Now this guy was living off the grid

Chris Knight, formerly the Hermit at North Pond, now resident at the Kennebec County Jail.

Chris Knight, formerly the Hermit at North Pond, now the inmate at the Kennebec County Jail.

We had another special-ops-related post for 1100 in mind, but real work (as in “work is a four-letter word. So is cash”) intrudes, so we’d like to give you a glimpse of the rural Maine equivalent of the Japanese soldiers who stayed off the grid in the Philippines and Guam for ridiculous lengths of time.

Not sure who the enemies in this character’s one-man war were, except for the good citizens whose stuff he survived by stealing — for nearly 30 years.

ROME, Maine (AP) — Authorities say a man who lived like a hermit for decades in the woods of central Maine and may be responsible for more than 1,000 burglaries has been captured.

Police say 47-year-old Christopher Knight was arrested last week while stealing food from a camp in Rome.

Authorities on Tuesday found the campsite where they believed Knight — known as the North Pond Hermit — has lived for 27 years.

via Hermit blamed for 1,000 burglaries caught after 27 years in woods |

Knight's UWOA. "A" is Pine Tree Camp, which he was caught burglarizing. Town of Rome is off map at lower left.

Knight’s UWOA. “A” is Pine Tree Camp, which he was caught burglarizing. We don;t have the grids of his camp. Center of Rome and most of its area is off map at lower left. Link.

That was the news story that flagged us to the event, but the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald reprints a story from the even smaller Kennebec paper that has a few more details of the man that Mainiacs and Maine vacationers knew as the mythical “Hermit at North Pond.” After fleeing to the woods at about age 20 (!), he spent his days “reading books and meditating;” his nights, committing burglaries. He told the game warden who arrested him that the arresting officer was only the second human he’d spoken to since 1986, and he led the warden to his camouflaged camp — with, the former Marine warden noted, excellent fieldcraft and anti-tracking skills. The State Trooper who interviewed him had what Knight says is his first in-depth conversation since going hermit. His health was good, although at Age 47 he was suffering from vision problems (routine presbyopia?) and slow wound-healing made him worry about diabetes. He would gain weight before winter, like a bear, but in his case it was to reduce foraging trips that would leave telltale tracks. The Press-Herald:

In June 2005, the Morning Sentinel published a story about the “hermit of North Pond,” who, it said, “for the last 15 years has been picking his way through dozens of the 300 or so camps around North Pond.”

“It’s been a myth, or legend, that a hermit was responsible,” Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance told the Kennebec Journal on Tuesday. “That happens to be the case.”

Rome, Maine Map

Rome, Maine in geo context. Rolling, wooded hills; summer vacation camps. Maps via Google. Link.

Why did he do it? Even Knight says he doesn’t really know. He had a lifelong fascination with hermits and loved the book, Robinson Crusoe. (Great book, we agree, but not enough to make it a model for our lives, eh).

The Press-Herald’s (republished) story by Craig Crosby is really, really in-depth and goes into great detail about how Knight lived and avoided capture. It also describes how repeated thefts from the same camp, and one ticked-off game warden who was ready to apply high-tech surveillance tools in a mechanical stakeout of crime scene, brought him to justice. Interestingly, Knight expresses shame about his thefts and does not appear to have been evasive with police (cop readers, how often does that happen?) Quite a remarkable case with a lot of lessons bound up in it. Read the Whole Thing™.

PS. Wonder what Knight hunted? He didn’t, he says. He stole everything he ate for nearly 30 years. Kind of admirable and repellent at the same time, innit?

Update 1700R (EST)

Apparently a whole coven of “homeless” Wealth Distribution Morlocks had gone underground, literally, in Kansas City, and lived through one of the 21st Century’s least prosecuted crimes: scrap-metal theft. Of course, the metal wasn’t scrap until these tunneling rodents ripped it off. Unfortunately for KC’s latter-day Freddie the Freeloaders, the authorities have filled in the Tunnels of Mooch Chi.

In our experience, the “homeless” are not, as one-time Governor and Presidential candidate Mike Dukakis touchingly thought, simply the salt of the earth, priced out of the mortgage market. Our fathers called them “bums,” which was rather more accurate. Most of them are mentally ill, substance abusers, and criminals. (Yes, all three, not “one of the above.”) Where’s Arkham Asylum when you need it? Oh, right, In freakin’ comic books. So Kansas City — and probably, your city — does less to protect its citizens from this scourge than a fictional cartoon city whose police are so pathetic that they need some billionaire in homoerotic tights to catch their criminals.

2 thoughts on “Now this guy was living off the grid

  1. Aesop

    Okay, so he was hitting a burglary approx every 10 days, going back to when Reagan was president.

    Chalk this one up to apathy on the part of investigating officials, and the kindness of strangers. One encounter with a home-made punji-pit, or a pissed-off owner, and he would have been, at best, a slowly decaying corpse somewhere in the Maine Woods, and at worst, an object lesson in why other people’s stuff is not yours, helpfully smeared across someone’s front entry. As he’s about to spend the rest of his days in a far smaller cave, one hopes he doesn’t find the change of scenery too jarring. Looked at another way, the state’s game warden just prevented another 1,000 crimes with this one arrest, yet another argument for the Chateau D’If School of Penal Management. I hope all the other inmates steal some of his food everyday, just to drive the point home.

    1. Aesop

      Re: the update

      “Mooch Chi” = priceless!

      Your impressions of homeless bums are 98% correct. However, there are, in fact a documentable (and microscopicly small) fraction who are, in fact, normal people down and out. I’ve met and cared for them. Two examples are a freakin’ engineer and legal emigre from El Salvador, whose sponsoring company went belly-up bust, leaving him to temporarily scramble; and a mother and two kids left destitute by an abusive father happily incarcerated, but thus no longer able to meet their needs. Both were off the street and reestablished in a matter of weeks, which is what the safety net of social services is supposed to catch.

      The overwhelming majority are the kids who never learned…anything, in school, don’t want the responsibility of rent/mortgage payments, or anything like a job. What they want, in a chicken-and-egg philosophical discussion that would be endless, is for the voices in their heads to stop, so they self-medicate those voices with alcohol, street drugs, paint cans, and anything else they can smoke, snort, huff, inject, or otherwise insert into their bodies, and they want the readies to pay for these habits, without benefit of said job, and helpfully, without any morals or scruples to prevent helping themselves to anything they can get to come up with those funds. Forever.
      It’s hard to imagine a best use for them that dosn’t involve green protein crackers or large commercial ovens, but fortunately, I don’t share the Almighty’s responsibility for determining their fate, and simply wish they were relocated to a convenient but inaccessible offshore island, and suitable foodstuffs airdropped to them there, in perpetuity. Instead, as noted, they roam free, while productive citizens and their children are the ones locked up in their own homes, for their own safety. Because that’s what the ACLU thinks is reasonable, rather than locking them someplace where they were medicated into something approximating sanity against their will or not, cared for and well-fed, and allowed to weave baskets and paint butterflies to the end of their days.
      Helpfully, none of the geniuses arguing for the legalization of all drugs usually has any experience with these current products arguing against that foolish experiment, nor when asked, any solution to the problem they pose, let alone any idea of what to do with them when their number (and crime, and the burgeoning societal burden) expands exponentially in their utopian jackhole fantasies. Apparently consequences, like laws, are for the little people.

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