'North Pond Hermit' who lived in Maine woods for 27 years with no human contact committed more than 1,000 burglaries say police

Christopher Knight, 47, was arrested last week after triggering a motion sensor set up by a game warden

Los Angeles

For nearly three decades, he was known only as the North Pond Hermit: a mysterious figure from the remote woods of Central Maine, whom campers sometimes spotted prowling the shore of a lake known as Great Pond. But in that time, authorities claim 47-year-old Christopher Knight may also have been responsible for more than 1,000 thefts of food, clothes and camping equipment to sustain his solitary existence at a makeshift forest encampment.

Knight was finally arrested last week after an exasperated game warden set up a motion sensor alarm system following a series of burglaries at Pine Tree Camp, a holiday destination for people with special needs, close to the small town of Rome. The suspect was caught leaving the camp's kitchen freezer at 1.15am last Thursday, having pilfering around $238 worth of supplies. “He used us like his local Walmart,” said Harvey Chesley, the camp's facilities manager, who, it turned out, had attended the same high school as Knight, some 20 miles away in Fairfield.

Unlike the hermits of legend, Knight was clean-shaven when he was apprehended, with close-cropped hair and contemporary clothing, which he later admitted was stolen. The only signs of his lengthy exile were some tattered dollar bills dating to the 1990s, and his aviator-style spectacles, which he had taken with him when he first left home for the wilderness aged 19, on 26 April, 1986.

As the North Pond Hermit, Knight is believed to have lived alone in the woods for 27 years. His only human contact in that time, he told police, was a brief exchange of pleasantries with a hiker whom he encountered on a trail in the mid-1990s. He traced his withdrawal from the outside world to the time of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, though he did not cite it as a motive. He claimed to have had a happy childhood, and his reasons for removing himself from society remain a mystery.

Knight's camp reportedly consisted of a tent covered by a tarpaulin, which was suspended between trees. Winter in Maine often brings temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius, but Knight never made campfires, saying he was fearful of being spotted from the air. Instead he cooked with propane gas, and kept warm at night using multiple sleeping bags. He disguised reflective surfaces such as metal bins with moss and dirt to keep from being discovered. “Anybody that's hunted in the woods has seen a pile of rubble but didn't think anything of it,” said Ron Churchill, owner of the nearby Bear Spring Camps, who found two of his plundered propane containers at Knight's camp.

Knight had made a rudimentary mast for his battery-run radio, which he told police he used to listen to right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, among others. He had also occupied himself, he said, by watching the same mushroom grow for the past four years. Without a mirror, he shaved by the reflection of a pond. He had tried to fish for food, but it proved too difficult, so he continued to steal. He is now being on $5,000 bail at Kennebec County Jail, on charges of burglary and theft.

Though many local residents were unaware of his existence, others said they had known for years that the North Pond Hermit was responsible for countless thefts, but that he never took money or valuables, and left little damage in his wake. Some summer cottage owners even left food out for him, rather than endure further break-ins.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral