In the summer of 1986, a 20-year-old Christopher Thomas Knight drove his Subaru Brat to a remote patch of Maine woods, parked, left the car and disappeared. Knight would not see another human being for 27 years, surviving brutal winters and breaking into homes to steal food, clothing and other provisions in the process. His mysterious burglaries terrified a community that never figured out who was responsible.
In the end, people saw Knight differently — some angry and wanting him punished to the max, others saddened that he had lived so long alone, and still others wishing him well. Ted Varipatis, who worked with Knight as a reporter at NEWS CENTER Maine in Portland at the time, says there was something endearing about him.
While the media covered Knight, he didn’t speak publicly, but he did communicate through mail and allowed some visits from hermits who knew him in high school. He also starred in a short documentary about his life by filmmaker Lena Friedrich.
The film sparked outrage, intrigue, reverence and every response in between, and the hermit’s story captured the nation’s imagination. When he was finally caught, he had earned the nickname ‘The North Pond Hermit’ and was seen as almost a cult hero. Knight grew up in a very private family, so it’s possible that he felt he had no other choice.