The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality--not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massac...

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Title:The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit
Author:Michael Finkel
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The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit Reviews

  • Elyse

    Christopher Knight is possibly the most solitary known person in history.

    Capturing Knight after 27 years..... known as the "North Pond Hermit" was like "netting a giant squid".

    When captured he was wearing a pair of LandsEnd jeans - size 38 - with a brown belt:

    Stollen goods!

    Knight's story continued to be equally as fascinating after he was captured as much as

    why Knight chose a reclusive life in the woods of Maine in the first place.

    There are the details about how Christopher Knight survived:

    Christopher Knight is possibly the most solitary known person in history.

    Capturing Knight after 27 years..... known as the "North Pond Hermit" was like "netting a giant squid".

    When captured he was wearing a pair of LandsEnd jeans - size 38 - with a brown belt:

    Stollen goods!

    Knight's story continued to be equally as fascinating after he was captured as much as

    why Knight chose a reclusive life in the woods of Maine in the first place.

    There are the details about how Christopher Knight survived: the many-many-MANY break-ins ......stealing food, supplies, books, etc. ......surviving the elements of the seasons... LIVING IN A WORLD WITHOUT WALLS......for *27 years*.....surviving psychologically... sometimes meditating and living as a hermit-criminal. ( I would have given him food - clothes - flashlights - batteries - and books too)....

    There is this fascinating 'cliffhanger- of -stories'....that happened once Knight was captured. Journalist from all over the world we're trying to get hold of Christopher Knight's story.

    Letters, phone calls, and visitors we're pouring into the jail. A woman offered to marry him. He was offered money, cleaning services, donations of all kinds. Knight didn't accept ANY of the gifts!!!

    Every TV network wanted their hands on the story. Five songs were written about Christopher Knight.

    People were curious. People wanted to help. People wanted to learn from Christopher Knight. Was he an explorer of life? And if so... what words of wisdom could he pass on? Or was he just crazy?

    I HAD HEARD 'OF' THIS STORY BEFORE LISTENING TO THE AUDIOBOOK.

    ..........I'd have to had been a 'hermit', not to.

    "The Stranger In The Woods", WAS SOOO MUCH MORE POWERFUL TO LISTEN TO MYSELF....... than everything I had previous read about it. In fact, I read tons of reviews ways back when this book first came out --/as I never thought I was going to read the book. I felt I 'got' the story. What else did I need?

    THE EXPERIENCE WAS MISSING UNTIL I LISTENED MYSELF!!!

    NO REVIEWS SPOILED 'my' EXPERIENCE!!!! NOT AT ALL!!!!!!

    'KNOWING' ABOUT THIS STORY WAS NOT THE SAME!!!!!

    I was expecting to be semi-critical. I 'mostly' belong with the believers that we should LEAVE THIS MAN ALONE....."he shouldn't have to talk if he doesn't want to". -- but I think what was created with this book 'is' a contribution to MANY PEOPLE INCLUDING

    Christopher Knight.

    Knight was shy about most things - except literature and history. He would talk about books he read.

    I had heard that the author was a jerk - from a few readers.

    I don't feel this way. As I listened to this audiobook--my respect for author, Michael Finkel elevated. Finkel gave us ( the reader) background information---historically- about other 'hermits' which added a great context to Christopher Knight's story. We see from past history - monks - and other spiritual 'hermit's who found inner peace and wisdom. Hermits are a PRIMAL HUMAN INTEREST STORY!! I DID UNDERSTAND WHY FINKEL WANTED TO INTERVIEW KNIGHT. I ALSO FELT FINKEL WAS TENDER - COMPASSIONATE - and RESPECTFUL OF KNIGHT!!

    I found it very sweet when after Michael Finkel wrote Knight a hand written letter -- a man close in age as Knight - who also loved to spend long periods of time alone with himself. (Enjoyed camping and reading - alone).....

    Knight wrote Finkel back and said, "it was very sweet that you wrote me a personal note".

    Point is. .. THE LONGER I LISTENED ... I came to believe that Knight and Finkel developed a 'lovely' friendship of equal respect.

