The Mysterious and Tragic Life of Kaspar Hauser

He came from nowhere and became one of the greatest mysteries of nineteenth century Germany. On May 26th, 1828 he appeared in the streets of Nuremberg. For the next 5 years he was a source of speculations and a cause of many troubles. This is the tragic story of Kaspar Hauser.

Two Strange Letters

He appeared in the streets of the German city as a teenager. He would not say who he was, but he carried a letter with him. This letter was addressed to the captain of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment, Captain von Wessenig. The letter had been sent “From the Bavarian border / The unnamed place / 1828”.

The author of this letter stayed anonymous, but it said that the boy was given into the writer’s custody as an infant on October 7, 1812 and that he taught him how to read, write, and about the Christian religion. Another part of the letter was shocking because the person who took care of the boy wrote that he was never allowed to enter his guardian’s house. The writer also recommended that the boy should become a cavalryman as his father was. Captain von Wessenig was obliged to decide what to do with the boy, it was written that he could choose to take him in or hang him.

What is more surprising, was that there was another short letter with the boy (which appeared to have been written by his mother or a prior caretaker.) This letter explained that the name of the boy was Kaspar, that he was born on April 30, 1812 and that his father, a cavalryman of the 6th regiment, was dead. The analysis of both letters proved that they were written by the same hand… It is also possible that “Kaspar” wrote both of them.

Kaspar’s Life with the Jailer

Kaspar-Hauser

Kaspar Hauser by Friedrich Carl Kreul. ( Public Domain )

Kaspar was approached by a shoemaker named Weickmann, who took the boy to the house of Captain von Wessenig. It was later said that Kaspar was familiar with money, could say some prayers and read a little, but he answered few questions and his vocabulary appeared to be rather limited. Kaspar seemed obsessed with becoming a cavalryman.

He spent two months in Luginsland Tower in Nuremberg Castle in the care of a jailer named Andreas Hiltel. During that time, he was in good physical condition and could walk well. He was approximately 16 years old and appeared to have an excellent memory and learned quickly. But there was something that surprised everybody – he refused all food except bread and water.

painting-of-Kaspar-Hauser

Contemporary painting of Kaspar Hauser. ( Public Domain )

Searching for the Truth about Kaspar’s Roots

The first idea about the Kaspar’s origins, which comes from 1829, said that he was a prince of Baden who was born September 29, 1812.  According to history this boy officially died on October 16, 1812 – but some people believed that he had been stolen as an infant in the interests of a junior branch of the Baden House.

If this was true, Kaspar’s parents would have been Charles, Grand Duke of Baden and Stéphanie de Beauharnais, cousin by marriage and adopted daughter of Napoleon. Charles had no surviving male progeny. In this situation, his successor was his uncle Louis, who was later succeeded by his half-brother, Leopold.

Grand-Duchess-Stephanie

The Grand Duchess Stéphanie. ( Public Domain )

In 1876, Otto Mittelstädt presented the evidence against this theory based on official documents. He explained details about the prince’s emergency baptism, autopsy, and burial. Mittelstädt asserted that the Grand Duchess was too ill to be permitted to see her dead baby in 1812. The people who apparently saw the baby were his father, grandmother, and aunt, with the ten Court physicians and the nurses. In 1951 the letters of the Grand Duke’s mother were published. These gave more details about the child’s birth, illness, and death.