Rumors of ‘hermit’ stealing from locals for 27 years turned out to be true as man arrested near woods
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Featured Image Credit: Maine State Police/WMTW-TV
For years, locals in North Pond, Maine shared theories about the 'North Pond Hermit'. It wasn't until 2013, when a man was arrested in the woods, that they realized they were right.
He had been at it for years, but he was rarely seen or heard. A man was occasionally caught on security cameras, but he would always escape, with not so much as a boot print left behind.
For nearly three decades the North Pond Hermit evaded civilization, but that changed in early April 2013, when security cameras at the Pine Tree Camp in Rome indicated someone was in the kitchen.
Maine Warden Service Sergeant Terry Hughes rushed to the scene, and caught the man red handed.
For the first time since he'd fled to the woods, Christopher Knight spoke more than one word to another person.
It all started in 1986, when Knight was 20 years old. He'd grown up with 'good parents' and no complaints about his childhood, before getting a job installing home and vehicle alarm systems.
Knight bought a new car and worked for less than a year, before one day he gave his hometown 'one last look around', and drove north towards more remote areas.
Speaking to GQ after his arrest, Knight recalled: "I drove until I was nearly out of gas. I took a small road. Then a small road off that small road. Then a trail off that. I had a backpack and minimal stuff. I had no plans. I had no map. I didn’t know where I was going. I just walked away."
As he started hiking and camping, Knight soon lost track of where he was and how much time had passed. After two years, he set up camp in the Belgrade Lakes area.
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For the remaining 25 years Knight slept only in a tent. He never lit a fire for fear that it would give away his location, and instead sourced his food by stealing, claiming to have committed more than 1,000 break-ins during his time in the woods.
"I was always scared when stealing. Always," he said. "It was usually 1 or 2 A.M. I’d go in, hit the cabinets, the refrigerator. In and out. My heart rate was soaring."
Knight stole a bed frame, a mattress and sleeping bags, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, razors and books. He rarely left his camp in winter out of fear of leaving footprints, and attempted to gain weight in the fall to help him survive in the freezing weather.
David Proulx had a vacation cabin in the area, which was broken into at least 50 times.
"My grandkids thought I was losing my mind," he told GQ.
As people with homes in the area became increasingly desperate to catch the elusive thief, Sergeant Hughes installed a military-grade motion detector in the Pine Tree kitchen, and caught Knight stealing food.
He was initially in doubt that the clean-shaven, glasses-wearing man could be the so-called Hermit, but not wanting to risk him getting away, Hughes drew his gun and ordered Knight to get on the ground.
After being caught, Knight informed police he lived in the woods. He didn't know if his family was still alive, and had only spoken to one person in 27 years - a hiker he'd passed in the woods, to who he'd simply said 'hi'.
Knight was arrested and charged with burglary and theft, and spent his first night sleeping indoors since the start of his 20s. He didn't know exactly how long he'd been living in the woods; only that he'd left in the same year as the Chernobyl disaster.
Pete Cogswell, whose jeans and belt Knight was wearing when he was caught, commented: "The legend of the hermit lived on for years and years. Did I believe it? No. Who really could?"
In October 2013, Knight pleaded guilty to 13 counts of burglary and theft. He went on to the mental health court, before being ordered to serve seven months at the Kennebec County Jail.
Knight also paid nearly $2,000 in restitution for the things he stole from people to survive, but he never offered up a clear reason for his decision to live in the woods.
"I don’t have a reason," he said, as well as saying, "It’s a mystery to me, too."
After struggling to find happiness in his years spent around people in his youth, his home in woods simply offered him something different.
"I found a place where I was content."