ROME, Maine — The evidence seized after the final nocturnal kitchen raid by the man known as the North Pond Hermit reads like a cross between a busy college student’s shopping list and a how-to guide for a rookie survivalist.
Christopher Knight, 47, had stuffed a backpack and a gym bag with items from the Pine Tree Camp in early April, including Hormel bacon, Sweet Tart candies, containers of Folger’s coffee, potato chips, corn syrup, Kraft marshmallows and a fair amount of cheese before being caught in the act by law enforcement officials, according to information provided in an affidavit filed earlier this month in Waterville District Court. He also packed a roll of electrical tape, a poncho, bottled water and a set of pliers. The total value: $425.38.
If all had gone according to his usual plan, the recluse would have then walked through the woods and returned to the campsite that he had constructed over the years. Knight told police at the time he was caught that he guessed he had broken into camps in the North Pond vicinity about 40 times a year since 1986.
Knight, who told police officials he had lived as a hermit for 27 years, did not even know what town he lived in, according to the affidavit and request for a search warrant that was filed on April 12.
At the time of his arrest, Knight was wearing a winter jacket, wool hat, hooded sweatshirt, bluejeans and boots — all stolen. When they searched him for weapons after he was arrested that night, police found only a Leatherman utility knife.
“He did tell me that he was ‘content’ living in the woods,” Maine State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance wrote in the documents.
The affidavit and request for a search warrant detail how Perkins-Vance and other law enforcement officials worked to document Knight’s case, the likes of which they later said they had never seen before.
Knight, whose improbable personal history has captivated the imagination of people around the country and even the world, initially told officers nothing about himself — not even his name.
But then, sometime in the middle of the night at the Pine Tree Camp, the floodgates opened, and the handcuffed hermit began to share his story with Perkins-Vance.
During their conversation, Knight said that the “cheesy” television shows he had watched in the past cautioned him not to answer questions until he talked to a lawyer. When the trooper said that he had that option, he told her, “I want to end it.”
“The reason why he did not want to provide me with his name was because he was ashamed of his actions and did not want his name to appear in the paper,” she wrote in the document. “Knight told me that he had no address and that he mostly lived in the woods … He said that he did not have a vehicle, did not get mail, did not file a tax return and did not collect any kind of disability. He was also able to tell me that he lived alone.”
Knight said that the last time he had purchased something was sometime during the 1980s, and that he didn’t know if his parents were alive or dead.
The night he was arrested, police said he was carrying a wallet that contained $395 — “This cash was the only thing in the wallet and some of it appeared very old,” Perkins-Vance wrote.
When police ran his name through their computer system, they found that his driver’s license was valid, but had expired in 1986. He wasn’t listed as a wanted criminal and he wasn’t showing as a missing person, Perkins-Vance wrote.
“I would describe him as eccentric,” she stated in the affidavit.
Knight grew up in Albion and graduated from Lawrence High School in Fairfield, where he posed solemnly for his senior picture and wrote that he planned to become a computer technician. He told the trooper that he had attended a vocational school for computers and even worked in the field for a year.
“It wasn’t that he didn’t like it, but realized that computers were constantly changing,” Perkins-Vance wrote.
He told the trooper that a couple of years ago, he had stolen the key to the freezer of the Pine Tree Camp, which serves children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities. Knight said that over the years, he had broken into the Pine Tree Camp more than 50 times, stealing food, tools and books.
Police have charged Knight with two Class C charges of burglary and two Class E misdemeanor charges of theft. He is being held at Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta, with bail set at $25,000. Knight’s attorney, Walter McKee, has set up a fund to assist his client in paying restitution to his victims.
By sunrise, Knight had consented to having his campsite searched and agreed to take Perkins-Vance and Sgt. Terry Hughes of the Maine Warden Service to his home in the woods.
“We meandered through the woods for approximately 50 minutes before we reached his campsite up on a ridge near Little North Pond,” the trooper wrote.
There, they found a fairly comfortable campsite with a mattress inside his tent, which he said he got by “borrowing” a canoe to bring it across the pond from Pine Tree Camp.
“Knight had a backup plan,” she wrote. “He showed us an area a distance away from the main campsite where he had backup items stored in plastic totes in case he was caught at the main campsite. This way he had enough items to start over.”
A few days later, on April 11, wardens went through the camp to seize and itemize the contents of what Knight called home — all of which, Knight said, had been stolen. The inventory list includes broad descriptions: medical supplies, jewelry and wallet, cooking supplies, magazines, adult entertainment, booze, rakes, coolers, tents, camping gear, metal barrels and a tote found in the cache site.
Perkins-Vance wrote that Knight said that he was generally in good health.
“He took no medications and had never been to a doctor. I asked him if he had ever been sick and he told me that required human contact,” she wrote.
Throughout the pages of police documents, the recurring question during that initial interview with Knight was, simply, why? Why did Knight decide to just disappear? To slip into the woods and never see his family again. To steal from others in order to survive.
“[He] told me that he read books as a child and liked reading about hermits,” Perkins-Vance wrote. “He said nothing traumatic had occurred in his life to lead him to this lifestyle. He told me that he could not come up with a definitive answer why he chose to live this way.”