The desire to escape to solitude is all too common. One man decided that he needed to get away from society and its strictures, but he didn’t settle for a week off from work. Instead, he hid from the world for nearly 30 years. When he was finally found, no one could believe his story.
When most people decide to take a break from life’s stresses, a week-long trip to a tropical locale will usually suffice. All people need is some brief time to recharge before returning to daily life. The North Pond Hermit saw it differently.
For Christopher Thomas Knight, the “North Pond Hermit,” that wasn’t even close to being enough. Raised in Albion, Maine in 1965, Christopher had a relatively normal upbringing for the most part…
Christopher always had a hard time relating to other people, even his peers. He preferred enjoying his own company to spending time with others. But even though he mostly kept to himself, he was smart and his future looked promising.
Yet, in 1986, just as his life was supposedly coming together, Christopher ran away from everything he knew. His desire to escape society was so strong that he didn’t even tell his family or work what he was doing. In fact, with no map or compass, not even he knew where he was going.
After driving in no particular direction, Christopher ditched his green Subaru, leaving the keys in the ignition. Armed with a tent and backpack, he began his trek into the unknown. There was just one problem, he had zero experience living in the wilderness.
He spent his first two weeks simply traversing the Maine forests. But he soon realized how ill-prepared he’d been, especially in terms of getting food. He had no weapons to hunt, and he was forced to eat berries, which were harder to find than expected.
Christopher eventually realized he would have to break into nearby cabins for food while the inhabitants were away. At first, he stole mostly from their gardens, hoping they would think it was a wild animal who took their vegetables.
Simultaneously, Christopher soon began to deal with the harsh elements in the Maine wilderness—his tent would no longer suffice. And so, one night, he decided to sleep in an empty cabin. Too afraid the owners would return to find him, he decided to sleep outdoors from that point forward—no matter how bad the weather.
Christopher did eventually find an area to stay. It was so off the beaten path that he knew no one would ever just stumble upon him. Soon, he began to fully embrace the life of isolation he made for himself.
After creating a structure to live in, he did his best to keep quiet at all times for fear that someone would somehow hear him. All the while, it was common for Christopher to break into surrounding cabins to steal what food and drinks he could.
Over time, he became a skilled and stealthy thief. Even homes with alarm systems were no match for the man who used to install them for a living. Only when he was 100 percent certain no one was around would he dare to enter their home, sometimes taking spare keys, so he could get in easier the next time.
Christopher was always sure to only take what he needed. Any obvious moves would surely give him away. He mostly took snack cakes, bars of chocolate, and sodas, like Mountain Dew. This way, he could keep himself from losing too much weight and succumbing to the elements.
But eating wasn’t his only concern, he also had to maintain his shelter. So, he stole tarps, blankets, and coats whenever he could. He also pilfered magazines, not only to read, but so he could rip out the pages, lay them on the floor, and soak up any possible moisture.
Christopher was sure to leave as little evidence that anyone had broken into a home as possible. Though he didn’t break windows, he often removed doors, only to reinstall and repair them once he had all the supplies he needed.
This way of life continued for nearly three decades! But over time, no matter how precise Christopher tried to be, the inhabitants of the homes began to notice things missing, as well as a number of damages done to their homes.
Christopher soon began to even break into homes at night. Residents of North Pond, Maine, would often report having heard strange noises around their property during the evenings. Yet, they could never spot an actual intruder.
Though they’d just go back to sleep, they woke up to find random things gone from their homes. Most people reported missing various items to the police including books, magazines, pants, boots, radios, batteries, and junk food.
That’s when police focused their efforts on finding whoever was breaking into the homes. It wasn’t long before people began giving him various monikers. These included not only the North Pond Hermit but “Maine’s Loch Ness monster,” and the “stealthy yeti.”
Soon, everyone in North Pond was installing surveillance cameras in their homes. Yet, no matter what, he could seemingly break in and get away with it over and over. Without anyone to pin the crime on, however, police filed a report, where they referred to Christopher as the “Hermit Hermit.”
Police caught their first big break when Christopher decided to break into Pine Tree Summer Camp. An obvious choice, since it was stocked with all the tools and food anyone would need to survive in the wilderness, and there was a low chance someone would notice items missing.
