Kaspar Hauser was a young man from Germany who insisted throughout his short life that he had spent almost all his life in the total isolation of a darkened cell. These claims, along with his abrupt death by stabbing when he was 21 years old, led to much debate and controversy. The contemporary theories connected him with the grand ducal House of Baden and speculated that his birth had been shrouded in mystery because it was part of a royal conspiracy. However, these beliefs have been since dismissed by historians. During his lifetime and beyond, many have proposed the notion that he had been a fraud. Hauser was first seen in public in May 1828 in the streets of Nuremberg, Germany. He carried a letter, in which his caretaker had written that the boy wanted to be a cavalryman just like his father. He was about 16 years old at the time. Hauser spent the remainder of life under the guardianship of various people and families. Most of his caretakers noted his penchant for vanity and lying. In December 1833, he passed away after receiving a fatal stab wound. While most modern historians consider him a swindler, one of the most enduring theories about him is that he was the hereditary prince of Baden.
Appearance in Nuremberg
On May 26, 1828, a teenage boy was seen in the streets of Nuremberg, Germany. He had a letter on him that was written to the captain of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment, Captain von Wessenig.
Using the heading "From the Bavarian border / The place is unnamed / 1828", the addresser wrote that he had been looking after the boy since he had been given to him on October 7, 1812, as an infant and taught him how to read and write, as well as various matters regarding the Christian religion.
The anonymous author stated that the boy did not “take a single step out of my house". He also wrote that the boy’s father had been a cavalryman, suggesting to the captain to either accept him in their ranks or send him to the gallows.
He carried a second letter with him that was supposedly written by his mother to his previous caretaker. According to this letter, the boy’s name was Kaspar, and his birth date was April 30, 1812, and his father, who had been a cavalryman of the 6th regiment, had died. Peopled became suspicious of Hauser’s intentions after they noticed that both letters had the same handwriting.
The boy was guided to the house of Captain von Wessenig by a shoemaker named Weickmann. While he was there, he kept saying the words, "I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was" and "Horse! Horse!" Whenever he was asked for further clarifications, he either burst into tears or stated, “Don’t know”.
He was subsequently moved to a police station, where he identified himself by writing down the name “Kaspar Hauser”. He also demonstrated that he knew how money works, could recite some prayers, and could read a bit.
He only gave answers to a handful of questions, and his vocabulary appeared to be not extensive. As he could not give a background of himself, he was jailed as a vagabond.
Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, who served as the president of the Bavarian court of appeals, conducted the investigation on the case. The town of Nuremberg became Kaspar Hauser’s formal adopter, and funds were raised to provide him with a decent upbringing and education.
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Life Under Various Caretakers
Kaspar Hauser was first placed under the guardianship of poet and educationist Friedrich Daumer. He ostensibly thrived during his time with Daumer and began demonstrating his skills in drawing.
On October 17, 1829, he was discovered in the cellar of Daumer's house with blood coming out from a cut wound on the forehead. This, according to his critics, was self-inflicted.
He was then put in the custody of Johann Biberbach, who was a municipal authority at the time. On April 3, 1830, a pistol shot was heard from Hauser’s room at the Biberbach house. When his escort got into his room, he discovered that Hauser had blood coming out from a wound on the right side of his head.
After regaining his senses, he related that he had gone up on a chair to collect some books. As the chair slipped, he attempted to grab on to something, mistakenly pulling down the pistol from the wall, triggering a shot.
Members of Biberbach’s family disputed this, and the relation between Kaspar Hauser and people of the Biberbach household subsequently deteriorated. In 1830, he was moved to the house of Baron von Tucher.
His stay with Baron von Tucher was not peaceful either. As with the Biberbach family, Baron von Tucher was vocal about Kaspar Hauser’s lies and excessive vanity. In late 1831, a British nobleman Lord Stanhope acquired his custody and subsequently invested a lot of money to investigate the youth’s background.
He took Kaspar Hauser to Hungary twice, hoping that it would bring back his memories, as Hauser had once stated that Hungarian Countess Maytheny had given birth to him. However, nothing happened. Hauser could not identify any buildings or monuments in Hungary. Later, Stanhope admitted that the total failure of these pursuits had caused him to question Hauser’s credibility. In January 1832, he sent him to live with schoolmaster Johann Georg Meyer in Ansbach but kept on paying for his upkeep.
Although Stanhope had promised Hauser that he would take him to England, he never did. Hauser’s supporters accuse Stanhope of having ulterior, sinister motives for his actions, but academic historiography hails him as a philanthropist, a pious man, and a seeker of truth, who genuinely wanted to help the youth.
Being a strict and pedantic individual, Meyer soon grew tired of Kaspar Hauser’s numerous lies and excuses. They had a serious quarrel on December 9, 1833. Stanhope was coming for a visit at Christmas, and Meyer stated that he had no idea how he would speak to him.
Death & Speculations
On 14 December 1833, Kaspar Hauser came back to Meyer’s house with a deep stab wound on the left side of his chest. According to him, he was persuaded to go to the Ansbach Court Garden, and a stranger plunged a knife into him while handing him a bag.
A policeman named Herrlein checked out the alleged crime scene and came across a small violet purse with a pencilled note in "Spiegelschrift" (mirror writing) inside. The note was apparently written by the assailant, who identified themselves as M.L.O. from the Bavarian border. On December 17, 1833, Hauser passed away.
The discrepancies in what Kaspar Hauser had related after the attack caused the authorities to wonder if the wound was self-inflicted. The note had one spelling error and one grammatical error, both of which were often made by Hauser. Some authors hold the view that he stabbed himself in order to renew public interest in him.
He was laid to rest in the Stadtfriedhof (city cemetery) in Ansbach. In the ensuing years, several psychologists have looked into his case. Psychiatrist Karl Leonhard dubbed him “a pathological swindler.”
While no anomalies were mentioned in his autopsy report, Dr. Heidenreich, who was present during the procedure, stated that Hauser’s brain was distinctive because of its small cortical size and a few, non-distinct cortical gyri, implying that he had cortical atrophy. According to G. Hesse, it was epilepsy.
One of the prevalent theories about Hauser is that he was the child of Charles, Grand Duke of Baden and Stéphanie de Beauharnais. Multiple DNA tests have been performed on the subject, but the results are largely inconclusive.