Kaspar Hauser

The Story of Kaspar Hauser
(April 30, 1812 – December 17, 1833)

Ansbach, Bavaria, Germany

In the 19th century, around the streets of Nuremberg, Germany there appeared a small teenage boy with no family, little ability for speech, and no caretaker. From what could be determined was this poor child had grown up in the isolation of a darkened cell, and that he could quite possibly be a lost prince child of the House of Baden. It was on May 26 of 1828 that this foundling was discovered on the streets with a letter addressed to the 60th cavalry regiment 4th squadron Captain von Wessenig dated “From the Bavarian border / The place is not named [sic] / 1828”. The letter told that the boy was given into custody on the 7th October 1812 as an infant with instructions to teach him the Christian religion, reading, and writing; but with explicit orders for him never to “take a single step out of my house”. The letter stated the boy was to become a cavalryman – to enlist him or to hang him. A second letter, from the purported caretaking mother (but in the same handwriting as the first) stating the boy was born on April 30, 1812, and that his father, a cavalryman of the 6th regiment, was dead. The shoemaker who found him took him to the Captain’s house where the boy was instructed only to repeat “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was,” and “Horse! Horse!” and that he was to show tears and use the obstinate proclamation of “Don’t know” to any other questions asked of him. He was brought forth to the police where he wrote his name as “Kaspar Hauser”. He was familiar with money, prayer, very minute reading, but had very poor vocabulary. He then spent most of the next two months in captivity in the Vestner Gate Tower in care of the jailor Andreas Hiltel. He appeared healthy and in good shape, approximately 16, but intellectually impaired, and was often visited by many curious citizens of the town. He refused all food except bread and water. Originally it was assumed he had been raised like a half-wild human in the forests, but after conversations with the boy, it was learned he spent his entire life in a darkened cell about two meters long, one meter wide, and 1 1/2 high, with only a straw bed and a horse carved out of wood for a toy. He was fed only bread and water, and the water often tasted bitter as if it had been drugged to make him sleep more. During those times he found his bed made, his hair and nails cut. His first exposure to another human was a mysterious man who visited before his release cloaking the identity of his face. It was this man who taught him to write his name. He was then brought to Nuremberg and told what to say.

Eventually Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, president of the Bavarian court of appeals, began to investigate the case. Hauser was placed under the care of Friedrich Daumer, a schoolmaster and speculative philosopher, who educated him to the level he needed to co-exist in society. It was through this schooling that it was discovered he had a knack for drawing and was quite good at it. He was also taught homeopathic treatments and magnetic experiments. On October 17, 1829 – Hauser missed midday meal found in the cellar of Daumer’s house with a bleeding head wound. He claimed to have been attacked and wounded by a hooded man while on the privy and was told “You still have to die ere you leave the city of Nuremberg.” Hauser believed the man was the man who brought him to Nuremberg. Evidence of the scene agreed with his story. He had a police escort take him to the care of Johann Biberbach, one of the municipal authorities. The alleged attack fueled the rumors about his possible descent from the House of Baden. On April 3, 1830, a pistol shot went off in Hauser’s room at the Biberbachs’ house. The escorts hurried to his room to find him bleeding from a wound to the right side of his head. After he revived, he claimed to had fallen off of a chair and accidentally torn down the pistol hanging on the wall, causing the shot to go off. Because of this incident, he was transferred during the May of 1830 to the house of Baron von Tucher as a caretaker. The Baron started to claim that Hauser was full of lies, deceipt, and vanity. It was after this that Lord Stanhope, a British nobleman took an interest in Hauser, taking over custody in 1831. He focused on Hauser’s origins and travelled to Hungary because Hauser knew some Hungarian words. He gave up and transferred him to Ansbach during December of 1832 in the care of a schoolmaster named Johann Georg Meyer, and in January 1832 Stanhope left Hauser for good even though he continued to pay for his living expenses. When Hauser died, Stanhope published a book to present all the evidence against Hauser and his origins and that everyone had been deceived. Meyer also had big issues with Hauser’s apparent excuses and lies, so conflicts began early. Hauser began work as a copier in a local law office with the belief that Stanhope was going to take him to England. But as that became a untruth and when his patron Anselm von Feuerbach died in May 1833, Hauser changed even more. Before Feuerbach’s death, he wrote a note stating “Caspar Hauser is a smart scheming codger, a rogue, a good-for-nothing that ought to be killed.” It was on December 9, 1833 that Hauser had a serious argument with Meyer over Stanhope’s Christmas visit. Five days later, December 14, 1833 – Hauser came home with a deep wound in his left breast. He claimed a stranger lured him to the Ansbach Court Garden and stabbed him there while giving him a bag. The police investigated the court and found a small purse containing a penciled note in “Spiegelschrift” (mirror writing). The message read, in German: “Hauser will be able to tell you quite precisely how I look and from where I am. To save Hauser the effort, I want to tell you myself from where I come _ _ . I come from from _ _ _ the Bavarian border _ _ On the river _ _ _ _ _ I even want to tell you the name: M. L. Ö.” The wound in Hauser’s chest proved to be fatal, and he died on December 17, 1833. Rumors varied from murder to Hauser stabbing himself and the note was believed to be written by Hauser. Much evidence pointed to the note’s handwriting and folding style to be Hauser’s. Forensics stated that the wound could have been self-inflicted. He was buried in a country graveyard with the inscription: “Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious.” Later was constructed a monument in the court garden to him reading “Hic occultus occulto occisus est:” “Here a mysterious one was killed in a mysterious manner.”

