Who Needs Society? (Except to Steal From)
April 10, 2013 12:15 PM   Subscribe

A Maine hermit went into the woods at age 20, survived for 27 years by pulling off 1,000+ robberies, then finally was caught last week by game wardens using hidden cameras.
posted by LeLiLo (80 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
He could have just asked nicely.
posted by tommasz at 12:16 PM on April 10, 2013


Pic-a-nik baskets
posted by jfuller at 12:18 PM on April 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


The Ranger isn't gonna like this.
posted by jonmc at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Alone in the Wilderness III: Proenneke's Revenge
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:29 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


He had tons and tons of propane cylinders, probably 40 or 50 of them

Add a rusty washing machine and you've got a typical Maine front yard.
posted by bondcliff at 12:30 PM on April 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


“I would say the first thing that happens, and we see this with people that get lost in the woods, is you start to hide from people that you see in the woods,”

“The thoughts that run in people’s heads about being late for work and what to have for dinner and what’s on TV that night, those go away in about four days to two weeks of being in the wilderness,”


So you can get lost one day and end up being a hermit for 27 years?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:30 PM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?
posted by sparklemotion at 12:32 PM on April 10, 2013


So you can get lost one day and end up being a hermit for 27 years?

That's how I wound up here.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:33 PM on April 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


He was living the conservative dream
posted by Renoroc at 12:33 PM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I grew up in rural Maine. The adjectives "shy", "monotone" and "sincere" do not add anything to "dude from rural Maine".
posted by seemoreglass at 12:33 PM on April 10, 2013 [22 favorites]


Not a survivalist, but I think if I was going to be the cold woods that long I would've dug into the earth, like those folks in KC.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:34 PM on April 10, 2013


I kept reading this as "Maine hermit crab went into the woods at age 20, survived for 27 years by pulling off 1,000+ robberies" and was like awww smart crab!
posted by sweetkid at 12:34 PM on April 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


But he couldn't outsmaht Jahnny Lawbsta!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:37 PM on April 10, 2013 [34 favorites]


I ...hmmm that's not too far from where I spend the summer in Maine.

Interesting.
posted by The Whelk at 12:37 PM on April 10, 2013


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?

He should be sentenced to be my butler.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:38 PM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?

Teach him basic hunting and agriculture?
posted by jaduncan at 12:40 PM on April 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Maine hermit went into the woods at age 20, survived for 27 years by pulling off 1,000+ robberies

It's a nit-picky kind of point, but it misled me at first. A robbery is a theft by means of force, violence, or fear. That site keeps crashing my browser, but it sounds like he was just stealing things.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:42 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I keep looking at his complexion and slightly edematous face and wondering which nutritional deficiencies he's suffering from.
posted by latkes at 12:43 PM on April 10, 2013


Has he been wearing the same pair of glasses for 30 years?
posted by justkevin at 12:43 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was impressed that he did not have a Grizzly-Adams-style beard and seems significantly less crazy than the Unabomber. If you go into the woods in 1986, thinking maybe you'll be a computer programmer, does your head explode when you hold a wifi iPad?
posted by mattbucher at 12:45 PM on April 10, 2013


Has he been wearing the same pair of glasses for 30 years?
Yes, according to the article.
posted by dfan at 12:45 PM on April 10, 2013


I kinda admire the guy. Well, except for all the stealing.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:47 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?

Whole Foods Extreme Edition
posted by phaedon at 12:47 PM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's a nit-picky kind of point, but it misled me at first. A robbery is a theft by means of force, violence, or fear. That site keeps crashing my browser, but it sounds like he was just stealing things.

Yes. He was a burglar, not a robber.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?

Whole Foods Extreme Edition


I was going to say "Walden III: This Time It's Personal"
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2013 [13 favorites]



Not a survivalist, but I think if I was going to be the cold woods that long I would've dug into the earth, like those folks in KC.


I find it absolutely fucking hiLARious that the cops in that story are all like "we had to clear this area out...but this will prompt the homeless to seek better shelter!" I mean, I am actually friends with someone who is homeless - like real, street-living homeless although pretty high-functioning (a complicated story)...and if there is safe, accessible, real shelter available for your average homeless person, we have yet to find it. Social services - as I've said here before - mostly provide social workers in order to sit you down and tell you "now, if you jump through about fifty hoops, you'll be eligible for a temporary shelter bed, but you'll have to get up at 7am and leave the shelter for the day, and by the way, we can't receive mail for you here" and "no, actually there are no half-way houses or subsidized housing except for a tiny number of emergency placements that are quite rightly mostly used for women with young children".

If you want to house the fucking homeless, build some goddamn half-way houses.

