Christopher Thomas Knight, also known as the North Pond Hermit, is a very peculiar individual who lived without human contact for 27 years. So what was he doing in the Belgrade Lakes of Maine in the woods for all of that time? Take a mysterious peek into the life of the last true hermit.
Who would have thought that there was a mysterious individual lurking in the darkness of a small town in Maine? The whole time, this figure stole from homes and ran away from the eyes of those who lived there. Nobody saw this person and they were not even sure if this was a person or a supernatural being committing all the crimes in the area.
What they knew was there was reason to be afraid, and even the police were unable to put a stop to it. What was really going on the whole time? Keep reading to learn the truth about the mystery that lasted for over 30 years.
There Is Someone There
For nearly three decades, the locals of North Pond in Maine could hear disturbing noises in the nighttime. People woke up to startling rustlings but found nothing thereafter turning their lights on. Someone once saw a lurking figure, but that was all they heard for a long time…
Lurking In The Distance
They knew that there was something lurking in the dark and things went missing not long after. What was the ominous creature taking their things away? The inhabitants of the rural town lived in terror whenever they turned in for the night. What was going on and why was someone targeting the residents day after day?
Oftentimes, the thief would target cabins and vacation homes in the middle of the week, when the owners were not at home. The area of North Pond is a popular spot for tourists and vacationers, especially when the summer rolls around.
Odd For A Criminal
Whoever this thief might have been, they sure displayed some odd behavior. For one thing, they neglected the more expensive gear worth thousands of dollars and opted for small items like jeans, heavy boots, batteries, small radios, magazines, books, and junk food. How odd…
The rumor mill went a little wild and the residents gave the lurker different kinds of nicknames like “Maine’s Loch Ness Monster”, “The Stealthy Yeti”, “North Pond Hermit”, “The Mountain Man” And “The Hungry Man”.
Neighbors lived away from one another, which is why nobody caught sight of the thief red-handed. It was a peculiar case, and the police were determined to find the perpetrator. More than anything, they were concerned because the local thief might have more sinister plans up their sleeves.
Can you believe that the citizens of North Pond became used to living their lives in terror? “We always felt like he was watching us,” a local admitted during an interview with GQ back in 2014. They no longer felt safe behind their windows and doors.
People got cameras installed, but the lurker managed to evade all of them. Law enforcement was the only way to go about it at this point. The police station received regular calls, but they were still powerless to do anything about it.
Years And Years
After several years of this, they decided they had enough. There was not a lot of things they could do without even so much as a suspect, but they filed a report in which they called the faceless miscreant “Hermit Hermit”.
27 Whole Years
Over the course of 27 years, not a single soul saw this criminal. It seems hard to believe, but even with camera systems n place and police searches far and wide, this mysterious individual was nowhere to be found. Were they even dealing with a human?
The Beginning Of The End
Things changed for everyone during the spring of 2013. They still had no clue about the identity of the criminal back then, but his/her mistake was targeting Pine Tree Summer Camp. The camp has been around since 1945 and is an institution in Rome, Maine.
Pine Tree Camp
On paper, it sounded like a good place to steal from as it was easy enough to sneak into and boasted of food and supplies. Who would even notice that something was amiss? The culprit missed one important detail, however. The police were on his/her tail already!
Moreover, Sergeant Terry Hughes was the one managing Pine Tree Summer Camp. He came up with an excellent plan to capture the criminal. The hunt, as they say, had begun.
Eyes On The Prize
Even though he was deep in the woods at a camp in the middle of nowhere, Sergeant Hughes went above and beyond to make the best trap to catch the person committing the crimes. He put together the best task force he could find.
They had military-grade motion sensors, cameras, and industrial-grade floodlights on the grounds where there were items worth stealing. We are talking about food in particular! The camp was already suffering from late-night attacks, so they installed a motion sensor complete with a silent alarm in the kitchen.
When the culprit was last in there, lots of items went missing and the list included a spare key to the kitchen. They knew he could come back eventually. Waiting was the name of the game for some time. However long it took, they would wait.
During The Night
It was the night of April 4, 2013 when the alarm located at Sergeant Terry Hughes’ home went off. This could only mean that there was someone in the kitchen at the summer camp. Did they finally have the culprit?
Not What He Expected
The sensor was located at the back of the ice machine. He headed to the scene as soon as he could, and he had certain expectations in mind the whole time. What was he expecting? A young kid messing around? Or maybe even a squirrel or small animal of sorts?
Looks Can Be Deceiving
He was under the impression that it was going to be a burly person who carried weapons. At the very least, it was probably some ragged homeless person who was desperate for food. When Hughes peeked into the kitchen via the window, he was surprised by what he was looking at.
