Author Topic: The North Pond Hermit  (Read 628 times)

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The North Pond Hermit
« on: April 30, 2017, 03:14:38 AM »
Several years ago, in Maine, police apprehended a man who'd been living in the woods, almost undetected, for 27 years. The only evidence of his existence, were the 1000+ burglaries he'd committed to stay alive during that time.

His name is Christopher Knight. Below are two articles about him, written shortly after his capture, and a book recommendation. There is also a documentary about him, "The Hermit", which aired on Maine PBS in March, but I haven't seen it and I don't know when it will be available to the rest of us.

Here is the link for the film - "The Hermit"

This man was the ultimate loner but, in the end, he paid the price for it.

Quote
The hermit set out of camp at midnight, carrying his backpack and his bag of break-in tools, and threaded through the forest, rock to root to rock, every step memorized. Not a boot print left behind. It was cold and nearly moonless, a fine night for a raid, so he hiked about an hour to the Pine Tree summer camp, a few dozen cabins spread along the shoreline of North Pond in central Maine. With an expert twist of a screwdriver, he popped open a door of the dining hall and slipped inside, scanning the pantry shelves with his penlight.

Candy! Always good. Ten rolls of Smarties, stuffed in a pocket. Then, into his backpack, a bag of marshmallows, two tubs of ground coffee, some Humpty Dumpty potato chips. Burgers and bacon were in the locked freezer. On a previous raid at Pine Tree, he’d stolen a key to the walk-in, and now he used it to open the stainless-steel door. The key was attached to a plastic four-leaf-clover key chain, with one of the leaves partially broken off. A three-and-a-half-leaf clover.

He could’ve used a little more luck. Newly installed in the Pine Tree kitchen, hidden behind the ice machine, was a military-grade motion detector. The device remained silent in the kitchen but sounded an alarm in the home of Sergeant Terry Hughes, a game warden who’d become obsessed with catching the thief. Hughes lived a mile away. He raced to the camp in his pickup truck and sprinted to the rear of the dining hall. He peeked in a window.

And there he was. Probably. The person stealing food appeared entirely too clean, his face freshly shaved. He wore eyeglasses and a wool ski hat. Was this really the North Pond Hermit, a man who’d tormented the surrounding community for years—decades—yet the police still hadn’t learned his name?

Read the rest of the article (long) and see photos . . .

Quote
A 'hermit' who lived for nearly three decades in a forest in Maine now has a job and is adjusting to life back in society.

Christopher Knight, who survived brutal winters in the woods by stealing food from homes and camps, was jailed for seven months after finally being caught after more than a thousand raids.

Knight, known as the North Pond Hermit, entered the woods in 1986 and was caught in 2013 with a bag full of sweets, burgers and bacon.

After terrorizing the North Pond community for 27 years, Knight was caught out by a motion sensor and a silent alarm.

Knight served seven months in prison for theft before being admitted on to a special court counseling program which he could graduate from as early as this fall, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said.

While in jail, Knight told GQ magazine that he didn't like the society he was being forced to re-enter.

Read the rest of the article and see photos . . .

I highly recommend this book about the North Pond Hermit by Michael Finkel -

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

Found this web site by reading the book above. It's about all things hermit.

The Hermitary

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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2017, 11:45:08 PM »
Follow-up, rehash news article about the North Pond Hermit. The links are wonky, so just forge ahead. You'll understand the story eventually -

The Remarkable Tale of Christopher Thomas Knight

jeremiah

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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2017, 05:51:30 AM »
I read your excerpts and the first article.

I can totally relate to this:

''I don't think I'm going to fit in,' he said.

'It's too loud. Too colorful. The lack of aesthetics. The crudeness. The inanities. The trivia.''

This pretty much too:

"Knight has never fully explained why he disappeared into the woods, saying that he didn't have a reason and that it was a mystery to him too."

I'm still quite a mystery to myself, and still working on solving it.


