Podcast #358: The Stranger in the Woods — The Story of the Last True Hermit

Have you ever just wanted to get in your car, drive off into the middle of nowhere, leave behind the hustle and bustle of civilization, and just be by yourself? 

Well, in 1986 a man named Christopher Knight did just that and lived alone in the Maine woods without any, any human contact for 27 years until he was discovered in 2013.

My guest today wrote a biography — The Stranger in the Woods — about this man who locals called “the Hermit of the North Pond.” His name is Michael Finkel and today on the show we discuss how Chris survived alone in the Maine woods by himself, but more importantly, why Chris wanted to be by himself for so long. By looking at the life of one of the modern world’s last true hermits, Michael and I explore the idea of hermitage, solitude, and why being an individual requires you to be alone. 

Show Highlights

  • How Mike got drawn in to Christopher Knight’s story
  • The folklore and legend of Knight in the Maine woods
  • Knight’s backstory: his childhood, when he took to the woods, etc.
  • Why did Knight “quit the world”?
  • The history of hermits throughout the world
  • Is Knight crazy? Is he on the autism spectrum?
  • How Knight physically survived for 27 years in the woods
  • What Knight’s camp was like
  • The state of hermits today in the modern world
  • The debate over whether Knight was a “true” hermit
  • Why Christopher thought Thoreau was a phony
  • The myth of utter self-reliance
  • How folks responded to the “North Pond Hermit” breaking into their homes
  • Why Chris reveled in absolute solitude, while solitary confinement is used as our prison system’s harshest punishment
  • The benefits of voluntary solitude
  • How Christopher Knight was eventually caught
  • How is Chris Knight holding up now? Is he in jail?
  • How Mike responded to Christopher’s story, and his suggestion for us today in regards to solitude

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

stranger in the woods book cover michael finkel

The Stranger in the Woods was a fun, insightful read. You’ll want to go off and find some place in the wilds to be by yourself after you finish reading this book.

Connect With Mike

Mike on Twitter

Mike’s website

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