The Stranger in the Woods

The Stranger in the Woods
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“Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality—not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.   ~A New York Times bestseller

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? what did he learn? — as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded” (Amazon summary).


Chapter 1

  • How are names not essential?
  • Where is the line drawn in the moral code between stealing for survival and stealing for profit?

Chapter 2

  • What emotions would consume Hughes at finally finding his thief?

Chapter 3

  • Why would the hermit so fully obey the commands of the officers without fighting back?
  • How does the hermit’s appearance surprise Hughes and Vance?

Chapter 4

  • What would it take to disappear from society for 27 years?
  • How does an individual survive without spending money?
  • How did Christopher’s family and friends feel – not knowing if he were dead or alive?
  • If possible, would you leave the world behind? Why? Why not?

Chapter 5

  • How did Christopher, the hermit, become lore?
  • How would you hermit-proof your property?
  • If you child were to write a school paper on the hermit, what would they say?

Chapter 6

  • What would prison be like for the hermit?

Chapter 7

  • How did not knowing the details of Christopher’s life pique the public’s interest?
  • How can diving into personal depths be profound and disturbing?

Chapter 8

  • What would it take to be a completely hidden hermit?
  • How can relationships be built through mail?
  • What options beyond stealing can a hermit employ to acquire essential needs?
  • How does science become a defense mode?
  • How does prison become more damaging to sanity than a solitary, hermit life? Do you agree or disagree? Why? Why not?

Chapter 9

  • What would possess the writer to visit Christopher in prison?
  • What wisdom is there in Christopher’s words “I take each season as it comes (p48).”?
  • Why would Christopher desire to practice conversations after living so long as a hermit?

Chapter 10

  • Why did Christopher choose to be on the edge of society instead of completely isolated from it?

Chapter 11

  • How would Christopher have learned his survival skills?
  • How was Christopher’s repurposing like hoarding?
  • Why would the author feel like an intruder in Christopher’s clearing?

Chapter 12

  • How did Christopher’s childhood prepare him for wilderness life?
  • Why wouldn’t family members visit Christopher? Would you? Why? Why not?
  • What do you think happened to the Subaru?

Chapter 13

  • If you were to abandon the world what would promote it?
  • Can one find himself through solitude? Why? Why not?

Chapter 14

  • How did the social mores of society still guide Christopher’s daily life from which he escaped?
  • Did he truly escape society?
  • How does everyone need someone? Need help?
  • How difficult would it be to come to the conclusion to steal?

Chapter 15

  • How did studying patterns teach Christopher survival?
  • How did peace and calm bring joy to Christopher?

Chapter 16

  • What irony exists of a hermit avoiding society yet living off it?
  • Why would a hermit enjoy talk radio?
  • How was Christopher a human oddity?

Chapter 17

  • According to Christopher, how does everyone lose in life?
  • What similarities exist between Christopher’s life choice and his preference for the winter season?
  • How are noise and distraction toxic?

Chapter 18

  • How does desperation such as frigid weather turn man to God?
  • Why would Christopher choose to bury empty tanks?

Chapter 19

  • Would you refer to Christopher as insane or crazy?
  • Did Christopher actually escape the banality of modern life?
  • Why would someone want to participate in the pace of modern society?

Chapter 20

  • Would you believe in Knight’s story? Why? Why not?
  • Why were people unable to believe in Christopher?
  • Why are people less able to believe the outliers or abnormal?

Chapter 21

  • With all the consequences of solitude carefully laid out, how did Christopher fair so well?

Chapter 22

  • How would you express solitude?

Chapter 23

  • How would the anomaly of breaking into an occupied cabin alter Christopher?

Chapter 24

  • What would be your reaction to an intruder, or thief, or someone on your property?
  • What would be justice for Christopher’s crimes?

Chapter 25

  • What fortitude would it take Christopher, as a hermit, to make daily phone calls and weekly visits?
  • What skill sets would Christopher need to re-enter society?
  • Why would Christopher avoid offers of help?

Chapter 26

  • What adjustments would returning to society demand?
  • How difficult would it be for the author to lose contact with Christopher? Why?

Chapter 27

  • Why would the author return to visit Christopher?
  • Why would Christopher be hurting?
  • What does reality hold for Christopher?

Chapter 28

  • What would you do with Christopher’s secret plan?
  • How is loneliness the only true feeling?


By Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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