What’s that I hear Zach? It’s so faint I can hardly make it out….. Wait it’s getting louder….. I think….. Yes it’s definitely aaaaaaaaaaa MYHISTORY!!!
For this particular myhistory we’re going all the way back to 1828. To good old Deutschland. Leaders of the free world, home of the free and the brave. I thought we could go back and forth and say things we love about Germany.
This week’s myhistory starts on May 26th, 1828, in Nuremberg, Germany. It was a day like any other so it was a bit surprising when a mysterious teenage boy appeared carrying a strange letter. The letter was addressed to Captain von Wessenig, the captain of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment. The letter had a heading that read, “From the Bavarian border/The place is unnamed/1828.
The author of the letter didn’t say their name and the letter simply said that the boy was given to them as an infant on October 7th, 1812, and that they instructed him in reading, writing, and Christianity but never let him, “take a single step out of my house”. The letter said the boy now wanted to be a cavalryman “as his father was” and told the captain to either take him in or hang him.
The boy had another short letter with him. This one claimed to be from his mother to whoever had been taking care of him. It said that his name was Kaspar, he was born on April 30th 1812, and that his father, a cavalryman of the 6th regiment, was dead.
Kaspar was found by a shoemaker named Weickmann who took the boy to Captain von Wessenig where Kaspar would only repeat the words, “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was” and “Horse! Horse!”. Any questions or demands from Captain von Wessenig were only met by Kaspar either crying or stubbornly saying, “Don’t know”. From the captain’s house he was taken to the police station where he wrote his name as Kaspar Hauser. Through interactions with police it was discovered that he was familiar with money, could say some prayers and read a litte, but struggled to answer most questions and his vocabulary was rather limited. Eventually, because he couldn’t tell police what he was doing he was arrested as a vagabond.
He spent the next two months imprisoned in Nuremberg castle in the care of a jailer named Andreas Hiltel. He was in good physical condition and could walk well, and was able to climb over 90 steps to his room. While imprisoned he refused all food but bread and water.
Through a series of conversations with the Mayor of Nuremberg Hauser gave more details of his past life. According to his story, for as long as he could remember he spent his life totally alone in a darkened cell about two meters long, one meter wide, and one and a half meters high with only a straw bed to sleep on and two horses and a dog carved out of wood.
He claimed that he found rye bread and water next to his bed every morning. Periodically the water would taste bitter and drinking it would cause him to sleep more heavily than usual. When that happened, when he woke up his straw was changed and his hair and nails were cut. Kaspar claimed that the first human being he had ever seen was a mysterious man who visited him not long before his release, always taking great care not to reveal his face to him. This man taught him to write his name by leading his hand. After learning to stand and walk he was brought to Nuremberg. Kaspar also claimed that the mysterious man taught him to say the phrase “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was”, but he did not know what the words meant. This was pretty big story for the time and Kaspar Hauser became quite famous.
Because of his growing fame his case was investigated further. He was formally adopted by the town of Nuremberg and money was donated for his upkeep and education. He was taken care of by Friedrich Daumer, a schoolmaster who taught him various subjects and who discovered Kaspar’s talent for drawing. This appeared to be a good environment for Kaspar and he reportedly thrived.
On October 17th, 1829, Kaspar didn’t show up to lunch. Instead he was found in the cellar of Daumer’s house bleeding from a cut wound on his forehead. He claimed that while he was…. Uh hum… sitting on the privy, he was attacked and wounded by a hooded man who also threatened him by saying, “you still have to die ere you leave the city of Nuremberg.” Kaspar said that he recognized the man’s voice as the one who had brought him to Nuremberg. Following the blood trail, it was discovered that Kaspar first ran to the first floor where his room was, but then, instead of trying to find his caretakers, he returned downstairs and climbed through a trapdoor into the cellar. The event was alarming to many people in the town and custody of Kaspar was soon transferred to Johann Biberbach, on of the town’s authorities.
Later, on April 3rd 1830, a gunshot was heard in the Biberbach’s house. It came from Kaspar’s room. Residents of the house found Kaspar passed out and bleeding from a wound in the right side of his head. He woke up quickly and said that he had gotten the wound after climbing on a chair to get some books. Kaspar said the chair fell over while he was trying to hold on to something and he accidentally dore down the pistol hanging on the wall which caused it to go off.
