The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Quigley_Sharps, Aug 31, 2014.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

  2. Dawg23

    Dawg23 do or do not, there is no try

    oh damn! thats a long time without any contact. not to mention resilience and a good bit of survival knowledge, except for the thievery, pretty noble way to live.
    Brokor likes this.
  3. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Saved this story (via Firefox) and entire webpage for posterity. It's very interesting, especially because of the outcome. This is not just a survival story or ethics argument, it's a philosophical issue as well. We might ask what this life is all about, and maybe we're missing something we need. Perhaps if more could get in touch with nature, this world would be a better place and humanity would not be resigned to working at jobs they hate to pay for stuff they can't afford due to corporatist dogma, social memes and greed. Now, this man is once again made part of the collective social construct, and his heart still yearns to be in the wild. It's a terrible duality to ponder.

    I would really like to know exactly how he got by without fire in the northeast. Maybe his use of the propane stove supplemented his need for heat? I have to admit, this story is fascinating, and as was mentioned, if not for the burglary bit, it would be an excellent example of fine living.
  4. NotSoSneaky

    NotSoSneaky former supporter

    He was more than a bit kooky, a thief and royal pest.

    But he did live as a free man. (for a while)

    I would not want to endure Maine winters without benefit of a fire.
  5. Gopherman

    Gopherman Sometimes I Wish I Could Go Back to Sleep

    A long time ago in my early 20's, I wanted to go dig into a hillside by a big lake in the Oregon National Forest. I ran an ad for Woman wanted, to join me.
    2 weeks passed and finally an answer. We decided to meet at a local diner and when I went in I was able to spot her right away!
    I could see immediately why this woman wanted to live in the woods and without a second's hesitation, I turned and walked out. That was the end of that pipe dream!
    This guy obviously has more willpower, stamina, (screws loose) than anyone I know!
    I could never have broken into someones house either, too much of a conscious!
    I could probably have done it, with even a mildly attractive woman along to help, but straight out Hermit? Nahh!!
    I wonder what he's doing now?
  6. AmericanRedoubt1776

    AmericanRedoubt1776 American Redoubt: Idaho-Montana-Wyoming Site Supporter+


    @quigley sharps, a very interesting read. Thank you for that.

    Here's a summary of my favorite parts for those with no time to read the 5 page article on Chris Knight The Maine Hermit. I added some philosophical quotes I discovered after being inspired by his solitary story. As Tevin said...
    “I said, ‘Are you happy?’ ” State Trooper Vance recalled. “Knight said, ‘No, I’m content. They’re two different things.’ ”

    "The man known as the North Pond Hermit soon will have a soundtrack immortalizing his tale." Musicians plan North Pond Hermit songs CD later this month - Central Maine

    “He admitted to approximately 40 burglaries a year for the last 27 years,” Vance said (Source: North Pond Hermit discovered, arrested after 27 years in Maine woods - Metro - The Boston Globe

    He stole hundreds of books over the years; his preference was military history—he named William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as his favorite book." Great book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich -- recently finished listening to it on

    David Proulx of Waterville, who lives on North Pond from May through October, said he believes Knight burglarized his cottage about twice a year since 1990 — close to 50 times.
    “I’d leave him a note: ‘Don’t break in. Just tell me what you need, and I’ll put it by the side of the road,’ ” Proulx said. The hermit never took him up on the offer.

    Reminds me of this famous Japanese Buddhist hermit's haiku about a theif:
    • One evening a thief visited Ryōkan's hut at the base of the mountain only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryōkan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryōkan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon." This story may be an interpretation of an account mentioned by Ryōkan in a haiku:
      The thief left it behind:
      the moon
      at my window.
      • Haiku written after a thief robbed his hut, as translated in The Enlightened Heart : An Anthology of Sacred Poetry‎ (1993) by Stephen Mitchell, p. 162
    My favorite interesting survivalism / philosophy related excerpts from the article:
    The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit

    On No Self:
    "But you must have thought about things," I said. "About your life, about the human condition."
    Chris became surprisingly introspective. "I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."
    • The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away, and the weather is clear again.
      If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
      Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
      Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way.
    On the "Power" of Silence:
    "I am retreating into silence as a defensive move," he wrote. Soon he was down to uttering just five words, and only to guards: yes; no; please; thank you. "I am surprised by the amount of respect this garners me. That silence intimidates puzzles me. Silence is to me normal, comfortable."
    • Remember what Simonides said,—that he never repented that he had held his tongue, but often that he had spoken.
      • Plutarch, Morals, Volume I. Rules for the Preservation of Health.
    • Speech is of time, silence is of eternity.
    On Meditation:
    The Maine Hermit "wrote little about his time in the woods, but what he did reveal was harrowing. Some years, he made it clear, he barely survived the winter. In one letter, he told me that to get through difficult times, he tried meditating. "I didn't meditate every day, month, season in the woods. Just when death was near. Death in the form of too little food or too much cold for too long." Meditation worked, he concluded. "I am alive and sane, at least I think I'm sane.""
    • "They flash upon that inward eye
      Which is the bliss of solitude."
    On Stillness Observing Nature:
    "What I miss most," he eventually continued, "is somewhere between quiet and solitude. What I miss most is stillness." He said he'd watched for years as a shelf mushroom grew on the trunk of a Douglas fir in his camp. I'd noticed the mushroom when I visited—it was enormous—and he asked me with evident concern if anyone had knocked it down. I assured him it was still there. In the height of summer, he said, he'd sometimes sneak down to the lake at night. "I'd stretch out in the water, float on my back, and look at the stars."