The legend of him being a prince occured as early as 1829 that “Kaspar Hauser was the hereditary prince of Baden who was born on September 29, 1812, and who, according to known history, had died on October 16, 1812. It was alleged that this prince had been switched with a dying baby, and had subsequently surfaced 16 years later as Kaspar Hauser in Nuremberg. In this case, his parents would have been Karl, Grand Duke of Baden and Stéphanie de Beauharnais, cousin-by-marriage of Napoleon I of France. Because Karl had no male progeny, his successor was his uncle Ludwig who was later succeeded by his half-brother Leopold. Leopold’s mother, the Countess von Hochberg, was the alleged culprit of the boy’s captivity. The Countess was supposed to have disguised herself as a ghost, the “White Lady”, when kidnapping the prince. Her motive evidently would have been to secure the succession for her sons. After Hauser’s death, it was claimed further that he had been murdered, again because of his being the prince.” [wikipedia] This was later determined to be a fairytale. DNA Analysis on his blood also provided this was false that he was not related to the Baden line. Later hair analysis put some doubt the other way as some similarities to Astrid von Medinger, a descendant in the female line of the hereditary prince’s mother, Stéphanie de Beauharnais could be linked. The sequences were not identical but the deviation observed is not large enough to exclude a relationship, as the difference could be caused by a mutation.

The story of Hauser intrigued writers, poets, and filmmakers. The French poet Paul Verlaine became inspired to write the poem called the “Gaspard Hauser chante” that was published in his book Sagesse (1880). Herman Melville’s unfinished novella Billy Budd (begun in 1886), as well as in his novels, both Pierre; or, The Ambiguities and The Confidence-Man mentioned Hauser. Jakob Wassermann’s 1908 novel Caspar Hauser oder Die Trägheit des Herzens (“Caspar Hauser or the Inertia of the Heart”) brought the most notable attention to Hauser’s story. He then appeared in several works of science fiction or fantasy literature: Eric Frank Russell, in his 1943 novel Sinister Barrier, described Kaspar Hauser as a person who originated from a non-human laboratory. Fredric Brown, in his 1949 short story Come and Go Mad, offered another theory about “Casper Hauser”. Robert A. Heinlein, in his 1963 Glory Road, referred to “Kaspar Hausers” as an analogue to persons popping in and out of metaphysical planes. Harlan Ellison, in his 1967 story The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World, suggested that Hauser had been plucked out of time and later murdered by a female sadist named Juliette. In 1963, Marianne Hauser gave a fictional account of Kaspar Hauser’s life in her novel Prince Ishmael. In 1967, the Austrian playwright Peter Handke published his play Kaspar. Paul Auster, in his 1985 novel City of Glass, compares the situation of one of its character to Kaspar Hauser. Kaspar Hauser is also referred to in Katharine Neville’s novel The Magic Circle (1998), in Steven Millhauser’s short story Kaspar Hauser Speaks (published in The Knife Thrower and Other Stories, 1998) and Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel Middlesex (2002) and Lucie Brock-Broido’s poem Self-Portrait as Kaspar Hauser (published in Trouble in Mind, 2004). Canadian artist Diane Obomsawin tells the story of Kaspar Hauser in her 2007 graphic novel Kaspar. In 1974, the German filmmaker Werner Herzog made Hauser’s story into the 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. In 1993, the German-Austrian co-production Kaspar Hauser – Verbrechen am Seelenleben eines Menschen (“Kaspar Hauser – Crimes against a man’s soul”), directed by Peter Sehr, espoused the “Prince of Baden” theory. In the 1966 film Fahrenheit 451, the protagonist Guy Montag discreetly puts a copy of a book entitled Gaspard Hauser into his bag before the rest of the books in that residence are torched. In the American TV series Smallville, in the first season (2001) Clark Kent finds a boy who does not to remember who he was or where he came from, except his name. Chloe refers to the boy as a “modern day Kasper Hauser”. In the Japanese horror movie Marebito (2004), the protagonist Masuoka refers to a girl he found chained up underground as his “little Kaspar Hauser”. In February and March 2009, actor Preston Martin starred as Kaspar Hauser in “Kaspar Hauser: a foundling’s opera” at The Flea Theater in New York. The show was written by Elizabeth Swados, composer and director of the cult Broadway hit, Runaways. The song Gaspard by the French singer-songwriter Georges Moustaki, based on Paul Verlaine’s poem mentioned him. The song Kaspar Hauser by the German band Dschinghis Khan did as well. He was featured in the song Kaspar by the Colonian-dialect rock band BAP; the songs Kaspar by the German singer-songwriter Reinhard Mey; Wooden Horse (Caspar Hauser’s Song) by Suzanne Vega (included on her 1987 album, Solitude Standing); Subterranea, a concept album by British progressive rock band IQ (1997), loosely inspired by Kaspar Hauser’s story; Kaspar Hauser, an opera by American composer Elizabeth Swados (2007); “Kaspar Hauser,” an alternative rock band based in Amherst, Massachusetts in the early 1980s; was also sang out by the American experimental pop outfit Moth!Fight!; song Kaspar Hauser by the defunct Detroit band Trial; and The experimental musician “Kaspar Hauser” from Newcastle-upon Tyne, U.K. [ all books, songs, films, and media references stated by Wikipedia ]

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