Kaspar Hauser

On 28 May 1828, Kaspar Hauser appeared in the centre of Nuremberg in Bavaria. He was standing in the town square holding two letters. The first was addressed to Captain von Wessing of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment.

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Von der Bäierischen Gränz, 1828. Ich habe ihn im Lesen, Schreiben und in der christlichen Religion unterwiesen, aber ich habe ihn nicht einen Schritt aus meinem Haus genommen. Der Junge möchte nun Kavallerist werden wie sein Vater. Ich lade den Kapitän ein, ihn entweder zu ihm oder zu ihm zu bringen.
(From the Bavarian border, (the place is unnamed) 1828. The boy was given into my custody as an infant on 7 October 1812. I have instructed him in reading, writing and the Christian religion, but did not let him take a single step out of my house. The boy would now like to be a cavalryman as his father was. I invite the captain either to take him in or to hang him.)

The second letter purported to be from his mother to his guardian. This letter sated that the boy was named Kaspar, that he had been born on 30 April 1812 and that his father, a cavalryman of the 6th regiment, was dead. Both letters were unsigned and had been written by the same person.

Kaspar stood motionless in the square with the hand holding the letters outstretched until a cobbler name Weickmann approached him. After glancing at the letters, Weickmann took Kaspar to Captain von Wessing’s home. When questioned Kaspar would repeatedly reply ‘I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was’ and ‘Horse! Horse!’ before starting to cry and answering ‘Don’t know.’ to any further questions. Unsure what to do with the boy von Wessing sent him to the police station where he was questioned further. He was was found to be able to write his name, Kaspar Hauser. He could read a little, could say some basic prayers although his vocabulary was somewhat limited. He could provide no account of himself and as a result was imprisoned as a vagabond.

For the next two months, Kaspar was kept in the Luginsland Tower in Nuremberg Castle, cared for by the town gaoler, Andreas Hiltel. He was fit and healthy and was estimated to be about 16 years old. He was thought to be intellectually impaired but the Mayor, Binder, claimed that the boy had an excellent memory and was learning quickly. This difference of opinion as to his mental abilities would continue throughout Kaspar’s life.

Mayor Binder interviewed Hauser who said that for as long as he could remember he had spent his life totally alone in a small darkened cell with a straw bed and two small wooden toys, a carved horse and dog. He was fed on rye bread and water that was by his straw bed every morning. Occasionally the water would taste bitter and after drinking it he would sleep heavily. When he awoke after that he would wake to find his straw changed and his hair and nails were trimmed.

1928.09.30-2-Kaspar-Hauser

One day a man came to him and taught him how to write his name and recite the words ‘I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was’, in the old Bavarian dialect. Hauser claimed he had not known what this phrase meant. The man kept his face covered at all times. The man visited several times and then finally brought Kaspar to Nuremberg and left him there. After this tale was told and retold rumours arose that he was a ‘lost prince’ possibly of the House of Baden. However, there were an equal number of people who were convinced that he was an imposter.

Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, a judge, began to investigate the case. Kasper was formally adopted by the town of Nuremberg and money was donated for his upkeep and education. Kasper was sent to live with a local schoolteacher, Friedrich Daumer, who took care of him. Daumer taught Kasper to read and write. He also conducted various experiments with him involving magnets and occult writing.

Kasper stayed with Daumer for over a year and made reasonably good progress with his lessons but was found to be evasive and prone to lying.

On the morning of 17 October 1829, Kasper and Daumer had argued over the teenagers recent activity and his evasion over his lack of study. Later in the morning when Kasper was sitting in the outside toilet, he attacked and wounded by a hooded man who threatened him saying, ‘You still have to die ere you leave the city of Nuremberg.’ Kasper ran away from the man and went to his room in Daumer’s house. After a few moments he went downstairs and climbed into the cellar to hide. When he did not appear for lunch, Daumer went to look for him and found him hiding in the cellar. Daumer contacted the police and Kasper was transferred him to the care of Johann Biberbach, one of the municipal authorities.

When news of the attack became known it fuelled rumours about Kasper’s possible descent from Hungary, England or the House of Baden. After some further questioning, Kasper changed the details about the attack several times. Suspicion started to arise that perhaps the wound was self inflicted.

Kasper’s time with Biberbach soon deteriorated when he again was evasive and told lies on several occasions.

On 3 April 1830, a pistol shot went off in his room. When the Biberbachs entered the room they found Kasper bleeding from a wound on the right side of his head. He claimed that he climbed on a chair to get some books, the chair fell and while trying to hold on to something he accidentally tore down the pistol hanging on the wall, causing the shot to go off. Doubts were cast on this, especially when the wound was found to be extremely slight, Kasper again changed parts of his story and after Mrs Biberbach called him ‘full of vanity and spite’ with a personality with ‘horrendous mendacity’ and with an ‘art of dissimulation.’

