April 12, 2013

Campsite items, theft victims reveal hermit's tastes, tactics

By AMY CALDER Morning Sentinel

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The North Pond Hermit’s campsite, in a remote stand of woods in Rome, was dismantled Thursday by law enforcement officials, who removed two pickup-truck loads of materials.

Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Christopher Knight's camp was located on North Pond in Rome, not far from Route 137.

Staff graphic by Sharon Wood

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"Oh, well," David Proulx said. "We'll see the stuff at some point in time."

Louise Proulx said the hermit stole lots of chicken and other food, as well as beer. He took Budweiser, but not Miller Lite.

The Proulxs, who live in Waterville, have summered on North Pond for many years. David Proulx said he surmised that the hermit was a Vietnam veteran, but there is no evidence Knight was ever in the military. Police believe he went into the woods in 1986, soon after graduating from high school.

"I kind of felt bad for him," David Proulx said. "I even left him a note that said, 'Tell me what you need.' I left a note on the door: 'Do not break the door; the door is unlocked.'"

As the years went by, Proulx felt that he knew the hermit by nature of his habits, if nothing else.

Neighbors would sit by an outdoor fire at night and discuss the hermit and how to catch him, Proulx said.

"I chased him one night," he said. "I stayed and hid in my truck, but around 2 a.m. I had given up and went to bed. I heard a noise and saw a canoe tied to the dock. He was coming up my stairway. I didn't have any clothes on, but I opened the door and hollered and called him every name I could think of and chased him, and he got in the canoe and left."

Many people became obsessed with the hermit, he said. One time, he and a friend were out in a boat and saw a man with a long beard sitting in a canoe. Thinking he was the hermit, they circled around the canoe and questioned the man, who said he was going to visit a certain family on the pond.

"We were getting paranoid. Everybody's the hermit," he said. "That's what happens when it keeps going and going and going. People get weird. We start acting like him, thinking like him, or we try to. It's kind of scary."

The hermit was savvy. Proulx thinks he knew every camp on the pond, and knew camp owners' patterns and when they would be away.

"I was the first one to put my dock in, and as soon as I did, he knew I had food there," David Proulx said.

The hermit would steal meat, but only if the original packaging had not been removed.

"Let's say we bought meat from Joseph's Market (in Waterville)," Dave Proulx said. "If it was still wrapped, he'd steal it. If it was unwrapped, he'd never touch it. He'd figure we put something in it, to contaminate or poison it. He wasn't stupid."

STOLEN ITEMS RETRIEVED

Maine State Police, game wardens and a Somerset County sheriff's official packed the contents of Knight's campsite into trash cans Thursday and drove them to the Pine Tree Camp.

"There's absolutely nothing in (the campsite) now other than some discarded garbage," said state Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, the primary investigator in the case.

"We're going to need some help, having the homeowners identify" the many items, she said. "There's still a lot to do."

Hughes, from the warden service, said there are many victims. He said he hopes that television reports of the thefts will prompt people who have been burglarized to call and report the items stolen.

Authorities recovered no books -- though Knight reportedly claimed to have stolen some to read -- but Knight did have magazines, including copies of People and National Geographic.

When they dismantled his tent, there was a rug under it, and under the rug were magazines that cushioned the rug, said Perkins-Vance.

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