The man was clean and even well dressed! His face was smooth, which meant he shaved recently. One could even consider him overweight! Now, just who was this thief who looked nothing more than a normal middle-aged man? Something seemed fishy.
Caught In The Act
The mysterious man then walked out of the dining hall with a backpack full of food. This was when Sergeant Hughes pounced on him with a big flashlight in one hand and a gun in the other. He told the man to “get on the ground.”
The sergeant was surprised that the intruder did not hesitate to obey. He put his hands behind his back without being asked twice, but he did look quite startled by the officer’s showing up. The man went down on his knees as candy bits fell to the ground.
Officer Diane Perkins-Vance, a state trooper, was present at the scene as well. The two officers handcuffed their suspect to a chair, but he did not put up even the slightest resistance. They took note of his dated glasses and pale skin. He did not have an ID on him and refused to answer their questions in the beginning. However, he eventually told them his incredible story.
All By Himself
It took some time, but the man finally cracked after two hours. Officer Perkins-Vance wanted to know why he would not answer their questions. His answer was that he felt “ashamed”. The police weren’t buying it.
Christopher Thomas Knight
He later revealed his name: Christopher Thomas Knight. When asked about his occupation, he said he did not have one. He said his address was the woods. What was going on? Who was this man and what had he been doing in the woods? And most importantly, why had he been stealing from the innocent people living on the lake?
The Chernobyl Incident
The officers were showed when they started to talk about how long he had been staying in the woods. The man did not have a sense of time, although he remembered that the Chernobyl incident happened before he started living there.
This was enough to let them figure out he started living there in 1986. Now, what would motivate a man like him to a life of theft and solitude in the wilderness? And how did he even survive on his own for 27 years?
How Everything Started
Christopher Thomas Knight was born in Albion, Maine on December 7, 1965. According to him, he has been a loner since his birth. His family was much the same way. “I had good parents,” he narrated. “We’re not emotionally bleeding all over each other. We’re not touchy-feely. Stoicism is expected.”
As A Child
He did not understand people and struggled to form a connection past the basic level. When he was a young man, he kept to himself and stayed busy with what mattered to him. He might have been an odd fellow, but we can safely say no one expected he would choose to isolate himself on purpose.
Plans For The Future
During his school days, Knight was a talented student who got superb grades. We will have you know that he actually graduated early. Despite his brilliance, he never actually made friends. After his high school graduation, he enrolled as an electronics student at Sylvania Technical School in Waltham, Massachusetts. The city was near Boston, so you can probably tell how big of a change it was for him. Despite this, he failed to make any friends.
Still In Debt
After finishing the nine-month course, he landed a successful job that involved the installment of home and car alarms. He was determined to buy a car and eventually got a Subaru. He had to take out a loan for it and his brother helped him. However, the debt remains unpaid to this day. After all, no one knew he would disappear without telling anyone.
Gifted But Lonely
The bespectacled and dark-haired Christopher Knight often tried to make himself seem as unassuming and small as he possibly could. A middle child, he had four older brothers and a younger sister. During his younger years, he accompanied his father on several hunting trips and slept in the back of the pick-up truck instead of a tent. The family was not exactly turbulent or unhappy, but they were incredibly reluctant to talk about their private affairs with anyone else.
With four siblings, sibling rivalry was very common. Although the Knight family did not boast of a fortune, they made up for it in art and knowledge. Each night, they would call their kids to talk about a poem. They were also fans of the sciences, particularly physics. By 1986, the 20-year-old Christopher resided and worked near Boston. The efficient and practical young man worked in security and equipped topnotch alarm systems on cars and homes. He had a good and secure job, so what else could he possibly want?
Simple But Stable
Nobody anticipated that he would simply get up and leave one day to separate himself from the demands of this world. As a matter of fact, he did not think he could pull this off either. It just happened for no particular reason, no specific incident that caused him to up and move.
“I Just Did It”
After all, he had a lot of good things happening in his life and his career was flourishing as well. It was still too much for him. When he arrived at the decision to leave everything behind, he did not bother saying goodbye to anyone he knew. He didn’t even bother to put in notice at work. He just vanished into thin air one day. During an interview, he said. “I had no plans when I left, I wasn’t thinking of anything. I just did it.”
Without a map or a compass, Knight went into the direction of the sun in all of its scorching summer glory. After this, he went southward and kept driving until he used up the gas in his car. He then left the car and continued walking until he could no longer see his new Subaru from where he was. He actually left the keys to the car on the dashboard!
