Early last week, authorities in Utah arrested Troy Knapp, the notorious "Mountain Man" outlaw who had been robbing and defacing cabins in the southern portion of the state for nearly a decade. Two days later, officers from the Maine Warden Service arrested a legend known to locals as "the backpack burglar," who had been living alone deep in the woods of Central Maine, burglarizing camps for 27 years.
In short: you can't tramp two steps into an American forest these days without tripping over the makeshift camp of some eremitic burglar who's spent the past X decades in solitude.
Maine's hermit, Christopher Knight, is thought to be responsible for more than 1,000 (that's one, zero zero…zero) burglaries since he started living in the woods in 1986. According to his unbelievable write-up in the Waterville Morning Sentinel, Knight was discovered around 1:15 Thursday morning, looting food from a camp that serves children and adults with disabilities. He had triggered an alarm connected to the dining hall's new surveillance system.
Officers reported that Knight was clean-shaven, wearing a pair of clean jeans and a clean shirt. (His campsite included a makeshift shower protected by firs.) He told police he had spoken to only one other human since 1986: a hiker he encountered on a trail in the mid-1990s with whom he'd exchanged a brief hello. He probably also used words like tubular and asked everyone to do the "Super Bowl Shuffle," though the article doesn't mention those details specifically.
Officers said that Knight, who offered no explanation as to why he decided to live alone in the woods for 27 years ("He said he frequently asks himself that same question," said a Maine State Trooper), expressed "shame and remorse" over his burglaries and added that he was relieved to longer be living in solitude. He's currently in jail on charges of burglary and theft.
As you can see, this is a crazy time to be an American. Hermit burglars are everywhere and the process of conversion to the hermit burglar lifestyle can happen overnight, for no clear reason. Conservatively, 40 to 90 percent of the current population of the United States is composed of hermit burglars. Anyone could be one. I could be one. Yo daddeh could be one. You could be one, and not even know it.
In light of recent developments Gawker has devised a short quiz to help you identify whether you are a hermit burglar:
1) Do you enjoy candy and potato chips?
When Knight was arrested, he was carrying potato chips and Smarties® (also a baseball cap, a poncho, and a wristwatch) he had just stolen from the Pine Tree Camp. If you have ever eaten potato chips and Smarties®, is it possible that the ones you ate were ones you had just stolen from an unoccupied camp?
2) Were you excited that the Northeast was experiencing warm spring temperatures this week?
Despite Knight's impressive tarp canopy system, law enforcement officers observed, in their strong Maine accents, that winters in a region where temperatures regularly dip below zero must have been rough. The sergeant who arrested Knight called his determination "phenomenal." Is it possible you are excited about the advent of spring because you live outside, in the trees?
3) Do you find some activities to be "too much work"?
Knight only ate what he could steal. He told authorities he didn't hunt and "tried fishing a few times" but found it was "too much work." Amen.
4) Do you consume electronic media?
By affixing a radio antenna to the top of a tree (30 feet in the air), Knight was able to listen to talk radio. He favored Rush Limbaugh, so write your own joke down on a postcard and shoot it into space. He also briefly set up a television, but discarded it because it was a drain on his batteries. Do you enjoy the radio and/or television?
5) Is your home sort of organized, but not as neat as it could be, if you're honest with yourself?
The Sentinel describes Knight's campsight as "neat and orderly," noting that he even set mouse traps inside his tents to protect his food from animals. But it was still a dirty old tent in the fucking woods. Kind of like the hovel you live in, no?
6) Would you call this animal a "regular crab"?
The term favored by non-eremites is "hermit crab."
7) Did you ever go to camp?
Knight estimated that he had broken into Pine Tree Camp more than 50 times since he moved into the woods, stealing "thousands of dollars of meat, beer, coffee, and other supplies" since 1986. So, while he went to camp a lot, he never attended it. Which did you do?
8) Did you have an awkward yearbook photo?
The Sentinel writes that Knight's photo from his senior yearbook "shows him standing with his arms crossed and no hint of a smile on his face." Maybe you also live alone in the woods and steal?
9) Have you ever pooped in a pan OR stolen anything?
To our knowledge, Knight never pooped in a pan. The Utah guy did, though.
10) Do you have trouble remembering the last time you spoke to a person who was not a hallucination or a raccoon friend you think of as "like a person"?
Until Thursday, which the exception of that weird mid-nineties fling, Knight had not—since 1986. If it has been more than a year since your last verbal exchange with another human being, that's a sign that perhaps your life has gone off track.
If you responded "Does a wild mountain man shit in the woods?" to one or more of these questions, there's a good chance you are a hermit burglar. Walk into the nearest police station, say "I'm the man you've been looking for all these years," and calmly lie down on the ground.
If you responded "No" to all of the above questions, you are most likely not a hermit burglar. But be careful because literally any time you leave your house, you run the risk of just walking and walking until you reach the woods and then setting up camp there and learning the language of the winds and never, ever leaving (until cops drag you out).
[Morning Sentinel // Art by Jim Cooke]