- May 26 marks the 195th anniversary of the appearance of a 16-year-old in Nuremberg, whose story was soon shared throughout Europe at that time
- The boy was practically mute. When, years later, he learned to speak and write, he said that he spent his whole life locked in a cramped cell
- Two letters were found on him. “If you can’t keep him, you’ll have to slaughter him or hang him in the chimney.”
- Due to a certain physical resemblance, Kaspar was soon associated with the grand duke’s family: it was speculated that his parents might have been Charles Louis of Baden, Duke of Baden, and his wife Stefania
- The boy died as a result of homicide. This was not the first attempt on his life. Both his guardian and the nobleman who was entrusted with the results of the investigation into his parentage argued that Kaspar committed suicide
- DNA results from samples taken from the boy’s hat, trousers and curls showed a 95% success rate. match to the DNA of Astrid von Medinger, a descendant of Stefania de Beauharnais
- More information can be found on the Onet home page
It was May 26, 1828, a non-working day, unusually cold for this time of year. A teenage boy appears on one of Nuremberg’s streets, apparently between the ages of 15 and 18. He has two letters with him. He is dressed in simple peasant clothes. Apart from a few words, she is practically mute, acting like a startled animal. In one of the letters addressed to Captain Von Wessenig of the 4th Squadron of the 6th Light Cavalry Regiment in Nuremberg, there is a request that to take the boy into custody – or hang him. The letter is full of errors.
Soon, almost all of Europe of that time will begin to live his story. The boy himself is quickly hailed as “the orphan of Europe”.
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Keep or Hang
Shoemaker Weickmann, who met the boy near the New City Gate, on Unschlittplatz, decides to take him to the captain to whom one of the letters was addressed. Von Wessenig lived nearby, but he was not found at home. So the servants took care of the boy. He looked and acted as if he had lived in the woods, away from people. He kept repeating one word: “Horse, horse!” When asked, he shook his head, indicating that he did not understand what was being said to him. He was scared, he was crying. When they tried to feed him, he spat out a piece of sausage and the beer he was given. Finally, he accepted a meal of plain black bread and water.
After a few hours, the captain returned home. As it turned out, he saw the boy for the first time. This one was supposedly charmed by his uniform. The second letter showed that his previous “guardian” was a poor worker and could not afford to support another child. The boy was supposedly dropped off by his mother in 1812. Despite his attempts, the man never managed to find her – so he decided to send him to Von Wessenig.
The captain does not know the boy, just like the others, and could not communicate with him in any way. She decides to send him to jail.
16 year old like a kid
In custody, where he spent the next few weeks, he is taken care of by the guard Andreas Hiltel. From the beginning, it arouses interest, strangers come to the facility to see it with their own eyes.
It was found that despite being 16 years old, he behaves as if he was only a few years old on a mental and emotional level: he smiled and walked like a small child. He couldn’t use his fingers, and he wouldn’t eat anything but bread and water. It soon turned out that the boy was suffering from attacks of catalepsy and epilepsy. However, it was also noticed that he has an above-average memory. The mayor of the city claimed that it testified to his noble birth.
After the boy appeared in custody, someone had the idea to give him a piece of paper, ink and a pen. Most likely, it was hoped that he would draw or write something that would provide a clue and help establish his identity. It turned out that a teenager can write two words: Kaspar Hauser. In the surviving source materials, it was emphasized that he wrote these words in “clear, legible letters”.
He soon began to learn new words, too—and eventually learned to talk enough to tell his own story. Or rather, what he could remember of it.
Kaspar Hauser, 19th-century drawing, unknown author
A story from a boy’s perspective
Kaspar—as he had come to be known since he had signed the note in custody—claimed that he had been locked up all his life. From the first years he remembered only a cramped, dark cell with a straw bed, the only object he had there was a toy wooden horse. He was fed only bread and water.
Once in a while, a sleeping substance was probably added to the bread, after which he would wake up with his hair cut and dressed differently. He recalled that he only met one man who kept repeating to him one sentence he had learned: “I want to be a soldier like my father”. The same man also taught him to write his name. But Kaspar never saw his face.
The first time the man led him out of his cell after all these years, the boy fainted when he stepped out into the sunlight. Dazed, the next thing he remembered was the day he found himself in Nuremberg. He didn’t know how or why he got there.
The great princely family in the background
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The boy was about four feet nine inches tall, had light brown curly hair, and was stocky with broad, broad shoulders. His skin was very fair and delicate, though he did not have a sickly complexion. His hands were small and soft, and his blistered feet showed no shoe marks. According to some accounts, he also had a wound on his right shoulder and a mark from vaccination – suggesting an upper-class background. Due to a certain physical resemblance, Kaspar was soon associated with the grand duke’s family: it was speculated that his parents might have been Karol Ludwik Badenskithe Duke of Baden and his wife Stefaniaadopted daughter of Napoleon I himself. The age matched.