But what Christopher didn’t know was that police were hot on his trail. The facility was managed by Sergeant Terry Hughes, who had a plan to catch the North Pond Hermit—he installed industrial-grade floodlights, military-grade motion sensors in the kitchen, and lots of food!
When alarms started going off on April 4, 2013, Sergeant Hughes leaped into action. When he arrived in the kitchen, fully expecting a burglar with weapons, he was shocked to find a seemingly normal middle-aged man.
When Sergeant Hughes demanded the criminal to get on the ground, he immediately complied. As he got down, candy fell to the floor from his backpack. The man had no identification and didn’t want to answer any questions.
After two hours of questioning, Christopher began to open up. Investigators were shocked to learn he was living in isolation for 27 years! “The level of discipline he showed while he broke into houses is beyond what most of us could remotely imagine,” Sergeant Hughes said.
After two hours of questioning, Christopher began to open up. Investigators were shocked to learn he was living in isolation for 27 years! “The level of discipline he showed while he broke into houses is beyond what most of us could remotely imagine,” Sergeant Hughes said.
In an interview, Christopher once admitted that in his 27 years living in isolation, he only interacted with one person—a hiker making their way through the Maine wilderness. And what did he say? Simply, “hi.”
On October 28, 2013, Christopher pleaded guilty to 13 charges of burglary and theft at Kennebec County Superior Court. But what shocked people the most was that for his crimes, which estimated to be upwards of 1,000 break-ins, he only received a seven-month jail sentence.
Additionally, he had three years of probation, had to meet with a judge every Monday, and pay each of his victims $1,500 in restitution. Furthermore, the judge demanded he took part in a program for people with mental health issues.
While serving his jail sentence, Christopher made an effort to reconnect with his family that he abandoned without so much as a goodbye all those years ago. When he was finally released, his brother offered him a job.
Of course, with such a unique story, it was only a matter of time someone wrote a book about it. Just recently, Michael Finkel, an American journalist, wrote the book The Stranger in the Woods, after interviewing Christopher while he was still incarcerated.
By the end of his journey, Christopher had all but lost who he was. “Solitude increased my perception. But here’s the tricky thing: when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. There was no audience, no one to perform for. There was no need to define myself. I became irrelevant,” he explained.
We may never know why Christopher sought such extreme solitude, but Mick Dodge can certainly shed some light upon the subject. More commonly known as the “Walking Mountain”, Mick is a seasoned survivalist in Washington and his show on National Geographic documents his peculiar lifestyle as a man voluntarily living in the rainforest.
Though born in the very rural Olympic Peninsula of Washington, life for Mick wasn’t always spent in the woods. Growing up in the 1950s, young Mick often traveled the world with his father Ronald, a marine. After high school, he himself spent six years in the Marine Corps.
Eventually Mick settled down back in the U.S. and found work as a mechanic in Fort Lewis, Washington. Learning how to work with his hands proved appealing to the young man, and would later inform a drastic decision…
The idea of getting back to his family’s roots was starting to take hold in Mick’s mind, as his Scottish-Irish immigrant ancestors were among the earliest European settlers of the Pacific Northwest. “My family’s perfected the art of dodging civilizations for hundreds of years,” Mick explained.
Similarly, Mick’s father always emphasized the importance of physical fitness. Every morning at 5:00 a.m., he would say “get your feet on the deck!” and make Mick go on a three-mile run with him.
By the early 1980s, Mick was regularly walking five miles to work and back, sometimes camping out partway through the journey instead of going all the way back to his home.
Mick stayed active, but he just wasn’t satisfied with modern life. So in 1991, he finally decided to get “off the grid” for good. “I just grabbed my gear and walked on back here in the mountains,” he described.
From that point forward, Mick made his home the Hoh Rainforest – a place he spent most of his childhood. He lives off the land, relying on mainly his wits and what nature provides, often using caves and tree stumps for shelter.
Mick gave up just about every modern luxury, even shoes. Besides his claim that walking barefoot allows him to be more sensitive to nature, it’s helped relieve foot problems that plagued him throughout most of his life.
He also finds significance in the fact that feet have over 200,000 nerve endings. “My feet became my compass, my feet became my map,” he said. This connection to nature is reflected in Mick’s tattoos.
