Guide Day and Knight - The Case of Missing Things

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In the early days, nearly everything Knight learned was through trial and error. He had been gifted with a good head for figuring out workable solutions to complicated problems. All his skills, from the rigging of the tarps that formed his shelter, to how to store drinking water, to walking through the forest without leaving tracks, went through multiple revisions and were never considered perfect.

Over the next few months, Knight tried living in several places in the area — including inside a dank hole in a riverbank — all without satisfaction. Finally, he stumbled upon a region of nasty, boulder-choked woods without so much as a game trail running through it; far too harsh for hikers. He liked it immediately.

Then he discovered a cluster of boulders, one with a hidden opening that led to a tiny, wondrous clearing. So I settled in.

Still, he remained hungry. Knight was beginning to realise that is almost impossible to live by yourself all the time. You need help. Hermits across history often ended up in deserts or mountains or woodlands — the sorts of places where it was extremely difficult to find or catch all your own food.

To feed themselves, some of the Desert Fathers — third-century Christian Hermits from Egypt — wove reed baskets and sold them. In ancient China, hermits were shamans, herbalists and diviners. Later, a fad for hermits swept 18th-century England. The job paid well and hundreds were hired, typically on seven-year contracts. Some of the hermits would even emerge at dinner parties and greet guests. He wished to be unconditionally alone; an uncontacted tribe of one. The cabins around the ponds in central Maine, Knight noted, had minimal security measures.

Windows were often left open, even when the owners were away. The woods offered excellent cover, and with few permanent residents, the area would always be empty during the off-season. A summer camp with a big pantry was nearby. The easiest way to become a hunter-gatherer here was obvious. T o commit a thousand break-ins before getting caught, a world-class streak, requires precision and patience, daring and luck. It also demands a specific understanding of people. He perched at the edge of the woods and meticulously observed the habits of the families with cabins along the ponds.

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He watched their quiet breakfasts and dinner parties, their visitors and vacancies, the cars moving up and down the road. Nothing Knight saw tempted him to return to his former life. His surveillance was clinical, informational, mathematical. All he sought was to understand migration patterns — when people went shopping, when a cabin was unoccupied. After that, he said, everything in his life became a matter of timing. The ideal time to steal was deep in the night, midweek, preferably when it was overcast, best in the rain.

A heavy downpour was prime. People stayed out of the woods when it was wet. Still, Knight did not walk on roads or trails, just in case, and he never launched a raid on a Friday or Saturday — days he knew had arrived from the obvious surge in lakeside noise.

Christopher Thomas Knight

For a while, he opted to go out when the moon was large, so he could use it as a light source. In later years, when he suspected the police had intensified their search for him, he switched to no moon at all. Knight liked to vary his methods. The ideal was a fully stocked place, with the family away until the weekend. He knew, in many cases, the precise number of steps required to reach a particular cabin, and once he selected a target, he bounded and weaved through the forest. Sometimes, if he was headed far or needed a load of propane or a replacement mattress it was easier to travel by canoe.

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  6. Canoes are difficult to hide, and if you steal one, the owner will call the police. It was wiser to borrow, and there was a large selection around the lake, some up on sawhorses and seldom used. Knight was capable of reaching homes anywhere along the largest pond near his hidden campsite. Typically, he stayed close to shore, cloaked against the trees, hiding in the silhouette of the land, though on a stormy night he would paddle across the middle, alone in the dark and lashed by the rain.

    When he arrived at his chosen cabin, he would make sure there were no vehicles in the driveway, no sign of someone inside. Burglary is a dicey business, with a low margin for error. One mistake and the outside world would snatch him back. So he crouched in the dark and waited, sometimes for hours. He never risked breaking into a home occupied year-round, and he always wore a watch so he could monitor the time.

    Sometimes, cabins were left unlocked. Those were the easiest to enter, though soon other places became nearly as simple. Knight had keys to them, found during previous break-ins. He stashed each key on its respective property, typically under some nondescript rock. He created several dozen of these stashes and never forgot where one was.