Or take a leaf from the landless and slum organizing movements in South America and fix up the shelters that the homeless have made for themselves so that they are safe and have running water.

Once you're homeless and jobless, you are very, very screwed, particularly because the type of people who tend to end up homeless and jobless tend to be very, very socially vulnerable in other ways, whether due to mental illness, a history of poverty, a history of jail time, regular illness, racism, being transgender or just basically being so poor and having such a weird resume that it's really hard to get hired.

It is a miserable and shitty situation, and until you actually know someone who is homeless the whole situation remains so, so invisible to you.
posted by Frowner at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


So the real Walden Pond is up in Maine. He could be a genius. Or he could be mentally ill. It doesn't matter. It's nice to know when people choose to live truly alternate lives like this.

What will happen to him now? If I lived in Waterville I might start a support group that arranged to leave a little box of the goodies he needs. Take care of the theft issue and let him continue living the way he wished to live. Cheaper for society than putting him away in prison and more humane. I think therapy would be a waste of time and resources. This is assuming other issues don't arise with the guy.

A step further, if you got him to agree to live-casting his life in the woods you would have a Henry David Truman Show. A sure hit. Authentic survivalist hermit. It could surely cover the cost of his batteries etc.. Let me know if you get him to agree to something like that and start a KickStarter; I doubt I'm the only one who would put in a few hundred bucks to someone close with a handle on the logistics.
posted by astrobiophysican at 12:51 PM on April 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?
A little. Then you write a book and make a movie, and he ends up stinking rich, but he dies in Beverly Hills from complications of plastic surgery.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:53 PM on April 10, 2013


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?

Sounds like it's time for a little Maine Justice.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:54 PM on April 10, 2013


“I would say the first thing that happens, and we see this with people that get lost in the woods, is you start to hide from people that you see in the woods,”


Lack of sleep triggers the "pursued by a gang" delusion, the way it does in sleep deprivation experiments (after longer than four days, as I recall)?

Except it's not really a delusion if they're out there searching for you.
posted by jamjam at 12:57 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the real "Storage Wars".
posted by telstar at 1:01 PM on April 10, 2013


The hermit sounds like he needs a psych or neurological evaluation. Answering questions in a monotone like that is not a sign of a healthy individual.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:01 PM on April 10, 2013


So what do you do with this guy now? Jail time?

He works the receptionist desk at the DMV or the local building department, with a consumer satisfaction survey prominently posted near his station. Every unfavorable review he gets adds a week to his sentence.
posted by LionIndex at 1:01 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder whether this will trigger a wave of copycat attempts, some more successful than others.
posted by acb at 1:01 PM on April 10, 2013


Hey, has anyone seen Rusty recently ?
posted by k5.user at 1:02 PM on April 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


He was a burglar, not a robber.

My mistake in the post text. The newspaper headlines got it right. I don't get out much myself, but I have interacted with people in Maine within the last 27 years. (Just this afternoon, in fact.)
posted by LeLiLo at 1:02 PM on April 10, 2013


That was really fascinating. But it didn't say what they were planning to do to/with/about him - I assume has has to make restitution, but how?

Also, "He tried fishing a few times but it was too much work." - All he was doing was reading and listening to talk radio - you can't do that while holding a line?
posted by Mchelly at 1:05 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is a miserable and shitty situation, and until you actually know someone who is homeless the whole situation remains so, so invisible to you.

What's really tragic is that our current housing surplus is a huge part of what keeps the investor classes up all night worrying, as a supply surplus inevitably drags prices down. Back in 2008 (and the situation hasn't significantly improved since then as far as I know), we had just shy of five vacant houses on the market for each individual homeless person: 18.6 million vacant homes, dragging real estate values down and 3.5 million homeless people.

Efficient markets my ass.

Anyway, this guy. All I can think to say on topic is, this guy!
posted by saulgoodman at 1:05 PM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The hermit sounds like he needs a psych or neurological evaluation. Answering questions in a monotone like that is not a sign of a healthy individual.

Also a warning sign: "He claims he hadn't had a conversation with another human being since the mid-1990s, when he encountered someone on a trail. I was the first person he talked to since the 1990s."
posted by jaduncan at 1:05 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Best thing to do is have him teach survival training to boyscouts at the camp. He can make up for the theft, still practice his trade, and help people at the same time.
posted by couchdive at 1:08 PM on April 10, 2013


Seeing the Yogi Bear theme in play, I wonder if Snively is still at large.
posted by dr_dank at 1:11 PM on April 10, 2013


Best thing to do is have him teach survival training to boyscouts at the camp.

"Now the best way to remove the wires from a marine battery without tools is to use a beer bottle... like so. But best to strike it with wood instead of a rock because it is both quieter and less likely to break the bottle."