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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2017, 09:28:32 AM »
being a hermit has been an idea of mine for a long time.

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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2017, 03:25:14 PM »
Definitely an interesting read........

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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2017, 10:20:16 AM »
I've corresponded with some "hermits" and gotten their zine for decades.  They're husband and wife.  Sometimes they publish my letters.  I don't know if they embrace the term though.  I used to call their lifeway "vonu", but recently the male half seemed to reject that label.

Being hermits like them and Christopher Knight would be much too hard for me, and much too lonely.  I like amenities, the look and feel of cities and towns, and being "alone among people".  I grew up rural, and always enjoyed the relatively rare trips to the city.

Being a hermit can be a hard, rugged life.  You've got to learn about how to be frugal and take care of yourself, how to survive.  I think it takes a certain kind of person.  It's not for slackers and dreamers like me.

The people I know are Bert and Holly Davis.  They're not into computers, they rarely use them.  But their books, pretty much consisting of direct reprints of their typewritten newsletter (a.k.a. "zine") are available on-line:

https://www.amazon.com/Dwelling-Portably-Sparked-Movement-1980-2012/dp/1621063070


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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2019, 12:42:52 AM »
More evidence that people can be loners and stay sane.

I have the book on my Amazon wish list. 

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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2019, 06:59:56 AM »
Great.  When you get a chance to read/skim it, tell us what you think.  I've gotten their newletters (a.k.a. "zine") for years, decades actually.   They're very detailed oriented, and the material can be pretty dense, but I enjoyed the less technical material.

tumbleweed

Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2019, 02:42:37 AM »
My book just arrived today, from Amazon--*The Stranger in the Woods* by Michael Finkel.  In the same box--*Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World* by Michael Harris.  The second one had a lot of complaints in the Amazon reviews that it was more about other things than about solitude, but what the hey, it wasn't expensive. 

To demonstrate that I have other interests I reveal that in that same box was a pair of sun-shielding arm and hand protectors.  I walk a lot around the local pond and the sun is getting fierce.  I wear a sun-shielding hat too, with side flaps.  Not afraid to look goofy.  That's one of the great things about being alone; it's nobody else's business, especially since it doesn't reflect on anyone else.   
:icon_fsm:

tumbleweed

Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2019, 07:15:49 AM »
I've now read 66 pages of the 203. 

So far it's not at all a fun book.  It talked about his last raid, during which he was captured, and what happened to him immediately after.  Then there was some about some of the other raids in the past, from the point of view of the people whose places he broke into.  Some were disturbed by the invasion and uneasy when staying there, and others were tolerant and mostly unconcerned; he wasn't at all destructive.  He just took what he needed and left the valuables alone.  The author described the milder reaction as "just let him have your spatula and milk crates."

Now I've been reading about the author's visits with him in prison.  He, Mr. Knight, was very unhappy locked up inside a building with a lot of other people, though obviously he survived it.  The farthest part I've read is 2 chapters about the author's visit to Knight's campsite. 

I suppose I expected some remembrances of the pleasant times in the woods, and how wonderful the solitude was.  Well, maybe that's coming; there's a lot of book left.

 

tumbleweed

The Stranger in the Woods: Next few chapters
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2019, 04:55:27 AM »
Chapter 12 gives his family background--they "kept to themselves" but were apparently not considered very odd.  There's a little discussion on what predisposes a person to be less sociable.  One thing has to do with your chemical makeup--less oxytocin and more of another chemical can supposedly mean that "you tend to require fewer interpersonal relationships."  There's a man by the name of John Caccioppo, who wrote a book titled *Loneliness,* who said "Each of us inherits from our parents a certain level of need for social inclusion."  (Why, why, why was the only thing I could find on the internet studies that said we all desperately need lots of connections?  I've spent so much of my life trying to repair myself and failing!)  The chapter concludes with details of his last months among people, which aren't very revealing about why he then drove into the woods, left his car with the keys on the dashboard, and took off to live alone.