A Backpack, A Tent & An Idea
To him, it was nothing more than a reminder of the world he was ready to leave behind. What was so extraordinary about this whole situation was that he did not plan it out. The only things he had with him at the time were a backpack and a tent. Can you believe he even lasted more than a week with only that on his back?
Based On Instinct
Just like anyone else, he wanted a life of silence, simplicity, and solitude. For a person without much wilderness training, it is not impossible to hurt oneself, die, and starve when left all alone in the woods. During the first two weeks, he crossed the Maine forests by following what his instincts told him. However, he later discovered that innate desire cannot be quelled just like that. That was the reason he resorted to doing crimes.
What It Was Like
Knight did not initially plan to stay in the woods, primarily because he was not prepared for what it entailed. He was full of desire to accomplish one thing: to wander around, get lost, and be on his own. He did not have any interest in communicating with other people.
No Sense of Time
“Soon I lost track of where I was,” he later explained in one interview when he was asked about the first few days of his stay in the wild. “I didn’t care… I was content in the choice I had made.” Although he had some experience under his belt, he did not have any weapons and gear on him for this excursion of sorts. He spent the first couple of weeks foraging for any source of nutrition in the wilderness. Could a person truly subsist on just this?
Hermit Like No Other
When you hear the word ‘hermit’, we are sure there are several images that you think of. There are people who will think of a crab in its shell. Meanwhile, there are certain folks who will think of a wise elder who meditates, lives in a cave, and gives travelers important advice. However, they all have the preference to live alone in common, regardless of the reason.
It Just Happened
Some people choose this way of life because of their religion, while some crave the simplicity that the lifestyle brings. When it comes to Christopher Knight, he did not choose to live like this because of religious beliefs or any particular reason. It just happened, apparently.
Although there are hermits who started begging or selling wares to make money for food, he never resorted to this. He desired zero human contact and went to extremes to avoid them.
Willing To Get Lost
Even though Knight wanted to totally get lost in the woods, he eventually settled down somewhere fitting. It was essentially a game of trial and error. The journey kept going for several months until he had enough places that could work as his place of residence. It was there that he set up his items he had with him from the very beginning. However, there was something else that was bothering him. It seemed like these concerns that he could not run away from no matter how hard he tried.
Looking For Food
It did not take long before he realized that he would not be able to survive with just the things he had on him. The realization did not come at a good time because he was already experiencing terrible hunger pangs. The woods of Maine might have been vast but there was very little to eat there. The supply of edible plants did not last for a very long time. Perhaps he would have fared better if he fished or hunted, but he did not.
Looking For Food
As he continued searching for food in the vicinity, he was able to eat some meat for the first time in a while in the form of a dead bird lying by the roadside. He ate it raw, if you can believe it. It must have felt like quenching his thirst, but he had to find new sources of sustenance soon. What did he do next?
No matter how desperate Knight was, he knew better than to go into the cabins of innocent people. Let us not forget that he did not want to stumble into another person and have his solitude taken away from him. This was the reason he started to steal small items from gardens. He would only take an ear of corn or a tomato. There are times when he could push himself to dig around for extra veggies. When you are hungry, you really go and do things you normally would not.
When he reached this particularly secluded small town in Maine, he decided he would stay there. He also knew he needed to do everything in the name of survival. This meant finding shelter in addition to looking for food. He did have a tent with him, but it did not hold well up when it was raining since the earth there was malleable and muddy. He would find himself sleeping in an empty cabin one desperate night.
Knowing It Was Wrong
Staying in a cabin is an experience in itself, but this is only true when you own the cabin. It is a different matter altogether when you sneak into someone else’s home because there was the possibility of getting caught. That time, he laid in the dark fully aware that he could be caught at any given moment. As you can imagine, he was unable to get a good night’s rest because he was on edge the entire time. After that experience, he promised he would never stay indoors regardless of what the weather was like.
Looking For His Home
It took him quite some time before he found the right place to call home. There were deep holes that he took into consideration. After all, not many hikers went there because no one would actually brave the dark. He also considered settling down by the riverbank, although this did not sit well with him either. The moment he laid his eyes on his dream home, it was like love at first sight.
Not many people would feel the same way because it was unrelenting, cloying, and brimming with overgrowth. A single path led up to it before it trailed off into rocks and dust. There were boulders looming over there, casting shadows and barring most of the sunlight available in the daytime. The area was not one anyone else was likely to visit.
Home At Last
He found a clearing surrounded by boulders and settled there. The entrance to this space was a passage that was not noticeable to most passersby. He was able to put up his tent there without any problems. This was his new home at last.
His Home In The Woods
He would come to embrace his new home in the woods. When times became hard, he had to stumble over rocks and the damp as well as make do with everything nature provided him. However, it was not so bad half the time.