In May 1830, Kasper was transferred to the care of Baron von Tucher. By the autumn that relationship had also broken down as von Tucher complained about Hauser’s lies and vanity.

A British nobleman, Lord Stanhope, took an interest in Hauser and applied for and gained custody of him in the autumn of 1831. He investigated Hauser’s origin and took him to Hungary on two occasions. Hauser had seemed to remember some Hungarian words and had once declared that the Hungarian Countess Maytheny was his mother. The trips were a complete failure and Stanhope started to doubt Hauser’s authenticity. By December 1831, Stanhope sought out a schoolmaster, Johan Georg Meyer, in Ansbach who agreed to look after Hauser. In 1832, Stanhope returned to England. He continued to pay for Hauser’s living expenses but reneged on his previous promise to take Hauser with him. In 1834, Stanhope published a book in which he presented the evidence against Hauser, taking it as his ‘duty openly to confess that I had been deceived.’

Meyer, had taken on the care of Hauser as a purely financial arrangement. His relationship with Kasper quickly became strained as he found the boy to be a liar and probable imposter. In May 1833, Anselm von Feuerbach, died. As time had gone on, he too had started to have doubts about Hauser. Papers found after his death state, ‘Caspar Hauser is a smart scheming codger, a rogue, a good-for-nothing that ought to be killed.’
On 9 December 1833, Kasper and Meyer had a serious argument. Five days later, on 14 December 1833, Kasper came home with a deep wound in his left breast. He said that he was lured to the Ansbach Court Garden and that a stranger stabbed him there while giving him a bag. A doctor was called to care for Kasper and the police searched the Garden and found a small a violet purse containing a pencilled note in “Spiegelschrift” (mirror writing). The message read:

‘Hauser will be able to tell you quite precisely how I look and from where I am. To save Hauser the effort, I want to tell you myself from where I come _ _ . I come from from _ _ _ the Bavarian border _ _ On the river _ _ _ _ _ I will even tell you the name: M. L. Ö.’

Kasper died of his wound on 17 December 1833. Yet again he had given contradictory accounts of the attack. The note contained errors, typical for Kasper, who, on his deathbed, had muttered about ‘writing with pencil’. The note was also folded in a specific manner, just as Kasper folded his letters. The doctor that attended him stated that the wound could have been self-inflicted.

Hauser is buried in the Stadtfriedhof in Ansbach. His headstone reads, in Latin, “Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious. 1833.” A monument to him was later erected in the Court Garden which reads Hic occultus occulto occisus est, (Here a mysterious one was killed in a mysterious manner.)

After his death, Hauser’s body underwent at autopsy. Dr. Heidenreich, one of the physicians present, claimed that Hauser’s brain was small cortical size indicating epilepsy. Dr. Albert, who conducted the autopsy and wrote the official report, did not find any anomalies in Hauser’s brain.

A 1928 medical analysis supported the view that Hauser had accidentally stabbed himself too deeply. In 2008, a forensic analysis stated that it was ‘unlikely’ that the wound was inflicted exclusively for self-damage, but that a suicidal stab and a homicidal act could not be definitively ruled out.

According to contemporary rumours, Kaspar was the hereditary prince of Baden who was born 29 September 1812, and who had died 16 October 1812. The rumour was that the prince was switched with a dying baby and subsequently surfaced 16 years later as Kaspar Hauser. Charles, Grand Duke of Baden and Stéphanie de Beauharnais, cousin by marriage and adopted daughter of Napoleon, would, therefore, have been Kasper’s parents. Because Charles had no surviving male progeny, his successor was his uncle Louis, who was later succeeded by his half-brother, Leopold. Leopold’s mother, the Countess of Hochberg, was the alleged culprit of the boy’s captivity. The Countess was supposed to have disguised herself as a ghost, the ‘White Lady, when kidnapping the prince to ensure the succession for her sons. As he had ‘escaped’ captivity, and his ‘true’ identity might be discovered, so he had to be murdered.

When the Grand Duchess gave birth, she was too ill to be permitted to see her dead baby. However, the baby’s father, grandmother, and aunt and attending Court physicians and nurses all saw the body and gave detailed accounts of the child’s birth, illness and death.

In November 1996, DNA analysis proved that Kaspar was not related to the House of Baden. In 2002, DNA analysis showed that the deviation observed was not large enough to exclude a relationship as the difference could be caused by a mutation. On the other hand, the relatively high similarity by no means proves the alleged relationship, as the ‘Hauser samples’ showed a pattern that is common among the German population.

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Statue of Kaspar, old city centre, Ansbach, Germany

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2 Responses to Kaspar Hauser

  1. Growing up in Germany, I heard various accounts about Kaspar Hauser, and also remember a song about him that became fairly popular. His might be on of the mysteries we will never be able to solve.

    Like

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