BELGRADE — It has been five years since the North Pond Hermit was arrested after almost three decades living in the woods, but his story still seems to resonate.

Dozens packed the one-room Belgrade Public Library on Wednesday night to hear about the capture of Christopher Knight, who burglarized local camps nearly 1,000 times for food and supplies during the 27 years he lived in the woods around North and Little ponds near Rome. He was also the subject of a New York Times best-selling book, “The Stranger In The Woods,” by Michael Finkle, which was published last year.

District Attorney Meaghan Maloney, who prosecuted Knight’s case, said many people fantasize about leaving everything behind and heading into the woods as Christopher Knight did. Maloney, who was only four months into her job when Knight finally was caught, said the statute of limitations had expired for most of Knight’s thefts. However, instead of throwing the book at him on the rest and trying to lock him up for his entire life, Maloney said, “I became convinced I could rehabilitate Christopher Knight.”

Sgt. Terry Hughes, the state game warden who caught Knight, joined Maloney at the library and captivated the crowd.

“I know a lot of faces in this room. A lot of you I arrested,” Hughes joked, drawing a round of laughter, before explaining how the man who had evaded locals and authorities for 27 years was caught.

Hughes, a former Marine who has been with the Maine Warden Service since 1995, found Knight in 2013 after setting up cameras at Pine Tree Camp in Rome, the Pine Tree Society’s summer camp for children with physical disabilities, where Knight stole food and other items over the years.

Hughes recounted how after Knight was caught, which required technical help from the U.S. Border Patrol, he walked Knight back out to his compound in the woods. Hughes said he initially thought Knight had a military background because of how stealthy he was.

“He had no military training, but he had military written all over him,” Hughes said of Knight’s ability to survive.

Knight would not leave footprints behind, would not venture out in the winter, and would not rob the home that stood on the land he was squatting on, Hughes said. He didn’t fish or hunt. He stole only from homes and camps where he thought he wouldn’t get caught.

Only after Hughes installed a game camera in the camp where Knight stole most of his food did anyone have any idea what he looked like.

Even if Hughes took the dozens of people at the library Wednesday night to within 100 yards of Knight’s camp, they wouldn’t know what they were looking at, the warden said.

Knight cooperated after being captured and admitted to burglarizing all the camps he had entered. As the story goes, he entered a camp with someone in it only once, Hughes said.

Knight said he spoke with only one person the entire 27 years, Hughes said.

Once Hughes entered Knight’s camp, he saw decades’ worth of trash, tents hidden behind boulders, and decades’ worth of propane tanks. He mentioned ropes hung around trees that the trees had grown around.

One of the reasons that Knight was able to live out in the woods so long was that the homeowner was not that active on the land, Hughes said. She had gotten the land in a divorce settlement and didn’t cut timber on it, Hughes said.

Hughes said he has heard from Finkle that the story of the North Pond Hermit is being optioned in Hollywood to be made into a movie.

Knight and Finkle did not participate in the discussion in Belgrade, although Hughes said he frequently speaks with Finkle.

Now out of prison, Knight largely keeps to himself and has spurned media contact except for participating in Finkle’s book about his decades alone in the woods.

Colin Ellis can be contacted at 861-9253 or at:

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Twitter: @colinoellis