Hauser, Kaspar (ca. 1812–1833)
Mysterious teenage boy who appeared in the streets of Nuremberg,
Germany, on May 26, 1828. He could give no clear
account of how he came there or where he was from, and some
months later claimed that he had been imprisoned in a small,
dark room all his life and fed on bread and water. At the time
of his appearance in Nuremberg he appeared to be unstable on
his legs and largely incoherent. The boy had a letter in his possession,
ostensibly from a poor laborer, which stated that the
writer first took charge of the boy as an infant in 1812 and had
never let him ‘‘take a single step out of my house . . . I have already
taught him to read and write, and he writes my handwriting
exactly as I do.’’ There was also a note purporting to come
from Hauser’s mother, stating that the boy was born on April
30, 1812, that his name was Kaspar, and his father, now dead,
had been a cavalry officer. Both letters appeared to be fakes.
A citizen took Hauser to the house of a local cavalry captain,
where the boy is supposed to have said, ‘‘I want to be a horseman,
like my father,’’ but speaking in a parrot fashion. His vocabulary
was otherwise limited to phrases like ‘‘I don’t know.’’
He was at first believed to be an imbecile.
Hauser was adopted by the town of Nuremberg and educated
by a schoolmaster named Daumer, at whose house he lived.
The boy’s education progressed rapidly, and he soon wrote his
own account of his strange life. He claimed that until age 16 he
was kept in a prison, perhaps six or seven feet long, four feet
broad, and five feet high. There were two small windows, with
closed black wooden shutters. He lay on straw, lived on bread
and water, and played with toy horses, confined in darkness.
He never saw his captor, but ‘‘the man’’ taught him letters and
about nine words, after many years taught him to stand and
walk, and finally released him.
Hauser’s case was studied by Paul John Anselm von Feuerbach,
a legal reformer, who published a passionate and not
wholly accurate work about Hauser. Both Feuerbach and
Daumer claimed that Hauser was an excellent example of a mediumistic
subject, sensitive to animal magnetism and able to see
in the dark.
Romantic rumors circulated about Hauser, including one
claiming that he was really the crown prince of Baden, a legitimate
son of the grand duke Charles, and that he had been kidnaped
in 1812 by servants of the countess of Hochberg (morganatic
wife of the grand duke) to secure succession by her own
offspring.
In 1831, the British Earl Stanhope visited Nuremberg and
became interested in Hauser, believing him to be the victim of
criminals. He undertook to sponsor the lad’s higher education,
and in the following year Hauser was sent to Anspach in the
charge of a Dr. Meyer, who became his tutor. Hauser eventually
became a clerk in the office of Feuerbach, who was then president
of the court of appeal. Feuerbach died in May 1833, and
rumors circulated that he had been poisoned by mysterious enemies.
(Back in 1829, when in the care of Daumer, Hauser had
claimed to be the victim of a mysterious assassin who had
wounded him on the forehead.)
Hauser became increasingly dissatisfied with his clerical
post, believing himself destined for higher things. Like Meyer,
he had hopes that Lord Stanhope would take him to England
and adopt him into high society. Meanwhile Meyer became increasingly
disillusioned with Hauser, finding him incurably untruthful.
He had strong misgivings about Stanhope’s imminent
visit to Anspach.
On December 14, 1833, Hauser suddenly rushed into
Meyer’s room, clutching his side, and led Meyer to a point
about five hundred yards from the house. Hauser was unable
to answer questions, but on returning to the house gasped out,
‘‘Went court garden . . . man . . . had a knife . . . gave a bag . . .
struck . . . I ran as I could . . . bag must lie there.’’ It was found
that he had a narrow wound under the center of his left breast,
caused by a sharp, double-edged weapon. He claimed that on
the morning of the fourteenth, a man brought him a message
from the court gardener, asking him to look at some clay from
a newly bored well. When he went there, another man came forward,
gave him a bag, stabbed him and fled. There was snow
in the vicinity of the stabbing, but no footprints beyond a single
track, perhaps Hauser’s own. The bag contained a note in mirror
writing containing vague phrases about coming from the
Bavarian frontier. Hauser died within three or four days, his
heart having been injured.
Rumors multiplied—that Hauser was once more the victim
of a sinister plot connected with the prince of Baden, that Lord
Stanhope himself was the ringleader and Meyer was an accomplice.
The Countess Albersdorft saw visions and published an
accusation. Stanhope himself believed that Hauser might have
injured himself deliberately to attract attention and perpetuate
romantic legends, and that the weapon may have penetrated
farther than intended. Hauser undoubtedly had a neurotic and
hysterical temperament, and mysterious attacks seemed to
occur after quarrels with his guardians.
Sources
Lang, Andrew. Historical Mysteries. London Smith Elder,
1904.
Sampath, Ursula. Kaspar Hauser A Modern Metaphor. Columbia,
S.C. Camden House, 1991.
Singh, Joseph Amrito Lal. Wolf-children and Feral Man. Hamden,
Conn. Archon Books, 1965.
Stanhope, Earl. Tracts Relative to Caspar Hauser. London
James S. Hodson, 1836.