27 Years of Solitude
When a hermit emerged from the woods outside of Rome, Maine in April 2013, he claimed that he had been living in complete isolation for 27 years. In fact, he reported the only interaction he had with another human being was with a hiker back in the 1990s.
However, the public and the police would soon realize that this was a lie. You won’t believe this man’s story.
Surviving the Harsh Winters
Despite the harsh winters that Maine endured, the hermit claimed he made it through them pretty much unscathed. His secret was pacing back and forth around his camp. Keeping a fire going during the harsh cold nights was also a key factor to his survival.
Intelligent and Articulate
According to the police officers that interviewed the hermit, he was quite articulate and intelligent. The man claimed he spent most of his time reading and meditating to combat the extended periods of extreme isolation.
The hermit revealed his biggest inspiration came from the romantics and transcendentalists throughout history. His favorite was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who spoke on the connection between the soul and nature, and the importance of respecting the world around you.
A Complicated Relationship
It’s complicated,” the hermit said. “Solitude bestows an increase in something valuable. I can’t dismiss that idea. Solitude increased my perception. But… when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. There was no audience, no one to perform for. There was no need to define me. I became irrelevant.”
Never Truly Free
According to the hermit, his “desires dropped away” and he didn’t have any real drive or want for anything. He didn’t even have a name. However, living in isolation did come at a cost, one that kept the hermit never truly free from the world and society.
Gone Without A Trace
The hermit revealed he abandoned modern society in 1986. One of his neighbors revealed that the family believed he had run away to New York City. A missing person’s report was never filed and the police were never involved. The family just assumed he had left to follow his own path.
A Dead End Job
At the time, the hermit had been 20-years-old and working a dead end job installing alarm systems in Boston. He intended to literally get lost in the woods, so he could never find his way back to society.
There and Back Again
At first, the hermit drove south until he hit Florida. However, he decided to head back north until he came to Maine. From there, he walked on foot into the wilderness, leaving behind everything he had known without telling a soul.
Wandering the Wilderness
With no clear direction of where to go, he wandered the woods, traversing swamps, mountains, and ridges. He finally found a spot that felt like “home” to him and he decided to settle down and build a camp.
The hermits decision to come out of exile was not by choice. In fact, he was arrested for stealing from a camp for disabled adults and children. After being put in jail, the police headed to his campsite and began to dismantle it. What they found was shocking.
All is Revealed
The hermit was identified as 47-year-old Christopher Knight, and based on his mugshots he didn’t look like a man who had been living in the woods for 27 years. He was clean-shaven and washed, although his glasses were from the 1980s. Apparently, this man was what the locals had called the “North Pond Hermit” and he had been stealing from their camps and cabins for years.
The Legend of the Hermit
“It’s been a myth, this character, this folklore person who is known as the hermit, who we’ve all known about, this unknown suspect who moves around in society and burglarizes camps,” state game warden Sergeant Terry Hughes told CNN.
Decades of Crime
It was revealed that Knight was indeed a criminal. In fact, he could have been responsible for over 1,000 burglaries and break-ins in the Rome area for decades. It seemed he hadn’t been living in total isolation after all.
A Life Built on Lies
Despite Knight wanting to live a life away from people, his entire existence relied on society for survival. In his 27 years in the wild, Knight never tried to hunt, trap or fish. Instead of learning survival basics, he chose to steal from others.
Whether it was food, cooking equipment, shovels or books, nothing was off-limits to Knight in terms of stealing. The camp he built was protected by a tangle of thickets and the police found several video game systems and a battery-powered tv as well. For someone wanting to shun modern technology, he sure stole a lot of it.
Starving and Desperate
According to Knight, his criminal career began when he had first entered the Rome woods. After not eating for nearly 10 days, he began to steal from homes near the woods. Corn, potatoes and other vegetables from the garden were his go-to meal sources.
Of course, this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Once Knight had settled into his camp, he began to search for local cabins and summer camps to steal from. He even watched the homes of a few permanent residents, realizing the security measures were pretty lax.
Raiding the Pantries
Knight revealed that he thought the easiest way to get food was to raid the pantries of the local camps and people who lived in the area. He had no desire to take their personal valuables, just provisions that were necessary for him to survive.
Perfecting His Skills
As the years passed, Knight perfected his skills for robbing the locals. He would spend time watching them and learning their routines. Then he would strike when they were not home.
In the Cover of Darkness
Knight also had an extensive toolkit for picking locks. He usually waited until nightfall to strike, using a stolen canoe for crossing the pond near his campsite. The darkness allowed him to get in and out without being detected.
“Every time, I was very conscious that I was doing wrong,” Knight revealed. “I took no pleasure in it, none at all. My adrenaline was spiking, my heart rate was soaring. My blood pressure was high. I was always scared when stealing. Always. I wanted it over as quickly as possible.”
According to the local game warden, the only reason that Knight was caught was due to the recent installation of surveillance technology at one of the local camps. Now, the crime spree of the North Pond Hermit would finally come to an end.
Michael Finkel, a biographer, and a photographer took a deep interest in Knight. He documented the investigation, and despite Knight’s crimes, felt for the man. “I tend to feel warm about Knight,” said Finkel in an interview with National Geographic in 2017. “But it should not be forgotten that it wasn’t just hamburgers and flashlights he stole. It was people’s sense of security and peace of mind, things you cannot put a price tag on.”
Seven Months in Jail
After his arrest, Christopher Knight spent seven months in jail for his crimes. After his release, he reunited with his brother and re-entered society. today, he works with his brother and is trying to adapt to a normal life.
At least the community in Maine will no longer have to worry about being burglarized.