“One man had actually lived in the woods of Maine for twenty-seven years, in an unheated nylon tent” (Finkel, n.d.).
Christopher Thomas Knight walked into the woods of Maine in 1986 at the age of 20, and for 27 years he lived in a tent and under tarps and slipped through the dark of night, prowling the area looking for items to steal.
He stated he never built a campfire even during the coldest months for fear of detection. He used a propane heater to stay warm that is if he had managed to steal a full tank of propane somewhere.
He was a myth, a legend, and boogie man that scared little children and left adults wondering about their very sanity. Propane tanks would mysteriously empty themselves because the North Pond hermit would swap empty tanks for full ones, and candy, breads, and meats disappeared with no apparent signs of a break-in, leaving owners scratching their heads and biting their nails.
Mr. Knight stated he had never sent an email, talked on the phone, nor did he spend any money during his time in the woods. His only verbal exchange was in 1990 when he passed a supposed hiker and simply said “hi”.
He had confessed to 40 robberies a year totaling over one thousand break-ins over 27 years, and everything he had ever possessed for the past 27 years was stolen. When caught he was wearing the same glasses that he wore for his high school graduation picture. His eyesight was so poor that objects were blurred at arms length.
He confessed to have never seen a doctor during his time in the wilds. He was never sick he claimed. According to him, people only get sick when they are around other people.
Knight had a so-called permanent camp, but also had caches buried close by. Plastic tubs with lids were buried close, so if someone were to come upon his camp he could bolt, gather some supplies and start over somewhere else. He stole full propane tanks, radios, batteries, and of course food, laundry soap, body soaps, and clothing of all sorts. He had sleeping bags, and even a bed frame nestled in under his camouflaged tarps. His camp was well camouflaged, and not even detectable from just a few feet away. He has spray painted tarps, gear, and equipment to match the colors in his environment.
The so-called hermit spent his days preparing for the long cold Maine winters. Knight stated that he was near death many times because of the cold. At some point his instinct took over and he trained his body to sleep for short periods in cold weather. He knew that staying too long under the blankets or in his sleeping bag would cause moisture to collect on his skin, so he made a habit of waking every few hours to get out of his blankets or sleeping bag to prevent sweating, which he knew would be the death of him. Humans cannot hibernate in cold weather they must move around more than in warmer weather.
While he claims to have never been sick his teeth were rotted away because of his poor diet and lack of proper oral hygiene practices. Those that saw him immediately after his arrest commented on how pale his skin appeared. It is hard to believe that he never became sick, because the authorities and others discovered food wrappers, discarded waste, and other evidence that indicated his diet was high in sugar, fats, and sodium. He claimed he was a poor cook and ate essentiality out of cans and packages. He did not hunt for food. He had tried to forage at one point but nearly starved until he started stealing food from homes in the area.
Obviously, this is not the way to live off grid, it is not living at all, but for Knight after the first few years it was all he knew.
Some people want to live off grid, escape to the wilds, and live free and alone, but it is not as easy as some might imagine. You simply cannot become a hermit. Of course sustaining yourself daily is a full time job, so you are not free in this sense, but you can be free of many government regulations, free from certain people and free from the hustle and bustle of cities, but you are not always free to do as you please.
You will need other people, need communications and in some cases you will need a bank account and a source of income. You will need a way to generate money, because as hard as you might try, you will not be able to produce everything you need. You will have to go into town with cash to buy certain things, and to seek medical and dental care and medicines.
This is not to say that you cannot go off grid and make it work. You can with planning, skills, and practical knowledge. What you cannot do is park your car, grab a backpack, and head off to the woods unprepared. Not many people could walk off and never look back. It would be difficult if not impossible for most people to sever all ties with others.
People are still pondering how Knight managed to go undetected for nearly three decades. Even Mr. Knight could not stay away from civilization however. He needed others if for nothing more than to steal from them.
Some may envy Mr. Knight, others call him a fool, a criminal, and of course a hermit that could barely speak after so many years of not communicating with others. Mr. Knight spent time in jail and as part of his release he had to find a job and get “respectable” as one put it. Living in the woods and stealing all that he needed was no longer an option.
Finkel, M. (n.d.). Retrieved 2015, from http://www.gq.com/story/the-last-true-hermit?src=longreads