Stéphane Breitwieser stole over 300 objects, stolen from 200 different locations, worth over $1.4 billion. Brashly. Brazenly. Constantly. Why? They art was beautiful.
An excerpt from The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit — Michael Finkel’s book on Christopher Knight, the man who simply walked away from the modern world into the woods of rural Maine in 1986 — without any real plan for survival. Living alone for 27 years in a makeshift camp, Knight survived by stealing food, clothes, and provisions from neighboring camps and cabins. Knight committed over 1,000 break-ins during his self-imposed exile — stymying law enforcement and homeowners alike for nearly three decades.
Michael Finkel tracks down the man known as the North Pond Hermit: Christopher Thomas Knight lived in a secret camp in the woods of Central Maine, stealing food and supplies from nearby homes. “I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”
A man travels to the Dhamma Giri meditation center in western India to learn the meditation style known as Vipassana—the same meditation used by the Buddha to reach enlightenment 25 centuries ago. Enlightenment doesn’t come easy:
“There are no further instructions. And I can’t ask anyone what I’m supposed to do. So I sit, striving to keep my mind free of distractions. I detect the tide of my respiration flowing over my upper lip – cooler entering my nose, warmer exiting. Still favoring my right nostril.
“A line from The Big Lebowski jumps to mind. You want a toe? I can get you a toe. Then a song refrain. A dozen of them, as if I’ve pressed scan on my car radio. This is Ground Control to Major Tom. Snippets of sitcom dialogue, a phrase from a Richard Brautigan poem, famous opening lines – A screaming comes across the sky – old phone numbers. I try to decide whether I prefer chunky peanut butter over creamy. Chunky, I conclude. Commercial jingles, yearbook quotes, I got the horse right here the name is Paul Revere, math equations, crossword-puzzle clues, Hotel-Motel Holiday Inn, anything, everything, a deluge of internal prattle.
“This doesn’t bother me. Before coming, we had been instructed to discard any mantras we might have used in the past – not a problem, as I’ve always been mantra-free – but I actually have brought with me something of one. Really more of a slogan. It is this: ‘waterfall, river, lake.’ I find myself repeating it, frequently, as I try to meditate. ‘Waterfall, river, lake. Waterfall, river, lake.'”
Forty years after hijacking a plane and then disappearing, George Wright is found:
“On the afternoon of August 19, 1970, a couple of men approached Wright. Their names were Jimmy and Jumbo. Wright was working in the prison laundry at the time. The men said they’d had enough of prison and wanted to do something about it. ‘They asked me,’ says Wright, ‘if I was interested.’
“‘You guys kidding me?’ said Wright.
“‘No,’ they said.
“‘Yeah,’ said Wright. ‘I’m interested.’ They talked about it. ‘I ain’t going nowhere walking,’ Wright added.
“‘We’re going to get transportation,’ they said. Jimmy mentioned that he was a skilled mechanic, expert at hot-wiring cars.
“Wright figured that if he did get out, he’d need cash to restart his life. There are always wheeler-dealers in prison who have money, and Wright knew one of them, a man named George Brown, who was serving three to five years for armed robbery. Brown promptly joined the team. They agreed that they were going all the way: Either they’d escape or they’d be shot. Freedom or death.”
Daniel Kish was born with an aggressive form of cancer called retinoblastoma, which attacks the retinas. To save his life, both of his eyes were removed by the time he was 13 months old. Since his infancy — Kish is now 44 — he has been adapting to his blindness in such remarkable ways that some people have wondered if he’s playing a grand practical joke. But Kish, I can confirm, is completely blind. He knew my car was poorly parked because he produced a brief, sharp click with his tongue. The sound waves he created traveled at a speed of more than 1,000 feet per second, bounced off every object around him, and returned to his ears at the same rate, though vastly decreased in volume.
Eight years ago, Christian Longo murdered his wife and three children. On the lam, he assumed the identity of the author, a man he’d never met. Now their long, twisted relationship culminates in a final, chilling bargain.