During a random surf of YouTube, I came across an intriguing video entitled The Most Mysterious Boy In History. I love a good mystery, so naturally I had to watch. That’s how I first learned of Kaspar Hauser.
Here’s what we know for sure about him. On May 26, 1828, a young teen showed up in Nuremberg, Germany. He walked like a toddler, and could barely speak. He carried with him two notes, supposedly from two different people, but in the same handwriting.
The first note was allegedly from some man who said he’d been raising Kaspar since he was a baby, and never let him leave his house, but that the boy now wanted to be a cavalryman like his father had been. The second note was supposedly from his mother, backing up the story about the kid’s father.
At first the fine folks of Nuremberg threw Kaspar in jail for 2 months for being a vagabond. Then he was adopted by the city, and they paid for his care and upkeep. He then began to be passed from house to house. He had a pattern of being both tantrum-prone and a liar, so he quite often wore out his welcome.
He also had a pattern of getting strange wounds, most likely self-inflicted, when he wanted attention. He always claimed he was attacked by some mystery man, which he was sure was the same guy who supposedly had kept him locked away for his entire childhood.
Once, his caretaker heard a gunshot, and found Kaspar in his bedroom with a head wound. Kaspar claimed he had been standing on a chair to get some books, and he fell, knocking a pistol from the wall and accidentally shooting himself.
Who leaves a loaded pistol on a wall? That’s my first question, with many more to follow.
It was a more trusting time, so people kept taking him in. Most famously, he lived for a time with Lord Stanhope, a British nobleman. But after spending a great deal of time and money trying to figure out who Kaspar was, he soon tired of the boy and his unbelievable stories as well.
At age 21, while staying with a schoolmaster who was also growing impatient with the boy’s lies, Kaspar came home with a stab wound in his chest that would prove to be fatal. He, of course, claimed to be attacked, and there was another note involved, this time, for some odd reason, in mirror writing. But the note included Kaspar’s common spelling and grammatical errors, and was folded in a way that was unique to Kaspar.
I think the reason people kept giving this guy so many second chances was that there was a rumor that he was actually a prince. But historians find this hard to believe. Conspiracy theories are not new.
I think Kaspar Hauser was just a very effective liar and con artist. It’s impressive how he managed to mooch off so many people even though he was clearly quite unpleasant to live with. That’s a psychopathic skill that very few people possess.
His manipulative charisma lives on to this day. Movies have been made about him. Poems have been written. His character pops up in at least a dozen books. A statue of him has been erected in Ansbach, Germany.
We may not know who he was, but he hasn’t been forgotten. I think he’d be thrilled to know that. People just love an unanswered question, and Kaspar Hauser is the epitome of that.
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