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.


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

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“He talked with those who lived a little closer to him,” Dow said.

Around them, Dow said, Knight was “fairly talkative” and “seemed like a real nice guy.”

Kevin Trask, who lives in Southington, Conn., spent 13 years as a student alongside Knight, beginning at Albion Elementary School, which had a class of about 20 students.

Despite that proximity, he said, Knight didn’t stand out in his memory.

“He just kind of blended in, I guess,” Trask said.

Trask said he never knew Knight to come into conflict with peers or teachers.

Jody Watson, who also attended Albion Elementary with Knight, said she remembered him as no different from all of the other students, other than that he was “a little quieter.” She said she didn’t remember him being involved in sports or other extracurricular activities.

“Chris participated in the same things the rest of us did in the ’70s,” she wrote in an email, “hanging May baskets ... square dancing on Fridays with our fourth-grade teacher.”


Knight’s free-loading lifestyle has polarized public opinion between those who want to see him punished heavily for his pilfering and those who see his thievery as relatively benign.

“There are plenty that think he’s no different than other people who steal,” Hobbs said.

Trask, Hobbs and a handful of other classmates, concerned about Knight’s well-being, have begun a Facebook campaign encouraging their old school friends to send donations to Knight at the Kennebec County jail, where he remains held on charges of felony burglary and misdemeanor theft.

Trask said he wants Knight, whose release depends on posting $5,000 in cash as bail, to know that the community he walked away from decades ago cares about his happiness and is willing to give him support.

“Give the guy a chance,” he said. “Maybe he’ll realize, ‘Somebody cares about me.’”

Trask said jail personnel conveyed a message of support from him to Knight.

Hobbs said she plans to send a donation to the jail because she felt “compelled to help.”

“He obviously has some complex problems ahead of him,” she said.

Exactly what role the money will play in Knight’s future is uncertain. The reasons he chose to live his isolated lifestyle haven’t been made public, and it is unclear whether Knight will be able to function in a more traditional setting.

Reid said he saw sadness in Knight’s story, but that his 27-year stay in the woods of central Maine speaks to an urge shared by many.

“I think there’s a part of every male that would say, ‘I would love to go live in the woods and to get off the grid,’” he said.

Trask said he wants to help Knight, even though he’s not sure what kind of future Knight will choose.

“Who knows?” he said. “What if he just walks back into the woods?”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:


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