The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

stranger in the woodsIn 1986, Christopher Knight drove his Subaru deep into the Maine woods, left it to rust, and disappeared for nearly thirty years.  He maintained his solitude until 2013, when the joint efforts of a game warden and the Maine State Police led to his arrest during a break in at a nearby summer camp.

During his long sojourn in the woods, Knight ceased to exist to his family and the outside world, but his existence was all too real for residents nearby.

Even though Knight kept to himself almost entirely, he did not live off wild game and foraging.  Rather, he developed a routine of breaking into local lake houses for food and necessities.

To his credit, Knight did little if any damage.  What was unnerving wasn’t what he stole (usually canned goods and batteries, but occasionally items of intrinsic value to their owners) but how he consistently bypassed the notice of alarm systems and residents.  Some owners were fairly blasé about his burglaries; others were livid and frightened by the repeated break ins.

Until his arrest, Knight was a local legend.  After his arrest, he was a lost soul, with no inkling of how to live in modern society.

The Stranger in the Woods explores the psychology of Christopher Knight – his motivations, his lack of need for human contact, and his sense of ethics when living his hermit-like existence.  Throughout the book, the author compares Knight’s time in the woods with other hermits in history and analyzes what a “true” hermit is.

After reading this book, I remembered at least two other titles about individuals who were at odds with society and largely embraced the solitary life.  Try The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for alternative reads.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

 

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