During this time Kaspar’s relationship with the Biberbach family started to sour. He was accused of lying by Johann and Mrs. Biberback later commented on his, “horrendous mendacity and “art of dissimulation” she also said he was “full of vanity and spite”.
In 1831 a British nobleman named Lord Stanhope gained custody of Kaspar. He had shown a great deal of interest in the boy and the Biberbachs were happy to be rid of him. Lord Stanhope put a great deal of money and effort into discovering where Kaspar came from. Kaspar had previous seemed to remember a handful of Hungarian words and had once claimed that the Hungarian Countess Maytheny was his mother. Lord Stanhope paid for two visits to Hungary in the hope that it would jog Kaspar’s memory, but both times Kaspar couldn’t recall any buildings or monuments in Hungary. After the failure of these trips Lord Stanhope seemed to lose trust in Kaspar and ultimately transferred his custody to a schoolmaster named Johann Georg Meyer in the city of Ansbach in December of 1831. Stanhope continued to pay for Kaspar’s living expenses and eventually published a book in which he presented everything he knew about Kaspar.
Johann Georg Meyer did not like Kaspar. He thought that he made too many excuses and lied too much and the two had a difficult relationship. In late 1832 Kaspar managed to get a job as a copyist in a local law office but didn’t seem to be satisfied with his life. This only worsened after Anselm von Feuerbach, the man who looked into his case and was among the first to take an interest in him, died in May 1833. On December 9th Kaspar had a serious argument with Meyer and was most likely not going to be allowed to stay with him anymore.
Five days later, on December 14th, Kaspar came home with a deep wound on the left side of his chest. He claimed that he was lured into the city’s court garden and that a stranger stabbed him there while giving him a bag. Police searched the court garden and found a small violet purse containing a pencilled note in “Spiegelschrift” or 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 (blank). I come from from (blank) the Bavarian border (blank) on the river (blank) I will even tell you the name: M. L. O.”
Kaspar died of his wound on December 17th 1833.
So who was Kaspar Hauser?
The first theory is that he was the exiled prince of Baden. Baden is a small territory of Germany on the border of France. In 1812 the Grand Duke of Baden had a child which allegedly passed away a few months later. One prevalent theory (particularly at the time) is that the true prince of Baden (Kasper Hauser) was switched a different dead baby by the mother of his half brother. The “white lady” was said to have stolen the true prince in order to secure the dukedom for her son. In the 1870s there were a series of writers and historians who refuted this claim. Andrew Lang summarized the results in his book, Historical Mysteries: “It is true that the Grand Duchess was too ill to be permitted to see her dead baby, in 1812, but the baby’s father, grandmother, and aunt, with the ten Court physicians, the nurses and other, must have seen it, in death, and it is too absurd to suppose, on no authority, that they were all parties to the White Lady’s plot.”
There was also a series of DNA tests. 1996 and 2002
The second theory is that Kaspar Hauser was simply a liar. When Kaspar was initially discovered he was carrying two letters, one supposed from his captor and one from his birth mother. It was discovered much later that the two letters had identical handwriting. Prior to both the cut incident and the pistol incident Kaspar had apparently been accused of lying by his caretakers. Several people have theorized that he cut himself and fired the pistol in an attempt to gain pity or cause a distraction.
Lord Stanhope also accused Kaspar of being a liar in the book he created and said that publishing his book was his “duty openly to confess that I had been decieved. Even Feuerbach the man who initially took an interest in Kaspar and whose death caused a great deal of termoil for Kaspar said before his death, “Caspar Hauser is a smart scheming codger, a rogue, a good for nothing that ought to be killed.”
After his death a court of enquiry in Ansbach was launched which, due to the inconsistencies in Kaspar’s story, suspected that he had stabbed himself and invented the story of his attacker. The note that was found in the Court Garden had a spelling error and a grammatical error that was reportedly common for Kaspar. The note was also folded in a specific triangular form that was apparently the way Kaspar used to fold his letters according to his previous caretakers. Doctors also agreed that the could have been self-inflicted.
At this point it is believed by many people that Kaspar stabbed himself in order to revive interest in his story and to convince Lord Stanhope to take him to England but he accidentally stabbed more deeply than he had intended.