Kaspar’s history and past aroused more and more interest – the “orphan of Europe”, as he was called, was soon written by the entire press on the Old Continent. A lawyer was found who offered to take over his case, and a guardian was quickly assigned to the boy. The latter taught him to read and write, encouraging him to keep a diary. In a friendly environment, Hauser would finally begin to develop mentally. He quickly masters the German language. He is also learning to ride a horse.
Assassinations and death instead of the truth
Kaspar’s first assassination attempt was made in the autumn of 1829, a year after he was found on the street. It was October 17. The attacker attacked him with an axe, but only managed to wound him the teenager survived. After the attack, the boy was taken under protection, he was also transferred and placed under the care of other people, first Johann Biberbach, and six months later Baron von Tucher. Finally, the boy ended up in Ansbach, where he was placed under the tutelage of Johan Georg Meyer. Years later, he took up work as a copyist under his supervision.
Interestingly, a British nobleman, Philip Henry Stanhope, 4th Earl Stanhop, also tried to look after the boy. At first, he showered Kaspar with gifts and compliments about his supposed royal ancestors, and made public promises to take him to England, to his home at Chevening Castle in Kent.
It was Stanhope who was behind Kaspar’s transfer to Ansbach, about 50 miles from Nuremberg. Finally, he announced publicly that the boy was not of noble birth. There are historians who suspected Stanhope of having links with the House of Baden. He was even supposed to meet Stefania in Mannheim — the Duchess was reportedly desperate to meet Hauser. Stanhope promised to arrange a meeting for them. But he never did.
Interestingly, the king of Baden himself had noted in his diary that he regarded Hauser as “the rightful Grand Duke of Baden”. Mayor Binder received a letter in this regard as early as July 1828. An investigation was under way. The only copy of the 8-page report on the subject was sent to Stanhope in May 1832. At the end of the month, the man leading the investigation, Feuerbach, was dead. His grandson believed that at least three members of the Feuerbach family had been poisoned because of their connection to Kasper Hauser.
A few months later there was another attack.
In the winter of 1833, Kaspar was to be lured to the court gardens: someone promised to tell him the truth about his mother. He told his guardian that he had to meet a friend to watch the drilling of an artesian well in the park, in the gardens of a disused palace.
“Here lies the riddle of its time”
But instead of the truth, he was met with death. There, an assailant armed with a knife was waiting for him and stabbed him in the chest. The young man died just three days later. The attacker punctured his lung and liver. Kaspar managed to run into the house on his own, saying “the man… stabbed… with a knife…”. Meyer allegedly downplayed how serious the wound was – and did not call a doctor. Kaspar died on December 17, at the age of 21.
Both Stanhope and the boy’s guardian later tried to claim that the cause of death was suicide. Only one set of footprints was found in the snow in the park, and they belonged to Kaspar. It has been suggested that he may have stabbed himself “in a desperate cry for attention”. However, the doctor who performed the autopsy, Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Heidenreich, decided that due to the size of the wound, “Kaspar couldn’t have done it alone.” The killer has never been identified. The king of Bavaria offered a huge reward for information leading to the murderer’s arrest, but nothing was ever found out…
Even if the theory of Hauser’s high or even royal descent sounds implausible today, it is possible that he may have been murdered not because he was the missing prince of the House of Baden – but because people thought he was.
DNA research and the continuation of the story
Hauser was buried in a quiet, rural cemetery in Ansbach, where his tombstone still stands today. An inscription was engraved on the tombstone: “Here rests Kaspar Hauser, an enigma of his time. He was born in unknown circumstances, his death is shrouded in mysteryA monument was also erected in the city in his memory with the inscription: Hic occultus occulto occisus est (“Here the unknown was killed by the unknown.”)
Interestingly, the whole story returned in the mid-1990s and at the beginning of this century. All thanks to DNA research. The first of them was performed in 1996 in the laboratories of the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, England and at the LMU Institute of Legal Medicine at the University of Munich. An analysis of the blood stains found on Hauser’s clothes was then carried out — an attempt to match Hauser’s DNA with the living descendants of the Baden family proved beyond doubt that there is no connection between them.
However, in 2002, it was discovered that the samples used for the 1990s tests were not from Hauser’s clothes at all. New samples were obtained from the boy’s hat, trousers and curls, which were part of a “collection” of artifacts collected by investigator Feuerbach, and this time the DNA tests were positive. The results showed 95 percent. match to the DNA of Astrid von Medinger, a descendant of Stefania de Beauharnais.
Sources: Wikipedia, www.mysteriouspeople.com, BBC