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Off the Grid: Police Capture Maine Hermit Who Lived in Woods for 27 Years

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April 12, 2013

Off the Grid: Police Capture Maine Hermit Who Lived in Woods for 27 Years

By Chad Love

Twenty-seven years in the wilderness, alone. That's how long a reclusive and locally infamous Maine hermit managed to survive in the woods before he was captured last week while burglarizing a cabin.

From this story on usatoday.com:
A man who lived like a hermit for decades in a makeshift camp in the woods and may be responsible for more than 1,000 burglaries for food and other staples has been caught in a surveillance trap at a camp he treated as a "Walmart," authorities said Wednesday. Christopher Knight, 47, was arrested last week when he tripped a surveillance sensor set up by a game warden while stealing food from a camp for people with special needs in Rome, a town of about 1,000 whose population swells with the arrival of summer residents. Authorities on Tuesday found the campsite where they believed Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit in local lore, has lived for 27 years.

According to the story, Knight managed to survive Maine's brutal winters without campfires, instead wrapping himself in multiple sleeping bags and using propane heaters stolen from area camps and cabins. The last verbal contact he had with another human came sometime in the mid-90s, when a passing hiker said "hello" to him in the woods.

Pretty amazing that in this day and age, someone could walk into the woods in 1986, and simply disappear — just drop completely off the face of the planet. Makes you wonder how many people are out there in the woods, hiding and surviving on the margins? Apparently, perhaps more than we may think. Do you have any local hermit legends in your area?

Comments (21)

Top Rated
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from mayoaaron wrote 1 year 3 days ago

they should allow everyone who he ever stole from to get a private "visit" with him, where he is tied up and they have socks and bars of soap

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Aside from the robbing thing, something inside me likes this story. A whole "My Side of the Mountain" thing...

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 3 days ago

I have known several instances of this kind of bum in the woods over the years. Clearly mentally ill. I don't expect him to last long in captivity.

When I was a kid we lived on a small farm about five miles from town right on the edge of the woods (today its on the edge of subdevelopments). A bum moved into a shack in the bush a few miles from our house. Eventually my dad and my neighbor assessed the situation and had the authorities come and take him away. There were little kids in every house up there then (baby boom). The guy was unhinged and possibly a danger. A year or two later my brother and I went to explore his shack. We found an army saucer cap and several medals. We brought the stuff home and for the first time in my life I saw my dad weep openly. He was a surgical tech in the South Pacific during WWII and I imagine he probably saw hundreds of GIs whose brains were permanently scrambled by combat. I can't imagine how badly he must have felt.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Morgan64c wrote 1 year 3 days ago

I heard of a russian family who survived 30+ years alone in siberia. pretty hardcore!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from weswes088 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Chad posted about that Russian family a couple months ago. I tried to post the link to the F&S post, but the site yelled at me for putting in obscene words (there weren't any). Anyways, crazy stuff

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mayoaaron wrote 1 year 3 days ago

CL3, except for in My Side of the Mountain, Sam didn't break into cabins and rob people, this is more like a criminal in an inner city breaking into homes

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flintlock wrote 1 year 3 days ago

It would be nearly impossible to subsist for any length of time in the mountains without breaking a law. Squatting is illegal, no income means no license or tags so unless you are either a rabbit or a thief you are a poacher, and so on. Not condoning what this guy did, just sayin'.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DAVIDE1333 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Flintlock-
I understand why there are game laws because without them there would be no game. That having been said if I needed to hunt for subsistence I would not care about game laws because I don't believe that wild game is the "kings deer".

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from DAVIDE1333 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Flintlock-
I understand why there are game laws because without them there would be no game. That having been said if I needed to hunt for subsistence I would not care about game laws because I don't believe that wild game is the "kings deer".

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from J Dexter Smith wrote 1 year 3 days ago

That's right! Take him out of the woods, put him on Social Security Disability and USDA Food Stamps, pay his rent through rent subsidies or build him a 235 home in the country + Obamacare. Wouldn't have been cheaper for a church group or civic organization to bring him some clothes, food once a month, and survival gear donated by some big chain sporting goods store about once a year? Now, he will cost over a $ half a million before he kicks out.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Williamk8987 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Growing up there were always rumors of some crazy nut or fugitive living in the state park near my house. Well one day while hunting rabbits I stumbled upon a homemade log cabin. It was kind of cool. A giant oak fell leaving a giant hole in the earth. The guy squared off the hole and re-enforced the walls with cut down trees. He then built fours exterior walls only 3 feet high of with pine trees to make his home taller and then made a roof, which also opened up for an entrance. Inside he had an old army cot, a wood stove with a chimney, and enough water to last a life time. The place looked weather proof too cause it was winter and the inside was bone dry. Then there was a small path that led to a swamp and brook. There I found a camp fire still hot with small bones picked clean next too it and a few pots. There was also an assortment of deer, rabbit, coon, and other small same furs pinned on trees, as If he was drying them. I kind of got creeped out and left the area. I never saw the guy but I imagine some mountain man watching me, while I rummaged though his camp. This year I was in the same area and found the camp caved in. I always wondered who and why that guy was in the woods though....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I've seen camps like that in london, right by the canal. I think their owners were moved on for the olympics.
SBW

