A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited and Annotated by Mr. X
IN the Encyclopædia Britannica, the story of Kaspar Hauser is said to be one of the most baffling mysteries in history.(1) This is an unusual statement. Mostly we meet denials that there are mysteries. In everything that I have read upon this case, it is treated as if it were unique. A writer like Andrew Lang, who has a liking for mysteries, takes up such a case, with not an indication in his mind that it should not be studied as a thing in itself, but should be correlated with similars. That, inductively, anything of an ultimate nature could be found out, is no delusion of mine: I think not of a widening of truth, but of a lessening of error. I am naïve enough in my own ways, but I have not the youthful hopes of John Stuart Mill and Francis Bacon.
As to one of the most mysterious of the circum- [225/226] stances in the story of Kaspar Hauser, I have many records of attacks upon human beings, by means of an unknown, missile-less weapon. See the newspapers for several dozen accounts of somebody, or something, that was terrorizing people in New Jersey, in and around Camden, in the winter of 1927-28. People were fired upon, and in automobiles there were bullet holes, but bullets were unfindable. I know of two other instances, in the State of New Jersey. In France, about the year 1910, there was a long series of such attacks, attributed to "phantom bandits."
It may be that, telepathically, human beings have been induced to commit suicide. Look up the drowning of Frank Podmore. It may be that the mystery of Kaspar Hauser was attracting too much attention. There is a strange similarity in the taking off of Frank Podmore, Houdini, Washington Irving Bishop, and perhaps Dr. Crawford. The list is long, of the deaths that followed the opening of the tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen.(2)
Psychologically and physiologically the case of the Rev. Thomas Hanna is so much like the case of Kaspar Hauser that the suggestion is that if Hanna were not an impostor, Hauser was not. For particulars of the Hanna case, see Sidis, Multiple Personality.(3) In both cases there was said to be obliteration of memory, or reduction to the mental state of the newborn, with, however, uncommon, or marvellous, ability to learn. Phenomena common to both cases were no idea of time; no idea of sex; appearance of all things, as if at the same distance, or no idea of distance; and inability, or difficulty, in walking. Kaspar Hauser was no impostor, who played a stunt of his own invention, as tellers of his story have thought. If he were an impostor, somewhere, back in times when little was known of amnesia, he had gotten ahold of detailed knowledge [226/227] of profoundest amnesia. And he was about seventeen years old. Perhaps he was in a state of profound hypnosis. If the boy of Nepal, India, had wandered from the priest -- who may have kidnapped him ordinarily, and may not have kidnapped him ordinarily -- and had appeared in an English community, he would have been unable to account for himself, and there would have been a mystery similar to Hauser's.
If a "wolf child," when found, was "almost devoid of human intelligence," and when grown up became a policeman, ours is not quite the synicism of a scenario-writer, or a writer of detective stories. If we do not think this child had been the associate of wolves from an age of a few months, we think of an obliterative process that rendered it "a speechless, little animal," but that did not so impair its mentality that the child could not start anew. Our expression upon Kaspar Hauser will be that he was a "wolf child," and that, if he had appeared somewhere in India, he would, according to local conventions, probably be called a "wolf child," and that if he had found any place of refuge, it would be called a "wolf's den": but, in our expression, the lupine explanation is not accepted in his case and the cases of all so-called "wolf children." "Wolf children" have appeared, and the conventional story of their origin is not satisfactory. If "wolf children" have had something the matter with their legs, or have crawled on all fours, it is not satisfactory to say that this was because they had been brought up with wolves, any more than it would be to say that a young bird, even if not taught by its parents, would not be able to fly, if brought up with mammals.
If we accept that the Pansini boys ever were teleported, we note the mental effects of the experience, in that they were in a state of profound hypnosis.
Little frogs bombard horses -- and, though there [227/228] have been many attempts to explain Kaspar Hauser, it has never before occurred to anybody to bring little frogs into an explanation --
Or seals in a pond in a park -- and the branded reindeer of Spitzbergen -- see back to everything else in this book. Later, especially see back to lights in the sky, and the disappearance of them, when a story was told, and, so long as the story was not examined, seemed to account for them. The luminous owl -- the malmoot -- and if anybody can't be explained conventionally, he's an impostor -- or, if we're all, to some degree, impostors, he's an exceptional impostor.
