July 30, 2013

Rome summer family had long history with the North Pond Hermit

Garry and Brenda Hollands would annually trek to one of Christopher Knight's early campsites

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

ROME — A trek to a site believed to be one the former hideouts of the North Pond Hermit was part of the regular tour offered to friends and family visiting Garry and Brenda Hollands' cabin on Little North Pond.

click image to enlarge

Garrett Hollands said a shelter, at left, in Rome was discovered in the late 1980s. A wood-frame bunker excavated into the side of a hill contained books, a bed frame, cooking material and propane tanks, behind a sliding-glass window entrance, according to Hollands. Remnants of glass and metal were still apparent when Holland led his family to the site on July 3.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

The overturned lid of a gas grill is covered in leaves in the collapse shelter in Rome that Garrett Hollands said was discovered in the late 1980s.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Additional Photos Below

Their daughter, Betsy, now 27, remembers going every year.

"Dad never made it creepy," Betsy Hollands said. "He'd say, 'Let's go look at this guy.' We'd always go hiking to see the place. Seeing the books, the bed, it was a novelty."

Betsy's friends, who remembered hiking to the site with her many times, sent her messages via Facebook after they read news stories following the April 4 arrest of Christopher T. Knight, the man accused of being the hermit.

Knight, 47, faces two counts of burglary and theft related to recent break-ins at Pine Tree Camp and a private camp in Rome. However, he told authorities he lived in a makeshift camp in the woods in Rome for nearly three decades, stealing from various camps everything he needed to survive while avoiding contact with anyone. The campsite he had at the time of his arrest was also in Rome, but in a different area.

A court-ordered psychological evaluation of Knight by the State Forensic Service has been completed.

Knight was scheduled for a hearing Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court. However, the case was continued.

His attorney, Walter McKee said Tuesday that he is in discussions with the district attorney's office to try to resolve the case without going to trial. In the meantime, Knight remains In Kennebec County jail.

He liked the classics

This year — despite the fact that the alleged hermit is behind bars — the Hollands' trek took place as usual.

The hike through some dense, tick-laden woods and briefly along an old clear-cut ended at a tall riverbank of dark soil.

A stream rippled and gurgled as it ran down a hill among boulders and stones.

Garry Hollands, a geologist whose permanent home is Boylston, Mass., bent down to point out a decomposing wooden board that had once been a bookshelf.

"Somebody was an active burglar in the late 1980s," Hollands said. "I know he was here stealing my stuff when construction was going on."

It's the same site where Hollands found the paperbacks that had disappeared from his camp.

The hermit liked the classics, including "Ulysses" and military histories. There was no pornography, no booze.

"He may have taken stuff later," Hollands said. "He did a great job of hiding things."

Maine State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance, who arrested Knight and is the lead investigator in the case, said Monday the site visited by the Hollands family could have been Knight's.

"It's quite plausible because he moved around in the early years," she said. Knight was arrested leaving Pine Tree Camp, a camp for disabled children and adults, his backpack and a duffle bag laden with food and other items from the camp.

The site he led investigators to in April had been his base since the early 1990s.

At the earlier campsite visited by the Hollands, a rusted set of bed springs was on the ground.

"This wasn't a hole in the ground caused by some other things," Hollands said. "He was sleeping there. He could lay in there, but he could not stand up."

Hollands also said the site had 20-pound propane gas cans connected in series.

"I don't know if he used it to cook with or not, but it looked like he used it for heating," Hollands said. "He liked to be near water."

Triangular shards of glass littered the ground in front of what had once been a small dugout in the hillside, but had mostly caved in. The cave once had a sliding glass window covering the entry hole.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

A metal bed frame in a collapsed shelter in Rome that Garrett Hollands discovered in the late 1980s and believed was inhabited by Christopher Knight, a.k.a the North Pond Hermit.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy


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