    The Maine Hermit would..."poetically describe the crunch of dry leaves underfoot ("walking on corn flakes") and the rumble of an ice crack propagating across the pond ("like a bowling ball rolling down an alley").

    On Staying Warm in Winter Camp:
    "Many have expressed admiration for Knight's outdoor survival skills, especially in the harsh Maine winters." Christopher Thomas Knight - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    "I asked him if he just slept all the time, a human hibernation. "Completely wrong," he replied. "It's dangerous to sleep too long in winter." When seriously frigid weather descended, he conditioned himself to fall asleep at 7:30 P.M. and get up at 2 A.M. "That way, at the depth of cold, I was awake." If he remained in bed any longer, condensation from his body could freeze his sleeping bag. "If you try and sleep through that kind of cold, you might never wake up."

    The first thing he'd do at 2 A.M. was light his stove and start melting snow. To get his blood circulating, he'd pace the perimeter of his camp. His feet never seemed to fully thaw, but as long as he had a fresh pair of socks, this wasn't a problem. "It's more important to be dry than warm," Chris said. By dawn, he'd have his day's water supply. "Then, if I had had food, I'd have a meal.""

    Good advice: "As the evenings began to chill, he grew his beard to the ideal length—about an inch, long enough to insulate his face, short enough to prevent ice buildup."

    "Through trial and error, Vance said, Knight learned how to live through the harsh Maine winters in a campsite obscured by thick trees and ringed by large boulders. He stockpiled enough food in the fall to last until March, deliberately put on extra weight for the winter, and traveled only at night." North Pond Hermit discovered, arrested after 27 years in Maine woods - Metro - The Boston Globe

    On Choosing to Remain a Hermit:
    "He made a firm decision that unless forcibly removed, he was going to spend the rest of his life behind the trees."

    On Ageing and Cold Tolerance:
    ""The cold never got easier. All his winter-camping expertise felt offset by advancing age. "You should have seen me in my twenties," he boasted. "I was lord of the woods. I ruled the land I walked upon. I was tough and clever." But over time, like an aging athlete, his body began to break down.""

    On Eyeglasses and Teeth:
    "The biggest issue was his eyesight. "For the last ten years, anything beyond an arm's length was a blur. I used my ears more than my eyes." If he saw a pair of glasses during a break-in, he always tried them on, but was unable to find a better prescription. His agility faded; bruises took longer to heal. His teeth constantly hurt."

    That reminds me of this excellent article: How To Survive Without Your Glasses, by J.E. - and this: Make Your Own Tooth powder (and Toothpaste) | Survival Monkey Forums

    On the True Hermit:
    "Anyone who reveals what he's learned, Chris told me, is not by his definition a true hermit. Chris had come around on the idea of himself as a hermit, and eventually embraced it.
    • Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.
    On Henry David Thoreau:
    "When I mentioned Thoreau, who spent two years at Walden, Chris dismissed him with a single word: "dilettante.""

    That reminds me of Thoreau from On Walden Pond:
    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

    On His Nature Hermitage:
    "Isn't everybody, he said, seeking the same thing in life? Aren't we all looking for contentment? He was never happy in his youth—not in high school, not with a job, not being around other people. Then he discovered his camp in the woods. "I found a place where I was content," he said. His own perfect spot. The only place in the world he felt at peace."
    • Tis not for golden eloquence I pray,
      A godlike tongue to move a stony heart—
      Methinks it were full well to be apart
      In solitary uplands far away,
      Betwixt the blossoms of a rosy spray,
      Dreaming upon the wonderful sweet face
      Of Nature, in a wild and pathless place.
      -- Frederick Tennyson, Sonnet, From A Treasury Of English Sonnets
    • O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
      Let it not be among the jumbled heap
      Of murky buildings: climb with me the steep,—
      Nature's observatory—whence the dell,
      In flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell,
      May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
      'Mongst boughs pavilion'd, where the deer's swift leap
      Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
      • John Keats, Sonnet, O Solitude! If I Must With Thee Dwell.
    The Maine Hermit says, "I don't like what I see in the society I'm about to enter. I don't think I'm going to fit in. It's too loud. Too colorful. The lack of aesthetics. The crudeness. The inanities. The trivia."

    "Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down by destroying our solitude. “The thoughtful soul to solitude retires,” said the poet of other and quieter times; but where is the solitude to which we can retire today? Science, which has provided men with certain material comforts, has robbed them of their souls by surrounding them with a world hostile to their existence." A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men, p. 125

    "For solitude sometimes is best society" -- John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667; 1674), Book IX, line 249.