Upon Whit Monday afternoon, May, 1828, a youth, aged sixteen or seventeen, staggered, with a jaunty stride, into the town of Nuremberg, Germany. Or, while painfully dragging himself along the ground, he capered into the town. The story has been told by theorists. The tellers have fitted descriptions around their theories. The young man was unable fully to govern the motions of his legs, according to Andrew Lang, for instance. He walked with firm, quick steps, according to the Duchess of Cleveland. The Duchess' theory required that nothing should be the matter with his legs. By way of the New Gate, he entered the town, and there was something the matter with his legs, according to all writers, except the one who preferred that there should be nothing the matter with his legs.
To Nurembergers who gathered around, the boy held out two letters, one of which was addressed to a cavalry captain. He was taken to the captain's house, but, because the captain was not at home, and because he could give no account of himself, he was then taken to a police station. Here it was recorded that he could speak only two sentences in the German language, and that when given paper and pencil he wrote the name Kaspar Hauser. But he was not put away and for- [228/229] gotten. He had astonished and mystified Nurembergers, in the captain's house, and these townsmen had told others, so that a crowd had gone with him to the station house, remaining outside, discussing the strange arrival. It was told in the crowd, as recorded by von Feuerbach, that near the New Gate of the town had appeared a boy who seemed unacquainted with the commonest objects and experiences of everyday affairs of human beings. The astonishment with which he had looked at the captain's sabre had attracted attention. He had been given a pot of beer. The lustre of the pot and the colour of the beer affected him, as if he had never seen anything of the kind before. Later, seeing a burning candle, he cried out in delight with it, and before anybody could stop him, tried to pick up the flame. Here his education began.
This is the story that has been considered imposture by everybody who wanted to consider it imposture. I cannot say whether all alleged cases of amnesia are fakes, or not. I say that, if there be amnesia, the phenomena of Kaspar Hauser are aligned with phenomena of many cases that are said to be well known. The safest and easiest and laziest of explanations is that of imposture.
Of the two letters, one purported to be from the boy's mother, dated sixteen years before, telling that she was abandoning her infant, asking the finder to send him to Nuremberg, when he became seventeen years old, to enlist in the Sixth Cavalry Regiment, of which his father had been a member. The other letter purported to be from the finder of the infant, telling that he had ten children of his own, and could no longer support the boy.
Someone soon found that these letters had not been written by different persons, sixteen years apart. One of them was in Latin characters, but both were written [229/230] with the same ink, upon the same kind of paper. In the "later" letter, it was said: "I have already taught him to read and write, and he writes my handwriting exactly as I do."(4) Whereupon the name that Kaspar had written, in the police station, was examined, and it was said that the writings were similar. Largely with this circumstance for a basis, it has been said that Kaspar Hauser was an impostor--or that he had written the letters himself. With what expectation of profit to himself is not made clear. If I must argue, I argue that an impostor, aware that handwritings might be compared, would, if he were a good impostor, pretend to be unable to write, as well as unable to speak. And those who consider Kaspar Hauser an impostor, say that he was a very good impostor. The explanation in the letter, of the similarity of handwritings, seems to be acceptable enough.
People living along the road leading to the New Gate were questioned. Not an observation upon the boy, before he appeared near the Gate, could be heard of. But we see, if we accept that someone else wrote his letters, that this Gate could not have been his "appearing point," in the sense we're thinking of. He must have been with, or in the custody of, someone else, at least for a while. Streets near the jail, where for a time he was lodged, were filled with crowds, clamouring for more information. Excitement and investigation spread far around Nuremberg. A reward was offered, and, throughout Germany, the likeness of Kaspar Hauser was posted in public places. People in Hungary took up the investigation. Writers in France made much of the mystery, and the story was published in England. People from all parts of Europe went to see the boy. The mystery was so stimulated by pamphleteers that, though "feverish" seems an extreme word, writers described the excitement over this boy, "who [230/231] had appeared as if from the clouds," as a "fever." Because of this international interest, Kaspar Hauser was known as "The Child of Europe."
