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...I'm taking very drastic measure in attempt to provide this information to you... I will die/change in the end for this, but that's ok, hahaha paradise awaits! I'm dismissing a few individuals from reality, to change all of you for the better...

Lucas John "Luke" Helder, a.k.a. "The Midwest Pipe Bomber", is a serial bomber.


"Mailboxes are exploding."

Helder bomb map

A map denoting the locations of Helder's bombings.

Helder was born on May 5, 1981, in Pine Island, Minnesota. Little is known about his history prior to his bombing spree; what is known is that he was a member of a grunge band named Apathy. While the band was successful only on a local scale, they recorded a CD named Sacks of People at the end of their first summer together. He also decorated his college dorm room with grunge memorabilia, including posters of he band Nirvana and its front man, Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in 1994. Immediately prior to his bombings, Helder attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he was later described as being polite but quiet by his teachers. During his time there, he became fascinated by astral projection techniques and came to believe in a sort of afterlife.

Bombing Spree, Capture, and Incarceration[]

For reasons unknown, Helder, wanting media attention, constructed an elaborate plan to initiate a spree of pipe bombings at specific locations in several U.S. states to create a sort of smiley face on the country map. He also purchased a shotgun which he intended to use on himself after the bombings were over. Helder soon began planting pipe bombs in mailboxes across the country and rigged them to detonate as the mailboxes were opened. Eight bombs were discovered in Nebraska, five in Iowa (which were the only ones to explode, leaving six people, including four postal workers, injured on May 3), three in Illinois, and one each in Colorado and Texas. Helder had covered 3,200 miles during his bombing spree. Also left in the mailboxes were anti-government notes.

The bombings were heavily covered by media outlets all across the U.S., and Helder was given the name of "The Midwest Pipe Bomber". Authorities came onto his trail when Helder's father called them to inform them about a letter sent to him that contained suspicious information about the bombings. In Nevada, Helder was tracked down and a high-speed car chase began across a vast landscape and eventually ended along Interstate 80 at Reno, Nevada. Police arrested Helder and seized the shotgun he purchased, along with six pipe bombs, from his car. Helder was arrested before he could complete the full smile. It was later revealed that he was pulled over on the road three times by officers before Helder's father tipped them off. He was moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where two federal charges were made against him. Charges were also made against him in Illinois, Nebraska, and Nevada. Every time he was brought to and from jail and court, Helder smiled broadly.

In April 2004, a federal judge found Helder incompetent to stand trial and institutionalized him at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. When Helder was revealed to be the Midwest Pipe Bomber, the media frequently mentioned his status as a musician prior to his bombings and arrest. Many music critics scrambled to acquire copies of Apathy's CD, some of which were auctioned on Ebay for as much as $200. Controversy was also attracted to the 1999 film Fight Club, which featured a scene in which a smiley face was printed on the side of a building by an anarchist group.

Nirvana Logo

The Nirvana logo, which bears striking resemblance to the pattern formed on the US map from Helder's pipe bombings.

Modus Operandi[]

During the bombing spree, Helder used pipe bombs, which were packed with BBs and nails, that detonated when the mailboxes that contained them were opened. He placed the bombs in specific locations that would appear as a smiley face on the U.S. map once drawn out. A close look shows the unfinished smiley to closely resemble the logo of famous grunge band Nirvana. He was also found to be in possession of a shotgun, but apparently never used it.

Known Victims[]

  • May 3, 2002, Iowa: Six people injured by pipe bombs. They are:
    • Tipton: Delores Werling, 70
    • Unspecified locations:
      • Doris Zimmerman, 64
      • Steve Ertmer, 34 (injured in the right hand)
      • Marilyn Dolieslager (injured in her face and lost part of her thumb)
      • Ken Dolphin
      • An unnamed postal worker

On Criminal Minds[]