Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

Many Mainers have heard the story of the Northwoods Hermit, but is it just an urban legend?  Journalist Michael Finkel says no, and sets out to give us the truth in Stranger in the Woods:  The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit.

The hermit in question is Christopher Knight.  Knight grew up near Albion, Maine and later moved to Massachusetts.  At age 20, he drove his car until he ran out of gas, parked it on the side of the road, and then walked into the woods.  He didn’t come out until he was arrested some 27 years later by a warden sergeant with some high-tech surveillance equipment, determined to out whomever had been stealing from summer camps near North Pond for over two decades.  The only journalist he spoke to after his arrest and during his incarceration was Michael Finkel.

So why read this remarkable, albeit a bit strange, story?  First, proximity for Mainers and people who visit Maine.  Second, discuss-ability.  It seems like everyone I talk to is, has, or plans to read it.  A friend of mine told me Stranger in the Woods was her 2017 Office Summer Read (an idea I LOVE!)  Third, national coverage of the story.  I discovered this story has been written about in GQ, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, National Geographic… Fourth:  is the story really true?  Could someone survive in the Maine woods year round without building a camp fire, without help from others and without sleeping in a house?  Could Knight be forgiven for thieving and scaring so many families because he only stole what he needed and tried not to ever steal when people where at home?  (For example, he stole a backpack but left the passports from the backpack in the home.) Did Knight really not speak to another human being for 27 years, with the exception of “hi” to a hiker he saw on a trail? What drove Knight to the woods and why didn’t his family ever report him missing?

What do you think?