Even without a television or computer, Mick finds plenty to keep him busy. Besides the time it takes to do what’s necessary to survive such as hunting, he reads books, meditates, and still enjoys running.
In time, Mick started to develop an almost legendary reputation, earning nicknames such as “The Barefoot Nomad,” “Barefoot Sensei,” “Walking Mountain,” “The Jedi Master for Aspiring Survivalists,” “The Hobbit,” and even “The Forrest Gump of Middle Earth.”
Mick may have lost interest in mainstream society, but that didn’t stop him from attracting media attention. In 2014, National Geographic created its own reality show, The Legend of Mick Dodge, documenting his unconventional life.
Of course, Mick himself is barely interested in TV, especially when he’s so busy just trying to survive. He spends a great deal of time gathering food, like mushrooms and fish, while sometimes indulging in more unusual snacks like worms and even boiled rocks, which he claims are a source of nutrients in their own right.
Mick’s archery skills, as taught by his grandfather, are an asset to his hunting. He’s actually a pacifist, but he says primal hunger puts him into “hunger mode” when he naturally craves a meaty protein fix.
It’s not all just about nutrition, though. In the summer Mick enjoys “jam juice,” a fermented drink of his own invention made from a variety of berries including blackberries, huckleberries, and blueberries mixed with spring water and Oxalis leaves.
The winter comes with unique challenges, especially with Mick usually being barefoot. In fact, he almost lost his toes one year from freezing! Luckily, he’s found ways to protect himself with things like buckskin boots.
Mick may live off the grid, but he’s hardly a hermit. He enjoys instructing groups of ordinary people in physical fitness through his EarthGym program. Participants enjoy his unique mix of exercises and endearing personality, including his catchphrase, “yoish!”
He also hasn’t cut himself off from his friends or family. In fact, he once attended the wedding of his best friend’s daughter by spending nearly a month hiking and camping all the way to northern California!
Yet throughout the remainder of the year, he survives on his own terms, catching fish with his bare hands and even eating roadkill. He wouldn’t have it any other way, dubbing himself a “thrillvivalist.”
Part of that “thrill” is still getting just about everything he needs from the nature surrounding him. He’ll often use a pine cone on a stick as a toothbrush, fern leaves in place of toilet paper, and take showers beneath waterfalls.
Living in the wild has built up Mick’s immune system, but when he does get sick he uses natural remedies as much as possible. If things get really bad, he has a friend in Doc Gair, a “forest healer”, who also lives in the woods.
Mick has a few other friends in his natural “neighborhood,” such as Huckleberry Leonard, a singer, Will of Stone, one of Mick’s old students, Ben Sanford, the owner of an outdoor center, and Pat Neal, a master fisherman.
Mick even has a “man’s best friend” of his own: Gabu the dog! They help keep each other safe, and he even trusts her to go off on her own adventures for hours on end before finding her way back to him.
Mick would probably agree that “the best things in life are free,” because he doesn’t have any form of currency! He was paid for The Legend of Mick Dodge, but he donated all his earnings to the Olympic Mountain Earth Wisdom Circle community, which he’s a member of.
When Mick can’t find what he needs on his own, he gets it from bartering, often by visiting thrift shops. He once traded a pair of leather pants for a strong bow and arrow!
Weapons like that can literally be a lifesaver for a hunter like Mick, although it’s not just animals that pose a threat. “The most dangerous encounters that I have ever had in the gated wild, walls of the city and in the open fenced lands are with two-footed creatures,” he claimed, citing an incident in which he was almost run over by a driver distracted by his cellphone.
Even with all the time Mick spends just trying to survive on his own, his life isn’t without certain luxuries. Just check out this makeshift hot tub that helps him relax and recover from the physical pains of the day.
Since Mick had a TV show, it’s been easy for people to question the authenticity of his lifestyle. He’s admitted to sometimes venturing back to civilization for modern comforts like chocolate chip cookies and even making Skype calls to help promote the show, but otherwise his life is still in the woods. Nobody can deny that the real deal, however, might be an entire community of hermits.
Located just off the coast of India’s Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, North Sentinel Island is a small, square landmass. With its coral reefs and lush forests, it’s easy to see why so many have been drawn to its shores.
