5 People Who Cut Themselves Off From The Modern World
If hell is other people, heaven means living totally isolated from everyone. Could you do it? Probably not -- even putting your phone down for a few hours on end is hard enough. But some people do manage to absolutely strike it out on their own, and a few of them even manage not to go nuts in the process.
The Guy Who Built An Alaskan Log Cabin And Didn't Leave Until He Was 83
For its first 50 years, Richard Proenneke's life consisted of working on heavy diesel equipment, enlisting in the Navy, and working on heavy diesel equipment for the Navy. Then one day, maintaining the equipment at a satellite tracking station, he got splashed with some molten lead and almost lost the use of his eyes. This is more or less the origin story of the hero Daredevil, and it's also the origin story of the hero Richard Proenneke, who said to himself, "What if the last thing I ever saw was that damn bulldozer I was working on?" He needed to find more meaning in life. He needed a change.
So he decided to live in an isolated cabin in Alaska for the rest of his life. Not a city in Alaska, but a national park by a lake, without any electricity or running water. First a friend was going to buy the land, then that friend got cancer and told Richard to keep it for himself. Were the two lovers? Fans debate that to this day, noting no other signs of Richard having a love life. If you were to ask Richard's family, they'd probably say, "How did you get in this house? Leave immediately, before I fetch my gun." But whether from heartbreak or just a deep love of nature, Richard lived in this cabin he built himself for decades.
He kept a journal during this time, and many have likened it to Henry David Thoreau's book Walden about his own time living simply in a cabin ... the only difference being that Thoreau kept running to town so people could make him lunch during his "solitude," and he made his mom do his laundry, while Richard really did live on his own. His cabin remains preserved to this day, and it doesn't look like he had a big screen TV hidden in there:
One winter, Richard decided it was time to visit his brother, so he got into a plane to fly south. He crashed it and whacked his spine, and had to crawl to a highway to get help. He got better and in no way interpreted this as a sign that the wilderness wasn't for him. Some years later, he fell down a mountain and broke several ribs. At 78, he was still mountain climbing, then he finally ditched the cabin and moved in with that brother at 83.
It all made for a thoroughly satisfying life. It's just a shame then that when other people are isolated, things can get a lot weirder for them ...
The Hermit Who Talked To No One For 27 Years, And Committed 1,000 Burglaries
Christopher Knight also took off to live in the wilderness. But when he left his family and went into the Maine woods, he didn't build himself a cabin. Though he found a spot very close to a bunch of cabins, he set up his camp outdoors. For the base of his camp, offering a little protection from the cold and the damp of the ground, he used makeshift bricks made of stacked National Geographic magazines. For a roof, he tossed a tarp into a sort of tent, but he never sealed it shut. So, for 27 years of freezing cold winters, he lived outdoors. Commentators have variously described this as "impressive," "surprising," and "physically impossible."
Chris' explanation of how he avoided dying in his sleep is that he'd wake every night at 2:30 and walk around to get his blood circulating. Sounds to us like that would just make you lose heat even faster, but he's alive today, so who are we to question his methods. So: Chris went 27 years without spending a night indoors. He also went 27 years without speaking to anyone -- with two exceptions. One time, he ran into a hiker and said hi. One other time, he met a fisherman, and when they parted, both agreed to speak to no one about their conversation. We'd tell you more about that, but a fisherman's oath is sacred.
Unlike Richard Proenneke, who hunted for food (and then gave in and started getting food shipped to him in his final years), Christopher Knight obtained food and other supplies using the method known as "stealing." As we said before, he was close to a bunch of cabins, so he kept breaking into those. He broke in an estimated 1,000 times, stealing plenty of food and also propane tanks, replacement underpants ... and hundreds of books, since sitting in the woods is pretty boring. The people of Maine told stories of the North Pond Hermit, the phantom responsible for their Jolly Ranchers disappearing. No one laid eyes on him, but if they had to hazard a guess, they'd say he probably looked like this:
However, that was actually what he looked like after they arrested and him and put him through a court program. The day he was caught in 2013 -- having set off a cabin's newly installed motion detector and quickly attracting the attention of a nearby game warden -- he was clean-shaven, as he'd always taken pains to avoid looking like the wild hermit he was.
The courts held him responsible for his robberies and gave him a year in prison. They also charged him a couple grand in restitution. He earned that by getting a job with a brother to whom he hadn't spoken in decades. Finally, the courts tried to charge him for the road cops built so they could demolish his camp, which, really, was just kind of dickish.
No One Knows The Name Of This Last Guy Living Alone In The Amazon For Decades
Full disclosure: The man in the below video has not said that we have permission to share footage of him. In fact, he hasn't said anything. Not to anyone, not in decades.
We think he was a member of Brazil's Awa people, many of whom were killed in the '80s and '90s. By 1995, he was part of a group of six. Then farmers attacked the six, killing all of them except for this one guy. We don't know for sure if that's his story. We don't even know what language he speaks, or what his name is. Some in the media call him "the loneliest person in the world." Brazilian media instead call him "the Hole Indian," because he digs holes (we're guessing that in the original Portuguese this is some really witty joke).
