both superficial and only hinting at the rage below the surface. Gehring’s insights into the life and mind of a madman make fascinating reading for true crime fans."
"A revealing, firsthand addition to the literature of domestic terrorism."
A winding but eventful tale of crime and criminal investigation in the American outback.
Gehring grew up in the mountains of Montana on family land. In 1971, Theodore J. Kaczynski bought 1.4 acres of the land, “ideal for isolated living.” Years later, as a young mother, she read everything available on Kaczynski; her father had helped the FBI lure Kaczynski out of his heavily fortified cabin following his terrorist campaign of bombings and other crimes. In addition to chilling explorations of how Gehring’s family may have just escaped the Unabomber’s violence, she turns up local details that add substantially to what has been known about him. For instance, some of his bombing victims were not his intended targets, for he consulted out-of-date reference books. In one instance, he sent a bomb to the head of the California Forestry Association—a man who had retired and whose successor suffered his intended death. “The 1995 murder was poised to be strategic,” writes the author, “yet the bomber was relying on the materials he had access to. He would come to rely on many of the ‘materials’ in this quiet little valley.” Not all of Kaczynski’s victims were distant, however. Gehring reveals that, for reasons known only to him, he poisoned their family dog—and other dogs in the area. The denouement is nicely ironic, for, as Gehring writes, after living in scenic mountain country for 25 years, Kaczynski now has a view from his prison of only human-made structures. The narrative ends with fragments of a letter he wrote to the author in response to her inquiries. “Each side of the paper embodied the chasms of the Unabomber, an elderly man by now, still with the same focus, sharing the ideals that fueled his reign of terror for seventeen years, the reason he was writing to me from a prison cell,” she writes. “Everything and nothing had changed.”
A revealing, firsthand addition to the literature of domestic terrorism.