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Woodman wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I was the chef of a wild game dinner hosted by Unity College Con-Law students and the Archery Club last night in Unity Maine. 3 Maine wardens were there (Unity Graduates)and you can imagine the topic of conversation. They have been dismantling this guys camp for four days. The wardens were telling stories of all the stuff this guy had and how he was living. He was only 200 yards from a walking trail but he was up on top of a ridge tucked in to a tight little spot where he couldn't be seen. As much as he lived by stealing you gotta know that he was one tough guy to be out there through all of those winters, black fly seasons and such. I myself built a small cabin 2 miles from the road on a pond in the Maine woods in 1985. I lived there for 17 winters. It was snow shoes or skis all winter to get in and out. I didn't steal stuff but I learned to live with what was available and i enjoyed the solitude of living in the woods. I fished a lot, chopped a lot of wood, carried a lot of water and tied a lot of flies. Living deep in the woods is a very good experience if you like to commune with nature on her terms. I am sure this guy is out there a bit but I can understand how he might have enjoyed his life in the woods. should make a good book.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Williamk8987 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Ya Charlie and I'm from New England too. I can't imagine spending that many winters in maine's back woods. Really tough guy but he has to have mental issues.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 12 hours ago

How sad.
So many of you are so quickly assigning the label "mentally unstable" to this guy.
"Judge not least ye be judged."

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from missedit wrote 1 year 3 hours ago

There is probably a lot more then what we think.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 1 year 3 min ago

pretty amazing that we all survived the last 5 years with our current president / administration! i think we are all roughing it in some way!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Lockedandloaded wrote 52 weeks 7 hours ago

I think the show, "Duel Survivor" needs to hire this dude! Cody Lundin thinks he's a bad a**, going around barefoot and all. He's got nothing on the ole North Pond Hermit.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from the Preacher wrote 52 weeks 6 hours ago

hopefully he goes through the court system and gets his penalty quickly. I bet he is back in the woods, (close enough to hi PO) before long. hopefully his fate is different than the russian family previously mentioned.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from the Preacher wrote 52 weeks 6 hours ago

Pretty cool, but doesnt have much on Canadas barefoot bandit.

Although he didnt make acorn pancakes like Sam in my side of the mountain, I wonder if the book played a role in his choice of hermitage. I know every other boy who read that book wanted to do exactly that.

Kept pretty clean shaven

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1ojolsen wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

There are huge northern pike in North Pond. Its right not to Great Pond where the film On Golden Pond was shot. Everyone knew about the hermit

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 3 days ago

I have known several instances of this kind of bum in the woods over the years. Clearly mentally ill. I don't expect him to last long in captivity.

When I was a kid we lived on a small farm about five miles from town right on the edge of the woods (today its on the edge of subdevelopments). A bum moved into a shack in the bush a few miles from our house. Eventually my dad and my neighbor assessed the situation and had the authorities come and take him away. There were little kids in every house up there then (baby boom). The guy was unhinged and possibly a danger. A year or two later my brother and I went to explore his shack. We found an army saucer cap and several medals. We brought the stuff home and for the first time in my life I saw my dad weep openly. He was a surgical tech in the South Pacific during WWII and I imagine he probably saw hundreds of GIs whose brains were permanently scrambled by combat. I can't imagine how badly he must have felt.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Aside from the robbing thing, something inside me likes this story. A whole "My Side of the Mountain" thing...

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from DAVIDE1333 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Flintlock-
I understand why there are game laws because without them there would be no game. That having been said if I needed to hunt for subsistence I would not care about game laws because I don't believe that wild game is the "kings deer".

