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Hauser, Kaspar (ca. 1812-1833)

Hauser, Kaspar (ca. 1812-1833)

Mysterious teenage boy who appeared in the streets of Nuremberg, Germany, on May 26, 1828. He could give no clear account of how he came there or where he was from, and some months later claimed that he had been imprisoned in a small, dark room all his life and fed on bread and water. At the time of his appearance in Nuremberg he appeared to be unstable on his legs and largely incoherent. The boy had a letter in his possession, ostensibly from a poor laborer, which stated that the writer first took charge of the boy as an infant in 1812 and had never let him "take a single step out of my house I have already taught him to read and write, and he writes my handwriting exactly as I do." There was also a note purporting to come from Hauser's mother, stating that the boy was born on April 30, 1812, that his name was Kaspar, and his father, now dead, had been a cavalry officer. Both letters appeared to be fakes.

A citizen took Hauser to the house of a local cavalry captain, where the boy is supposed to have said, "I want to be a horseman, like my father," but speaking in a parrot fashion. His vocabulary was otherwise limited to phrases like "I don't know." He was at first believed to be an imbecile.

Hauser was adopted by the town of Nuremberg and educated by a schoolmaster named Daumer, at whose house he lived. The boy's education progressed rapidly, and he soon wrote his own account of his strange life. He claimed that until age 16 he was kept in a prison, perhaps six or seven feet long, four feet broad, and five feet high. There were two small windows, with closed black wooden shutters. He lay on straw, lived on bread and water, and played with toy horses, confined in darkness. He never saw his captor, but "the man" taught him letters and about nine words, after many years taught him to stand and walk, and finally released him.

Hauser's case was studied by Paul John Anselm von Feuerbach, a legal reformer, who published a passionate and not wholly accurate work about Hauser. Both Feuerbach and Daumer claimed that Hauser was an excellent example of a mediumistic subject, sensitive to animal magnetism and able to see in the dark.

Romantic rumors circulated about Hauser, including one claiming that he was really the crown prince of Baden, a legitimate son of the grand duke Charles, and that he had been kidnaped in 1812 by servants of the countess of Hochberg (morganatic wife of the grand duke) to secure succession by her own offspring.

In 1831, the British Earl Stanhope visited Nuremberg and became interested in Hauser, believing him to be the victim of criminals. He undertook to sponsor the lad's higher education, and in the following year Hauser was sent to Anspach in the charge of a Dr. Meyer, who became his tutor. Hauser eventually became a clerk in the office of Feuerbach, who was then president of the court of appeal. Feuerbach died in May 1833, and rumors circulated that he had been poisoned by mysterious enemies. (Back in 1829, when in the care of Daumer, Hauser had claimed to be the victim of a mysterious assassin who had wounded him on the forehead.)

Hauser became increasingly dissatisfied with his clerical post, believing himself destined for higher things. Like Meyer, he had hopes that Lord Stanhope would take him to England and adopt him into high society. Meanwhile Meyer became increasingly disillusioned with Hauser, finding him incurably untruthful. He had strong misgivings about Stanhope's imminent visit to Anspach.

On December 14, 1833, Hauser suddenly rushed into Meyer's room, clutching his side, and led Meyer to a point about five hundred yards from the house. Hauser was unable to answer questions, but on returning to the house gasped out, "Went court garden man had a knife gave a bag struck I ran as I could bag must lie there." It was found that he had a narrow wound under the center of his left breast, caused by a sharp, double-edged weapon. He claimed that on the morning of the fourteenth, a man brought him a message from the court gardener, asking him to look at some clay from a newly bored well. When he went there, another man came forward, gave him a bag, stabbed him and fled. There was snow in the vicinity of the stabbing, but no footprints beyond a single track, perhaps Hauser's own. The bag contained a note in mirror writing containing vague phrases about coming from the Bavarian frontier. Hauser died within three or four days, his heart having been injured.

Rumors multipliedthat Hauser was once more the victim of a sinister plot connected with the prince of Baden, that Lord Stanhope himself was the ringleader and Meyer was an accomplice. The Countess Albersdorft saw visions and published an accusation. Stanhope himself believed that Hauser might have injured himself deliberately to attract attention and perpetuate romantic legends, and that the weapon may have penetrated farther than intended. Hauser undoubtedly had a neurotic and hysterical temperament, and mysterious attacks seemed to occur after quarrels with his guardians.

Sources:

Lang, Andrew. Historical Mysteries. London: Smith Elder, 1904.

Sampath, Ursula. Kaspar Hauser: A Modern Metaphor. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1991.

Singh, Joseph Amrito Lal. Wolf-children and Feral Man. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1965.

Stanhope, Earl. Tracts Relative to Caspar Hauser. London: James S. Hodson, 1836.

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Hauser, Kaspar

Kaspar Hauser (käs´pär hou´zər), 1812?–1833, mysterious German foundling. He appeared in Nuremberg in 1828 in a state of semi-idiocy, producing dubious documents and giving an incoherent account of his past, which, he said, he had spent in a dark prison hole. He awakened immediate interest and sympathy. Subsequently the earl of Stanhope, the British historian, became interested in him and assumed responsibility for his education. The boy's death from a knife wound was regarded as a political assassination by those who believed him—without any serious grounds—to be the son of the grand duke of Baden by his first wife. Others believe that the wound was self-inflicted and that Hauser was a psychopath. Thousands of books and articles, mainly in German, have been written on him. In addition, he is the subject of poems by Verlaine and Trakl and of Jakob Wassermann's novel Caspar Hauser (tr. 1928) and is the main character in Kaspar, a play by Peter Handke (tr. 1970) as well as a 1974 film by Werner Herzog.

See A. Lang, Historical Mysteries (1904); J. A. L. Singh, Wolf Children and Feral Man (1942, repr. 1966); L. Shengold, Halo in the Sky (1988); J. M. Masson, Lost Prince (1996).

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"Hauser, Kaspar." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hauser-kaspar