No one has any plans of approaching him and asking him what his name is, how he's doing, or what's up with those holes. The last time someone tried, he shot arrows at them, and news agencies who sneak footage like this say that the Prime Directive forbids contact with isolated tribes.
Why take the footage at all then? Just for our entertainment? Nope. See, the way Brazil's laws work, so long as this particular Indigenous person lives, the nation must enforce a protection order on the 10,000 surrounding acres of forest. So the FUNAI news agency keeps sending brave reporters to check in on lonelyboy15 and make sure he's still alive and digging. Presumably, logging agencies are also sending assassins to kill him so the forest will be theirs (source: cinema). We wish him all the best in the upcoming battle. May his arrows fly true, and may every enemy go fall in a hole.
A Russian Family Fled Into The Wilderness For 40 Years, Missing WWII And The Space Race
Religious persecution was en vogue again in the 1930s, which meant it was time for Russia to go after the Old Believers. Despite their name, the Old Believers did not worship the nameless gods of river and stone, but were instead simply a sect of Christianity. Either way though, they weren't the preferred religion, so they had to die. When a patrol killed his brother, believer Karp Lykov and his wife Akulina fled into the snowy forest with their two kids. They stayed there for 40 years.
The couple had two more children while they lived in the woods, kids who never saw any outsiders and never saw a town or city. For entertainment, they recounted their dreams to each other (note: recounting your own dreams will never interest anyone, except for Russians isolated in the woods). For clothes, they stitched stuff together from hemp. For food, they grew potatoes and finally graduated to hunting. But they always teetered close to starvation, and Akulina did in fact end up starving to death one especially hard winter that involved everyone eating bark and shoes.
Finally, in 1978, some passing geologists came to this uncharted mountain spot and stumbled on the family. The children (now in their thirties and forties) excitedly recognized the geologists' horses from the one book they'd ever seen, an illustrated Bible. As they learned about what the outside world was like, some things fascinated them, while others did not. Cellophane appeared to them like an absolute miracle. But when the geologists told them about satellites, they were unsurprised. They had seen some unblinking objects in the sky so had assumed something like those had to exist.
They didn't come back with the geologists and return to civilization. They did accept a gift of salt -- four decades of unsalted potatoes had been four decades too many -- and over the next few years, they accepted a few more gifts and food and conveniences. Then in 1981, three of the four kids died one after the other, all of kidney disease. But some forty years later, youngest daughter Agafia is still alive, and the last time anyone interviewed her, she was still living in the wilderness. People send her food (she burns the bar codes, because she thinks those are the mark of the Antichrist), and for companionship, she has a guy named Yerofei Sedov, a fired oil prospector with a peg leg.
It Was 1984 When Australians Stumbled On The Last Isolated Aboriginals, Who Hadn't Heard Of Europeans, Or Clothes
We don't have enough time today to talk about everything that the Europeans who came to Australia did to the continent's indigenous people. Let's just say that after the first few genocides and the forced relocations, the Australian government had pretty much rounded everyone up. They hadn't quite reeducated and assimilated everyone, but they had at least made contact with everyone and knew where they all were. With one exception: a single family of nine living alone in the remote desert.
And when we say remote, we mean remote (i.e., hours more remote than the area otherwise known as the most remote of all). They were part of the Aboriginal group called the Pintupi, who were already just about the last Aborigines to go on living the traditional way, right up until the government told them to move and make way for some missile tests. Not moved and not even contacted were this one separated family, who lived through the 20th century without knowing there were any Europeans living on the continent. They were far enough from any city that they saw no signs of anyone else at all -- except for the occasional plane. They thought the planes were demons. One time, they even found a crashed plane, and that was really confusing, but was a good source of rope.
Then came 1984. Warlimpirrnga, the head of the family, sniffed the unmistakable scent of distant poop, a sign that people had to be near. But the people he ended up seeing didn't look like his family at all. Oh, we're not saying he ran into white people. The people who stumbled on the nine were actually distant relatives, Pintupi people who had now come for camping. But they looked very different in that they were wearing clothes. The Pintupi campers -- Pinta Pinta and his son Matt -- were even more confused, and seeing the naked Warlimpirrnga carrying a spear, they thought he had to be a demon. So Matt fired his shotgun into the air.
Clearly, this could have ended horribly, but with them all luckily speaking the same language, they avoided mass slaughter. So even when more campers appeared -- white people, who Warlimpirrnga thought were ghosts come to eat them -- they soon got along okay. The campers got the nine into cars (the men graciously tossing their shirts on the women) and took them to the town of Kiwirrkurra. The Nine didn't immediately see any advantage in getting to know more strangers, but someone had the idea of offering them sugar. Boom: Alliance established.
Australian media dubbed them "the lost tribe," which they didn't much care for. But they integrated into Kiwirrkurra, after a few expected wacky misunderstandings (walking out of a store laden with goods without paying, cutting into a water main and seeing it hilariously explode). They integrated ... except for one member, Payirti. He spent a little time in Kiwirrkurra, heard people being so damn loud, and then he right turned around to go back to the bush. Sometimes, solitude is better.