Skip to main content

Hermit accused of hundreds of burglaries after 27 years in Maine woods

From Brittany Brady, CNN
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Locals told stories of a hermit who stole food and camping gear from lakeside properties
  • Last week, a game warden arrested longtime recluse Christopher Knight
  • Officials say Knight, 47, broke into a camp's kitchen to steal food

(CNN) -- For years, stories about the North Pond Hermit circulated around central Maine.

According to lore, the shadowy figure would sneak into cabins, camps and houses surrounding North Pond, and steal food, clothing, camping gear and other supplies. But he never took money and never caused damage, according to a 2005 story on the hermit in the Kennebec Journal newspaper.

Locals, the newspaper reported, said they found odd caches of goods in the woods. Some speculated the hermit slipped out on wet or dark nights, gliding across the 273-acre pond in a boat to burglarize camps, the newspaper reported.

Now state game warden Sgt. Terry Hughes says he caught 47-year-old Christopher Knight last week as he burglarized a camp for disabled people, at once confirming local folklore and ending a longtime nuisance for lakeside residents and property owners.

Christopher Knight, 47, is being held at the Kennebec County Jail after his arrest last week.
Christopher Knight, 47, is being held at the Kennebec County Jail after his arrest last week.

Knight could be responsible for as many as a thousand burglaries, authorities say.

"It's been a myth, this character, this folklore person who is known as the hermit, who we've all known about, this unknown suspect who moves around in society and burglarizes camps," Hughes said at a news conference Wednesday.

"It's surreal, he's surreal, the situation is surreal," said Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance at the news conference.

Knight had apparently lived in the woods for 27 years, speaking to another person just once in all that time, according to CNN affiliate WCSH. That person was a hiker he came across on a trail in the 1990s. Investigators say he kept his mind sharp with the books he stole during break-ins, the station reported.

Pine Tree Camp was a favorite target, staffers told WCSH.

At first, employees thought camping gear that was missing back in the 1980s and 1990s had just been misplaced. After the thefts continued -- including hundreds of dollars worth of food at a time -- camp officials decided a burglar was at work.

The burglar would jimmy the locks on sliding glass doors and "take anything he could find," including sliced meat, Parmesan cheese, coffee and camping equipment, Harvey Chesley, the facilities manager of the nearby camp, told WCSH.

The camp put security cameras in its kitchen last year, capturing a clear picture of the burglar inside. But nobody recognized him, the Portland television station reported.

Authorities captured Knight only after Hughes put up detectors that set off an alarm at his home if anyone broke into the camp, according to WCSH.

Knight, who went to high school with Chesley, apologized for the break-ins, Chesley told the station.

"I do believe him," Chesley said.

Knight is being held on a $5,000 cash bond at the Kennebec County Jail. As is custom in Augusta, he had a video arraignment Friday for his first court appearance. His next court date is yet to be determined.

CNN's Michael Pearson contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
The world's largest flying aquatic insect, with huge, nightmarish pincers, has been discovered in China's Sichuan province, experts say.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT