Police say hermit stole to survive 27 years in woods

By Doug Williams
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MAINE STATE POLICE
 
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Christopher Knight, a 47-year-old man, was arrested in April and spent his first night indoors in 27 years in the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta. The “North Pond Hermit”, as he had become known, dropped out of society back in the 1980s, electing to live completely alone in the woods.

Knight, who grew up in Albion, was a computer technician before he quit the suburbs and headed for a solitary life shortly after the Chernobyl incident in the USSR. It is not known if this event is what drove him to choose his bizarre lifestyle, but it is interesting that although he has two brothers and, presumably, parents, nobody filed a missing person’s report.

He had been living completely alone in a shack made from tarps and other items he had stolen from cabins in the nearby area of North Pond. His living area was in a clearing in the woods completely surrounded by trees and boulders. It remained hidden even though troopers had searched the area for the “mystery” person who had been stealing items from cabins.

He had also been spotted on footage from hidden wildlife cameras, but on the rare occasions when he was seen by people he did not look like an indigent or tramp – he always appeared quite well-dressed and clean. Clearly, he had quite good taste and stole only nice items of clothing, so people had no reason to assume that this person was the one who had been stealing from their homes.

There was a pattern in the burglary sprees, after which people found that tools, propane tanks, rain jackets, and food had disappeared. These incidents mainly happened in early spring when people arrived to spend the summer at their cabins. David Proulx, one of the residents, reported that his cabin had been burglarized about 50 times in the 27 years since Knight had taken up residence in the woods.

At one time he had even written a note to the “North Pond Hermit” to the effect that if he would just tell him what he needed, Proulx would put it by the side of the road for him.  Proulx was never taken up on the offer.

Over the years the “North Pond Hermit” became a somewhat legendary and mythical character, as people were certain of his existence but nobody had any actual proof. There was an element of fear involved as the “North Pond Hermit” began to gain Boogeyman status. The people in the area were never sure when he would strike or who was watching them. However, he never hurt anyone and was probably unaware of how scary he was to other people.

Christopher Knight, while living completely on his own (he says that he had spoken to only one person in 27 years), was by no means out of touch. He had stolen a battery-operated TV set, battery-operated radios, and anything he could find to read.

Many magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Vanity Fair, were among the items taken. Presumably, he looked for batteries to steal when he went scavenging among other peoples’ belongings. It is quite an indictment that while he did not know the name of the area in which he had taken up residence, he did know about the Kardashians!

Knight learned to live outdoors through the harsh winters. He stockpiled food during summer and purposely put on extra weight to see him through the lean months. He was also never sick during his time in the woods, since contracting germs needs human contact.

Some people suspect that he, in fact, occupied the cabins around North Pond, as they do not believe that it is possible to survive winter outside.

There has never been any evidence that this was the case. When asked about his choice of such a harsh, difficult existence, he is reported to have said that he felt contentment.

Knight was eventually caught when he tripped on a surveillance sensor cable set up by a game warden at a youth camp about 600 yards from where he stayed. It happened when he went there to find food to steal. When he was arrested, he was found with a haul including a roll of bacon, ten Sweet Tarts, two tubs of Folger’s coffee, some Kraft marshmallows, and a bag of Humpty Dumpty potato chips.

He obviously ate quite well and was not starving, by any means. However, he never took valuables, and he never had a need for cash as he had not bought anything or been to a shop since 1986, The Boston Globe reported.

So while he awaits mental evaluation, the locals can rest easy knowing that the elusive North Pond Hermit has left the vicinity. He had learned from “cheesy” TV shows that he would need to talk to a lawyer, but he has pleaded guilty to many of the reported burglaries. He expected to live the rest of his life out in the woods and to die there, but he is now safely in a place where he is likely to stay for many years.