'Hermit' on His 27 Years of Isolation: 'It's a Mystery'

Christopher Knight became known among locals for being the neatest burglar ever
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2017 4:30 PM CDT
'Hermit' on His 27 Years of Isolation: 'It's a Mystery'
In an Oct. 28, 2013, file photo, Christopher Knight sits in the Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta, Maine, while entering pleas for multiple burglaries and thefts while living in the woods of Rome, Maine, for 27 years.   (AP Photo/The Kennebec Journal, Andy Malloy, File)

When he was 20 years old, an introverted young man named Christopher Knight hopped in his car with a tent and backpack, drove into the most remote reaches of Maine, and, "without knowing where he was going, with no particular place in mind, he stepped into the trees and walked away." In an excerpt in the Guardian from his newly published book, The Stranger in the Woods, Michael Finkel tells Knight's incredible tale of nearly three decades living in the wilderness, including how he purposely tried to become lost in the woods (not as easy as it sounds) and how he perfected his survival skills as he went along. But because he wanted to be "unconditionally alone," Knight had to make some ethical concessions when it came to eating—meaning he had to start to steal.

Knight put the same meticulous study into his new life of crime as he did in building shelters and foraging in the forest. Sometimes he'd lie low for hours to make sure a target location was safe. "I enjoy being in the dark," he says. He was so good at what he did that his victims felt "begrudging respect" for the spotless crime scenes he left behind. His life alone finally ended after 27 years when he was caught and arrested for burglary and theft while trying to scoop up food from a camp. Locals couldn't wait to hear what the "hermit" had to say about his time alone, how he survived, and why he left in the first place back in the '80s. Knight has thought long and hard about that last question, and after ruling out religious, artistic, or anti-modern society reasons, he simply says: "It's a mystery." The rest of Knight's incredible survival tale here. (A woman lived deep in the Siberian wilderness for decades.)

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