It was an overcast morning in August 1913 when a 43-year-old man called Joe Knowles shook hands with some well-wishers and headed off alone into the woods. He wore only a jockstrap, which he discarded once modesty permitted, and carried nothing at all in the way of supplies, clothing or equipment.
Knowles had vowed to spend 60 days in the woods, for an experiment that would see him try to live without any of the trappings of modern civilization. A headline in the Boston Sunday Post, where Knowles had formerly worked as an illustrator, screamed, “Naked as Cave Man He Enters Woods.”
Knowles’ spell in the woods started near the hamlet of Eustis in Maine, more than 200 miles north of Boston, where the would-be woodsman lived. He arrived sporting a brown suit, before changing into his jockstrap. Two doctors checked that he had no survival aides secreted about his person. Then, after a last cigarette, Knowles set off, shouting to the assembled friends and journalists, “See you later, boys!”