- An Unsolved Mystery
2 | Part 3
In May 1831, Stanhope returned and began to visit Kaspar
regularly. He showered
him with gifts
and compliments about his supposed royal parents, and publicly made extravagant promises
about taking him to England, to his home at Chevening Castle, Kent.
had the effect of cutting Kaspar off from Tucher and other people who really wanted to help him. Soon Stanhope and
Hauser became close friends, and the English Lord
provided money to the city for the upkeep of the boy.
He also applied to the city authorities to become the boy's
guardian, and the request
was granted. One peculiarity of Stanhope's intense interest in Hauser is that
he never once mentions him in his letters
home to his family of this period,
of which there are many.
But Stanhope soon became bored of Kaspar, and on 10 December 1831, obtained permission to leave
him in the town of Ansbach,
about fifty miles away from Nuremberg, to be tutored by his friend Dr Meyer. Kaspar was unhappy and lonely in Ansbach, Meyer was mean-minded and
distrustful, a strict schoolmaster who shouted at him for not concentrating on his
lessons, and told him constantly that he was telling lies.
Meyer was determined
to make Kaspar into a devout Christian and threatened him with damnation if he
didn't follow his religion. After a while Kaspar relented and was
confirmed in the Christian faith by Pastor Fuhrmann.
Stanhope left Ansbach on 9 January 1832, promising to adopt Kaspar and bring
him over to England. But they never saw each other again.
Stanhope actually went to see Stephanie, the Grand Duchess of Baden, at
when she read it and was desperate to meet Hauser. Stanhope said he would
arrange for them to meet, but he never did. While staying with Meyer Hauser began working as a copying
clerk in a law office. On December 9 Meyer and Hauser had a big argument, Meyer
saying that Kaspar had been behaving oddly the whole of December. On 11
December Kaspar said he had to meet a friend to watch the boring of the
artesian well in the park, the gardens of the disused palace.
On the afternoon of 14 December, Kaspar left his
work at noon, and after lunch went to his spiritual guide Pastor Fuhrmann. He
told Fuhrmann that he was meeting a young lady friend, but instead went to the
Hauser later said he was tricked into going alone to the deserted gardens with the promise of information about his mother. He waited by the artesian well, but no one
came, so he went across to a monument in
the park, where a man was waiting for him. They walked together in the
freezing cold for a while, then the man made as if to give Hauser a document and
suddenly stabbed him in the side, puncturing his lung and piercing his liver, and then ran off.
Kaspar managed to stagger into the house saying 'man . . . stabbed . . . knife . . .
Hofgarten . . . gave purse . . . Go look quickly . . .' But Meyer was not
convinced of the seriousness of the wound and did not call a
doctor immediately. Later the police searched the park but couldn't find the weapon, but did find a black wallet or purse.
Inside the wallet there was a note written in mirror writing. It
'Hauser will be able to tell you how
I look, where I came from and who I am. To spare him from this task I
you myself. I am from . . . on the Bavarian border . . . My name is MLO.'
Police questioned Hauser, wondering why, when there had been a previous attempt on his
life, he had gone to the gardens alone. Kaspar couldn't identify his attacker, all he could tell them was that a workman had brought
him a message which told him to go to the park as someone had news about his
When he got there, a tall, bearded man
in a long, black cloak had asked him if his name was Kaspar Hauser. When Kaspar
nodded, the stranger handed him the wallet or purse and thrust a knife into his ribs
at the same time. As Kaspar lay dying he said, enigmatically: 'Many cats are the death of
the mouse,' and finally: 'Tired, very tired, still have to
take a long trip.'
He died on 17 December, at 21 years of age. A huge reward was offered by the king of
information leading to the arrest of his killer, but nothing was ever found out.
Meyer had always been suspicious about Kaspar and it seems to have been him
who started the
rumours about Hauser's death being suicide. Soon others began to suspect Kaspar's story. Only a single set
of footprints was found in the snow at the park, and they were Kaspar's;
people suggested that Hauser may have stabbed himself in a despairing cry for
attention. Stanhope later said, in his book written
three years after Hauser's death, that it was accidental suicide, and that Kaspar
was an imposter who got trapped in the
role and was forced to keep it up for years, and made comparisons with the English impostor princess,
Caraboo. But the physician who performed the autopsy, Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm
Heidenreich, thought that due to the size of the wound, Kaspar could not have done it himself.
Strangely, Stanhope had actually written a last letter to Hauser, from
Munich on 16th and 17th December, and postmarked on the 25th, when he must
known of what had happened, and probably also knew that Kaspar was dead.
Local newspapers carried the story from the day of Kaspar's death on the 17th,
and the Munich newspapers from the 20th onwards. Was he trying
to show, if questioned later, that he wasn't involved in the murder?
On 26th December Stanhope visited the prince of
Öttingen-Wallerstein, Bavarian minister of the interior, and tried, unsuccessfully
in the end, to convince him Hauser was a fake. He also went to the trouble of
meeting with all of the people in Nuremberg who had seen Kaspar in his first few
days in the city, including
Daumer, and getting them to change their stories to say that Hauser had invented the whole
thing. He also visited other
public figures throughout Europe saying Hauser was a fake who'd committed
Kaspar was buried in a quiet country churchyard where his gravestone read:
'Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death
A Prince of Baden?
