Maine hermit disliked people but coveted their high-end stuff
Despite 27 years of seclusion in the woods, Christopher Knight had a taste for the finer things, snubbing refrigerator leftovers and stocking up on high-end L.L. Bean camping gear.
The Associated Press
ROME, Maine — He would meditate on an overturned bucket while staring at the sky and knew all the eagles that nested nearby.
But despite his 27 years of seclusion in the woods, Christopher Knight also had a taste for the finer things in life, authorities said Thursday after dismantling the so-called North Pond hermit’s lair.
In the camp, they recovered goods that included high-end L.L. Bean sleeping bags and a new tent.
He was wearing new shoes and gloves, all believed stolen, when authorities arrested him after he tripped a surveillance sensor at a camp last week. They believe Knight, 47, may be responsible for more than 1,000 burglaries of food and other staples during the nearly three decades he hunkered down in the woods.
Game Warden Sgt. Terry Hughes said Thursday that authorities believe Knight broke into cottages and stole high-quality products because they would last longer and help perpetuate his life of solitude. Officials said some locals used to put supplies on their porches for him so at least the North Pond hermit wouldn’t enter their homes.
He apparently didn’t steal fridge leftovers. “He was a fussy eater,” said Dave Proulx, a nearby cottage owner who tried to capture the hermit six or seven years ago after falling victim to more than a dozen break-ins.
Proulx said the hermit never made off with meat that wasn’t in its original packaging.
Authorities filled two pickups Thursday as they took apart Knight’s camp, later displaying what they were calling evidence for local folks to sort through to try to recover their stolen goods.
There were several Nintendo Game Boys and a wristwatch, along with shovels, rakes, coolers, cooking gear, a coffee pot and toilet paper.
Authorities said Knight used logs on the ground as a makeshift commode.
He said he had not been sick in 27 years. There was no one to get him sick.
“The only words that he’d spoken to another person in 27 years,” Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said, “was when he said ‘Hi, how are you’ to a guy on another trail that he was walking.” That was in the 1990s.
Knight was shut off from human contact but not from civilization. He had a radio and a battery-powered TV and he listened to talk shows; he knew Barack Obama was president, officials said. But his camp was so carefully placed that it precluded discovery. He also managed to stay clean-shaven — without benefit of a mirror.
“You really gotta see the place and know what this guy’s like to understand what he was doing,” Rafferty said. “His camp was two or three tenths of a mile into the woods where he was, but it was in such a location and so forth where you had to walk to it in order to even see it. It was something that you wouldn’t look for, you wouldn’t know it was there.”
A corrections officer at Kennebec County Jail in Augusta said Knight was refusing requests for interviews.
He has applied for a court-appointed lawyer and hasn’t entered a plea to the burglary and theft charges stemming from the break-in at Pine Tree Camp, a facility for special-needs people.
Authorities said they caught Knight last week with $283 in goods in his backpack after he fell into a trap set by Hughes, who has been trying to capture the elusive woodsman for years.
In his police mug shot, Knight is clean-shaven. It’s a different look than in his photo from the 1984 yearbook from Lawrence High School in Fairfield, Maine. In it, Knight is wearing horn-rimmed glasses and has long dark hair. The blurb accompanying the picture says Knight’s plans were to become a computer technician.
Authorities said that by the time he was about 19, he’d disappeared into the woods.
Authorities say Knight doesn’t show signs of mental illness and they’ve uncovered no other motive for his seclusion except that he wanted to be alone.
Knight’s arrest came a little more than a week after the capture of a self-styled mountain man in Utah. For six years, Troy James Knapp ransacked cabins on national-forest land for guns, food and high-end camping gear, authorities said.
Knapp, 45, a California parolee who went on the run in 2004, faces 29 burglary-related felony and misdemeanor charges in Utah that could keep him in jail for life.
Material from the Los Angeles Times is included in this report.