27-year hermit arrested in thefts

ROME, Maine — A man who lived like a hermit for decades in a makeshift camp in the central Maine woods, who may be responsible for more than 1,000 burglaries for food and other staples, has been captured, authorities said.

Christopher Knight, 47, was arrested last week when he tripped a surveillance sensor set up by a game warden while stealing food from a youth camp in Rome, state police say in a court affidavit.

Authorities on Tuesday found the campsite where they believed Knight — known as the North Pond Hermit in local lore— has lived for 27 years.

Residents of the town with a year-round population of about 1,000 say they’ve been aware of the hermit for years, often in connection with break-ins that have occurred. Some have spotted him walking along the side of the lake known as Great Pond and others have seen his living quarters, which include a tent covered by tarps suspended between trees, a bed, propane cooking stoves and a battery-run radio.

“Anybody that’s hunted in the woods has seen a pile of rubble but didn’t think anything of it,” Ron Churchill, owner of Bear Spring Camps in Rome, said Wednesday. Employees who maintain his camp’s lakeside cabins have seen the man thought to be the hermit in the past.

Churchill said his business has lost propane containers to thefts, the latest of which were discovered Wednesday.

“I did an inventory this morning and we’re missing two,” Churchill said.

Paul Anderson, a selectman in the town about 20 miles northwest of Augusta, acknowledged local talk about a man living alone in the woods.

“I’ve lived in the town for 32 years and I’ve never, ever met the guy,” said Anderson.

Knight was arrested last Thursday as he left the Pine Tree Camp for children with disabilities with $283 worth of food, state Trooper Diane Vance said in her affidavit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court. Vance said Knight told her he had broken into the camp about 50 times since he began living in the woods in 1986.

An electronic sensor had been set up in the camp by game warden Sgt. Terry Hughes, who had developed an interest in the pattern of burglaries years ago.

Knight was being held at the Kennebec County jail on burglary and theft charges.

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