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Kaspar Hauser - Mysterious Origins

Being a teenager is tough. You're confused about your station in life, not quite a child anymore, but certainly not an adult. Bodies change rapidly, and the changes bring with them strange new thoughts and urges.

Kaspar Hauser didn't have a childhood. His confusion was far deeper than any normal teenager, and soon all of Europe would be aflame with it. You see, Kaspar Hauser claims to have spent the first years of his life sleeping on a straw bed in an unlit cell.

Nuremberg 1828

Nuremberg was bustling as usual when a disheveled boy wandered in from the woods. He was somewhere around 17 years old. Clutched in his hand was a pair of sealed letters.

People questioned the boy, but he seemed unable to speak. The only thing that he was able to say was his name, Kaspar Hauser. Naturally, the good people of Nuremberg sought out the assistance of the constabulary.

Local authorities questioned the boy, but they found his stupor unyielding. The content of the letters only deepened the mystery. One was from a poor peasant. The other from the boy's mother.

He seemed hungry, so they brought him bread, meat, and vegetables. Kaspar refused the meat and vegetables. Nothing but bread and water was suitable for the feral child.

The peasant's letter was addressed to the captain of the local cavalry regiment. In it, he asked that the captain find a use for the boy, or hang him as a nuisance. This first letter did little to explain where Kaspar Hauser had come from. Mr. Peasant wrote that he had been taking care of the abandoned child since 1812.

Kaspar's second letter was seemingly written by his mother. She addressed it to the peasant, asking him to care for the baby named Kaspar. Being unable to care for the child herself, as the boy's father had no interest in him. She claimed that Kaspar's father was a cavalryman, and that Kaspar should become a soldier when he turned 17.

Authorities took him to an army captain named Wessenig. The captain asked him many questions, but Kaspar could only say that he wanted to be a knight like his father. All that he could write was his name.

So they locked him in a tower. His only company was the jailer and curious townsfolk who came to see him.

Miraculous Rehabilitation

Kaspar toddled about his cell, smiling at the people who came to visit him. All of his visitors agreed that he had the mentality of a small child. Some tried to teach him to speak, read, and write.

After his first two months spent in the tower, Kaspar was adopted by Friedrich Daumer, a local schoolteacher. Daumer took care of Kaspar's education. He extracted much of Kaspar's story.

The tale of the mysterious Kaspar Hauser spread throughout Europe. More visitors came, and the boy made remarkable leaps in his education. Soon he was able to speak and within two months the boy could read and write.

His mysterious origins grew ever stranger as he began telling his tale. Kaspar told his growing audience about his early life, spent entirely in the dark. He grew up in a small, dark room with nothing but a wooden horse toy and a straw bed. Bread and water would be placed in his cell regularly, but he had no interaction with other humans.

Sometimes the water tasted funny. The funny water made Kaspar very sleepy. When he awoke, his hair and fingernails would be freshly cut. Prior to his release from his dark cell, a shadowy figure would visit him and teach him a few words to say.

The child of Europe became an international craze. People used his story for philosophical debates. Drunkards raved about him in taverns. Not a man, woman, nor child hadn't heard about Kaspar Hauser by the time his autobiography was published in 1829.

The rumor spread that he was somehow related to the Grand Duke of Baden. Perhaps he was the illegitimate son or grandson of Charles Frederick, who was a well-respected and wise leader.

Knives Out for Kaspar

On 17 October 1829, a hooded figure attacked Kaspar with a knife. The assassin failed to kill the feral youth, and only managed a slash across Kaspar's forehead before fleeing into the night.

Kaspar was taken from Friedrich Daumer and placed in the care of someone else. They gave him a job as a copyist, the unenviable task of copying books by hand. His new ward could do nothing as new rumors sprang up about Kaspar Hauser's relation to the house of Baden.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new. Theorists claimed that the attempted assassination proved the mysterious boy's connection to nobility. Regular people just don't get assassinated.

Nobles from all over Europe took note of the growing popularity of Kaspar Hauser. Chief among them was a British noble named Lord Stanhope. He petitioned the German authorities to hand the boy over to him.

Philip Henry Stanhope attested that Kaspar was not a nobleman, but a Hungarian peasant boy. He was unsuccessful in his petition to adopt Kaspar Hauser. Again, conspiracy theorists and reputable historians suggest that Stanhope might himself have been related to the house of Baden.

4 years after the first attempt on his life, Kaspar was enjoying the fame his mysterious origins brought him. He was beloved by some as a historical oddity. Others thought him a fraud.

On the 14th of December 1833, Kaspar received instructions from an unknown source. The letter claimed that if he met with its writer in a specific garden, the truth of his origin and familial line would be revealed to him.

Kaspar, an agreeable lad, went to meet with the mystery-man. Upon reaching the garden, he was promptly stabbed in the chest. He fled to his home, but he was unable to describe his attacker due to the gaping wound in his chest. It's tough to talk with a punctured lung.

Kaspar Hauser clung to life for three days before he slipped into the final darkness.

His detractors claimed that the wound was self-inflicted, or that his chest just did that.

What do you think happened to Kaspar Hauser? Was he a noble bastard, or one of many tortured peasants? Who killed Kaspar Hauser?