During a major holiday on May 26, 1828, a strange teenage boy, Kaspar Hauser stumbled through the empty streets up to the gates of Nuremberg. He was a curly-haired boy, with a strong build, pallid complexion, and walked as if he was a drunkard. George Weickmann, a local shoemaker who lived in Unschlitt Square, approached the boy to find out who he was, but the boy only said, ‘I would like to be a rider the way my father was’, and relinquished a sealed letter addressed ‘To the Honorable Captain of the Cavalry of the Fourth Squadron, of the Sixth Regiment of the Light Cavalry in Nuremberg.’ The shoemaker brought the boy to the Captain, who opened the letter. It read that this boy had been left with a poor laborer who had kept him locked in a cell all his life, but the boy was now ready to serve in the king’s army.
The captain attempted to talk and ask questions to the boy, but the boy’s intellect was very limited, as ‘don’t know’, ‘horse’, and ‘take me home’, were the only responses he got back. However, upon being given a pen, ink, and paper, he wrote the name Kaspar Hauser firm and legibly. With not being able to make sense of the boy, and without any other options, the captain put the boy in the local prison. As the boy seemed to have no notion of behavior; he seemed happy sitting motionless and mute with minimal facial expressions; slept sitting up, not laying down; could not discern the difference between men and women and was generally happy in the darkness. The jailer, Andreas Hilltel, took pity on the boy, and let his eleven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter become good friends with Kaspar, while they taught him how to read, write, speak, and draw.
In late 1828, a local judge suggested to Nuremberg authorities that the best course of action would be to take Kaspar out of jail and place him in the custody of a reputable university professor George Friedrich Daumer, who had an extensive background in education and philosophy. Daumer assisted Hauser into becoming a normal man and studied Hauser by keeping a record in a diary. Daumer quickly noticed the degree of Hauser’s heightened sensory perception. Hauser could see and read in the dark, hear whispers from across vast distances, and tell who was in the room simply by their smell. But there was a negative side to these extraordinary abilities. Loud sounds caused his convulsions, and bright light would cause him pain. Strong drinks such as coffee or beer would instantly make him vomit, and the smell of wine would cause him to immediately become drunk. More unusual, his sensitivity to electricity was also immense. Due to the amount of static electricity in the air during a thunderstorm, he would suffer extreme pain. Sadly, as his awareness and knowledge of the world around him increased, these remarkable abilities waned.
By 1829, Hauser had learned enough to write an adequate biography. In his biography, he was able to recall and put in writing his early years of confinement. He revealed that he had been kept in a cell which was 7ft long, 4ft wide, and 5ft high by a man who never showed his face. He slept on a straw bed with a wool blanket, and when he would awake from his sleep, there would be would bread to eat and water to drink. At times the water had a bitter taste to it, which he would then pass out only to wake up hours later and find him cleaned and groomed in a fresh set of clothes. Many years later, he would come to find out that the bitter taste was opium, that was added to his water to induce drowsiness. Hauser also recalled the days to which led him to the gates of Nuremberg. He described one morning when he awoke, his imprisoner brought books to his cell door and taught him how to read a bit, how to write his name, and how to repeat the phrases he spoke the day of his public arrival. The very next day, Hauser and his captor set off on a three-day journey to which would lead to his appearance at Nuremberg.
Whether it was due to Hauser’s publicity across Europe, or the newspapers which carried reports of his autobiography, but on Sunday, October 17, 1829, while Daumer was out for a walk, a masked man dressed in black showed up at Daumer’s residence and attacked the boy with a butcher’s knife. As the knife blow was meant for the neck, Hauser ducked and ended up with a wound on his head. He would later tell the police that the masked man told him, “You must die before you leave the city of Nuremberg” in the same voice as his previous captor. The town council decided that this was a possible assassination attempt and that it would be best for the boy to be moved to a safer location. So in May 1831, Hauser went to stay with a new friend, Lord Stanhope, an English aristocrat, who acquired guardianship from the city of Nuremberg. It was only a few months later when Stanhope would become bored of Hauser, and obtained permission to leave him to be tutored by his friend Dr. Meyer in the town of Ansbach, fifty miles away from Nuremberg. Hauser didn’t enjoy staying with Meyer too much as he became unhappy and lonely because Meyer was a strict, mean-spirited man. On December 14, 1832, Hauser met a man in the park with a promise of receiving information about his mother. As the man motioned to give him a document, he pulled out a knife and stabbed Hauser in the side, puncturing his lung and piercing his liver. He died three days later at the age of 21.
A theory developed that Kaspar Hauser was a Baden prince and son of Stéphanie de Beauharnais, Grand Duchess of Bavaria. Even the King Ludwig of Bavaria even wrote in his diary that Hauser was the ‘rightful Grand Duke of Baden’. It is suggested that Stephanie and the Grand Duke Karl of Baden birthed Hauser in 1812. Upon his birth, the Duchess of Hochberg, smuggled in a sickly child from a peasant woman and switched Hauser at birth to make way for her son, Leopold to assume the throne. Karl’s subsequent boys also died under mysterious circumstances, and Karl said on his deathbed that he believed that he and his boys had been poisoned. While unprovable, it is a quite plausible theory.
In a countryside churchyard his gravestone reads:
‘Here lies Kaspar Hauser, a riddle of his time.
His birth was unknown, his death mysterious.’
In 2002, Samples were taken from the boy’s hat, trousers, and hair curls from the Feuerbach collection of Hauser artifacts, and the DNA tests were positive. Results showed a 95% match to the DNA of Astrid von Medinger, a descendant of Stéphanie de Beauharnais. It showed that Kaspar Hauser was a descendant of the House of Baden.