Despite overwhelming interest in the island, all but those with the highest level of clearance from the Indian government are forbidden from even entering the waters around it. The coral reefs can be vicious, but the biggest threat actually lurks just beyond the tree line.
North Sentinel Island is home to the Sentinelese, a group of natives that have called the island home since pre-Neolithic days. The tribe is considered to be one of the last uncontacted peoples in the world, and the reason for this has given the island a truly notorious reputation.
In an effort to preserve their primitive lifestyle, the Sentinelese are known to mercilessly attack any visitors to the island on sight. They’ve even been known to fire arrows and launch spears at fishing boats that drift too close to their shores.
Surprisingly, however, after nearly a hundred years of failed efforts, an anthropological team made peaceful contact with the Sentinelese in 1991. The researchers were able to gain unprecedented access to the small island, though their time spent on North Sentinel left them with more questions than answers.
Despite their proximity to other island tribes, the Sentinelese possessed a distinct marking system unlike those of any other group, and their language – described as a series of high-pitched sounds and gestures – was unintelligible. Even a translator from a tribe of Onge natives, whom the Sentinelese had been know to engage with, couldn’t understand them.
Peaceful exchanges between the anthropologists and the Sentinelese continued until 1994, whereupon the project was abandoned in favor of leaving the tribe completely uncontacted. This decree was generally respected by the vessels that trolled the waters around the island… until two fishermen decided to test their luck in 2006.
While illegally harvesting crab just off North Sentinel, the weight anchoring the vessel manned by Indian fishermen Sunder Raj and Pandit Tiwari failed, casting them adrift toward the island. Paying no mind to the warnings of fellow seamen, the two washed ashore and were brutally killed by the natives.
Following the incident the Indian government cracked down on illegal visits to the island, maintaining a constant naval presence in the surrounding waters and prosecuting any who attempted to enter the area. But even with additional efforts made to sway potential trespassers, those determined to contact the forbidden tribe weren’t dissuaded.
In October of 2018, an American named John Allen Chau arrived in the area in the hope of visiting the island and living amongst its inhabitants. Chau, a devout Christian, sought to adopt the language of the Sentinelese and convert them to Christianity.
Chau was met with heavy resistance to his plan, but the 26 year old felt it was his spiritual mission to bring religion to North Sentinel. And so, in mid November, Chau hired a group of fisherman to take him to the island.
His initial visit to North Sentinel was a positive one, as upon arriving he was met with amusement and curiosity as opposed to the anticipated hostility. However, after offering them fish and other gifts, one of the natives fired an arrow at his Bible and Chau fled the island.
fieldhockeyx8 / Flickr
Following this brush with death, the fishermen advised Chau to abandon his efforts, but the young man, unfazed by the arrow, was determined to see his mission through. That’s why on November 17, Chau instructed the men to bring him to the island and to leave him there for good.
The fishermen obliged, but after a few hours they returned to North Sentinel to make sure that their American friend hadn’t been harmed. To their horror, the men watched as the Sentinelese dragged the lifeless body of John Allen Chau along the beach.
Hurrying back to Port Blair – the capital of the Andaman Islands – the fishermen relayed the news of Chau’s death to one of his friends, who then contacted Chau’s family to break the news. The fishermen also brought with them Chau’s diary, wherein he had left instructions in the event of his passing.
“I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people,” Chau wrote in the final entry before his death. “Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed … Don’t retrieve my body.”
Chau’s family honored his wishes, calling off the attempts made to recover his body from the island. Though it’s believed his death was caused by arrow fire, the truth behind what actually killed John Allen Chau will likely never be known.
The Indian government has taken a hands-off approach with Chau’s death, believing that both the missionary’s body and the Sentinelese people should be left alone. And while officials won’t press charges for the killing, those involved in getting him to the island in the first place have been arrested.
Though Chau’s death is no doubt tragic, many refuse to blame the Sentinelese for simply defending themselves from what they perceived to be a threat. Given the region’s history of foreign imperialism, some believe that the natives’ violent nature is rooted in a desire to survive, not some primal need to kill.
With yet another death on their hands, the Indian government faces enormous pressure to place stricter regulations on the North Sentinel area and to properly protect the native inhabitants. Whether they meet these demands remains to be seen, but this event should send a strong message to any wannabe adventurers looking to set sail for the forbidden island: leave the Sentinelese alone.
