Maine Hermit Committed Hundreds of Burglaries to Stay Off the Grid for 27 Years

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Every year I read thousands of burglary reports and articles, but today I’ll share one that stands out for being highly unusual. Here the intruder was not just a serial burglar: he was a survivalist, living off the land but mostly from whatever he could steal from camps and cabins in rural Maine for 27 years. Now he’s been apprehended, as described in this report from Kennebec County in central Maine.

He escaped civilization in 1986, but had to steal from it to survive: packaged food, clothes. Officials said locals used to put supplies out on their porches for him so at least the North Pond hermit wouldn’t enter their homes. That must have been fine for him. Maine winters are unforgiving, yet he seemed to fear attention more than the cold.

Life Off the Grid

He always traveled at night so no one would see him. He piled on sleeping bags instead of starting fires. It worked. He said he had not been sick in 27 years. There was no one to get him sick. “The only words that he’d spoken to another person in 27 years,”  Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told the Los Angeles Times, “was when he said ‘Hi, how are you’ to a guy on another trail that he was walking.” That was in the 1990s.

Finally Apprehended

That changed last week. Christopher Knight, 47, was snatched from solitude and arrested last Thursday on suspicion of hundreds and hundreds of burglaries over the years — quiet capers that officials believe he’d made so he could survive the woods near Rome, Maine. He was caught in the act of raiding a local camp’s pantry in the middle of the night, officials said.

How They Caught Him

A game warden who had heard the reports of someone stealing food set up sensors normally used to watch the state’s long border with Canada. Last week, the warden was alerted to a break-in in the middle of the night, saw Knight in the camp’s kitchen with a light, and arrested him when he came outside, officials said. “There had been stories about a hermit in that area for quite some time,” Rafferty said. “I think it was probably four, five years ago when game cameras first became popular — you leave those up — we got a couple pictures of him back then.”

Staying Hidden

Knight’s hideaway was so carefully placed that it precluded discovery. His camp was only two or three tenths of a mile into the woods, but it was in such a location that you had to walk to it in order to even see it. The game warden Hughes told the Morning Sentinel that Knight appeared to have been taking the exact same steps on the exact same trails for decades. “He didn’t move all winter,” Hughes. “He was adamant that he wouldn’t leave his campsite in the winter because he didn’t want to be tracked back to his location. So I said, ‘Well, what did you do all winter? How did you spend your day?’ He said, ‘I would read books,’ he said, ‘and I would meditate.’ ”

Serial Burglar – Big Time

Knight apparently did not hunt or fish, saying it took too much energy. Instead, officials think Knight committed more than 1,000 burglaries to sustain himself, for which Knight has now triggered a large investigation. After his arrest, he was being held on $5,000 bond. “Just a random thought: This was the Unabomber, but he wasn’t bombing,” Rafferty said, referring to Theodore Kaczynski, a math-genius-turned-recluse-turned-ecoterrorist in Montana. “He was literally that far off the grid, and in fact, probably farther than Ted Kaczynski was.” He added, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I’m going to assume that at least some of these hundreds of cabins had electricity, which is really all you need to support an up-to-date alarm system: especially one based on safer cellular monitoring, where no phone is required (and there’s no phone line for a burglar to cut). Does this article strengthen the case for monitored home security as a way to protect your property? FrontPoint thinks that is indeed the case. You deserve your peace of mind: we already know that a home (or second home or cabin) protected by a monitored alarm system is far less likely to suffer an intrusion, so it just makes sense to make the modest investment.

FrontPoint is on the job with systems that are safer, smarter, simpler, and more affordable. As the leader in wireless home security and the #1 rated alarm company in the US, FrontPoint takes residential intrusion very seriously, whether it’s the usual random offense by an amateur burglar, or one of a string of break-ins committed by the survivalist serial burglar described above. Either way, you want the odds on your side.

Comments (10)

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  1. Steven

    Peter,
    Would a FP security system – sensors, etc, work regardless of temp? E.g. Cabin has electric, but otherwise tucked in for winter. So no heat, and temps in the north country can be well below zero for weeks at a time.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Steven – Thanks for a great question. While pretty much every alarm sensor made by any reputable firm (i.e. GE/Interlogix, Honeywell, DSC, Bosch, etc.) will have a “technical specification” for operating temperatures, we have found that in practice you can push the “published” temperature ranges for these sensors somewhat – especially at the bottom end of the range. The listed specifications are there in case the sensor does in fact fail to operate as expected in more extreme temperatures (hotter or colder). You may also find that a sensor could have a shorter battery life in extremely cold environments.

      If the temperature is actually well below zero for weeks at a time (and here I assume you mean Fahrenheit, as opposed to Celsius), that is cold indeed… and it’s possible that even a sensor that is okay being “pushed” outside its specs may not operate consistently when it is that cold, even indoors. We have heard anecdotal stories of these sensors operating outside through the winter in places as cold as Minnesota, but cannot guarantee that level of performance.

      Thanks again.

  2. Steven

    Peter,
    Would a FP security system – sensors, etc, work regardless of temp? E.g. Cabin has electric, but otherwise tucked in for winter. So no heat, and temps in the north country can be well below zero for weeks at a time.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Steven – Thanks for a great question. While pretty much every alarm sensor made by any reputable firm (i.e. GE/Interlogix, Honeywell, DSC, Bosch, etc.) will have a “technical specification” for operating temperatures, we have found that in practice you can push the “published” temperature ranges for these sensors somewhat – especially at the bottom end of the range. The listed specifications are there in case the sensor does in fact fail to operate as expected in more extreme temperatures (hotter or colder). You may also find that a sensor could have a shorter battery life in extremely cold environments.

      If the temperature is actually well below zero for weeks at a time (and here I assume you mean Fahrenheit, as opposed to Celsius), that is cold indeed… and it’s possible that even a sensor that is okay being “pushed” outside its specs may not operate consistently when it is that cold, even indoors. We have heard anecdotal stories of these sensors operating outside through the winter in places as cold as Minnesota, but cannot guarantee that level of performance.

      Thanks again.

  3. Alan

    Yes, highly interesting story, Peter. Winters must have been horrific for him — solitary, cold, and comfined to what I presume to be a very small cabin the whole time. Sounds kind of fun maybe for a few days, but not so much after that.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Alan – I hear you on that. But no excuse for ripping off all those people. It’s all about choices we make, and he made a lot of bad ones. Thanks!

  4. Alan

    Yes, highly interesting story, Peter. Winters must have been horrific for him — solitary, cold, and comfined to what I presume to be a very small cabin the whole time. Sounds kind of fun maybe for a few days, but not so much after that.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Alan – I hear you on that. But no excuse for ripping off all those people. It’s all about choices we make, and he made a lot of bad ones. Thanks!

  5. Luie

    What an interesting story. Committing all those burglaries and no one caught him once. Home security is getting less on the ball even with the advancements in technology.

  6. Luie

    What an interesting story. Committing all those burglaries and no one caught him once. Home security is getting less on the ball even with the advancements in technology.

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