Imagine you walked away from your job and family and spent a quarter of century living as a hermit in the woods.
In 1986 Christopher Knight, an apparently shy and intelligent 20-year-old, left his home and after driving until his car ran out of petrol disappeared into a forest.
He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food.
Living in a makeshift tent through minus 20 degrees freezing winters the only survival knowledge he had was from reading books.
He had a tent and a backpack but no compass, no map and very limited food supplies.
He wasn’t looking for religion, it wasn’t for art and it wasn’t to get away from the modern world – he just walked off one day.
“I can’t explain my actions,” he said. “I had no plans when I left, I wasn’t thinking of anything. I just did it.”
As the days went by he realised he would need food and someone where to live and liked the idea of foraging but in the forests of Maine, Massachusetts, fruit and berries were hard to come by and he had no way of hunting or catching his own food.
Instead after setting a camp in a particularly inhospitable boulder strewn part of a forest he turned his attention to the 100 or so holiday cabins around ponds not far from where he was.
He started to steal from them.
Not much, some batteries, some food, a camping stove, some fuel for his stove and some clothes.
He was careful – meticulously watching the comings and goings of the inhabitants and recalling their routines, stealing at night in bad weather so he was unlikely to be seen and trimming his beard so he didn’t arouse suspicion.
Like this and across three decades he committed 1,000 burglaries.
This was a typical haul; boxed macaroni and cheese, Mountain Dew, propane tanks, tarpaulins, and novels.
He stole what he needed to survive.
He accumulated $395, most of it in single dollar bills, in case of an emergency, but he never spent a dollar – when he was caught some of money had gone mouldy.
He listened to talk radio, played handheld video games, and even watched a miniature Panasonic black-and-white television, charged with stolen car batteries.
People knew what was going on and left him food or asked him in notes what he needed but he ignored them.
Instead he would take spare keys and stash them around the properties for later visits always remembering where they were.
Often he would approach by canoe – stolen but returned so as not to incur police reports – and paddle for hours in the rain and darkness along the edge of the lake so as to remain hidden.
He always wore a watch so he knew how long he had been in a place for and carried a lock breaking kit – a gym bag full of screw drivers.
During a burglary, there wasn’t a moment’s ease. “My adrenaline was spiking, my heart rate was soaring. My blood pressure was high. I was always scared when stealing. Always. I wanted it over as quickly as possible.”
In a later interview he said he was never once bored.
“I was never lonely,” he added, “If you like solitude,” he said, “you are never alone.”
He was finally arrested, after 27 years of complete isolation, while stealing food at a lakeside summer camp.
He was charged with burglary and theft and was sentenced to seven months in jail on 28 October 2013, of which he had already served all but a week while awaiting sentencing.
After release, Knight met with the judge every week, avoided alcohol, and got a job with his brother working with scrap metal.
Since his arrest despite more than 500 requests Knight only agreed to be interviewed by a single journalist.
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