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How to Make It in America Without Human Contact for 27 Years

For starters, you should head to Maine.


This is a headline in Maine's Kennebec Journal today: "'North Pond Hermit,' suspect in more than 1,000 Maine burglaries, captured." This is a human being they're talking about, so "captured" sort of makes it sound like he's some mischievous bear or something. But that headline also leaves out the most important part: HE HAS NOT BEEN SEEN BY ANOTHER HUMAN BEING SINCE 1986. (Well, he said "hi" to a hiker in the early '90s, but that is it.)

It's a fascinating story—again, because HE HAS HAS BEEN SANS HUMAN INTERACTION FOR 27 YEARS—and you should go read it right now. But, as a primer, the man is a 47-year-old named Christopher Knight. He went into the Maine wilderness after the Chernobyl disaster, but only considers that a time-marker for when he decided to leave society and not actually a reason why, which, OK? (He doesn't appear to have a "why." "He didn't give a reason," Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance told the Kennebec Journal. "He said he frequently asks himself that same question.") He survived, it seems, based on the details in the story and as the headline suggests, mostly by stealing food, drink, beer, and other supplies from local campsites. Knight was arrested ("captured") while stealing from Pine Tree Camp, a nearby camp serving children and adults with disabilities.

Yet, still, he was close enough to other humans that, just by chance, you'd have to figure some lost camper would've stumbled upon him. How did he stay hidden, then? Serious attention to detail.

Knight went to great lengths to make the camp invisible from the ground and the air, even covering a yellow shovel with a black bag. Knight never had a fire, even on the coldest days, for fear of being detected. He covered shiny surfaces, like his metal trash cans, with moss and dirt and painted green a clear plastic sheet over his tent.

Knight even situated his campsite facing east and west to make the best use of the sun throughout the day.

Knight's abilities at concealment at first made Hughes believe that he must be a military veteran.

"I don't know how he learned that," Hughes said.

Hughes, who spent eight years in the U.S. Marines and 18 years with the warden service finding and tracking experienced woodsmen, marveled at Knight's meticulousness.

Knight, who led Hughes and Perkins-Vance to his campsite, carefully avoided snow, stepped on rocks when he could and even avoided breaking branches in thick growth. Knight usually put on weight in the fall so he would have to eat less in the winter and thus avoid making treks for food and risk leaving prints in the snow.

"Every step was calculated," Hughes said.

"No Shiny Objects" also meant not owning a mirror. When authorities showed Knight a picture of himself taken by a surveillance camera, he had no idea who it was.