I loved this book. Just from this book alone I now about a dozen OTHER books I need to read, all of which were sourced from this story and subsequent back-matter. And this story actually went down. Let me explain.
“Stranger in the Woods,” by Michael Finkel covers the story of Christopher Knight, a quiet kid from Maine, who in 1986 decided to leave the civilized world and live alone in the Maine woods. And he sure as Hell did. For twenty-seven years he lived ENTIRELY alone in a homemade yet incredibly intelligent nest in the woods. Quite possibly he was THE most alone human being in the world. And yet he was entirely within earshot of the small community of cabins and seasonal properties in the region of Maine he chose to dwell. In fact, he was on private property.
He was also a world-class thief, but a thief with ideals and strict ethical codes. Steal what you need to survive, mostly. Over the nearly thirty-year period, he committed over a thousand burglaries, stealing batteries, clothes, food, propane, etc. NOBODY could catch him or find him and it terrorized a subset of locals. Others left notes saying “Hey, stop breaking in, tell us what you need and we’ll get it for you,” but wary of traps and poisoned food he chose to continue his B&E practices.
If you have ever been in the Maine woods then you know it’s a cloak of the densest kind. Sub-zero winters, black flies and biblical amounts of mosquitos, not to mention more ticks than imaginable. And yet he endures. Over the entire time, he has ONE real encounter with other humans, a brief encounter with three family members but that’s it.
Finally, it comes crashing down and this is where the book takes an even darker turn. Knight’s reentry into society is via the prison and legal systems and even for those of us with more patience with our fellow humans, this can be a horrendous experience. I felt bad for Knight, as did many of the locals who offered to help in a variety of ways.
This is a wonderful book about a truly odd scenario but the pages covering the idea of hermits, solitude, and society are entirely worth the read, just on their own. Being an introvert and someone who grew up in the country made this book even more poignant for me. I love solitude. Love it. Lust for it. Crave it. Need it. I can do days without human contact and feel wonderful the entire time. Most of us can’t and we don’t.
Get it, read it.