April 12, 2013

Hermit didn't grow food, hunt or use fires

Christopher Knight proves to be an unlikely survivalist, having stolen for sustenance rather than hunt, fish or forage for the last 27 years.

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

ROME — Christopher T. Knight didn't display many of the skills that a person might learn in a wilderness survival course.

click image to enlarge

Christopher Knight's camp on Tuesday in a remote, wooded section of Rome. Knight kept camping supplies and a tent beneath a brown tarp where he lived, police say.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Andy Molloy Game Wardens, State Police and Somerset County Sheriff's deputies hike into Christopher Knight's camp site in Rome Tuesday April 9, 2013. Police believe Knight, who went into the woods near Belgrade in 1986, was a hermit who committed hundreds of burglaries to sustain himself. The camp was located in a heavily wooded location.

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He didn't hunt, fish or forage for food outdoors, instead stealing food and other supplies from camps around North Pond.

He never started a fire because he was afraid the smoke would be seen or smelled.

Even so, Knight created a well-organized campsite, concealed his movements, and stayed warm, hydrated and even clean while apparently living alone in the central Maine woods for 27 years.

Retired Maine Warden Service Lt. Pat Dorian of Sidney said it's one of the most amazing survival stories he's ever heard.

Dorian, who was the service's statewide search-and-rescue coordinator for more than a decade, said one of the most important factors for people who his team found alive was that they didn't panic.

In Knight's case, it was a conscious decision to leave society behind for the woods.

"He had a very well-thought-out plan, how to survive in extreme conditions, and I think it's extraordinary," Dorian said.

Although he didn't use fires, Knight probably stayed warm in part from the propane he used for cooking, and from multiple sleeping bags in the winter. His bed was raised off the ground.

"A lot of the good-quality sleeping bags, you put one on top of the other, it's not an issue staying warm," Dorian said. "And when you live in that environment day in and day out, your body will acclimate more to being in the cold."

Dorian said Knight's case reminds him of a man who periodically went into the woods and chained himself to a tree for several days at a time, including once in late December. The man was acclimated to those conditions, Dorian said.

He said he would expect that Knight had a body of moving water near his campsite, and he could have collected snow or boiled water to make it safe for drinking.

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

smcmillan@mainetoday.com

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