The desire to escape loneliness is all too common. With the immense stress of daily life, escaping from your environment can certainly be attractive. While a one-week vacation is usually enough, for others, a month or year is not enough. In some cases, this can take decades.
A man decided he needed to get away from society and its constraints, but he didn’t just take a week off work. Instead, he hid from the world for nearly 30 years. When he was finally found, no one was able to believe his story.
1. When people need a break in their lives, most of them opt for a week-long trip to a tropical place.
All people need is a little time to recharge their batteries before returning to daily life.
2. However, for Christopher Thomas Knight, the “Hermit of the North Pond” was not enough.
Raised in Albion, Maine, in 1965, Christopher had a relatively normal education.
3. However, Christopher has always had difficulty building relationships with others, even with his peers.
He preferred to be alone rather than spend time with others. But even if he was very discreet, he was intelligent and his future looked promising.
4. Yet in 1986, Christopher chose a different future than his peers.
His desire to escape society was so strong that he didn’t even tell his family or his employer what he was doing. In fact, he left without a map or a compass, even he didn’t know where he was going.
5. After driving in no particular direction, Christopher abandoned his green Subaru, leaving the keys in the ignition.
With only a tent and a backpack, he began his journey to the unknown. There was only one problem, he had no experience of living in the wilderness.
6. He spent his first two weeks crossing the forests of Maine.
But he quickly realized how ill-prepared he was, especially when it came to food. He had no weapons to hunt with. He was therefore forced to eat berries, which were harder to find than expected.
7. Christopher finally realized that he had to break into the nearby huts to eat while the residents were away.
At first, he flew mostly in their gardens, hoping that they would think it was a wild animal taking their vegetables.
8. At the same time, Christopher soon began to face the harsh elements of Maine’s wilderness – his tent would no longer be enough.
So, one night, he decided to sleep in an empty cabin. Too afraid that the owners would come back for him, he decided to sleep outside from that moment on, no matter what the weather was like.
9. Christopher finally found a place to stay.
It was so off the beaten track that he knew no one would ever find him. Soon, he began to fully embrace the life of isolation he had made for himself.
10. After creating a structure in which to live, he did his best to keep quiet at all times for fear that someone would hear him somehow.
All this time, it was common for Christopher to break into the surrounding cabins to steal the food and drinks he could.
11. Over time, he became a skilled and stealthy thief.
Even houses with alarm systems were not up to the standard of the man who used to install them for a living. It was only when he was 100% sure that no one was there that he dared to enter the houses, sometimes by taking spare keys, in order to be able to enter more easily next time.
12. Christopher was always sure to take only what he needed.
Any gesture that wasn’t subtle could have betrayed him. He mainly took cupcakes, chocolate bars and soft drinks, such as Mountain Dew.
13. He was not only concerned about eating, he also had to maintain his shelter.
So he would steal tarpaulins, blankets, and coats whenever he could. He also stole magazines, not only to read, but also to tear off the pages, put them on the ground and absorb any moisture in his shelter.
14. Christopher was sure to leave as little evidence as possible that someone had broken into a house.
Although he did not break windows, he often removed doors to reinstall and repair them once he had all the supplies he needed.
15. He has had this way of life for nearly three decades!
But over time, as precise as Christopher may have been, the inhabitants of the houses began to notice missing things, as well as a number of other things.
16. Christopher quickly started breaking into houses at night.
Residents of North Pond, Maine, often reported hearing strange noises around their property at night. Yet they have never been able to identify a real intruder in or around their home.
17. Although these residents just went back to sleep, when they woke up, several things had disappeared at random in their house.
Most people reported missing items to the police, including books, magazines, pants, boots, radios, batteries and junk food.
18. It was at that time that police focused their efforts on finding the person who broke into the houses.
Soon after, people began to give him various nicknames. It was not only the “North Pond Hermit”, but also the “Maine Loch Ness Monster” and the “Stealthy Yeti”.
19. Soon, everyone in North Pond started installing surveillance cameras in their homes.
Yet, no matter what, he could apparently break in and get away with it over and over again. The police, therefore, filed a report without being able to get their hands on Christopher in which they described him as a hermit.
20. The police were lucky when Christopher decided to break into Pine Tree Summer Camp.
An obvious choice, since it was filled with all the tools and food needed to survive in the wild and there was little chance anyone would notice missing objects.
21. But what Christopher didn’t know was that the police were on his trail.
The facility was managed by Sergeant Terry Hughes, who had a plan to catch the North Pond hermit – he installed industrial-grade projectors, military-grade motion detectors in the kitchen, and lots of food!
22. When the alarms began to go off on April 4, 2013, Sergeant Hughes took action.
When he arrived in the kitchen, expecting an armed burglar, he was shocked to find an apparently normal middle-aged man.
23. When Sergeant Hughes asked the criminal to get down, he immediately complied.
Before he obeyed, some candy fell to the ground from his backpack. The man had no identification and did not want to answer any questions.
24. After two hours of interrogation, Christopher began to open up.
The investigators were shocked to learn that he had been living in isolation from the rest of the world for 27 years! “The level of discipline he displayed when he broke into homes is beyond what most of us can imagine,” said Sergeant Hughes.
25. Christopher has only met one person in all these years.
In an interview, Christopher once admitted that during his 27 years of isolation, he had only one person to deal with – a hiker who was making his way through the wilderness of Maine. And what did he say? Simply, “hello”.
26. On October 28, 2013, Christopher pleaded guilty to 13 charges of burglary and theft in the Superior Court of Kennebec County.
But what shocked people the most was that for his crimes, which are estimated at more than 1,000 breaks and enters, he received only seven months in prison.
27. In addition, Christopher had three years’ probation, had to meet with a judge every Monday and pay each of his victims $1,500 in restitution.
The judge also required him to participate in a program for people with mental health problems.
28. While not serving his prison sentence, Christopher made an effort to reconnect with his family he had abandoned without even saying goodbye all these years before.
When he was finally released, his brother offered him a job.
29. Of course, it was only a matter of time for someone to write a book about it.
Most recently, Michael Finkel, an American journalist, wrote the book The Stranger in the Woods after interviewing Christopher while he was still in prison.
30. At the end of his journey, Christopher almost didn’t know who he was.
“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[sic]. I became irrelevant,” he explains.
We may never know why Christopher was looking for such extreme loneliness, but his story is fascinating. Fortunately, all the people whose houses he has robbed over the years will also be reimbursed.