Christopher Knight, 47, was arrested during a break-in early Tuesday, the Kennebec Journal reported. Sgt. Terry Hughes of the Maine Warden Service caught him at the Pine Tree Camp, a facility for disabled children and adults.
Hughes said Knight was honest about his stealing, admitting he obtained the food, clothing and other items he needed to survive by breaking into camps and cottages. He led investigators to his own camp in Rome.
State Trooper Diane Perkins-Vance said Knight has given no reason for his decision to take to the woods.
"He said he just came into the woods one day in 1986," Perkins-Vance said. "He claims he hadn't had a conversation with another human being since the mid-1990s, when he encountered someone on a trail. I was the first person he talked to since the 1990s. People are like, 'No way!' But yeah, it's true."
Investigators say Knight developed considerable skills as a woodsman, covering a yellow shovel in black so it would be harder to spot and doing without fires. But he did not hunt and his early efforts to fish were unsuccessful, so he was totally dependent on what he could steal.
Over the years, Knight became something of a legend in the area, although he was known only as "the hermit of North Pond." The hermit, a 2005 news story said, "for the last 15 years has been picking his way through dozens of the 300 or so camps around North Pond."
Knight is now being held in the Kennebec County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash bail.