Maine Hermit: Why Christopher Knight Abandoned Society For 27 Years


This has got to be one of, if not the, oddest stories of 2013.

Christopher Knight, 47, is being held on $5,000 bail at Kennebec County jail on charges of burglary and theft after being arrested last Thursday leaving a camp with $280 worth of food.

For years, locals have investigated a series of familiar break-ins that spawned the local legend of the "North Pond Hermit." Officials say Knight has committed well above 1,000 burglaries over the span of 27 years while living deep in the rural woods of Rome, Maine.

Authorities discovered Knight's camp site on Tuesday where they believe Knight has resided for at least 27 years.

In 2005, the Morning Sentinel told the story of Knight's favorite place to steal from: Pine Tree Camp, a camp that serves over 700 people with disabilities. On April 27, 2005, the camp's director bought enough groceries to feed 30 people only to find itwas all gone the next day.

This is the same campground where Knight was apprehended last Thursday at 1:15 a.m..

This story is too incredible to be true, too unfathomable for those of us who have yet to even see 27 years, and it's a reminder to the world we live in that it's not exactly what we think it is seen from a different perspective.

As years passed, Knight became a true expert in covert technology. This wasn't a guy that lived off the land naturally, but his dwellings — mostly made of things he had stolen — are still unbelievably impressive.

Knight went to great lengths to completely hide his camp from ground and air. State police and wardens claimed they couldn't make out his camp from 100 feet away because of it's immense camouflage. He covered all shiny surfaces with moss and dirt while painting most tent surfaces green to blend in with the surrounding woods.

Knight situated his campsite facing east and west in order to utilize the sun throughout the day. Inside his tent, officials found a raised bed surrounded by totes that he used as nightstands for his radio and other supplies. Mouse traps were set up to keep critters away from his food.

Outside, an antenna atop a tree reaching 30 feet in the air gave Knight access to talk radio such as Rush Limbaugh and local classic rock stations. A rope stretched between trees made for drying clothes while a makeshift shower nearby, hidden behind a small growth of fir trees, allowed Knight to maintain adequate hygiene.

All supplies present at the campground were stolen except for the aviator sunglasses he wore — those he had when he first ventured into the woods as a teen. Knight stole all the food he ate, including meat and other perishable items. There were no permanent structures nailed down, showing no sign of life lived in the space besides worn dirt in some areas.

One of the most impressive aspects of Knight's inhabitance was the fact he survived 27 Maine winters in the Maine woods by himself! By simply using multiple sleeping bags and occasionally sacrificing a little propane he used for cooking, Knight survived various catastrophic winters such as the Ice Storm of '98 in a nylon tent.

Simply unbelievable. 

Known as a very intelligent man by those who knew him as a teen, Knight was very meticulous in the way he stayed unnoticed. He never lit a fire, as he was afraid the smoke would be seen or smelled. He only made trips at night, carrying stolen supplies back to camp with just a pen light. Knight rarely left the tent during the winter months for fear his tracks could easily be found in the snow.

When asked what he did during his time in solidarity, Knight claimed that he read books, meditated, and watched eagles. Quite the life.

Two years after graduating high school in 1984, Knight took to the woods. When authorities questioned his motives last week, he had no deep explanation for his decision except for the fact his date of departure coincided with the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion in 1986. His cousin also died in a logging accident that same year.

Knight would move around for a bit until he made permanent camp in rural Rome in the early 1990s. The only time he entered civilization was to steal supplies from camps under the cover of darkness.

One of the oddest parts to this story is the fact that many of Knight's relatives, including his mother Joyce, still live on Pond Road, where he grew up.

There must have been a clear assumption that Knight was deranged and unable to coexist with society. I wonder if family knew of his whereabouts all along. I wonder if they believed he was dead. I wonder how Maine hunters were unable to come across his dwellings for almost three decades. This isn't Alaska. Even with Maine's vast wilderness, it amazes me that no one was able to spot his residency for this amount of time.

Sgt. Terry Hughes of the Maine Warden Service, the officer who caught the "North Pond Hermit", said on Tuesday: "I couldn't fathom why he has done what he has done." No one can.

The man who loved "Robinson Crusoe" may have been attracted to the freedom of the woods, away from tragic events that were happening around him. Admiring the solitude, days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years, and before he knew it, it was too late. He had escaped conformity and there was no turning back.

He was a man who wanted no attention, no friends; just simply serenity and silence.

Knight apologized to the Pine Tree Camp director after his arrest, saying "I'm sorry for the harm I've caused."

He admitted to Sgt. Hughes that he contemplated suicide several times when the effort was just too great. He told officials he was glad the solitude had ended, but we all know - deep down - that isn't true.

Knight's story is surreal and hard to articulate since we don't have the ability to comprehend such a vast amount of time spent alone. However, we can all relate to his urge to escape society's grasp. He ventured into a lifestyle most of us see as stupid, but ambitious; strange, but desirable; impossible, but feasible.

He went into the wild, and although society won in the end, Knight's story will forever be remembered as a unique life lived.