/snark. In seriousness this would be an awesome sort of community service he could maybe undertake. After some serious health (mental and physical) screening that is of course...
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:11 PM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Best thing to do is have him teach survival training to boyscouts at the camp.

How to survive:

Step 1: Park yourself a couple miles from a campground so you can steal anything you could possibly need to survive.
posted by bondcliff at 1:15 PM on April 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was wondering what happened to Peter Brady...
posted by Chuffy at 1:17 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a fascinating story but also sad. He hasn't seen himself in a mirror in twenty years. He noticed that his wounds don't heal as quickly as they used to (I remember noticing that, too) and worries that he might have diabetes. He expresses shame and remorse for stealing, referring to his footwear as "stolen boots."

He says he contemplated suicide, and he's glad his isolation has ended.

It sounds like he has lived with more fear than most of us will ever experience. It also sounds like the law-enforcement professionals he's encountered have been compassionate. I'm glad for that.
posted by cribcage at 1:20 PM on April 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


“I would say the first thing that happens, and we see this with people that get lost in the woods, is you start to hide from people that you see in the woods,”

“The thoughts that run in people’s heads about being late for work and what to have for dinner and what’s on TV that night, those go away in about four days to two weeks of being in the wilderness,”

So you can get lost one day and end up being a hermit for 27 years?


Honestly, I tend to feel this way after about 10 minutes in the woods, no joke. I assume it is primitive prey-brain asserting itself.
posted by curious nu at 1:27 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So this is, like, My Side of the Mountain 4?
posted by rmxwl at 1:29 PM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


the “Hermit” burglar

or “Herglar”, if you will.
posted by usonian at 1:38 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like he has lived with more fear than most of us will ever experience. It also sounds like the law-enforcement professionals he's encountered have been compassionate.

It's probably lucky for him that he wasn't black or Latino then...
posted by acb at 1:43 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let the legal system teach him: you can't just depend on society for a meager existence, with other people paying for all of your food and clothes and other needs.

Yeah, we'll teach him. Put him in jail.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:49 PM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fascinating. He seems completely normal accept for the willingness to be a hermit. I wonder if anything is actually wrong with him or it he far out on a certain personality axis.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:49 PM on April 10, 2013


"27 years without a woman" is the first thing that popped into my head.
posted by Birchpear at 1:58 PM on April 10, 2013


“When he was caught, he was wearing a pair of boots that had been stolen five years ago,” Rafferty said. “We knew the boots, and who they had been stolen from.”

So... Maine PD is on top of boot-crime in that area? Good to know.
posted by The River Ivel at 2:15 PM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


He was living the conservative dream

Hughes said he arrested Knight as he carried meat and other food from Pine Tree Camp in Rome, which serves children and adults with disabilities.

Knight estimated he had broken into the camp more than 50 times over the years and taken thousands of dollars of meat, beer, coffee and other supplies.

posted by sebastienbailard at 2:26 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ayuh
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 3:14 PM on April 10, 2013


"27 years without a woman" is the first thing that popped into my head.

Clearly you've never been married.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:25 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


So what do you do with this guy now?

"When he was caught, he was wearing a pair of boots that had been stolen five years ago,” Rafferty said. “We knew the boots, and who they had been stolen from.


I think I see where this is going. They're sending him to boot camp.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:25 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Except it's not really a delusion if they're out there searching for you.

Just because they're out to get you doesn't mean you're not paranoid.
posted by anazgnos at 3:26 PM on April 10, 2013


I'm no fan of stealing from charity, but this guy was homeless, however good he may have been at it. Besides, if you're intent on coloring him as some kind of nutty conservative you needn't stretch that far; the second linked article says he wired a radio antenna so he could listen to Rush Limbaugh.
posted by cribcage at 3:27 PM on April 10, 2013


So that's what happened to him.
posted by Sphinx at 3:42 PM on April 10, 2013


This is the sort of encounter I worry about having when I'm out hiking in the wilds of northern Minnesota: a hermit, probably a dude, who went into the woods and stayed there. One day I'll come across him when I'm in the woods by myself and...I don't know, man. I suppose it would be a very interesting conversation. I would probably have my bear spray at hand.
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:58 PM on April 10, 2013


I anticipate he will be jailed until trial, then given probation and handed off to social services with a prescription and a housing voucher. The system will lose track of him because no one cares about an old bum with no family and no advocate. Then he'll go back to burglarizing campgrounds until the woods claim him. He's not violent and has no actual previous convictions. He's probably mentally ill; but because he isn't a threat to himself or others they won't hold him in a psyche ward. It is possible that they will throw him in prison; but there isn't enough space there.
posted by humanfont at 4:59 PM on April 10, 2013


My God, he's the living embodiement of Dale Gribble.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:12 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I bet this is a lot more common than people think.
posted by gentian at 5:13 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Elly Vortex: This is the sort of encounter I worry about having when I'm out hiking in the wilds of northern Minnesota: a hermit, probably a dude, who went into the woods and stayed there. One day I'll come across him when I'm in the woods by myself and...I don't know, man. I suppose it would be a very interesting conversation. I would probably have my bear spray at hand.

