The Boston Globe has an interesting story (behind its paywall) about the North Pond Hermit — this guy who spent 27 years in the Maine woods “living a life of solitude and larceny.” Here are his former living quarters:
The story is deeply weird and heads into “life is stupider than fiction” territory. The guy has a mother and siblings still living, but no one ever filed a missing persons report when he disappeared a couple years after graduating from high school. The police never managed to catch him, even though he was camping not far from the houses that he broken into time and time again for more than a quarter of a century, even though he didn’t start out with any particular survival training or skills. But the weirdest part of the story is the hermit himself. He didn’t keep a journal, he didn’t have any deep thoughts about civilization and society, he he didn’t seem to have any reason whatsoever for doing what he did:
Knight expected to die in the woods, [the state trooper who interrogated him] said, but he could not articulate why he decided to live there. He liked reading about hermits as a child, he told the trooper, but nothing traumatic had happened in his life.
I’m sure there is a novel here, or maybe just a made-for-TV movie. But you need to do better than that when it comes to motivation. I vaguely recall the playwright Peter Shaffer talking about his play Equus, which was apparently based on a true story about a young man who blinded some horses. As I recall it, Shaffer saw a headline n the newspaper about what happened but chose not to learn the actual details of the story, because he didn’t want to pollute his imagination with reality. I think we’ll have to do the same thing with the North Pond Hermit.