The world is littered with mysterious people whose origins have never been discovered. DB Cooper, the Man in the Iron Mask, Tommy Weizhou. But perhaps no mystery is more enduring than the mysterious and disturbing case of Kaspar Hauser.
Let’s set the scene, it’s Nuremberg Germany, May 26th, 1828. Actually, Germany isn’t really a thing yet. It’s an X province of the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy nor Roman, nor an empire. The young boy is found wandering through the streets to saurian it and confused.
He’s dressed like a poor person. His jacket torn and tattered. But he’s also wearing a really expensive silk scarf and has a finely embroidered handkerchief with the initials K H stitched on it. Even though he was around 10 or 11 years old, he walked like a toddler. Like he’d never walked before in his life, and he complained about his feet hurting.
His old and worn-out shoes, probably didn’t help that out very much. And he couldn’t really speak. He could say his own name. Basically repeat what other people said and everything that he could say was weirdly horse-related.
In fact, the only full sentence that he could speak was. I want to be a horseman like my father. Who was this kid’s father? Apparently he didn’t know. A note that he carried on him said that his father was in the cavalry and that the writer of that note, Who was not his father was afraid for his own life.
This kid just kept getting weirder. He was taken in by Friedrich Daumer. A local schoolmaster who found more peculiarities of Kaspar’s and longer games around him. For one thing he was very sensitive to light and sound.
He could see in almost near darkness and could hear a whisper perfectly clear all the way across the room. On the flip side being out in the Sun was painful and blinding to him. He only ate bread and water.
Everything else made him gag. He acted like he’d never seen a candle or a mirror before. In fact, the first time that he saw himself in the mirror. He tried to catch the reflection and he didn’t recognize himself.
It was almost like he’d been locked away in a dark room, his whole life. And as he started to learn how to talk, his story began to take shape. Or at least what he knew began to take shape, which wasn’t much.
All he could remember was being kept in the dark for years in a small enclosure, so small that he couldn’t actually stand up. So his feet were tender. He had no idea who his captor was because he never actually saw his face. When he was sent to Nuremberg, the captor blindfolded him and made him look down at the floor the whole time, so he couldn’t tell where he was coming from.
Terrifying background for sure, but under Daumer’s care, Kaspar began to thrive. He showed a knack for drawing and music and actually became a bit of a local celebrity. Things were looking up for Kaspar. But then, his past came back to haunt him. One evening in late 1829, Kaspar didn’t come down for dinner, So Daumer searched the house looking for him.
He found him in the cellar bleeding from a cut across his forehead. According to Kaspar , he was attacked while he was on the Priv, by a man who said: you will have to die ere you leave Nuremberg. And the voice of this man was the same as its captor. About nine months later, people in the house heard a gunshot. They rushed up to Kaspar’s room to find him on the floor with a head wound. After he recovered, he claimed that he was standing on a chair trying to grab some books and then he slipped off the chair and on his way down he accidentally grabbed the pistol that was hanging on the wall. And somehow that caused the pistol to go off. Yeah, Kaspar was a problematic guest and for that reason he kind of bounced from one person’s care to another.
One of them was a guy named Lord Stanhope. Who was particularly obsessed with finding out Kaspar’s origins. And spent quite a bit of money to do so. He took Kaspar to Hungary because apparently Kaspar knew how to say some Hungarian words. And he claimed at one point that his mother was a Hungarian countess. But it didn’t produce any results and along the way Lord Stanhope began to sort of doubt his credibility.
In December 1831 they transferred Kaspar to the town of Ansbach, where he was under the care of another schoolmaster Johann Georg Meyer. It did not go well. Meyer was a strict disciplinarian, and he didn’t really trust Kaspar. He felt like he was withholding and deceitful. So the two of them kind of butted heads throughout 1833.
Toward the end of the year, Lord Stanhope was supposed to visit. And he said that he would take Kaspar over to England to kind of look around over there. Kaspar was looking forward to that. But then, on December 14th the story of Kaspar Hauser came to a fittingly mysterious end.
Kaspar came home from the park with a deep stab wound in his chest. He claimed that a man lured him into the park saying that he had information about his mother. But once they got into the park, he stabbed him.
Police later searched the park and they found a violent bag with a note inside. The note was written in mirror writing and it said this:
Kaspar deteriorated over the next few days, incoherently muttering something about writing with a pencil before he finally passed away on December 17th.
They buried him next to a tombstone that read:
Here lies Kaspar Hauser riddle of his time. His birth is unknown. His death mysterious. 1833
From here the mystery of Kaspar Hauser only deepened. That note that was found at the park for example, contains several grammatical errors that Kaspar commonly used.
It was also folded in a way that Kaspar often folded his letters. Did he stab himself? Was there some mysterious conspiracy around him that his captor come back to fulfill his dastardly plan? This has perplexed people for over 200 years.
There are two main competing theories around Kaspar Hauser’s identity.