This has been a major fear of mine ever since I read about the serial killer Gary Michael Hilton. He essentially lived off the land in various state parks for many years. I think he usually had a camper or a van, but what's the difference?

He was caught after abducting and killing a woman who was out hiking with her dog. He killed the woman but let the dog live because he felt bad for it.
posted by gentian at 5:24 PM on April 10, 2013


“When he was caught, he was wearing a pair of boots that had been stolen five years ago,” Rafferty said. “We knew the boots, and who they had been stolen from.”

"Was they high boots, or low boots?"

"They was low boots - no, come to think of it, they was high boots turned down low."

"Well, then - t'weren't mine."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:23 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


the second linked article says he wired a radio antenna so he could listen to Rush Limbaugh.

That's not exactly what it said "Outside he had fashioned an antenna to the top of the tree, about 30 feet in the air, with a cable running into his tent. Knight told police he listened to talk radio, such as Rush Limbaugh, and WBLM." I don't know if rural Maine is anything like rural Vermont but there's not much else on the radio on the way out areas.

I read this earlier today before it was on MetaFilter. What an odd story. No fires in the wintertime except the cookstove. No one reported him missing back when he first went away when he was 21? No one recognizes him now? I'll be really curious to see how this unfolds and how much of the early reports turn out to be true.
posted by jessamyn at 6:27 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a little bit more about his family in this article.
posted by jessamyn at 6:44 PM on April 10, 2013


From the 'bit more about his family' link:
Maine State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, who was with Maine Warden Service Sgt. Terry Hughes at the arrest, said Christopher Knight initially told her he did not want police to contact anyone in his family.
Weird. His family didn't report him as missing either.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:00 PM on April 10, 2013


I don't see what's so amazing bout this, I do it all the time but for shorter stretches. Like twenty minutes. In the bathroom with a magazine. Or maybe a book.

But I don't talk to anyone, and I have to steal my food. And just like this guy, I'd've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those pesky kids.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:15 PM on April 10, 2013


27 years of what is, essentially, solitary confinement, albeit self-imposed. No heat in the winter, just layers of stolen sleeping bags, and whatever stolen food he cooked with that propane to keep warm. It doesn't sound like he ate a very healthy diet; he didn't grow food or forage. No health/dental care for 27 years. This is not an appealing life.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 PM on April 10, 2013


Frowner: "Once you're homeless and jobless, you are very, very screwed"

I'm fairly certain you just described my future. Ain't Capitalism great? I'll keep myself warm and well fed by thinking of the Mitt Romney types and how they live.

The revolution can't come soon enough, IMHO.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:58 PM on April 10, 2013


No health/dental care for 27 years.

I'm going to guess that a lot of the hikers had first aid kits with the requisite tools, drugs, toothpaste etc.
posted by jaduncan at 1:03 AM on April 11, 2013


k5.user: "Hey, has anyone seen Rusty recently ?"

Eponyobvious.
posted by wierdo at 3:15 AM on April 11, 2013


Wow, that is incredible. So many interesting things about this. I agree that the lack of any mention of his family, either when he first went missing or now, is conspicuous in the articles originally posted. Also interesting that he didn't steal a mirror at some point along the way.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:51 AM on April 11, 2013


Also interesting that they've added this to the story since I first saw it:
"He was breaking devices, breaking windows and doing damage," said Harvey Chesley, the camp's facilities manager, who also spoke at Wednesday's news conference.[...] Chesley said the burglar took several hundred dollars' worth of goods each time. "He didn't come and get a bag of marshmallows," Chesley said.
Sounds like they are hearing reactions that are basically, this guy is such a weirdo that it's not worthwhile/humane to prosecute him, and they're trying to push back on that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:00 PM on April 11, 2013


Bah. This guy gives real hermits a bad name.
posted by homunculus at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2013


Isn't this where a lot of Stephen King's books are set? If it were me, I would be pretty scared out in them woods...
posted by Myeral at 6:24 AM on April 12, 2013


On another note, surviving those northern winters in the woods - without fires - must have been extremely tough.
posted by Myeral at 6:37 AM on April 12, 2013




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