But who was the mysterious Kaspar Hauser? Was he
the rightful prince of
It was Feuerbach who was officially in charge of the investigation into
the first murder attempt. He was initially skeptical of royal claims, but later
changed his mind and argued that Hauser was indeed the legitimate heir
of the Duke of Baden, son of Stéphanie de Beauharnais,
adopted daughter of Napoleon. He later presented the
results of his investigations in a private letter to the queen mother of Bavaria,
Karoline. This was published after his death by his son, but was still
subject to a restraining order by the Baden family. Karoline herself stated that
it was the 'unanimous opinion of many people (that) Hauser was one of the
sons of my poor brother.' King Ludwig of Bavaria notes in his diary that he
believed Hauser to be the 'rightful Grand Duke of Baden.' Indeed Mayor Binder
had received a letter to this effect
as early as July 1828.
A May 1832 letter from Feuerbach to Stanhope mentions proof
about Hauser's royalty in the form of an 8 page report. It was unfortunate that the
letter was to Stanhope, the one person Feuerbach trusted that he probably shouldn't have. Feuerbach's book about Hauser caused a sensation when it was published in
1832, and newspapers all over
Europe published accounts of Kaspar Hauser's life and possible origins.
However, on May 29,1832, on
his way to meet a man called Klüber in Frankfurt to discuss the matter of Hauser's royal
connections, Feuerbach died suddenly, aged fifty-eight. Before dying
he said he thought he'd been poisoned on the orders of someone in the royal house of Baden,
because of his discoveries about Hauser's origins. His son Ludwig was sure of
this. There was even supposed to be a note that he wrote saying that he had been
'given something.' It was believed by Feuerbach's grandson that at least three
members of the Feuerbach family were poisoned because of links to Kasper Hauser.
The 'prince theory', in essence, is that the son Stéphanie de Beauharnais, wife of Grand
Duke Karl of Baden, gave birth to in 1812 was Hauser, and it is he who
would have inherited the throne. She gave birth to another son in 1816, who also
died. But she had three daughters that all lived. The
of Hochberg, second wife of Karl's father, the founder of the dynasty, would have
been the one to benefit from these deaths. Karl himself died in 1818, under mysterious
circumstances believing he and his sons had been poisoned. Now nothing stood in
the way of the son of the Duchess of Hochberg, who was supposed to have smuggled a dying child of a peasant woman into the palace and
managed to exchange it with the baby prince - supposedly Kaspar Hauser. The countess wanted her own son, Leopold, to come to the throne, which he did in
1830. Hauser was then given to a Major
Hennenhofer, who put the child in the care of an ex soldier. It was said by some
that when questioned about this Hennenhofer confessed.
Apparently Kaspar was kept hidden away in a dungeon for twelve years.
He was supposed to be killed, but the plan went wrong, and he was kept alive in prison by
whoever had been ordered to murder him, possibly in order to bribe the royals
later on, or perhaps out of sheer compassion. When the secret couldn't be kept
hidden any longer, Hauser had to be brought disguised as a beggar to Nuremberg.
Perhaps they hoped he'd be put in a lunatic asylum or sent away as a
It's possible that the place where Kaspar Hauser was imprisoned
was the Schloss Pilsach, a large house close to Nuremberg, where there was a
secret dungeon, and a small white wooden horse like the
ones Hauser played with was discovered during renovations. Admittedly, much evidence,
the frequent attempts on Kaspar's life, the participation of Stanhope, and
the Baden family's attempts to keep the story quiet, seem to indicate some truth
to this prince story. Unfortunately when Hennenhofer died,
his private papers
were all destroyed, so that avenue, as with many in the story of Kaspar
Hauser, is closed.
If the prince theory all sounds a bit too
much like a fairytale, and if Hauser's death was not the accidental suicide of a desperate
impostor, perhaps he could have been murdered, not for being a lost prince
of the house of Baden, but because people
thought he was - and he thus became a dangerous focus for discontent that
needed to be removed.
In 1996, DNA analysis of bloodstains found on Hauser's
clothes was undertaken at the laboratories of Forensic Science Service in
Birmingham, England, and in the LMU Institute of Legal Medicine in University of
Munich. The attempt to match Hauser's DNA to living descendents of the Baden
family proved beyond reasonable doubt that there was no link between the
two. Apparently, Kaspar Hauser was not the Prince of Baden. However, in 2002 it
was discovered that the original samples used for the testing had not been from
Hauser's clothes at all. New samples were obtained from the boy's hat, trousers
and hair curls, in the Feuerbach collection of Hauser artifacts, and this time
DNA tests were positive. Results showed a 95% match to the DNA of Astrid
von Medinger, a descendant of Stephanie de Beauharnais. In this dramatic
reassessment of the case the DNA evidence would seem to show that Kaspar Hauser
was indeed a descendant of the House of Baden.
According to Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (writing in 1996), there have been more than 3000
books and at least 14,000 articles written on the strange case of Kaspar Hauser. Perhaps in the
light of this new DNA evidence, we are a step closer to solving the enigma and
discovering the real identity of the mysterious Kaspar Hauser.
Sources and Further Reading
Bondeson, J. The Great Pretenders: The
True Stories Behind Famous Historical Mysteries. W W Norton & Co Ltd.
Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff Lost Prince: The Unsolved
Mystery of Kaspar Hauser. The Free Press, New York, 1996.
Newton, M. Savage Girls and Wild
Boys. London, Faber and Faber, 2002.
© Copyright 2002
by Brian Haughton. All Rights Reserved.