Kasper Hauser: Born in Darkness
There is nothing more terrifying or frightening for a community when a child disappears. However, the mystery sometimes only deepens when that child is found. Throughout history, there have been stories of children brought out of some dark place, often without the ability to speak or communicate. Some of these children were thought to be raised by wolves, like the cases of the Indian sisters Amala and Kamala. Other children seem to come from a grimmer place entirely, and this is the case with regards to Kasper Hauser.
In 1828, a young teenager appeared on the streets of the German city of Nuremberg. He seemed confused and agitated, and when concerned passerbys took him in, he was revealed to be carrying a sheet of paper addressed to a captain in the 6th calvary regiment. The letter stated that the writer had cared for the young man all his life, teaching him to read and write, but had never allowed him to leave the house. Now the writer invited the captain to make the young man a calvary officer as his father was, or chillingly enough, to hang him.
At the time he arrived in Nuremberg, Hauser was only able to say “I want to be a calvary officer as my father was,” and “horse, horse!” When he was asked other questions, he only replied “don’t know.”
As Hauser became more comfortable with the people who were caring for him, he revealed more about his past. He remembered only a narrow dark cell where there was a straw bed and three toys, two horses and a dog, for him to play with. Every morning, rye bread and water would be given to him. Sometimes, the water would have a foul taste, and he would sleep deeply. When he awoke, his hair and nails would be cut, and the straw of his bed would be changed.
Hauser further related that a man came into his cell during the last months of his captivity, but he always kept his face covered.
Why all this secrecy? Why would a young boy be kept in such a restrictive and onerous prison instead of merely being killed or orphaned?
The answer might lie in the attempts on Hauser’s life.
Hauser became something of a celebrity. He spent time in the houses of many wealthy people in Nuremberg, and he was widely thought to be an intelligent though vain young man. A year after his discover, however, he was found with a bleeding wound on his forehead, an attempt on his life by a masked man. A few years later, he was wounded by a pistol shot, and thereafter, he moved to Ansbach.
Hauser’s life was simple and uncomplicated for a while, but then in 1833, he arrived at his living space with a deep stab wound. He told his caretakers that he had been stabbed by a masked man in the public garden, and the masked man had thrust a purse at him.
Investigation into the area revealed a violet purse which contained a strange piece of paper. There was writing on the paper, but it was mirrored, meant to be read reflected. The words, translated from German, were as follows:
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 from
the Bavarian border
on the river.
I will even
tell you the name M. L. Ö.
Kasper died from his wound, but his mystery lives on. Some people were convinced that Hauser was a faker, and that all of the attempts on his life were self-inflicted. That one went too far and killed him was a mistake on Hauser’s part.
Another theory states that Hauser was the lost heir to the throne of Baden. His confined childhood and early care were to hide him from those who would use him or those who would kill him. When DNA from his clothing was tested in recent years, the results were inconclusive.
Today, Kasper Hauser remains a mystery. Who he was or what he did can never be proven at this point, but thinking about his case always brings a shiver when we think of the terrible things that can happen to children.