Who was Kaspar Hauser?
I am not a trained researcher or writer. I research these topics in my spare time so I can share what I am passionate about with others. I like to add my own thoughts throughout each piece and I like to keep things "light and fun", even when discussing dark subjects like true crime. I do not claim any of these writings as "official articles" and instead call them "stories". I AM NOT AN EXPERT. They should not be used for official purposes. And Yes - sometimes I use Wikipedia as a resource but never by itself.
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If it weren’t for the actual hard evidence that shows this event happened I would be calling bullshit because this story is so out there and rather outlandish that I just have trouble believing it. But it DID happen and they even erected a statue commemorating the mysterious figure that was Kaspar Hauser.
Kaspar Hauser seemingly popped into existence on May 26, 1828 in Nuremberg, Germany. He wandered into town with the appearance of a vagabond. He was wearing dirty pantaloons, a waistcoat, a gray jacket, and a handkerchief with the initials KH embroidered on it. His boots were torn up and too small for his feet which were bursting through the ends. It was assumed that he was a teenager around 15-17 years old.
When the local police eventually approached him they found that he held a letter addressed to the Captain of the 4th Squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment, Captain von Wessenig. The origins of the letter were not written on its cover and all that was written was “From the Bavarian border. The place is unnamed, 1828”.
When the letter was presented to the Captain and inspected it held a few murky clues about the boy:
He was given to a man that had no blood relation to him when he was an infant and he raised him “like a son” (well, he shouldn’t be getting father of the year anytime soon). This man was the author of the letter. This unknown man claimed that he had received a letter from the baby’s mother that just had his birthday, his name, (Kaspar Hauser, April 30, 1812) and that his father was a cavalryman of the 6th regiment but was dead. This man said he taught Kaspar how to read, write, and about the Christian faith but he was never allowed to “take a single step outside the home.” He didn’t want people to know where this boy was being brought up. Why the big secret? Was he the son of some higher up in the country? Was he illegitimate? All part of the mystery I guess.
Obviously, the Captain and others wondered why this boy was wandering around the city alone but the letter just said that he was not escorted by his caretaker because “it would cost me my neck”. This “caretaker” invited the Captain to either hang Kaspar or take him in. He did mention that Kaspar wanted to be a cavalryman “like his father”.
On a little side note, these letters authenticity were pretty quickly questioned because both had similar handwriting. Leading some to believe that Kaspar himself had penned them.
Let me describe the curious character that was Kaspar. He was a young man who walked like a toddler, as if he had just learned how. He acted in a very innocent and child-like manner and would constantly repeat himself with “I want to be a cavalryman, as my Father was” and “Horse! Horse!”. Needless to say, his vocabulary was very limited. When posed with additional questions he would quickly become upset and repeat, “Don’t know! Don’t know!”. Am I the only one imagining him sitting in a chair, with his legs on the seat as well, his hands over his ears and his eyes closed tight. Just being overwhelmed and extremely upset. I kinda breaks my heart. He must have felt so helpless, alone, and scared. He could write his name, somewhat shakily, was familiar with money, could recite a few prayers, and could manage to read a few words.
Since he had no identification, he was sent to the jail in Nuremberg Castle under the care of jailer Andreas Hiltel. Kaspar was checked out by a physician and it was determined that he was approximately 16-years-old, had a “healthy facial complexion”, was mentally impaired but had remarkable memory and learned quickly, and most bizarrely he would refuse all food except bread and water. It was said that he didn’t recognize any other types of food. Very bizarre IMO.
The city of Nuremberg came to adopt the boy and donated money for his personal well being and education. That is actually a very awesome, kick-ass thing for an entire city to do. After being jailed for two months he was taken into the home of Friedrich Daumer, a schoolmaster and philosopher who took Kaspar under his wing to teach him. He studied a variety of topics and had an impressive talent for drawing. Along with a classical education he was schooled in homeopathic treatments and did quite a few experiments with magnets. Magnets? Ok, sounds fun I guess.
As Kaspar’s mind swelled with knowledge he began to weave a tale that was so extraordinary that many people refused to believe it. Initially, people thought he had been a wild child that was raised by animals but he told a much different story.
He claimed that his earliest memories were of a dark room, like a cell, with only a straw bed and a few wooden toys. Each morning he would find bread and water beside his bed and sometimes the water would have a bitter taste. When this happened he would become very sleepy and when he awoke hours later he would have fresh straw, clean clothes, and his nails and hair would be trimmed. Kaspar claimed to have extremely limited human interaction and he never actually saw the face of his caretaker. He only knew him by his voice.
This “caretaker” did eventually teach Kaspar to write his name by leading his hand, helped him learn to stand and walk, and taught him the phrase about being a cavalryman that he had spouted on repeat to the Captain upon their meeting. Kaspar confessed that he did not know what this phrase meant but knew that he needed to say it to the Captain.
As Kaspar gained international attention, Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach (damn, that a mouthful), president of the Bavarian court of appeals began to dig into the story and its possible origins. Him and many others doubted the validity of Kaspar’s story and wanted to out him as a fraud. I must say that I don’t really blame them for thinking and doing so.
Being a troubled youth is definitely a difficult thing to deal with and overcome. His current caregivers and himself would often argue and fuss. All of this fighting may have been the catalyst for what happened next. Dun, Dun, DUUUUUUUUN!
On October 17, 1829 Kaspar did not come to lunch with his host family and was found crouched in the cellar with a bloody mess covering his face. He claimed that he had been sitting in the bathroom, the privy, when a hooded man burst in and attacked him. He recognized the man’s voice as that of the man who had “raised him”.