Nestled between India and Myanmar, smack dab in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, are the picturesque Andaman Islands. But, despite looking like paradise, visitors need to approach with tremendous caution…
The World News
The India government requires visitation permits for every form of entry. Some of the islands in the cluster are tourist hubs and access is allowed with proper documents. Others are forbidden, namely the North Sentinel Island, and for good reason!
While the indigenous tribes of the Andamans have long fascinated anthropologists, they don’t look kindly on any intrusions from the outside world — and they aren’t just giving visitors the cold shoulder…
Travel Tour Guru
Visitors must approach with caution because the tribes are regarded as some of the most dangerous and violent in the world. They prefer to have no outside contact and have rejected many who tried to infiltrate their territory.
Throughout history, anthropologists carefully organized missions to visit, make friendly contact, and hopefully get the chance to learn more about these fascinating people. But there was a pretty big problem…
Any visitors, no matter how cautious or kindly intended, have been met with open hostility and extreme suspicion. Some visitors to the island have even been killed.
Getting to know them seemed impossible. But there was someone who was about to change all of that, and in the process, change our understanding of the tribe.
Doctor Madhumala Chattopadhya wanted to accomplish what so many others had lost their lives trying to do. But the path to doing just that wasn’t going to be easy for her.
As a young girl, the indigenous tribes off the coast of her home of India fascinated Madhumala. She was the top of her class and went on to study anthropology at the University of Calcutta. While hitting the books, these tribes were her focus.
In 1991, Madhumala got to live out her dream of making the first-ever recorded friendly contact. She was working as an associate of the Anthropological Survey of India. Along with a team of 13, Madhumala set out to attempt a connection no one had ever survived before.
But Madhumala knew she and her team would have to do something different to successfully engage the tribe — something other visitors hadn’t tried. So she brought coconuts!
As her team’s boats crept closer to the shore, the researchers started throwing coconuts out for the tribe as a peace offering. Not long after, some of the more curious members of the tribe waded into the water to take the coconuts.
Standing with bows and arrows ready on the shore, the tribe was skeptical of the visitors. They kept the coconuts coming, and eventually, Madhumala was able to enter the water and physically hand the offerings to the tribal members.
Another factor contributed to Mudhamala’s groundbreaking contact with the tribe: she was a woman! On her next visit in the same year, she led an expedition on land into the Jarawa tribe’s territory and made history once again.
Jarwa women spotted Madhumala, the only female member of her team, on the boat and yelled to her, “Milale chera!” It translated as “friend come here!” and broke out in an impromptu dance. She was the first woman to visit, and they welcomed her!
The tribal women approached Mudhamala and examined her hair and skin. But then she made a bold move that could have ended in complete disaster…she embraced one of the natives in a hug. By a miracle, her gamble paid off. The tribe reacted with happiness!
The tribe had never taken to an outsider like they did with Madhumala. They let her assist in chores, and even hold their children.
Nurturing an intense trust, they let Madhumala enter their huts, which was another historical first. She shared food with the tribe, and offered medical assistance. They allowed her to tend to their wounds and act as their doctor.
Despite her monumental strides in communications and anthropological discoveries, Madhumala hasn’t really been regarded as one of the great anthropologists in history. She lived amongst one of the most dangerous and mysterious tribes in the world, but her legacy remains a hidden gem for most of the world to discover.
As of early 2019, she continued to work for the central government, in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Madhumala’s texts about this secretive tribe were considered the standard of study for universities worldwide.
Times of India
There are some places on this planet that even the most intrepid explorers will never get a chance to visit. While they’re not necessarily difficult to access—they’re just totally off-limits. From islands like North Sentinel to top-secret government facilities, these places are totally forbidden to tourists.
Lascaux Caves, France: The 20,000-year-old cave paintings located in the south of France were being damaged by the carbon dioxide exhaled by tourists. To preserve the paintings, the government has closed off the site to visitors.
Ise Grand Shrine, Japan: Only Shinto priests and priestesses to the royal family of Japan are ever allowed in this sacred temple. It’s also torn down and rebuilt every 20 years in keeping with the Shinto philosophy.
Club 33, Disneyland: If you can afford to pay $20,000 as an initiation fee and $10,000 annually in dues, then you might be able to nab a seat at one of the most exclusive supper clubs in the entire world.
