Kaspar Hauser – Wild Boy

// December 27th, 2012 // People in Unusual Circumstances

Contemporary painting of Kaspar Hauser

A Boy Wanders In

On May 26, 1828, a boy wondered into the town square of Nuremberg.  Although it was a Monday, there weren’t very many people around since it was a holiday.  George Weichmann, a local cobbler, discovered the boy.  He took note of the fact that the boy was poorly dressed, well built, and walked in a strange manner – with legs stiff and straight.  He attempted talking to the boy but the only response he would receive was “don’t know”.  He was stunned to discover the boy’s feet bleeding though his shoes.  Careful examination of his feet revealed scores of blisters on feet so tender, they appeared to have never been walked on.  His skin was extremely pale as if he had never been exposed to sunlight.  The backs of his knees lacked the normal ‘hollow’ but rather had small protrusions giving Weichmann the impression the lad had seldom bent his legs at the knees.

The boy handed George two letters addressed to the captain of the 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.  Weichmann immediately took the boy to Captain Wessenig where he was placed in a cell for further examination.  They were puzzled at the boy’s actions and at first thought he was mentally retarded.  The boy tried to touch a candle flame as if he had no inkling that the flame could cause harm.  He was terrified of a grandfather clock that stood in the corner.  He would eat nothing but bread and water – in fact, any other food would cause him to vomit.

The Mysterious Letters

The two letters were examined and contained the following cryptic declarations. The first letter stated:

Honored Captain. I send you a lad who wishes to serve his king in the army. He was brought to me on 10/07/1812. I am but a poor laborer with children of my own to rear. His mother asked me to bring up the boy. Since then I have never let him go outside the house.

The second letter, which was unsigned just as the first one, stated the following:

This child has been baptized. His name is Kaspar: you must give him a second name yourself. His father was a cavalry soldier. When he is 17, take him to Nuremberg to the 6th Calvary regiment; his father belonged to it. He was born on 04/30/1812. I am a poor girl; I can’t take care of him. His father is dead.

The contents of the letters seemed to indicate that the first letter was written by his recent caretaker and that the second letter was written by the boy’s parents.  Strangely, handwriting analysis of the letters revealed that they were both penned by the same hand.

Strange Abilities

imageSurprisingly, the boy himself could write two words – ‘Kaspar Hauser’.  At this point, this was all that was known of 16 year old Kaspar Hauser.

Kaspar was kept in a cell for some time.  Apparently the cell or at least one of its windows, was in public view for many reports surfaced of his interaction with others during this time.  Kaspar would sit for hours and hours without making any movement at all.  He seemed oblivious to the fact that crowds of people were gathering to stare at him.  One of the onlookers passed Kaspar a toy, most indications are that it was a toy horse made of wood.  Kaspar immediately uttered the words ‘horse’.  In fact, Kaspar began calling every animal he saw a ‘horse’.  It is reported that Kaspar played with the toy constantly possibly unaware that they were inanimate objects.  He cuddled the toys and even pretended to feed them at every meal.

Kaspar had extremely acute senses, bordering on phenomenal.  Smells of coffee and beer that were brought into the room would make him sick.  The smell of wine would literally make him drunk.  He could see perfectly in the dark, a fact that he later demonstrated as an adult, by reading passages from the Bible in a completely darkened room.  His hearing was excellent too, a whisper from across the room would immediately grab his attention.  It has been reported that he could distinguish between the north and south ends of a magnet simply by passing his hand over them.  He could also differentiate various metals by holding his hand over them – even while they were covered in cloth.  A Anselm von Feuerbach described him in 1832 as follows:

As to his sight, there existed, in respect to him, no twilight, no night, no darkness. . . . At night he stepped everywhere with the greatest confidence; and in dark places, he always refused a light when it was offered to him. He often looked with astonishment, or laughed, at persons who, in dark places, for instance, when entering a house, or walking on a staircase by night, sought safety in groping their way, or in laying hold on adjacent objects. In twilight, he even saw much better than in broad daylight. Thus, after sunset, he once read the number of a house at a distance of one hundred and eighty paces, which, in daylight, he would not have been able to distinguish so far off. Towards the close of twilight, he once pointed out to his instructor a gnat that was hanging in a very distant spider’s web.

Rumors spread that Grand Duke of Baden was Kaspar's fatherAfter several months, it became apparent that Kaspar was not retarded.  In fact, he soon reached normal intelligence  His speech began to accelerate at a rapid pace.  Some thought he was not learning new words and phrases but rather, remembering words he had long forgotten (possibly around the age of three).  He learned to use scissors and mastered writing instruments (which was a quill at that time).  His demeanor changed from rough to more civilized.  His clumsiness faded away and turned into graceful abilities.  Some even claim his facial features changed to appear more refined.  It was rumored that he bore quite an amazing resemblance to a royal aristocrat, the Grand Duke of Baden.

As Kaspar’s speech abilities improved, he began to recant his life’s story.  Kaspar claimed that his home had been a small 7 foot by 4 foot area with a ceiling so low he could not stand upright.  There were no windows for him to peer out of (or if there were windows, they were tightly boarded up).  The floor was dirt and the only object in the room was a pile of hay that he slept upon.  He stated that he had no human contact of any kind.  When he awoke in the morning, bread and water would be sitting on the floor (a incident that he thought was quite natural).  He claimed that occasionally the water would taste strange (bitter) at which time he would fall into a deep sleep and awaken to find his hair, nails, and clothes had been changed.  Kaspar informed everyone that a man suddenly entered the room one day and taught him to say a few words, phrases like “don’t know” and “soldier”.  He was taught to write his name.  This same man led him on a horse to the gates of Nuremberg one morning.

