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Kaspar Hauser

Kaspar Hauser (April 13?, 1812 - December 17, 1833) was a mysterious foundling in 19th century Germany with alleged ties to the royal house of Baden.

In May 26, 1828 a young boy appeared in the streets of Nürnberg (Nuremberg), Germany. He was wearing peasant clothing and could barely talk. His only documentation was a letter to the captain of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment where the writer asked the captain to either take him or hang him.

Shoemaker Weissman took the boy to the house of captain Wessenig where he could only repeat, "I want to be a rider like my father." Further demands resulted only in tears. He was taken to a police station where he would only write a name: Kaspar Hauser. A letter with him claimed that he was born in April 13, 1812.

The next two months he spent in Vestner Gate Tower[?] in the care of a jailor, Andreas Hiltel. Various curious people visited him, to his apparent delight. He could only smile, walk in toddler’s step and could barely use his fingers. He could only eat water and bread. He was maybe sixteen years old but at the mental development of a 6-year-old. However, mayor Binder claimed that he had an excellent memory, which, to him, suggested a noble birth.

He still suffered from periods of catalepsy and convulsions. Eventually he was able to communicate enough so he could tell his story.

Hauser said that most of his life – maybe 10-12 years - he had lived in a dark 2x1x1.5 meter cell with only a straw bed for his company. He ate only water and bread. Sometimes he was drugged so that somebody could change his clothes and cut his hair. The first human being he had seen was a man who had taught him the phrase, "I want to be a rider like my father," and to write Kaspar Hauser. Eventually the man took him outside where he fainted. The next thing he remembered was the day he had walked in Nuremberg.

This strange boy inspired some Europe-wide interest and he received even more visitors. Some took him to be a con artist who just pretended to be dumb. Others begin to connect him with the family of the Grand Duke of Baden, due to some facial resemblance. In this case, his parents would have been Karl Friedrich, Duke of Baden[?] and Stephanie Beauharnais[?], Napoleon’s stepdaughter. Because Karl Friedrich had no progeny, his successor was the Countess von Hochberg who was the alleged culprit.

Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, president of the Bavarian court of appeals, began to investigate the case. Hauser was given to the care of a schoolteacher, Friedrich Daumer who taught him to speak, read and write. He also subjected him to homeopathic treatments and encouraged him to write a diary. He appeared to flourish in this environment.

October 17 1829, a hooded man tried to kill Hauser with an axe but managed only to wound his forehead. Alarmed officials called for police escort and transferred him to the care of Johann Biberbach and six months later to Baron von Tucher. Tucher found him employment as a copier in the local law office. The apparent assassination also fuelled rumors about his connection to the house of Baden.

British lord Philip Henry Stanhope took an interest in him and apparently tried to win his trust by gifts. He also tried to gain custody of him. He transferred Hauser to Ansbach to the care of Johan Georg Meyer. He also hurriedly declared that Hauser was a Hungarian and not of noble blood. Various historians suspect him of ulterior motives and connections to the house of Baden.

In December 14, 1833, Hauser was lured to Ansbacher Hofgarten[?] with the promise that he would hear something about his ancestry. Instead, a stranger stabbed him fatally to the chest. He struggled back home but died three days later. For some reason, Stanhope and Meyer tried to claim that the cause of death was suicide.

Legacy

Legend and analyses of the Kaspar Hauser case continue to this day. In addition to theories of royal blood and outright imposture, medical analyses include amnesia caused by hypnosis or that Kaspar Hauser had been suffering from [a] kind of epilepsy, autism or psychogenic dwarfism[?] (See Feral children). Conspiracy theories concentrate on the House of Baden and Lord Stanhope.

In November 1996 the German magazine Der Spiegel reported an attempt to genetically match a blood sample from Kaspar Hauser’s pants. The analysis was made in laboratories of Forensic Science Service[?] in Birmingham and in the LMU Institute of Legal Medicine[?] in University of Munich[?]. Comparisons with the members of the royal family were inconclusive and mainly negative.

In 1974 the German filmmaker Werner Herzog made Hauser's story into a film, Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (Every Man for Himself and God Against All). In English the film was either known by that translation, or by the title, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

The case of Kaspar Hauser has also inspired other artists like playwrights Paul Verlaine and Peter Handke and musicians like Suzanne Vega. Alike many other mysterious figures, groups like antroposophists[?] have seen mystic qualities in him.

Fiction

  • Jakob Wassermann - Caspar Hauser or the Inertia of the Heart

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