The city of Nuremberg adopted Kaspar. He was sent to live with Prof. Daumer, a well-known scientist, and the Mayor of Nuremberg notified the public to "keep away from his present residence, and thereby avoid collision with the police." The seeming paralysis of his legs wore off. He quickly learned the German language, but spoke always with a foreign accent.(5) I have been unable to learn anything of the peculiarities of this accent. Except to students of revivals of obliterated memories, his quickness of learning would seem incredible. Writers have said that so marvellous was his supposed ability to learn that he must have been an impostor, having a fair education, to start with. Though the impostor-theory is safest and easiest, some writers have held that the boy was an idiot, who had been turned adrift. This explanation can be held simply and honestly by anybody who refuses to believe all records after the first week or so of observations. Whether impostor or idiot, the outstanding mystery is the origin of this continentally advertised boy.
The look of all the circumstances to me is that somebody got rid of Kaspar, considering him an imbecile, having been able to teach him only two German sentences. Then the look is that he had not for years known Kaspar, but had known him only a few weeks, while his disabilities were new to him. Where this custodian found the boy is the mystery.
Kaspar Hauser, in the year 1829, wrote his own story, telling that, until the age of sixteen or seventeen, he had lived upon bread and water, in a small, dark cell. He had known only one person, alluded to by him, as "the man," who, toward the end of his confinement had taught him two sentences, one of them [231/232] signifying that he wished to join a cavalry regiment, and the other, "I don't know." He had been treated kindly, except once, when he had been struck for being noisy.
Almost anybody, reading this account, will, perhaps regretfully, perhaps not, say farewell to our idea of a teleported boy. "That settles it." But nothing ever has settled anything, except relatively to a desire for settlement, and if ours is a desire for unsettlement, we have assurance that we, or any other theorist, can find in the uncertainties of any human document, whether supposed to have been dictated from on high, or written by a boy, material for thinking as our theories require.
We note in Kaspar's story a statement that he had no idea of time. That is refreshing to our wilting theory. We may think that he had lived in a small, dark room all his life of which he had remembrance, and that that may have been a period of only a few weeks. We pick upon his statement that once he had been struck for being noisy. To us that means that he had been confined, not in a cell, or a dungeon, but in a room in a house, with neighbours around, and that there was somebody's fear that sounds from him would attract attention -- or that there were neighbours so close to this place that the imprisonment of a boy could not have been kept a secret more than a few weeks.
We're not satisfied. We hunt for direct data for thinking that, if Kaspar Hauser had been confined in a dark room, it had not been for more than a few weeks.
"He had a healthy colour" (Hiltel). "He had a very healthy colour: he did not appear pale or delicate, like one who had been some time in confinement" (Policeman Wüst).(6) [232/233]
According to all that can be learned of another case, a man, naked, almost helpless, perhaps in a state of hypnosis so profound that also it was physical, so that he could scarcely walk, and in whom memory was obliterated so that he did not know enough to make his way along a road, which he crossed, appeared near Petersfield, Hampshire, Feb. 21, 1920. If we think that a peasant, near Nuremberg, found on his farm a boy in a similar condition, and took him in, then considering him an imbecile, and wanting to get rid of him, keeping him in confinement, fearing he might be held responsible for him, then writing two letters that would explain an abandonment in commonplace terms that would not excite inquiry, but not being skilful in such matters, that looks as if we're explaining somewhat.
Because of the continuation of Kaspar's story, we think that this place was near Nuremberg, Whit Monday was a holiday, and the farmers, or the neighbours, were probably not labouring in the fields: so this was the day for the shifting of the supposed imbecile. Upon this day, as told by Kaspar, "the man" carried the boy from the dark room, and carried, or led him, compelling him to keep his eyes downward, toward Nuremberg. Kaspar's clothes were changed for the abandonment.
Perhaps he had been found naked, and had been given makeshift garments. Perhaps he had been found in clothes, of cut and texture that were remarkable and that would have caused inquiry. The clothes that were given to him were a peasant's. It was noted in Nuremberg that they seemed not to belong to him, because Kaspar was not a peasant boy, judging by the softness of his hands (von Feuerbach).(7)
The story has resemblances to the story of the English boy of Nepal. In each case somebody got rid [233/234] of a boy, and in each case it is probable that a false story was told. If "the man" in Kaspar's case had the ten children that, to excuse an abandonment, he told of, there'd have been small chance for him to keep his secret. There are differences in these two stories. It will be my expression that they came about because of the wide difference in attention that was attracted.