    He noticed when several cabins left out pens and paper, requesting a shopping list, and others offered him bags of supplies, hanging from a doorknob. But he was fearful of traps, or tricks, or initiating any sort of correspondence, even a grocery list. So he left everything untouched, and people stopped. For the majority of his break-ins, Knight worked the lock on a window or door. He always carried his lock-breaking kit, a gym bag with a collection of screwdrivers and flat bars and files, all of which he had stolen, and could defeat all but the most fortified bolts with the perfect little jiggle of just the right tool.

    When he had finished stealing, he would often reseal the hasp on the window he had unlatched and exit through the front door, making sure the handle was set, if possible, to lock up behind himself.

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    No need to leave the place vulnerable to thieves. As the local residents invested in security upgrades, Knight adapted. He knew about alarms from his one paying job, and he used this knowledge to continue stealing — sometimes disabling systems or removing memory cards from surveillance cameras. He evaded dozens of attempts to catch him, by both police officers and private citizens.

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    The crime scenes he left behind were so clean that the authorities offered their begrudging respect. The hermit, many officers felt, was a master thief. It was as if he were showing off, picking locks yet stealing little, playing a strange sort of game. Knight said the moment he opened a lock and entered a home, he always felt a hot wave of shame. I took no pleasure in it, none at all. He never turned on a light.

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    He used only a small torch attached to a metal chain he wore around his neck. My blood pressure was high. I was always scared when stealing. I wanted it over as quickly as possible. When Knight was finished with the inside of the cabin, he would habitually check the gas grill to see if the propane tank was full.

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    If so, and there was an empty spare lying around, he would replace the full one with an empty, making the grill appear untouched. Then he would load everything into a canoe, if he had borrowed one, and paddle to the shore closest to his camp to unload. He would return the canoe to the spot he had taken it from, sprinkle some pine needles on the boat to make it appear unused, then haul his loot up through the dense woods, between the rocks, to his home. Silence does not translate into words.

    Solitude increased my perception. There was no audience, no one to perform for. There was no need to define myself. I became irrelevant. The dividing line between himself and the forest, Knight said, seemed to dissolve. His isolation felt more like a communion. To put it romantically, I was completely free.

    Virtually everyone who has tried to describe deep solitude has said something similar. He was never once bored. He was attuned to the completeness of his own presence rather than to the absence of others. K night was finally arrested, after 27 years of complete isolation, while stealing food at a lakeside summer camp. He was charged with burglary and theft, and taken to the local jail.

    His arrest caused an enormous commotion — letters and visitors arrived at the jail, and approximately journalists requested an interview. A documentary film team showed up. A woman proposed marriage. Everyone wanted to know what the hermit would say.

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    Light fixtures with chain pulls. Knight said the chain pulls remind her of the chains Castro used to bound her. Michelle Knight. Joy is a feeling Knight couldn't imagine she would ever feel again after she was kidnapped. Knight is still in the process of wading into the wider world. She doesn't watch TV and avoids the news.

    Asked about the MeToo movement, she said she wasn't familiar with it. Doolittle,'" she said. Several years before they crossed paths, Knight was gang-raped as a teenager and bore a child she named Joey who was later put up for adoption, her family has said. As police searched for the missing women, Castro subjected them to mind games like marking the anniversaries of their abductions by serving them cake. They were cut off from the world, but some news seeped in, Knight said. Among other things, she said she learned that Barack Obama was running for president from Castro, who was not happy about it.

    I kept my opinion to myself. Knight said that while Castro refused to let her give birth, he made her help Berry deliver a daughter into an inflatable kiddie pool. In a statement she gave to police, Knight said that the baby was not breathing at first and that Castro threatened to kill Berry if the baby died. So she performed CPR on the infant, who revived and was named Jocelyn. It was Berry who led their escape from the shabby house on Seymour Avenue on May 6, When Berry realized that Castro had forgotten to lock the front door, she opened it and started screaming for help through the screen door.