He was a resourceful man who would cup snow in his hands and drink it after melting. The magazines he laid down on the floor absorbed the water effectively, so he never went thirsty. Unfortunately, nature just could not provide everything he needed.
His Very Own Home
His makeshift home was the result of ingenuity and resourcefulness. Hidden behind boulders and their towering shadows, he lived all over National Geographic magazine pages. They covered the earthy ground and acted like a carpet of sorts. But where exactly did he get the magazines he needed to make his home a lot more comfortable? Apparently, he needed to be stealthy and cunning to obtain them.
Careful And Cautious
He feared that other people would find him there. Later on, he talked about fearing sneezing a little too loudly. He had to be careful about moving forward because he did not want to leave any footprints on the earth and snow.
Let’s face it, we would all freak out when we find human footprints near our home. At the very least, it would set off our alarm bells more than the prints made by raccoons and rabbits. Nonetheless, he was able to sneak into kitchens and living areas without raising suspicions for a while.
His intentions were not malicious at any point. He was not a greedy or extremely adventurous person. He enjoyed his independence and refused to get any help. However, his desperation grew the more hungry he became. During desperate times, desperate measures were enacted. It even included the possibility of running into someone else!
Watch And Learn
We can say that such a man could outsmart the best security system without any problems. However, he did not like the idea of pouncing too soon. Before he went into any cabin, he would first observe the people who stayed there and took note of their behaviors. He literally studied their every move!
Quite The Planner
He would track when they dropped by and left as well as the amount of time they stayed away. When he felt sure no one was around to catch him, he started to tinker with the visible cameras as an additional security measure. It sounds like he planned everything out.
On His Own
There were times when he found cabins with the windows open and the doors unlocked. After all, no one expected there to be any danger when it was so peaceful and secluded most of the time. Knight thought about this well in advance. He would go into the cabin and then come back to his lair.
Without A Trace
Knight often raided cabins during the week as most people likely stayed away. Many cabins served as their vacation homes. If you lose something in there, it was going to be hard to remember after spending one week away from home. Knight wanted to avoid leaving anything that might indicate he was inside at some point. If he discovered spare keys, he put them in his pocket to keep them safe.
He was careful to avoid any suspicions, so he was fairly shocked when this life ended for him. He then took extra measures to ensure everything he used came back to the spot where he found them. He once took a canoe in the hopes of accessing cabins across the water. After returning it to the owners, he did not simply leave it out in the open water. No, he kept it hidden behind foliage. It almost seemed like mother nature took it without any intervention, although he now know this was not the case.
What He Took
When Knight first went on his risky adventures, he only took what he needed. Sometimes, this involved a fair bit of objects and food. He was fond of sugary snacks like cakes, chocolate bars, and other sweets that would keep him warm and stop him from wasting away. He also liked sodas, especially Mountain Dew. He did not think twice about swiping any of the soft drink whenever he encountered them.
Aside From That
A full stomach was not the only thing he needed. It was also important for him to ensure his shelter was in great condition. He occasionally had to get creative about keeping himself warm. He took some tarp to wrap around the boulders in his makeshift home. He would also take a jacket and blanket here and there.
Different Forms Of Entertainment
When it came to entertainment, he liked to take books and magazines to keep himself sharp. There was never any problem on that end. He was particularly fond of Playboy and National Geographic. We wonder if people noticed them go missing?
Respecting The Property
Knight was cautious when he conducted his raids. He never had to smash windows or tear down doors. He took a much gentler approach and showed respect for the property of his victims. When he had to open a door, he would take them down by the hinges, sneak in, get what he needed, and then reinstall the door.
Unlike Other Burglars
His victims themselves supported this claim. They noticed there were new scratches by the door frames or wood shavings on the floor. However, it was nothing like regular burglars who resorted to breaking locks and smashing windows. Aside from minor details like those, everything was in the original state.
“The level of discipline he showed while he broke into houses is beyond what most of us could remotely imagine,” Sergeant Terry Hughes explained, “The legwork… the talent with locks, his ability to get in and out without being detected.” This guy was a world-class burglar!
A Questionable Legacy
Estimates say that Knight made a grand total of a thousand burglaries in the span of 27 years. There are some people who dubbed him as the person behind one of the “biggest burglary cases in the history of Maine.” Although he could smuggle these goods, he needed to deal with the weather as well. When you stay in the woods, the seasons will be more challenging than they usually are.
Life In The Summer
When he got to his destination, summer continued on with its earnest sun and longer days. Even though there was a beautiful lake not that far away, the landscape did not fit the description of a summertime paradise. Roads twisted and turned underneath suffocating brambles and felled trees. The visible ground would sink whenever rain came around. It was definitely not a beach resort. However, the winters were on a different league altogether.