October 17, 1829 -- Kaspar was found in the cellar of Prof. Daumer's house, bleeding from a cut in the forehead. He said that a man in a black mask had appeared suddenly, and had stabbed him.
It has been explained that this was attempted suicide. But stabbing oneself in the forehead is a queer way to attempt suicide, and in Nuremberg arose a belief that Kaspar's life was in danger from unknown enemies, and two policemen were assigned to guard him.
Upon an afternoon in May, 1831, one of these policeman, while in one room, heard a pistol shot, in another room. He ran there, and found Kaspar again wounded in the forehead. Kaspar said that it was an accident: that he had climbed upon the back of a chair, and, reaching for a book, had slipped, and, catching out wildly, had grasped a pistol that was hanging on the wall, discharging it.
December 14th, 1833 -- Kaspar Hauser ran from a park, crying that he had been stabbed. Deeply wounded in his side, he was taken to his home. The park, which was covered with new fallen snow, was searched, but no weapon was found, and only Kaspar's footprints were seen in the snow. Two of the attending physicians gave their opinion that Kaspar could not so have injured himself. The opinion of the third physician was an indirect accusation of suicide: that the blow had been struck by a left-handed person. Kaspar was not left-handed, but was ambidextrous.(8) [234/235]
Kaspar lay on his bed, with his usual publicity. He was surrounded by tormentors, who urged him to gasp plugs in his story. He was the only human being who had been in the park, according to the testimony of the snow tracks. It was not only Kaspar who was wounded. There was a wound in circumstances. Tormentors urged him to confess, so that in terms of the known they could fill out his story. Faith in confessions and the desire to end a mystery with a confession are so intense that some writers have said that Kaspar did confess. As a confession, they have interpreted his protest against his accusers -- "My God! that I should so die in shame and disgrace!"
Kaspar Hauser died. The point of his heart had been pierced by something that had cut through the diaphragm, penetrating stomach and liver. In the opinion of two of the doctors and of many of the people of Nuremberg, this wound could not have been self-inflicted. Rewards for the capture of the assassin were offered. Again, throughout Germany, posters appeared in public places, and in Germany and other countries there were renewed outbursts of pamphlets. The boy appeared "as if from the clouds," and nothing more was learned.
It was Kaspar's story that a man in the park had stabbed him. If anybody prefers to think that it cannot be maintained that there was only one track of footprints in the snow, let him look up various accounts, and he will find assurances any way he wants to find them. For almost every statement that I have made, just as good authority for denying it, as for stating it, can be found, provided any two conflicting theories depend upon it. One can read that Kaspar Hauser was highly intelligent or brilliant. One can read that the autopsy showed that his brain was atrophied to the size of a small animal's, accounting for his idiocy. One [235/236] comes upon just about what one comes upon in looking up any other matter of history. It is said that history is a science. I think that it must be.
A great deal, such as Kaspar's alleged ability to see in the dark, and his aversion to eating meat, and his inability to walk would be understandable, if could be accepted the popular theory that Kaspar Hauser was the rightful Crown Prince of Bavaria, who for political reasons had been kept for sixteen or seventeen years in a dungeon. There would be an explanation for two alleged attacks upon him. But see back to his own story of his confinement in a house, or a peasant's hut, near Nuremberg, where probably his imprisonment could not have been kept secret more than a few weeks. See testimony by Hiltel and Wüst.
See back to a great deal in this book --
The wolf of Shotley Bridge, and the wolf of Cumwinton -- or that something removed one wolf and procured another wolf to end a mystery that was attracting too much attention.
It was said that Kaspar Hauser was murdered to suppress political disclosures. If it be thinkable that Kaspar was murdered to suppress a mystery, whether political, or not so easily defined, there are statements that support the idea that also some of the inhabitants of Nuremberg, who were prominent in Kaspar's affairs, were murdered. One can read that von Feuerbach was murdered, or one can read that von Feuerbach died of a paralytic stroke. See Evans (Kaspar Hauser, p. 150) -- that, soon after the death of Kaspar Hauser, several persons, who had shown much interest in his case, died, and that it was told in Nuremberg that they had been poisoned.(9) They were Mayor Binder, Dr. Osterhauser, Dr. Preu, and Dr. Albert.
