The mystery of Kasper Hauser

On 26 May 1828, a teenage boy appeared in the streets of Nuremberg, Germany. He carried a letter with him. The anonymous author said that the boy was given into his custody as an infant on 7 October 1812 and that he instructed him in reading, writing and the Christian religion, but never let him “take a single step out of my house”. The letter stated that the boy would now like to be a cavalryman “as his father was” and invited the captain either to take him in or to hang him.

There was another short letter enclosed purporting to be from his mother to his prior caretaker. It stated that his name was Kaspar, that he was born on 30 April 1812 and that his father was dead. In fact this letter was found to have been written by the same hand as the other one.

He was taken to a police station, where he would write a name: Kaspar Hauser.

According to Kasper for as long as he could remember he had spent his life totally alone in a darkened cell about two metres long, one metre wide and one and a half high with only a straw bed to sleep on and two horses and a dog carved out of wood for toys.

He claimed that he found rye bread and water next to his bed each morning. Periodically the water would taste bitter and drinking it would cause him to sleep more heavily than usual. On such occasions, when he awakened, his straw was changed and his hair and nails were cut. Hauser claimed that the first human being with whom he ever had contact 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, Hauser said, taught him to write his name by leading his hand. After learning to stand and walk, he was brought to Nuremberg.

A drawing of Kasper Hauser. Was he a con-artist or abused child?

A drawing of Kasper Hauser. Was he a con-artist or abused child?

Hauser became huge news throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Who was this strange boy that had lived such a deprived life and could barely speak?

On 17 October 1829, Hauser did not come to the midday meal, but was found in the cellar of Daumer’s house bleeding from a cut wound on the forehead. He stated that while in the toilet, he was attacked and wounded by a hooded man who also threatened him with death if he tried to leave the city. No evidence of this attacker was found.

On 3 April 1830, a pistol shot was heard in Hauser’s room. His escort hurriedly entered the room and found him bleeding from a wound to the right side of his head. Hauser quickly revived and stated that he climbed on a chair to get some books, the chair fell and while trying to hold on to something he accidentally tore down the pistol hanging on the wall, causing the shot to go off. However, some historians believe that Hauser had actually been injured in a confrontation with the people that were taking care of him.This event lead to the local authorities moving Hauser to another family, who later claimed him to be constantly telling lies as well as being overly vain and arrogant.

At this time a British nobleman stepped in and gained custody of Kasper. He spent a lot of money trying to determine where Kasper had come from and who his family was. A few months later the nobleman shipped Kasper off to a schoolmaster to take care of him. The nobleman believed that Kasper was a liar who made up stories for the attention that it gave him.

Now living with the school teacher, Hauser constantly lied and made excuses for behaviour the teacher disliked. Others who had been funding Hauser’s lifestyle later came to believe they had been duped by a ‘good for nothing rogue’

In December of 1833 Hauser came home with a deep wound in his left breast. He said that he was lured to the Ansbach Court Garden and that a stranger stabbed him there.

Hauser died of his wound on 17 December 1833.

Given his previous behaviour, many believed that Hauser had stabbed himself to revive attention in his story and that he had mistakenly stabbed himself too deeply.

Hauser was buried in the Stadtfriedhof in Ansbach, where his headstone reads, in Latin, “Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious. 1833.” A monument to him was later erected in the Court Garden which reads Hic occultus occulto occisus est, meaning “Here a mysterious one was killed in a mysterious manner.”

To this day, no one knows the true story behind the mystery of Kasper Hauser. Was he simply a fraudster trying to milk people of their money? Or was he a badly mistreated boy who suffered at the hands of an unknown captor?

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