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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fort Fisher Hermit was among NC's most popular tourist attractions

Robert Harrill was born in South Carolina in 1893. His mother and two brothers died of typhoid fever when he was a young boy, perhaps portending a life lived on the boundaries of mainstream America.

Harrill worked as a farmer and mill worker, and found employment as a laborer during the Depression under the government’s Works Project Administration. He married Katie Hamrick and fathered five children.

After a series of setbacks including failed jobs and unsatisfying work, plus a crumbling marriage, he was committed to a mental institution.

In 1955 at the age of 62, Robert Harrill escaped confinement and the restrictions of modern American life. He moved to Kure Beach, NC, and became the legendary Fort Fisher Hermit.

Harrill set up his new life in an old WWII bunker in the woods, and he lived there until his death in 1972. He lived off marine life and a small vegetable garden he maintained nearby. Along the way, he became North Carolina’s second most popular tourist attraction, trailing only the USS North Carolina Battleship for number of visitors.

The term hermit is a classic misnomer, since Harrill greeted curiosity seekers with great enthusiasm. His guest registry included more than 100,000 people from all 50 states and 20 countries.

Although the Fort Fisher Hermit’s death was officially declared a heart attack, many believed he was murdered. His legacy remains today with The Hermit Society, which was formed in 2002. Two years later The Fort Fisher Hermit, a documentary film, received several independent film awards.

The Fort Fisher Hermit’s bunker is still standing and can be reached by hiking the Fort Fisher Hermit Trail on the outskirts of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.


Blogger mf said...

There is a wonderful book about the hermit, called "The Last Battle for Independence-The Story of The Fort Fisher Hermit". It is available in the Wilmington, NC area and through

October 19, 2009 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Top Documentary Stream said...

I have watched documentary on Hermit on

June 6, 2012 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger mf said...

The Fort Fisher Hermit Play will hit the STAGE at the Paramount Theater in Burlington, NC the end of June. We've waited 20 years and finally a play is born!Sorry I don't have a phone #...

June 6, 2012 at 2:42 PM  

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