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Woodman wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I was the chef of a wild game dinner hosted by Unity College Con-Law students and the Archery Club last night in Unity Maine. 3 Maine wardens were there (Unity Graduates)and you can imagine the topic of conversation. They have been dismantling this guys camp for four days. The wardens were telling stories of all the stuff this guy had and how he was living. He was only 200 yards from a walking trail but he was up on top of a ridge tucked in to a tight little spot where he couldn't be seen. As much as he lived by stealing you gotta know that he was one tough guy to be out there through all of those winters, black fly seasons and such. I myself built a small cabin 2 miles from the road on a pond in the Maine woods in 1985. I lived there for 17 winters. It was snow shoes or skis all winter to get in and out. I didn't steal stuff but I learned to live with what was available and i enjoyed the solitude of living in the woods. I fished a lot, chopped a lot of wood, carried a lot of water and tied a lot of flies. Living deep in the woods is a very good experience if you like to commune with nature on her terms. I am sure this guy is out there a bit but I can understand how he might have enjoyed his life in the woods. should make a good book.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DAVIDE1333 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Flintlock-
I understand why there are game laws because without them there would be no game. That having been said if I needed to hunt for subsistence I would not care about game laws because I don't believe that wild game is the "kings deer".

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from J Dexter Smith wrote 1 year 3 days ago

That's right! Take him out of the woods, put him on Social Security Disability and USDA Food Stamps, pay his rent through rent subsidies or build him a 235 home in the country + Obamacare. Wouldn't have been cheaper for a church group or civic organization to bring him some clothes, food once a month, and survival gear donated by some big chain sporting goods store about once a year? Now, he will cost over a $ half a million before he kicks out.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Williamk8987 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Growing up there were always rumors of some crazy nut or fugitive living in the state park near my house. Well one day while hunting rabbits I stumbled upon a homemade log cabin. It was kind of cool. A giant oak fell leaving a giant hole in the earth. The guy squared off the hole and re-enforced the walls with cut down trees. He then built fours exterior walls only 3 feet high of with pine trees to make his home taller and then made a roof, which also opened up for an entrance. Inside he had an old army cot, a wood stove with a chimney, and enough water to last a life time. The place looked weather proof too cause it was winter and the inside was bone dry. Then there was a small path that led to a swamp and brook. There I found a camp fire still hot with small bones picked clean next too it and a few pots. There was also an assortment of deer, rabbit, coon, and other small same furs pinned on trees, as If he was drying them. I kind of got creeped out and left the area. I never saw the guy but I imagine some mountain man watching me, while I rummaged though his camp. This year I was in the same area and found the camp caved in. I always wondered who and why that guy was in the woods though....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Morgan64c wrote 1 year 3 days ago

I heard of a russian family who survived 30+ years alone in siberia. pretty hardcore!!!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from weswes088 wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Chad posted about that Russian family a couple months ago. I tried to post the link to the F&S post, but the site yelled at me for putting in obscene words (there weren't any). Anyways, crazy stuff

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mayoaaron wrote 1 year 3 days ago

CL3, except for in My Side of the Mountain, Sam didn't break into cabins and rob people, this is more like a criminal in an inner city breaking into homes

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flintlock wrote 1 year 3 days ago

It would be nearly impossible to subsist for any length of time in the mountains without breaking a law. Squatting is illegal, no income means no license or tags so unless you are either a rabbit or a thief you are a poacher, and so on. Not condoning what this guy did, just sayin'.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I've seen camps like that in london, right by the canal. I think their owners were moved on for the olympics.
SBW

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Williamk8987 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Ya Charlie and I'm from New England too. I can't imagine spending that many winters in maine's back woods. Really tough guy but he has to have mental issues.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 1 year 12 hours ago

How sad.
So many of you are so quickly assigning the label "mentally unstable" to this guy.
"Judge not least ye be judged."

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from missedit wrote 1 year 3 hours ago

There is probably a lot more then what we think.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 1 year 3 min ago

pretty amazing that we all survived the last 5 years with our current president / administration! i think we are all roughing it in some way!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Lockedandloaded wrote 52 weeks 7 hours ago

I think the show, "Duel Survivor" needs to hire this dude! Cody Lundin thinks he's a bad a**, going around barefoot and all. He's got nothing on the ole North Pond Hermit.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from the Preacher wrote 52 weeks 6 hours ago

hopefully he goes through the court system and gets his penalty quickly. I bet he is back in the woods, (close enough to hi PO) before long. hopefully his fate is different than the russian family previously mentioned.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from the Preacher wrote 52 weeks 6 hours ago

Pretty cool, but doesnt have much on Canadas barefoot bandit.

Although he didnt make acorn pancakes like Sam in my side of the mountain, I wonder if the book played a role in his choice of hermitage. I know every other boy who read that book wanted to do exactly that.

Kept pretty clean shaven

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 1ojolsen wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

There are huge northern pike in North Pond. Its right not to Great Pond where the film On Golden Pond was shot. Everyone knew about the hermit

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mayoaaron wrote 1 year 3 days ago

they should allow everyone who he ever stole from to get a private "visit" with him, where he is tied up and they have socks and bars of soap

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

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