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The curious case of Kaspar Hauser: A pathological swindler or the hereditary prince of Baden?

Tijana Radeska
Kaspar Hauser
Kaspar Hauser

One quiet day in 1828, the citizens of Nuremberg in Germany got a strange visitor in their town. It was a young boy, barely walking and mumbling nonsense. He was holding a letter addressed to the Honorable Captain of the Light Cavalry in Nuremberg.

Contemporary painting of Hauser

Contemporary painting of Hauser

The letter was by an anonymous author and stated that the boy is skilled in reading and writing, but has never been outside of the house. Further letter said that the boy would like to become a cavalryman “as his father was” and invited the captain either to take him in or to hang him.

Another letter, possibly written by the boy’s mother and addressed to his prior caretaker stated that the boy’s name was Kaspar and that he was born in 1812. Later it was revealed that both letters had the same handwriting.

At first, he was given food but refused any other meal than bread and water. He didn’t talk but constantly repeated  “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was”, “Horse! Horse!”, and “Don’t know” to all questions asked by people.

His first caretaker in Nuremberg was a jailer named Andreas Hiltel. Kaspar lived with Hiltel’s family and befriended with his children. He seemed to be a very quick learner and enriched his vocabulary quite fast.

The jailer reported that Kaspar had limited expressions on his face and couldn’t see the difference between man and woman despite their clothing. There are also reports that he had unsteady feet and couldn’t walk properly, but he had no problems climbing the stairs to his room. He seemed content at the time.

The prison warden Hiltel and his wife

The prison warden Hiltel and his wife

Kaspar had many conversations with Mayor Binder who tried to dig into Kaspar’s past.

But the boy seemed to tell a different story each time. He was talking about a man who kept him in a cell, gave him only bread and water, and made him repeat the sentence “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was.”

In accordance to the story, it was first assumed that Kaspar was a feral child.

As Kaspar’s case gained international attention, the president of the Bavarian court of appeals, Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, personally began an investigation into it.

Further, Kaspar was given to the schoolmaster and speculative philosopher, Friedrich Daumer, who acted as Kaspar’s teacher and who also discovered Kaspar’s talent for drawing.

Pencil drawing by Kaspar Hauser, 1829

Pencil drawing by Kaspar Hauser, 1829

Flower, painted by Caspar

Flower, painted by Caspar

One day in 1829 Kaspar did not show up for lunch at Daumer’s home and was found bleeding from a cut wound on the forehead in the cellar of the house.

He claimed that he was attacked by a hooded man who warned him saying “You still have to die ere you leave the city of Nuremberg.” He also claimed that he recognized the voice of the attacker to be the same as the one of the man who brought him to the city.

The first teacher of Caspar - Georg Friedrich Daumer

The first teacher of Caspar – Georg Friedrich Daumer

When the police investigated the house they assumed that Kaspar was hurt in his room with a razor blade and instead of asking for help, he went to the cellar.

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