"Kaspar Hauser showed such an utter deficiency of words and ideas,
such perfect ignorance of the com- [236/237] monest things and appearances
of Nature, and such horror of all customs, conveniences, and necessities
of civilised life, and, with all, such extraordinary peculiarities in his
social, mental, and physical disposition, that one might feel oneself driven
to the alternative of believing him to be a citizen of another planet,
transferred by some miracle to our own" (von Feuerbach).(10)
1. Encyclopedia Brittannica. 14th ed., 1929, v.11, 255, s.v. "Hauser, Kaspar."
2. After the death of Lord Carnarvon, on April 5, 1923, newspaper speculations began upon a "Curse of Osiris" as claiming the lives of those involved, (or remotely connected), with the uncovering of Tutankhamun's tomb. Included among the victims were: Aubrey Herbert (Carnarvon's younger brother), an X-ray specialist who was to examine the mummy, Jay Gould (of pneumonia, after visiting the tomb), Ali Kemel Fahmy Bey (shot in London, after visiting the tomb), Arthur Mace (Carter's "right-hand man"), Georges Bénédite (after a fall while visiting the tomb), Richard Bethell (in 1929), Lord Westbury (who owned some Egyptian antiquities but had never visited the tomb), a child killed by Lord Westbury's hearse, and Carter's pet canary (eaten by a cobra on the day the tomb was opened). "Carnarvon is dead of an insect's bite at pharaoh's tomb." New York Times, April 5, 1923, p.1 c.1. "Carnarvon's death spreads theories about vengeance." New York Times, April 6, 1923, p.1 c.3 & p.3 c.1-3. "Death by evil spirit possible, says Doyle." New York Times, April 6, 1923, p.3 c.5-6. "Carnarvon's brother dies." New York Times, September 28, 1923, p.7 c.3. Nicholas Reeves. The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, The Tomb, The Royal Treasure. London: Thames and Hudson, 1990, 62-3.
3. Boris Sidis. Multiple Personality.
4. Linberg's translation from Von Feuerbach. London, 1833. Chapter 2. Singh, J.A.L., and, Zingg, Robert M. Wolf-children and feral man, Archon Books, 1966, 289.
5. According to Feuerbach's account, Hiltel, (the prison-keeper), says that his son Julius, age of 11 years, "as it were, taught him to speak." Linberg's translation. Singh & Zingg, 300.
6. Feuerbach says: "...his complexion was not florid, but neither was it of a sickly hue," (Linberg's translation, Singh and Zingg, 289-90.)
7. Feuerbach described the clothing as more like something once belonging to a footman, groom, or forester which had been coarsely stitched. Also, he describes Kasper's skin as "fine and very fair," (Singh and Zingg, 289), his feet as showing no sign of ever before being confined in a shoe, and vaccination scars, (indicative of a child of the upper classes).
8. According to Feuerbach's account, Kasper was lured into a small park by a stranger stating he had news of Kasper's mother; and, while searching into a lady's handbag given to him by the stranger, he was stabbed. "After giving the blow, the stranger fled, as tracks in the deep snow of the deserted park proved (though they were soon obliterated by the crowd of townspeople who flocked into the park)," (Linberg's translation, Singh and Zingg, 358). The lady's handbag and a cryptic note, written backwards, were recovered.
9. Elizabeth Evans. The Story of Kaspar Hauser from Authentic Records. London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1892, 150.
10. Fort may have provided this translation from the original. In Linberg's translation, (1833), the passage is as follows: "And yet he was so entirely destitute of words and conceptions, he was so totally unacquainted with the most common objects and daily occurrences of nature, and he showed so great an indifference, nay, such an abhorrence, to all the usual customs, conveniences, and necessaries of life; and at the same time he evinced such extraordinary peculiarities in all the characteristics of his mental, moral, and physical existence, as seemed to leave us no other choice, than either to regard him as the inhabitant of some other planet, miraculously transferred to the earth, or as one who (like the man whom Plato supposes) had been born and bred under ground, and who, now that he had arrived at the age of maturity, had for the first time ascended to the surface of the earth, and beheld the light of the sun." (Singh and Zingg, 293.)
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