    "I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart, with a free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way. The very simplicity and nakedness of man's life in the primitive ages imply this advantage, at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep, he contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain-tops. But lo! men have become the tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree for shelter, a housekeeper. We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven."
    -- Thoreau from On Walden Pond: Walden - Wikiquote

    Fair Use Source for all excerpts: The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2015
  7. AmericanRedoubt1776

    AmericanRedoubt1776 American Redoubt: Idaho-Montana-Wyoming Site Supporter+

    @Gopherman, I found this in response to your post about solitude with an attractive woman:
    • I praise the Frenchman; his remark was shrewd,—
      "How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude."
      But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
      Whom I may whisper—Solitude is sweet.
      • William Cowper, Retirement, line 739. The quotation is attributed to La Bruyère and to Jean Guez de Balzac.
    Here's the flip-side:
    • I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2014
  8. NotSoSneaky

    NotSoSneaky former supporter

    The more I learn about the North Woods Hermit, I cannot help but admire the man's tenacity and willpower.
    AmericanRedoubt1776 likes this.
  9. Gopherman

    Gopherman Sometimes I Wish I Could Go Back to Sleep

    Nice musings, well done!
    I still would never have done it without a woman! :rolleyes:
    This guy needs to write a book, I'd buy one! If he'd kept a journal he'd be rich right now and when he got out of prison he could buy a big piece of land and start a trust fund for food, he'd be set for the rest of his life!
    On the brighter side, through the Penal System he has glasses with the right scripts!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2015
  10. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    I find it interesting he never got sick. I wonder how his immune system will handle society now.
    CATO, Brokor and AmericanRedoubt1776 like this.
  11. Gopherman

    Gopherman Sometimes I Wish I Could Go Back to Sleep

    True he probably just recieved the death sentence and doesn't even know it!
  12. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    This is quickly becoming my favorite quote of all time:

  13. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    a magnifying glass, no matter how powerful, cannot discover itself.
  14. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I don't see any nobility to this guy at all. Except as a "Noble" gas will not react with others, neither did he.
    But I see no achievement here, no advancement, no goal, no value to any of this.
    So he what? He did not do it alone, or even by his own effort. All he did was exist. He stole what others had gathered. Everything he had, besides his glasses, were things other people worked for, even his glasses would have been swapped, if he could have found a better set.
    He gave nothing back, he just stole things. No value returned. He was nothing more than a parasite. Living off others. A bandit.
    OK, so he didn't freeze to death. He did it so poorly, I'm surprised he didn't die. 30 years, and he NEVER learned to build a snow hut? That learning curve is a straight line!
    I see a man who made no effort do for himself. No goal in life, no remorse for the damage he caused, and even ignored offers of help in favor of destruction.
    I hope he does time for each and every break in, consecutively. He caused a great deal of harm to a great number of people.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2014
  15. Gopherman

    Gopherman Sometimes I Wish I Could Go Back to Sleep

    I agree with what you say, but tenacity, he had!
    His existence had to be one of extreme paranoia! That's not living!
    No pride in it.
  16. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Pride is irrelevant to a freed mind. :)
  17. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    bubonic plague killed 25 million people. (Living, existing, but Without a working mind) that's tenacious. But without a purpose, what good it it?
    I see your "freed mindhttps://autopsy photos of a brain - Google Search and raise you a parasitic growth[​IMG]
  18. AmericanRedoubt1776

    AmericanRedoubt1776 American Redoubt: Idaho-Montana-Wyoming Site Supporter+

    True @kellory, without a firm moral foundation of self-restraint / non-selfishness / generosity / honesty, anything one does will end badly in time. So Maine Hermit's 'insights', patience and vigor-tenacity with hunger and the winter elements, and so-called solitary timeless 'contemplative-ness' are limited / greatly diminished by his lack of generosity / parasitically thieving dishonest immorality.

    Nevertheless, his is still an interesting tale that makes one reflect on the above issues.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2014
    kellory likes this.
  19. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    No man is so poor, that he can not serve as a poor example for others.:)
  20. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Instead of praising a thief for his insights into the smell of colors, how about we pick apart his performance as a hermit and show what he actually did right and what he did wrong.

    Some very bad choice here. A tent in winter? Bad choice for cold climate. Been there, done that, got the Boy Scout shirt to prove it. You spend most of you time, just trying to get warm. He could have walked to better weather in a month. No, he sat in one place and stole fire from the neighbors. Did he learn anything about fire making, fuel sources, methods of banking a fire, or carrying fire with him, and other cultures have throughout time? No, just steal more matches, and another tank of propane.
    Did he learn anything philosophy? Maybe, but it can not be applied to himself, and there IS no one else to apply it to, so just another theory.
    Did he learn anything about experimentation? Did he devise anything new, or previously unknown? Or did he just take new clothes, and some else's food, after kicking in their door? No skins worn? No leather laces from deer hide? No rabbit mittens? No, he just took someone else's gear.
    Did he garden from the seeds of stolen fruit or vegetables? Doesn't seem like it. Did he make any attempt at self reliance? None I can see.
    So what did he do right, and would you want him as your neighbor?
    oldawg and AmericanRedoubt1776 like this.
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