Maine wilderness hermit captured after 30 years, 1,000 burglaries

Torn from a Jack London novel, Christopher Knight survived without human contact on what little he needed

Topics: Maine, hermit, wilderness, theft, christopher knight, Crime, jack london, ,

Maine wilderness hermit captured after 30 years, 1,000 burglariesBooking photo of Christopher Knight, arrested Thursday, April 4, 2013, while stealing food from a camp in Rome, Maine. (Credit: AP/Kennebec County Sheriff's Office)

You probably haven’t heard of Christopher Knight. Until this week, almost no one had. But for decades there were tales told of “the hermit of the North Pond” — a furtive figure,  torn from the pages of a Jack London novel, living deep in the wilderness of central Maine, surviving on wits and what little he would pilfer from nearby campsites.

On Wednesday, the Maine Morning Sentinel reported that Knight’s time in the wild had been abruptly ended with an arrest during a burglary last week. He had reportedly committed over 1,000 burglaries over his three decades living in isolation “always taking only what he needed to survive,” the Morning Sentinel noted, reporting that “the 47-year-old hermit now awaits his future at the Kennebec County Jail, where he is being held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail on charges of burglary and theft.”

Knight’s story is both mythic and remarkable. Reportedly, in 27 years of living in a makeshift campsite, the wilderness man spoke only once to another human being — a hiker. Otherwise, his minor thefts and acts of concealment were carried out with such stealth that Sgt. Terry Hughes of the Maine Warden Service had thought he was trained in the military. “To maintain his position is phenomenal,” Hughes said, noting, “I couldn’t fathom why he has done what he has done.” (Meanwhile, the warden’s long-term mission to catch the unobtrusive hermit could be the more unfathomable act in this story).

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Here are a few of our favorite details uncovered about Knight’s time in the woods:

  • Knight graduated from Lawrence High School in 1984. His senior photo in the yearbook shows him standing with his arms crossed and no hint of a smile on his face. Knight listed no clubs or activities and, for future plans, said he would be a computer technician. Two years later he took to the woods.
  • Warden Dan Christianson said Knight had been at his current location since 1989. On Tuesday, Christianson pointed to a spot a few feet away from Knight’s tent: “He said he’s watched that mushroom grow for the last four years.”
  • [Over his campsite] he draped dark tarps over rope strung between trees, and tarps underneath, to give added protection from rain. One of those ropes has been in place so long that it has grown deep into the tree.
  • “He doesn’t hunt,” Hughes said. “He tried fishing a few times but it was too much work.”
  • He read whatever he could get.

Godspeed, hermit of the North Pond. Per “White Fang,” may the wild still linger in him.

 

Natasha Lennard
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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