The first one is something that I’m sure many of you have been yelling at the screen throughout this entire video, which is that he was just a liar and an attention-seeker.
I mean it worked for him. He got to stay with some very respectable people got to travel with a lord, not bad for a peasant kid. Some evidence for this theory is the fact that his story had massive inconsistencies inside of it. And every single person who took care of him at one point or another had trouble with the fact that he lied all the time.
In fact, Lord Stanhope himself wrote a book later on that countered many of Hauser’s, accusations on his story. And said he was a very deceitful person. For example, his claim that he only ate bread and water his entire life. Is hard to believe Because that will inevitably lead to scurvy, and he didn’t have scurvy.
Plus his behavior doesn’t really line up with other stories of people who were kept in captivity for long periods of time. In fact, psychiatrists Karl Leonhard once wrote:
If he had been living since childhood under the conditions he describes, he would not have developed beyond the condition of an idiot; indeed he would not have remained alive long. His tale is so full of absurdity that is astonishing that it was ever believed and is even today still believed by many people.
So, according to this theory he injured himself whenever he wanted to get something from people. For example, that first time that he got that cut on his forehead and he claimed that his captor attacked him, or while he was on the loo.
Well, it turns out that He and Dahmer had had a bit of an argument the day before. And his fatal wound occurred when he hoped that Lord Stanhope would take him to England. And in the case of that fatal stabbing, he probably intended to do a flesh wound – and it just went too far. He wouldn’t be the first person to injure himself to get attention.
In fact, there’s an entire mental illness around this called “Munchausen Syndrome”, or it used to be called “Munchausen Syndrome”. Today, it’s called “Factitious Disorder Imposed On Self“. Although most people who have Factitious Disorder, don’t do it to achieve any specific goal or to have any kind of financial gain. Most of them just do it out of this deep-seated need to be pitied and cared for. But that’s not what makes Kaspar stories so intriguing.
If that was it, it probably would have been forgotten a long time ago. But there is another theory.
Theory number two: Kaspar was the heir to the house of Baden. Much like Lone Star and Spaceballs, Kaspar was an honest-to-god prince, in theory.
To explain this, we kinda have to get knee-deep in European ancestry. So let’s get in the spirit. The Grand Duchy of Baden is a territory in the southwestern and what is now modern Germany along the Rhine River.
This was a perplexing time in history. A period in betwixt the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the creation of Germany. A period of European history that many scholars referred to as a cluster.
The ruler of Baden, at the turn of the 19th century, was Charles and his wife, Stephanie de Beaune. Who was a cousin and adopted daughter of Napoleon. Stephanie, bore three daughters and two sons, both of which died in infancy.
So, when Charles passed away in 1818, his throne passed a lude with the first, his uncle. Ludwig reigned for 12 years before he died in 1830. Upon his death, the throne passed to his half brother Leopold.
This happened at about the same time the Kaspar story was traveling to the countryside like butter on crumpets. The rumor was that Leopold’s mother, Louise Caroline, the Countess of Hochberg, was a notoriously ambitious woman as she masterminded her son’s ascent to the throne by removing an heir from Charles The First. One of the male children who died in infancy would have been around Kaspar’s age. Many began to speculate that Caroline switched out the baby with a dying baby and then hid away the legitimate heir. And when they discovered that the heir was alive and well and living as Kaspar Hauser, they had him murdered to preserve the crown.
So, perhaps Kaspar Hauser came from royalty, I mean it. Wouldn’t be the first time they used crazy machinations to get the crown. So yeah, a big part of Kaspar story was that he came from a wealthy family.
He had spent a lot of time around horses. He had a silk scarf that no peasant would have been able to afford. And he knew some details of stately manors that were able to be corroborated later on.
It is possible that both scenarios are true. He was deceitful. He was a schemer and a liar. But then, when the story started getting around this rumor that he was the legitimate heir to the throne, then the world family, you know, they nipped it in the bud. They took him out.
But this royal connection, or suppose a royal connection is why the story continued to grow and why people are still talking about it 200 years later.
Plenty of books have been written on this case. Verner Herzogs did a movie about it called the mystery of Kaspar Hauser. And when modern DNA testing became a thing, people jumped on it. A 1998 DNA test that use of a blood sample from the underwear that he was wearing when he was murdered was kind of bummer.
It didn’t turn out any connection to any royal family or descendants of the royal family. However, in 2002 a different DNA test was done with mitochondrial DNA. They compared it with a woman named Astrid von Medinger. Who was actually a descendant. A female descendant of Stephanie de Beaune, and it showed a 95 percent match.
However, they used a different blood sample in 2002 than they did in 1998. And those two blood samples did not match each other. So it’s still not fully known which the blood samples are even his. So, I’ll leave it to you. What do you think? Crazy attention-seeking liar or legitimate heir to the throne or both. Let’s put a pin on this mystery down the comments.
That’s Kaspar Hauser. I’ve been kind of fascinated by this story.