    I'm glad I read it....It gave me a bigger picture than I had previous thought. Whatever I 'thought' I knew about this story 'before' .....didn't come close to the magnitude of the actual facts.

  • Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Wow! This book . . . I couldn't even put it down!

    This is the story about Christopher Thomas Knight who at 20 years old, walked into the woods and ever came out until he was caught at 47 years old. He lived in the Maine woods for all of those years in bad weather and in good weather. The only thing he did wrong was burgle cabins and Pine Tree which was a place for people with disabilities. He took any kind of food to survive, watches, books, propane tanks, etc. And when he was caught he confesse

    Wow! This book . . . I couldn't even put it down!

    This is the story about Christopher Thomas Knight who at 20 years old, walked into the woods and ever came out until he was caught at 47 years old. He lived in the Maine woods for all of those years in bad weather and in good weather. The only thing he did wrong was burgle cabins and Pine Tree which was a place for people with disabilities. He took any kind of food to survive, watches, books, propane tanks, etc. And when he was caught he confessed right away about these things and said he was sorry for it. He had 1000 burglaries over the course of his life. All he wanted was to live alone in the woods and survive. He never hurt anyone and he never damaged anything.

    The author, Michael Finkel met Christopher while he was in jail. He wouldn't talk very much. When he did open up I found that so many things he said opened my eyes even more to the world we live in and how being quiet in nature is more important than even writing this review. Too many things take over our lives and I would like to start simplifying more things then I already do. (which is going to take about 6 years!)

    Christopher didn't ever get a cold or any major issues accept for his teeth from a lot of the sugar he ate because when you live like that and you take what you can get. He was wearing the same glasses he was wearing at age 20, he was losing his sight but they fixed him up with some new glasses when he got caught.

    Chris knew the woods, his hearing became fine tuned to every little sound, even the minute ones. He never left any tracks. When he left his camp, he stepped in the same places that he had stepped in for years. The police were amazed about that while watching him when they followed him back to his camp.

    I'm just amazed at this book. I wish he didn't have to do all of the burglaries but I think he should have been left alone and there are a lot of people that feel the same.

    If I had a cabin in that area I would have left him out some food, mostly right before winter. A big lot that he could have over the course of the winter to survive so he wouldn't have to go and get so much stuff to make sure he stayed alive. He wasn't a free loader just because he stole food to survive in the woods. Seriously, I know some free loaders that just don't want to work and live off someone else. My cousin, she has one of those. I think if he could have had the nice part of the community to leave him some food and let him be alone in the woods that would have been a nice thing. He just wanted to be in the woods. He didn't want to sit in his house and watch tv or drink or do drugs, things free loaders do. He just wanted to sit with nature, listen to the odd pbs broadcast on his radio and read books. I didn't think it was right to bring him back, make him live with his family and work with his brother. The quiet was gone and he wanted to kill himself. I don't know what ever happened with that or how he is doing now. I really hope he finds a way to get back to his nature in some way. I thought while reading the book that maybe he could go out and live in the woods close to his family where he would have some quiet and his nature. I don't know. But he was always good and did what the police said and did his community service without any trouble. He never caused any trouble or denied anything when he was caught.

    Once again this book was so very good. I'm going to have to get my own copy since this was a library book. It was my own type of feel good book with some of the little things Chris said.

    I'm going to leave a few pictures below that came from the author's website taken from him and the Maine Police. There are more but you can go look yourself.

    And I will leave an excerpt or two.

    His mushroom friend that he watched grow from a baby. He was worried the police might have accidentally killed it, but the author went out and it was still there =]

    Little North Pond above.

    The woods he traveled.

    I hope others get a chance to read this book this wonderful book!

    MY BLOG:

  • Petra X

    Four stars, just. There were two stories here, but the author only told one. I understand why but I am frustrated so I added, 'just'.

    All-American kid age 20 abandons his new car and wanders off into the woods to live alone and make a career out of burglary. Strange eh? Not half so strange as his family who never even report him missing or make any attempt whatsoever to find him.

