The inventor of Tickle Me Elmo was a Unabomber suspect

I can't stop thinking about this bizarre, rousing interview in which Mark Johnson-Williams, the toymaker behind Tickle Me Elmo, recounts his years as a suspect in the FBI's investigation of the Unabomber. Even though Johnson-Williams has nothing to do with Ted Kaczynski, the two men's lives have some odd similarities.

After mailing his 16th bomb in April 1995, Kaczynski mailed a letter to the New York Times and the Washington Post, where he referred to himself as "FC" and laid out his manifesto. While it wasn't part of the letter, the FBI was able to detect an impression of a note that said "Call Nathan R Wed 7 pm," which sent them on an effort to contact thousands of Nathans throughout the country.

FBI agents met with Johnson-Williams at his office at LeapFrog in Northern California, and he was wearing a baseball hat with the letters "FC," the same identifier the Unabomber used when he sent a bomb to the New York Times in 1995. The agents kept asking questions and things went downhill.

"I owned blueprints to the type of plane Kaczynski tried to blow up [a Boeing 727, in 1979]. I had them because I'd worked on a talking warning system for McDonnell Douglas that Boeing planes were equipped with at the time.

I also travel a lot — back then, I was spending three-quarters of my life in China — and I ended up being at two different California airports on a day where the Unabomber had threatened those two airports.

They also asked me, "Have you ever been to Provo, Utah?" Strangely, I had. I'd worked on a product called Casey the Cassette Player — it was a robot toy — and I'd gone to a commercial shoot there in the mid-1980s at Osmond Studios. The Unabomber had also mailed a bomb from there."

Until Kaczynski's arrest in 1996, Johnson-Williams talked to the FBI frequently— both in-person and, about once ever two weeks, over the phone.

Full interview in Mel