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Kaspar Hauser - The Child Who Came From None

Kaspar Hauser

On Monday, May 26, 1828, an exhausted young man made his appearance in the streets of Nuremberg. He is well built but poorly dressed and he walks with a strange stiffness. He keeps a letter to the captain of the 4th Squadron of the 6th Light Horse Regiment. Led to the barracks, the boy seems unable to answer questions, he emits only curious grunts. When Captain Wessenig arrives a little later, the barracks are buzzing. No one understands the strange visitor: he tried to touch the flame of a candle, and howled with pain when the flame burned his fingers; when he was offered beer and meat, he looked at them in understanding, but he voraciously threw himself on a piece of black bread and water. The only words he seems able to pronounce are Weis nicht ("do not know"). When asked for his name, he scribbles: "Kaspar Hauser".

"They did not find me clever"

The letter said: "Captain, I send you this boy who wants to serve in the king's army. He was entrusted to me on October 7, 1812. Since then, I have never let him out of the house. I am only a poor farmer and I have my own children to raise. " It was not signed. The horsemen buckled the boy in a cell. He sat for hours motionless, apparently satisfied with his fate; he seemed to have no idea of ​​time, and only knew how to repeat that he wanted to become Reiter (rider) like his father - a phrase obviously rote learned. He called "horse" all the animals he saw; when a visitor - for a crowd of curious people paraded to see him - offered him a little wooden horse, he adorned it with ribbon and pretended to feed it with every meal. He seemed to ignore the difference between sexes and pointed to both men and women by the word Jungen (boy).

Overdeveloped senses

Kaspar's senses were disconcerting. The mere presence of coffee or beer in the room made him vomit, the sight or smell of meat made him nauseous. The aroma of wine was enough to make him drunk, a drop of cognac in his water made him sick. His visual and auditory acuity was abnormally developed: he saw in darkness (he later proved to be able to read in a completely black room). He felt magnetic fields and could determine their polarity. He knew how to identify different metals by walking his hands over them, even if they were covered with a cloth.

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At first, Kaspar Hauser seemed intellectually still. But the attention his visitors gave him seemed to awaken him day by day - just like a little child learning through experience. His vocabulary grew richer, his awkwardness faded. He learned to handle scissors, a pencil, matches. Many had been struck by his clumsiness, his rough and almost disturbing appearance; but now his very features are becoming more refined as his intelligence grows.

The story of Kaspar Hauser

Learning to speak, Kaspar could gradually reveal his story. As far back as he could remember, he had always lived in a small shed with windows shut up by boards, the ceiling so low that he could not stand. There was no bed, just a benchtop thrown on the floor. He saw no one; he found only bread and water in his cell each morning. Sometimes the water had a bitter taste; if he drank it, he plunged into a deep sleep and when he awoke, he noticed that his mattress had been changed, and that his hair and nails had been cut off.

His only toys were three wooden horses. One day a man came in and taught him to write his name and to repeat the phrases "I want to be a soldier" and "I do not know". At last, one morning, the man had brought him out of his dungeon and abandoned him at the gates of Nuremberg, after having assured him that he would have a real horse when he was a soldier.

Popular !

Overnight Kaspar Hauser dived famous; we talked about him all over Germany. This notoriety should certainly preoccupy the one who had liberated him; his captors had probably hoped that he would disappear without history in the anonymity of the army, and that no one would ever hear of him.

The city council decided that he should be clothed and fed at the expense of the city, and lodged him at the schoolmaster Georg Friedrich Daumer. He printed thousands of calls to witness, even offering a reward for any clue that would identify him. The police searched the environs of Nuremberg for the place where he had been locked up, which was obviously close to the city. But they found nothing.

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Tribulation

That's when someone tried to kill him. On October 7, 1829, Kaspar was found lying in Daumer's cellar, wounded in the head and shirt torn to the waist. He said he was attacked by a stranger whose face was hidden under a silk mask. Kaspar Hauser was relocated to another house, in front of which two police officers were posted permanently. But interest in his case tended to weaken, and in Nuremberg, some did not want to support him.

One day Kaspar received a visit from a wealthy English aristocrat, Lord Stanhope. The seduction was immediate and reciprocal. The two men did not leave each other. Persuaded that Kaspar Hauser was of high birth, Stanhope introduced him between 1831 and 1833 in all the small courts of Europe - but no one was interested in him.

Returning to Nuremberg in 1833, Stanhope lodged his protégé in Ansbach, 40 km from the city; he entrusted his education to one of his friends, Dr. Johann Meyer, and his protection to a certain Captain Hickel. Then he went back to England.

Kaspar was very unhappy in Ansbach. The lessons of Dr. Meyer weighed upon him, he regretted the happy existence he had led with Lord Stanhope. For him, Ansbach was hardly better than the cell in which he had spent all his youth.

The death of Kaspar Hauser

On December 14, 1833, staggering in the snow, Kaspar appeared at Daumer stammering: "The man hit me ... knife ... Hofgarten ... gave a purse ... Quick." A doctor urgently called found that he had been stabbed. Hickel rushed into the Hofgarten, the park where Kaspar came from, and found a silk purse that contained a handwritten note, written in a mirror: "Hauser can tell you what I look like, who I am and where I come from ... To spare him this trouble I will tell you myself. I'm from ... on the Bavarian border, on the edge of ... My name is M.L.O. "

But Kaspar could not reveal anything about the identity of the unknown. He could only say that he had received a message giving him an appointment in the park. There, a man dressed in black, tall, with favorites, had asked him if he was Kaspar Hauser, then handed him the purse. At the moment he took it, the man had stabbed him and fled.

But Hickel revealed a disturbing fact: on the snow of the park, there was only one series of prints, those of Kaspar. Two days later, the wounded man fell into a coma. His last words were: "It's not me who did it." He died a few days before Christmas.

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Who was Kaspar Hauser?

The criminal lawyer Anselm von Feuerbach, who had examined Kaspar Hauser, had come to the conclusion that he must be of royal blood. According to an assumption often advanced, he would be the son of the Grand Duke Charles of Baden: Charles's mother-in-law, Countess von Hochberg, had had the sole male heir of the Grand Duke removed to secure the throne to his own son. It is much more likely, however, that Kaspar was the illegitimate child of a notable girl, who would have hidden his existence out of fear of scandal. But in this case, who was the author of the attacks? In fact, they may never have occurred. From the first attack in Daumer's cellar, it was rumored that Kaspar had injured himself.

In the second, no one spoke much about him, and he was deeply unhappy. When Kaspar Hauser had suddenly gone from obscurity to fame, he was seventeen, but from the point of view of mental and emotional development, he was a two-year-old boy. In addition, some aspects of his history are not very credible. Why would the masked man have hidden in Daumer's cellar, only to hit him with a stick on his head? The fact that Hickel only found Kaspar's footprints on the snow, during the second assault, appear conclusive. And why was the mysterious ticket written backwards? Would not it be because Kaspar would have traced it with his left hand, with the help of a mirror, to disguise his writing? A real killer would not have left any message.

The most likely hypothesis is that Kaspar Hauser, deeply unhappy, would have hurt himself to attract attention. If so, he ended up getting what he wanted: universal compassion, and a place in history.

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