    The book would have been shorter if the author had stuck to the title but it was padded out with history, famous hermi

    Four stars, just. There were two stories here, but the author only told one. I understand why but I am frustrated so I added, 'just'.

    All-American kid age 20 abandons his new car and wanders off into the woods to live alone and make a career out of burglary. Strange eh? Not half so strange as his family who never even report him missing or make any attempt whatsoever to find him.

    The book would have been shorter if the author had stuck to the title but it was padded out with history, famous hermits, religion, motivation etc. some of which was interesting. There was a discussion on whether Knight had Asperger's, was autistic or schizoid. It reminded me of what Asperger himself said: Not to pathologise the merely eccentric. There is a difference between bat shit crazy and a clinical mental illness, we all know that.

    The second story, which was interesting in and of itself, was of the family. What family doesn't immediately report their 20 year old son gone missing to the police? What do they say to people who ask after him, friends or family? Aren't they anxious for his safety? Don't they wait by the phone for a call? The family wondered if he was alive. Wasn't anyone suspicious? Unfortunately Knight's family were so uncommunicative that there was nothing to report, only to surmise. Now it seems to me that these people have a pathological mental illness.

    When in prison, Knight himself didn't turn into a garrulous party animal after 27 years of not speaking to another soul, by choice. This made life a bit difficult for the author who has obviously tried his best to get to the root of why Knight became a hermit.

    It was an interesting book, but it wasn't fully fleshed out, and to a reader it doesn't matter why it wasn't, whether it was because of Knight being so taciturn, the author or the writing, only that the book didn't deliver a deep experience, the 'extraordinary story' when it promised to.

  • Ashley Brooks

    This book has left me with intensely conflicted feelings. For a while I felt like I'd be rating this quite highly.

    However, the motives of the author are questionable at best and his behavior is positively icky.

    It didn’t dawn on me how intensely Finkel was harassing Knight and his family until the last twenty pages or so (all of this the author seems to be aware of, but doesn't seem to find anything wrong with.) Below is spoiler territory in slightl

    This book has left me with intensely conflicted feelings. For a while I felt like I'd be rating this quite highly.

    However, the motives of the author are questionable at best and his behavior is positively icky.

    It didn’t dawn on me how intensely Finkel was harassing Knight and his family until the last twenty pages or so (all of this the author seems to be aware of, but doesn't seem to find anything wrong with.) Below is spoiler territory in slightly ranty form regarding this gross behavior so proceed at your own risk.

    This previously disgraced journalist's (was fired by the NYT for lying in print) feeling of self-importance regarding his "relationship" with this man who wanted nothing but to be left alone left me feeling quite disgusted. While I found his research on hermits in the world and in literature fascinating I can't escape the feeling of anger when thinking about his lack of respect for this man and his family.

  • Michael Finkel

    I greatly appreciate all of the reviews here -- even the bad ones! (Though, I admit, it's sometimes a bit painful to read them.) There are so many books out there, I am grateful that you've chosen to take a peek at "The Stranger in the Woods."

    It took me three years of full-time work to write a 191-page book; that is a ridiculously slow pace. I can't, of course, say whether or not the book is any good -- that's for you readers to decide -- but I can promise that I weighed every paragraph, every w

    I greatly appreciate all of the reviews here -- even the bad ones! (Though, I admit, it's sometimes a bit painful to read them.) There are so many books out there, I am grateful that you've chosen to take a peek at "The Stranger in the Woods."

    It took me three years of full-time work to write a 191-page book; that is a ridiculously slow pace. I can't, of course, say whether or not the book is any good -- that's for you readers to decide -- but I can promise that I weighed every paragraph, every word, to make the story as accurate and compelling as possible.

    I want to emphasize that this is a true story -- no fake news here! -- and has been thoroughly fact-checked. There are so many elements of this story that seem to defy belief (no fire for 27 years? never saw a doctor?) but I can assure you that, to the very best of my abilities, and the abilities of professional fact-checkers, this tale is completely true. Thank you, Goodreads community, for the support!

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