What really raised suspicion about this “attack” was that Kaspar had left a bloody trail throughout the house. He had gone from the bathroom to his room on the first floor, did not run screaming to his caretakers (as any normal human would probably do in that situation), and instead went down into the cellar through the small trapdoor. If this really did happen then why? Why would his previous caretaker, his “Father”, release him into the world then try to kill him? Change of heart? If it was all a farce then for what? Attention? Kaspar does seem like the type of lad who wants to be the center of attention constantly. The apple of EVERYONE’S eye.
After this event, his care was transferred to Johann Biberbach, one of the municipal authorities of Nuremberg. Rumors began to spiral out of control at this point. Did he do it to himself with a razor? Was he just a liar? Maybe he just wanted pity? It was becoming widely believed that Kaspar Hauser was a liar.
Kaspar’s relationship did not fare much better with his new caretakers and they were at each other’s throats on a daily basis. He would argue frequently with Mrs. Biberbach and she described him as “full of vanity and spite”. This turbulent relationship was later believed to have spurred what happened next. On April 3, 1830 a gunshot rang out through the Biberbach’s household. His caretaker discovered him in his room, dazed and confused. After regaining his composure he told an outlandish, far-reaching story. Kaspar claimed that he been standing on a chair to reach some books on a high shelf when he fell. He grabbed at the wall and curtain as he fell in an attempt to catch himself and the gun that was strung up on the wall came crashing down and went off accidentally - grazing Kaspar on the right side of his head. Damn lucky that it didn’t go straight through your swollen head there, Kaspar.
So, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Biberbach’s and Kaspar was moved to another home. Baron von Tucher became his new caregiver, though he complained about Kaspar’s vanity and lying also. Definitely noticing a trend here….
Things were quiet for a time and in 1831 a new caregiver came into the picture. Lord Stanhope had been deeply interested in the boy’s story from the get-go and wanted to do a deep dive on his murky background. Stanhope spent a ton of money toting Kaspar around hoping that something would jog his memory. They visited Hungary together and Kaspar seemed to recognize and remember a few Hungarian words. BUT he did not recognize any buildings or landmarks. If he had been raised in a cellar and never allowed to step outside then he wouldn’t have known any of that stuff about architecture or landmarks anyway, right? After multiple trips Stanhope became convinced that Kaspar was lying and really began questioning his credibility.
By December 1831, Stanhope had had enough of the never-ending tales told by Kaspar and dropped him off at the home of Johann Georg Meyer, a strict man and schoolmaster. Though Stanhope never saw the boy again he promised to come back and take him on a trip to England. He also continued to pay for his expenses. Kaspar felt abandoned by Stanhope and quietly hoped that he would return one day.
The relationship between Meyer and Kaspar was, needless to say, difficult. Meyer was extremely strict and would often confront Kaspar about his lies and excuses. To escape this constantly tense environment, Kaspar found employment at the local law office as a copyist. I think that means he made copies by hand, right? Poor young Kaspar was very unhappy with how his life was going.
Yet another incident took place on December 14, 1833. Kaspar came bursting into his home with a deep wound in his chest. He claimed that he had been walking and was lured into a garden by a stranger who proceeded to stab him. Police were summoned and when they investigated the scene of the crime they found a note with “mirror writing” on it.
Kaspar Hauser would not survive his wound and died on December 17, 1833.
As the investigation continued after his death it was strongly suspected that Kaspar had written the note and stabbed himself. They suspected him of writing the note because there was one spelling mistake and one grammatical mistake that Kaspar often made. The paper had also been folded in a way that was specific to Kaspar. He did mysteriously keep muttering “writing with pencil” while on his deathbed.
Doctors that examined him agreed that the wound could have been self-inflicted but they couldn’t determine with 100% certainty that it was. It was widely believed that Kaspar had stabbed himself with the intent of stirring up public interest in himself and his story again. Not to mention that he was making himself sick, pining over Stanhope. Just hoping that he would come back and fetch him. He so desperately wanted to go to London. Maybe he stabbed himself too deep? I wonder how long it took him to realize his mistake, if he did indeed do it to himself? Is that the kind of the thing he would immediately know and be like “O shit! That was way too deep!”?
Kaspar Hauser was buried in the Ansbach cemetery where his headstone reads:
This monument was erected in the Court Gardens where the fatal event took place that reads (in Latin):
A totally bizarre, insane, unbelievable story really rocked this area for them to commemorate him so thoroughly. I do take issue with the beginning of Kaspar’s epic tale. If had been raised in such strict isolation would he have been able to adapt to a normal life at all? He stated that he didn’t learn to walk until he was a teenager. Well, his muscles wouldn’t have been much more than shriveled green beans, right? He would have had the mental capacity and social skills of a toddler. I guess he was toddler like when he first came to Nuremberg but could he have grown out of that?
As researchers later concluded, “if he had been living so isolated for the majority of his life he would never have developed properly and would not have developed beyond the condition of an idiot.” I must agree.
In the end, there are two sides to this story; the truth and what actually happened. I guess we will never know.
What do you think? Was he genuine or a fraud?
The artwork that I created to go along with this piece is not my typical style but I wanted to try it out. Have you listened to the podcast My Favorite Murder? Well, Karen Kilgariff is like my spirit animal. I love her so fucking much!! I found this quote from her on Twitter and just to create this simple little diddy inspired by her sarcastic bitchy tone.
I love lying
You can buy the original in my shop HERE, which was done in black marker and pen, or buy a goody from one of my shops. It looks pretty kick-ass on some phone cases, bags, or even shirts. Those shops are Society6 and RedBubble.
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Want to read more? May I suggest:
Mary Vincent: The Girl Who Lived (a very popular one!)
Karl Tanzler and his Corpse Bride (a weird history story)
Marie Alexandrine Becker (a true crime story)