Chapter 13 talks about different kinds of hermits.  I think they left out one kind: people who just don't find human relationships very rewarding and/or who think they can entertain themselves better than hanging out with a crowd and doing what those people want. 

Chapter 14 details his early wanderings and the selection of his permanent campsite. 


tumbleweed

Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2019, 04:42:36 AM »
I haven't finished the book, but I've read some more, and found some parts very interesting.  The description of his struggle with the extreme cold in winter was fascinating to me--he had to stay awake in the coldest part of the night, walking around, because if he slept his body moisture would freeze his sleeping bag. 
I also found it interesting to hear about his favorite authors and favorite music (classic rock.  I get you, man.)
The chapter about all the diagnoses people have tried to give his "problem" was also interesting, and near the end, humorous. 
He made a sort of a pet of a shelf mushroom (kind of like Wilson the Basketball, although apparently not anthropomorphized) and he worried about it after he was removed from his campsite, until he learned it was still there.
Anyway, I've liked this book a lot more as I've gotten deeper into it, and would recommend it, and to not stop reading it if you don't like the first few chapters. 

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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2019, 06:33:19 AM »
So, I finished Stranger in the Woods a couple days ago and here are my thoughts.

I can see a lot of myself in Christopher Knight but I'm not quite as extreme as he was.  I like my comforts too much.  I do have some avoidant traits, but one night out in the freezing Maine woods, a loud frat boy party might start looking pretty good to me.

I can be sardonic like Knight and have a way with words.  I suppose we both got this, in part,  from a lot of reading.  At the same time, we both get pangs of guilt when we think we've gone to far and hurt people's feelings.  This says something about the ambivalence and conflictedness of being a schizoid.

I don't want to judge Mr. Knight, but his strategy and lifestyle puzzles me.  Somebody with his upbringing, intelligence and know-how, it seems to me, could've made his life of solitude work much better than he did.  Others have.  But maybe I'm not appreciating the extreme degree of his avoidant personality.  Not that I'm advocating it myself, but since he did hunt in his youth, couldn't he have employed hunting and gathering in his survival plan?  He had 26 years to improve upon his present plan and retreat from his thieving, which, by his own admission, caused him enormous stress.  Couldn't he have contemplated an exit strategy and take gradual experimental steps toward it.

Finkel, though well meaning, seemed the typical touchy-feely person, who, despite his claims of respect for Knight, I'm sure felt superior to him.  I suppose he might've felt a bond of affection for Knight over time, but I couldn't help but sense a layer of condescension in his attitude toward him.  I know he's got to make a living, and write a book, and to do that, gather material.  But if Knight told him "leave him alone!", he should've just done it.  If I thought Knight was going to go out into the cold, winter woods one day, to meet "the lady of the woods", I wouldn't interfere.  Society, in all its cloying, presumptuous, (and phony, mamby pamby, hypocritical) "concern", was making his life a hell, so they could claim him and own him, mold him into their own mediocre image.  If he planned to walk away to his death by freezing, I'd say there might be a certain rationality to that, a certain wisdom "mental health professionals" can never really understand.

Knight said there was no great trauma in his life.  Who knows?  I wouldn't try to pry and wring it out of him, but the impression I got from the description of his family, their brusque coldness, it seems like they all might be building up a wall to hide a secret.  Is that my business, or society's?  Absolutely not.  I'm just noting that there could be one, or more.

Anyway, the way Finkel saw him on his last visit, defeated, compliant, submissive, was disturbing and sad.  Yeah.  Big therapy woman really cured him.   He's a "member of society" now.  Isn't that WONDERFUL!

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Re: The North Pond Hermit
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2019, 06:37:50 AM »
Great review, Jeremiah. I agree with every word of it.

They're so proud they managed to make him another societal automaton.

I should read this book again. Thanks for the nudge.