Hermit, 81, overwhelmed by offers of new home after cabin in woods burns down

A hermit whose cabin burned down after 27 years squatting in the property has said he is overwhelmed by fundraising efforts and offers of places to live.

“I feel about as good as I ever have in my life,” said David Lidstone – known by locals in Canterbury, New Hampshire as “River Dave”.

The 81-year-old added: “I live down there in the woods because I like being alone, being away from people, so this publicity is not anything that I’m used to at all.”

A fire destroyed Mr Lidstone's cabin hours after he defended himself at court. Pic: Canterbury Fire Department via AP
Image:A fire destroyed Mr Lidstone’s cabin hours after he defended himself at court. Pic: Canterbury Fire Department via AP

Mr Lidstone lived on a solitary existence by the Merrimack River in the northeastern US state.

He was jailed last month after refusing to leave the cabin, but was told he would be released if he agreed to vacate because the property owner wanted him off the land.

But a fire destroyed Mr Lidstone’s cabin on Wednesday, hours after he defended himself at court, and he was released by a judge the next day.

The state’s fire marshal’s office is investigating the fire.

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Jodie Gedeon, who has been advocating for Mr Lidstone, said there have been discussions about setting up a trust for him.

There have also been at least 20 offers to relocate him to another plot of land, in areas ranging from California to Maine, she said.

“So, it’s really up to David now,” she added.

“David, pick where you want to live, and we will get you set up before winter.”

Mr Lidstone, who has been staying with friends, said he had tried to return to his home to collect possessions but was told he had to go to the police first.

David Lidstone built and lived in his shack for nearly three decades. Pic: Jodie Gedeon via AP
Image:David Lidstone built and lived in his shack for nearly three decades. Pic: Jodie Gedeon via AP

“The main thing I wanted out of the whole thing was my Bible,” he said.

“Hopefully, Canterbury police took it home… I had the keys to camp and the camp’s just ashes. So I have the keys to God’s heart, and that’s all I got.”

The wooded area Mr Lidstone lived in is on 73 acres that have been used for timber harvests.

He said a prior owner gave his word years ago that he could live there – but he had nothing in writing.

There are currently no plans to develop the property.

“It looks to me like now I may never set foot on that piece of land again,” he said.

However, he wants to be able to prove he was right and has said he wants to get a surveyor on the property.

Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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