April 13, 2013

Hermit was quiet, smart, former classmates recall

They offer no clues, however, as to why Christopher Knight took to the Maine woods for 27 years of isolation.

BY MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel

Among the students in Lawrence High School’s Class of 1984, Curt Reid went on to found a solar film company in New Hampshire.

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Christopher Knight, shown in his 1984 high school yearbook, didn’t stand out, former classmates say.

Contributed photo

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Debbie Wright, now Debbie Theriault, became a personal fitness trainer and owner of a hair replacement salon in Brewer.

Sue Greeley stayed in Albion, where she raised a family.

And Christopher Knight spent 27 years living in complete isolation in a rudimentary shelter in the woods, giving rise to local legends of the North Pond Hermit.

“Nice.” “Quiet.” “Smart.”

These were the words that came up most often from classmates scouring their own memories from 30 years ago for images and impressions of Knight.

They said that before Knight faded into the Maine woods for a quarter-century of solitude, he was already the kind of person who operated at the edges of the school community.

Greeley painted a portrait of a thin, quiet student with thick hair and big glasses who had an interest in computers and was looked down upon by his peers as a nerd.

“I remember him always walking the hallways alone,” she said.

Knight’s quiet, bland personality didn’t attract friends, but it didn’t attract any enemies, either, she said.

“He didn’t do anything to make anybody mad,” she said.

Greeley, who worked in the school’s attendance office, said Knight wasn’t overtly bullied, but that some of the other students would make comments about his awkwardness behind his back.

“You’d hear them say, ‘Oh, look at him. He’s a nerd,’” she said.

If Knight was aware of the criticism, he didn’t seem to be bothered by it, Greeley said.

His happiness, it seemed, lay in something other than the opinions of others.

“Nothing really bothered him,” she said. “He just did his own thing.”

FAINT MEMORIES

Reid said he was shocked when he heard that one of his former classmates had been arrested after apparently having committed more than 1,000 burglaries in the North Pond area of Rome, mostly to take food and basic supplies from camps in the area.

Knight’s current mug shot, in which the corners of the 47-year-old’s mouth are turned down at slightly asymmetrical angles beneath heavily lidded eyes and a bald head, was completely unrecognizable to Reid, who said it bore little resemblance to the quiet classmate he remembers from the early 1980s.

“In my mind, I remembered him with a smile on his face,” Reid said.

Reid said Knight was “a good kid,” pleasant, very smart and quiet, but not abnormally so.

“He was a little socially inept, but nothing out of the ordinary,” Reid said.

When Knight dropped out of sight to go live in the woods, his classmates didn’t notice he was gone. He simply seemed to be one more person who had fallen out of contact with old friends.

“I’ve been to a few class reunions,” Reid said. “I don’t know that his name ever came up.”

Former classmate Christina Hobbs said that in discussions since Knight’s arrest was first reported Tuesday night by the Kennebec Journal, many of her classmates have more questions than memories about Knight.

“Everybody I’ve talked to has been, ‘I didn’t really know that guy,’” she said.

Knight’s newfound fame has been a hot topic of discussion in his hometown of Albion, a tight-knit community of about 2,000 that is served by Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Students from Benton and Clinton also attend the school.

Resident Jeff Lindsay, class of ’83, said Knight’s whole family was quiet, and they all tended to keep to themselves.

“They never had any issues with anybody in town,” he said.

Only Todd Dow, who was in the class behind Knight’s, remembers Knight as talkative, not in class but while riding the school bus alongside people who grew up in his own part of town.

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