Adam and Eve of the Maine Woods

Over at the day job I have a new Editor's Note up about Maine's history as a haven for hermits. Long before Christopher Knight, the so-called North Pond Hermit, was grabbing headlines, there was "Naked Joe" Knowles and Walley and Olive Estes, the "Adam and Eve of the Maine Woods."

Those early turn-of-the-20th century hermits were publicity hounds of the first order, utterly unlike Christopher Knight who seems to have stumbled backward into fame (or infamy). As I write in my column:

For someone who wanted to disappear completely, Knight has now found himself inside a multimedia maelstrom that didn’t exist when he began his self-imposed exile. His story has been broadcast from Bangor to Buenos Aires to Brisbane. Meanwhile, the hermit sits behind bars in the Kennebec County Jail, awaiting trial on a handful of theft charges. He is said to be a model prisoner. So far, he has refused all media interviews.

How different from Walter and Olive Estes, who parlayed their two-month camping trip into fifteen minutes of fame. The photogenic couple made money selling pictures of themselves dressed in furs and appeared in vaudeville shows; Olive even wrote a book titled True Experiences, including Adam and Eve in the Maine Woods. It remains to be seen whether Knight will succumb to the inevitable pressure to cash in by selling the rights to his life. What seems clear is that Adam and Eve were far better adapted to this era of reality TV stars and celebrity wannabes than the most famous hermit of the new century.