ROME, Maine — Kitchen gadgets, Old Spice deodorant, an L.L. Bean sleeping bag and handheld electronics — now stuffed in plastic bins — were among the items that Christopher Knight allegedly had taken in more than 1,000 burglaries to nearby camps in order to survive more than a quarter century in the Rome woods.
Bins holding the contents of Knight’s last 27 years were piled in the middle of Pine Tree Camp’s dining hall Thursday.
Law enforcement dismantled the encampment Thursday where Knight, 47, is believed to have lived for nearly three decades.
Members of the media were supposed to visit the site believed to have belonged to the “North Pond Hermit” on Thursday morning, but were ordered by police to leave the property just as they reached the edge of the encampment.
Maine State Police Sgt. Peter Michaud stopped the group of media, neighbors and the law enforcement officials leading the “tour,” saying that the property owner had revoked permission to allow anyone other than law enforcement officials on the land.
One reporter asked Michaud whether the group would be arrested if it didn’t leave.
“You can answer that question for yourself,” Michaud said.
The woman who owns the property where Knight’s alleged campsite is located originally had given consent to allow media and others on the property, Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said Thursday afternoon, but she revoked that consent after the group already was in the woods.
Police would not disclose who owns the property where the campsite is located. They remained on site during the day, continuing their investigation and disassembling the camp — tarps sheltering a tent and cook area, surrounded by plastic bins, trash cans, batteries and propane tanks.
“He obviously took time and chose a location that would be undetected,” said Sgt. Terry Hughes of the Maine Warden Service. “So you could walk through the woods and come within a hundred feet of it and not even realize he lived right there, right on the other side of a few rocks.”
Hughes described the campsite as sheltered by a thick patch of old hemlocks and boulders, and that it was located on the side of a ridge that sheltered Knight from the north wind, as well as concealed him from hunters and roaming hikers.
Two hours after the media was asked to leave the property, law enforcement transported the contents of Knight’s camp in a caravan of pickup trucks to the nearby Pine Tree Camp in Rome, where the items will remain so they can be catalogued as evidence.
Though the trash cans and plastic tubs weren’t opened while media was present, Maine State Police Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance and Hughes relayed that they were filled with a variety of items, from “everything you’d find in a kitchen” to handheld Game Boys and games.
An L.L.Bean sleeping bag was stuffed in one of the many metal trash cans, as well as a disassembled tent, in which Knight slept on a mattress that he told police he took from Pine Tree Camps and transported in a boat.
“He did admit to using a canoe or a boat from time to time, but he’d always return it,” Hughes said.
Various items could be seen through some of the clear plastic totes, including multiple watches, sneaker balls, antacid tablets, Old Spice deodorant, toilet paper, paper towels and matches.
While previous reports state that Knight spent much of his time reading, few books were found. Instead, investigators found stacks of magazines, such as “National Geographic” and “People.” In fact, Knight appears to have used magazines as cushioning and insulation under his sleeping area. Police found a collection of magazines, some dating back to 1990, under the rug that his tent was set up on.
One of the oddest discoveries at the campsite was the effort Knight put into obtaining reception for an old television (which no longer works) and radio. Police were in awe when they noticed an antenna secured to a tree about 25-30 feet off the ground. In order to place the antenna that high, it appears that Knight cut down the tree, fastened the antenna to the trunk, and then stood the tree back up and roped it to another tree.
Hughes described Knight’s makeshift bathroom as “nothing elaborate” — just a few logs located in a private spot a short distance from the site.
Hughes said Knight’s food supply was running low, but it appears that he carefully stored all the food in bins and coolers surrounded by mouse traps.
“There’s no question he took care of his stuff,” Vance said, noting that Knight possessed a number of cleaning supplies, such as laundry detergent, soap and a razor. He hung washed clothing on lines strung throughout the site.
“I think what it amounts to is that he had at his disposal the ability to take new tents, new sleeping bags, mattresses,” Hughes said. “The clothing he was wearing was very new — brand new work gloves, new shoes. He told me he rotates his tent, but then again, he can find a new one in a garage or in a camp across the lake.”
“We’ve just scratched the surface,” said Perkins-Vance. “This investigation is still ongoing. We have a lot more to do.”
Neighbors looking for their stuff
Owners of nearby camps and homes will be invited to identify items of value from the stash Knight acquired over the decades, Perkins-Vance said.
“There are victims all over the East Coast who have been touched by this individual,” said Hughes.
“I want to see if I can identify any of my stuff,” said David Proulx, whose camp on North Pond has been broken into numerous times over the years. “Not that it would be any good anymore, but just for fun.”
“After a while, it became pretty regular,” said Proulx of the many burglaries reported by landowners on North Pond. “We knew when he was going to hit — in the early spring or the fall … people started carrying guns in their camps, baseball bats.”
Proulx believes he may be one of the only people who came face-to-face with Knight over the past 27 years. Seven or eight years ago, Proulx woke up at 2 a.m. to a banging outside, he said.
“I flipped on the floodlight, and he was halfway up the steps coming to my camp,” Proulx said, describing the man as having “a scraggly black beard.”
Proulx remembers rushing outside and yelling at the man as he ran away and climbed into a canoe.
“He never said a word,” Proulx said and then chuckled. “I probably didn’t give him a chance to say much. I was pretty upset.”
The campsite — home to Knight since 1989 — is now completely dismantled. All that remains is bits of trash, much of which Knight buried, said Perkins-Vance. Knight originally went into the woods in 1986, but told law enforcement officials he moved his “residence” once.
Back among the general population
Knight remains at Kennebec County Jail, where he is being held with the general population of inmates.
He is not under suicide watch, according to jail officials, who said they couldn’t answer any additional questions.
“I saw him a couple days ago and I was pleased at how well he was adjusting,” Perkins-Vance said. “He was more social. He actually had expression on his face.”
She said Knight has been charged with the burglary of Pine Tree Camps, but noted that other charges also have been filed. She did not specify what those charges are.
“I think this is as much of a shock to him as it is to us to comprehend what’s going on inside his mind,” Hughes said.