Metro 2, Russia: This secret subway system underneath the city of Moscow was the brainchild of Stalin himself. Though the government has remained mum about Metro 2, some people who helped create it have revealed its existence.
Mount Weather, Virginia: Located 48 miles outside of Washington, D.C., in the Blue Ridge mountains, Mount Weather is the underground facility where the President would be kept in case of a doomsday-type emergency. Photos of the interior, however, are hard to come by.
Vatican Secret Archives, Vatican City: While the name makes it clear that you aren’t welcome inside of the Vatican’s secret archives, you can absolutely request to view any document they hold that is over 75 years in age.
White’s Gentlemen’s Club, London: This exclusive gentlemen’s club is the most prestigious in England. In order to be invited to join their ranks, you’ve got to be male, a member of the royal family, or someone else in a position of power.
Room 39, North Korea: This top-secret government building is said to be the heart of countless illegal operations. How illegal? Well, that depends: how does counterfeiting and practicing insurance fraud sound to you?
RAF Menwith Hill, England: The Royal Air Force, with the help of the NSA (yep, you read that right), run this monitoring center. It is said to be one of the most comprehensive in the entire world. Have you ever gotten the feeling someone was watching you? It was probably someone working here.
Coca Cola Recipe Vault, Atlanta: For decades, the top secret recipe to this popular soda was locked inside a bank just down the street from the Coca Cola headquarters. They have since created a vault of their own for storing the recipe.
Area 51, Nevada: No list about forbidden places is complete without Area 51. The United States Air Force base is where, for years, people have theorized that research and experiments have been conducted on aliens and UFOs.
Mezhgorye, Russia: This top-secret town doesn’t welcome visitors. That’s probably because the town was established as a place for employees at the nearby major nuclear facility to live… and hide from NATO.
Snake Island, Brazil: This island’s name isn’t an accident. There are more than 5,000 different types of venomous snakes living on this island, making it totally unpleasant, if not downright uninhabitable, for anyone who is not a snake.
Surtsey Island, Iceland: This is one of the newest islands on planet Earth. It recently emerged after a volcanic eruption in the 1960s and it is in near pristine conditions. Iceland wants to keep it that way, and only a few scientists have been allowed to visit the island so far.
Google Data Center, Oregon: If there is one thing Google takes seriously, it’s security. Their data center in Oregon is probably more well-protected than Area 51, and as far as we know, there aren’t even any alleged UFOs here!
Tomb of Qin Shi Wang, China: The Chinese government has been intensely protective of the tomb of their first Emperor, Qin Shi Wang. The tomb contains the famous terra cotta soldiers, but what else it holds we may never truly know.
Bank of England Vaults, London: In order to access the vaults, you need a key that is more than 35 inches long! Getting the key itself would be a problem since the names of people with access to vaults is a strictly kept secret.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway: If all of the plants in the world were ever to be wiped out, the seeds stored in this top secret vault could literally bring the Earth back to life. Even countries who have contributed seeds are not granted access, though!
Bohemian Grove, California: More myths than truths are known about the West Coast secret society of elites. They are rumored to have single-handedly begun the entire Manhattan project. Many ex-presidents have been among its members, as well.
Pine Gap, Australia: Controlled by the Australian and United States governments, Pine Gap is home to a satellite monitoring facility. These aren’t any old satellites, either. Pine Gap is central in receiving and transmitting spy communique.
Chapel of the Arc of the Covenant, Ethiopia: This chapel is said to house the Arc of the Covenant, which contains the 10 Commandants as handed down to Moses. Other than the priest who tends the church, no one else is allowed to enter.
Woomera Prohibited Area, Australia: This is the largest bomb testing stretch of land in the entire world. Rather than risk people stumbling into the wake of a bomb, the government went ahead and made it known just how off-limits the place was in its very name.
Propiyet, Ukraine: While you can technically get into Propiyet, you might not want to visit this tiny town in Ukraine. That’s because it is literally the most radioactive town in the entire world. Definitely give it a miss.
Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean: While the Mariana Trench is not exactly “forbidden,” it’s not easy to get to, either! This trench is the deepest in the entire ocean if you can believe it. Only three people have successfully visited it.