Life In The Winter
When it got way too cold outdoors, the best option you have to stay warm is to move your body as much as possible. That was exactly what he did to keep himself safe from the brutal winters of Maine. Every night, he would settle in by 7:30 PM and then doze off. By 2 o’clock in the morning, he was ready to face a new day. He was afraid of freezing to death, but fires were completely out of the question. It was dangerous for him to perspire because it could lead to an icy death.
Surviving The Cold
However, he did not let some winter chill get him down. Whenever a draft dawned upon him, he reveled in the cold as if it were a blanket. The cold got so intense it seeped right into his bones at times. Nonetheless, he persevered despite suffering from frostbite every now and then.
However, it seemed like he would not trade the winter solitude for anything. The smaller number of hikers during this time of the year meant he could afford not to be as careful. However, there is no denying that summer was still much preferable.
On October 28, 2013, he took the stand at Kennebec County Superior Court half a year after his first arrest. He had 13 charges of burglary and theft, and he pleaded guilty to all of them. He landed a jail sentence of seven months and later served them. Apparently, he already served much of it during his time in custody. He had to meet with a judge every Monday to avoid a seven-year service. Aside from this, he needed to pay the victims $1,500. It was also mandatory for him to attend a program for people with mental health problems, spend three years on probation, and abstain from any alcohol.
Nancy Mills was the judge to preside over the case. It seems like she sympathized with the so-called “last true hermit”. She knew he was unlikely to harm anyone or commit more crimes in the future. This is the reason he got a fairly light sentence. Many people agreed with her judgment. They believed a hefty fine and several months in jail would be enough. However, was Knight ready to join civilization once more?
Return To Civilization
After spending time in jail, Knight met with the judge every Monday and swore off alcohol. He showed commitment to the orders he had been given. Everyone was impressed by the progress he showed. This was a man who avoided human contact for such a long time, and he was now making huge progress. His life was now back on track! He reconnected with his family members as well and the relationship improved during his time in jail. His brother offered him a job, and he agreed to take it on.
His Family Knew Him
When he disappeared, they did not know he was going to be away indefinitely. His parents did not even report his disappearance! They knew he would come back when he wanted to, that he only embarked on an adventure. When time passed, they still refused to believe anything bad happened to him. They were right.
Speaking Is Hard
When you live all by yourself, you live with your own mind. You will become so used to the silence that you will stutter when you need to speak once more. Apparently, he never spoke to anyone during the 27 years he spent in the woods! The farthest he got was saying “hi” to a hiker.
Luckily, people did not force him to speak if he did not want to. Earlier this year, Michael Finkel published a book about him called The Stranger in the Woods. The author visited Knight in jail when he was busy writing it.
The book was the result of nine hour-long conversation sessions in the prison. We can’t imagine Christopher being very talkative after living in solitude for so many years, but the book was written, so he must have been!
He has said in multiple interviews that he’s not proud of what he did. He does not take pride in becoming a master burglar and apologizes for the harm he caused. But what about his life as a modern-day hermit? He had something to say about that too.
Not Like Thoreau
Knight has received comparisons to Hendry David Thoreau in the past. The author and hermit is best known for the book “Walden”, which narrated his time living at Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Apparently, Knight is not fond of the comparisons. Although there were similarities between their situations, Knight felt that his predecessor had different motives for going into the wilderness. According to him, the author did not go there for the experience but only to say he could do it.
It is important for artists, dreamers, and poets to experience solitude. The word itself can evoke a sense of purpose and grandeur like no other. In “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” the poet William Wordsworth said, “They flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude.”
It was not quite as poetic for Knight. He said, “Solitude bestows an increase in something valuable. I can’t dismiss that idea. Solitude increased my perception. But here’s the tricky thing: when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. There was no audience, no one to perform for. There was no need to define myself. I became irrelevant.”
“I was never lonely,” he mused. “If you like solitude, you are never alone.” Apparently, he did not even have a mirror in his shelter. He only saw his reflection in the water or windowpane. He did not care much about his appearance anyway.
He decided to shed his identity some time ago, and he was satisfied with who he was. That was how he made it without losing his mind. Isn’t that the most impressive thing you have ever heard? “My desires dropped away. I didn’t long for anything. I didn’t even have a name. To put it romantically, I was completely free,” he explained.
When witnesses started calling him by different monikers, he became less familiar with his real name. He was no longer Christopher Thomas Knight for he was the earth, the boulder, the lake, the sky. He became his own shadow as well as a shadow of his old self.