The ‘North Pond Hermit’: the Man That Lived Without Human Contact for 28 Years

For nearly thirty years, he was only a legend in small towns, a ghost that slunk into homes at night and survived on whatever food he could steal without being noticed by scared residents. Such a phantom, most persuaded themselves, couldn’t possibly live in the nearby forest.

That phantom was finally arrested for stealing two years ago, and he’s being called the last true hermit.

When he was captured, the hermit was out for a late night raid at the Pine Trees Summer Camp near North Pond in central Maine. While searching through the kitchen for food, he unknowingly set off an alarm that led to his arrest at the hands of Sergeant Terry Hughes, a warden that had become obsessed with capturing the man known as the North Pond Hermit.

Hughes, with the help of some Maine state police, apprehended the burglar and asked him his name. He didn’t say a word, and he had no identification on him. In a broken voice, he admitted to the state trooper, Diane Perkins-Vance, that he was ashamed to answer questions about himself.

His name, the trooper learned, was Christopher Thomas Knight. He was born in 1965, had no address and no vehicle. He had gone to live in the woods, alone, when he was only 20 years old — now, he was 47.

His way of life was truly remarkable. He never lit a fire, as he was afraid of being detected, and moved only at night, sleeping in a tent during the day. When he was captured, he had no idea if his parents were alive, and had never even heard anything of the internet. He admitted to committing about 40 break-ins a year to keep himself well-fed.

Before that night, Knight had only said one word to another human being in the last 27 years. He said “hi” to a passing hiker.

The man had long been a legend in the nearby town of North Pond, where residents were victims of his break-ins for so long. But most claim they didn’t really believe that such a thing could be true. After all, what man could survive in the woods through the freezing cold of a New England winter?

Knight, somehow, managed it. Unfortunately, he didn’t keep a journal or snap any photos to document his long time alone. He had pledged, after all, to live his entire life in secret after he went to the forest as a young man, just out of high school.

While many have tried to contact him since to hear his story, he hasn’t been saying much. A writer over at GQ managed to get a short response letter from Knight, staying in prison, the two of them bonding over a shared love of literature. Knight had stolen many books during his time in the woods.

They exchanged more and more letters, Knight offering his regrets on a life of crime and reflections on the differences between the two ways of life he had led. One fascinating, surprisingly literate, tidbit:

Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.

To learn more of his stunning story, read the long feature article at GQ, which we’ll again link to here. Trust us, the whole piece, though lengthy, is fascinating.

Composite photo: At left is Christopher Knight at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta entering pleas for multiple burglaries and thefts while living in the woods of Rome for 27 years. At right is Knight during his graduation from the Co-Ocurring Disorders Court. Known as the North Pond Hermit, Knight spent seven months in jail and followed by 17 months in the special court program. (Photos by Andy Molloy/Staff Photographer)