Kaspar became a national celebrity, a status he very much enjoyed.  Most thought Kaspar was an angel. Some thought there was a mysterious evilness about the strange lad.  The town of Nuremberg took custody of Kaspar and provided for his well being using taxpayer’s money (which greatly disturbed some of the citizens).  A reward was offered to anyone that could provide information on Kaspar’s identity.  A search of the local area was initiated to discover the “prison” that Kaspar had been kept in.  Since Kaspar told of being led to Nuremberg on a horse over the course of a single day, they felt his home must have been nearby. Kaspar’s home was never found.

Kaspar Studied

in a painting from 1831 by Johann Friedrich Carl Kreul (1812 - 1833)Soon, George Friedrich Daumer, a scientist, became his appointed guardian.  Daumer used the occasion to conduct many tests on Kaspar (Daumer was the one to discover Kaspar’s uncanny abilities with magnets and metals).  It was well known that Kaspar greatly enjoyed the period of time he spent with George in the town of Nuremberg but soon, things would take a tragic turn for the worse…

Rumors began surfacing that, due to Kaspars stunning resemblance to the Grand Duke of Baden, he must be of Royal blood.  Some theorized that Kaspar must have been an heir to a royal thrown and was kept from his destiny for some unknown reason.  Facts to back up this claim included a series of strange incidents that occurred around the time of Kaspar’s birth. The royal family had mysteriously lost two of their children at or near birth.  Some wondered, what if a dead child had been substituted for the royal baby and Kaspar confined to a “box” to hinder his ability to reach his anointed destiny?

Anselm Ritter von Feuerback, a local attorney and judge who had much contact with Kaspar and possibly acted as a custodian at one time, built upon the rumors which quickly prompted the threats of lawsuits from the royal families.  People were convinced Feuerback’s allegations were true when he suffered a untimely death days after he publicly announced he had proof (in the form of official documents) that Kaspar was a descendent of the royal family.  The unspecified documents have never surfaced.

Meanwhile, Kaspar continued to live with George Daumer in Nuremberg.  On 10/17/1829, 17 months after he was discovered, Kaspar was found in the cellar of Daumer’s house with his shirt torn and a gaping head wound.  Kaspar indicated that he was attacked by a masked man bearing a club or knife.  The national celebrity had to be protected – two full-time policemen were assigned to guard over Kaspar and assure his safety.  Most thought the protection was justified but others were convinced that the strange Kaspar had conducted the attack himself, possibly to gain more public sympathy.

It was around this time that a wealthy nobleman named Lord Stanhope took an interest in Kaspar.  It should be dutifully noted that Stanhope probably had ties to the Grand Duke of Baden (Kaspar’s rumored father).  Kaspar and Stanhope seemed to hit if off pretty well and Stanhope took custody of Kaspar for some time.  But before long, Stanhope grew tired of Kaspar who he claimed and become selfish and extremely arrogant.

Stanhope took Kasper to one of his friends, a Dr. Meyer, who lived in a nearby village called Ansbach.  Meyer tutored Kaspar, who was still guarded by a policeman named Captain Hickell, much to Kaspar’s distaste.  It was also rumored that Kaspar had an extreme dislike for the town of Ansbach which was a far cry from the metropolis of Nuremburg.

The Mysterious Crime

imageOn 12/14/1833, less than 2 weeks before Christmas, Kaspar stumbled, bleeding profusely, into Dr. Meyers living room.  "man.. stabbed… knife… Hofgarten… gave purse… Go look quickly…"  Kaspar had been stabbed in the right side, a injury that punctured a lung and damaged his liver.  Kaspar recounted an incident where a messenger had summoned Kaspar to the Hofgarten park to meet a stranger with some welcomed news (without his personal guard?).  Kaspar described a tall, whiskered man wearing a black overcoat.  The man asked whether or not he was ‘Kaspar Hauser’ to which Kaspar replied with a nod.  The man stabbed Kaspar in the side while handing him a small silk purse.

Officials rushed to the scene and discovered the silk purse contained a note written in “mirror writing”, supposedly to hide the writer’s identity.  The note read:

Hauser will be able to tell you how I look, whence I came, and who I am. To spare him from that task I will tell you myself. I am from … on the Bavarian border… On the River… My name is M.L.O.

Kaspar’s personal guard, Captain Hickell, noted that there were only a single set of footprints in the snow at the scene of the crime.  He quickly surmised that Kaspar must have drummed up the incident himself.  If so, it proved to be a fatal mistake.  Kaspar died 3 days later at the age of 21.  His last words spoken were "I didn’t do it myself".

For some strange reason, Kaspar’s death was not investigated thoroughly.  The crime still remains a mystery.  Many thought that Kaspar, who was known to lie often, invoked this incident and his previous attack at Dr. Meyer’s house on his own accord.  It was noted that his first attack occurred after his failed biography and the second attack occurred when his popularity had waned.  Kaspar Hauser, who at one time was known as "The Child of Europe", left the earth in the seemingly same baffling way in which he was born…

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