He appeared like an individual from another planet dropped into human society. An unknown boy, about 17 years old, was found dazed an disoriented in the town square of Nuremberg, in Germany. On Whit Monday, 26 May 1828. At first he was thought to be an idiot or a drunkard. Besides his name, Kaspar Hauser, the only words he muttered were “Weiss nicht” – I don’t know. He carried two letters, allegedly written 16 years apart. One of these asked that he be handed over to the commander of the local cavalry squadron, explaining, “I am a poor girl; I can’t take care of him.” The other was supposedly from a laborer who had taken the boy in. Strangely, the handwriting, paper and ink used in the letters were nearly identical.

Kaspar was totally unfamiliar with everyday objects, including clocks, candles, eating utensils and cooked food. Adopted by scientist Georg Friedrich Daumer, he quickly learned to read and write, and told a fantastic story of being kept all his life in a small dark cellar, surviving on bread and water. He was hypersensitive – so much so that the smell of beer, coffee and meat made him ill, and a glass of wine in the same room would render him drunk. He could apparently read in the dark and was so attuned to magnetic fields that he could tell, by touch, which pole of a magnet was the north and which was the south.

The “lost boy” of Nuremberg soon became an international celebrity, visited by dignitaries such as Lord Stanhope from England, nephew of Prime Minister William Pitt. It was widely rumored that Kaspar Hauser was the illegitimate son of German royalty.

Then on 7 October 1829 he was found in the Daumers’ cellar bleeding from a head wound delivered by an unknown assailant. For his own protection Kaspar Hauser was moved to the nearby city of Ansbach. On 14 December 1833 he was attacked with a knife, which punctured his liver and lung. Three days layer he died, his last words being “I didn’t do it myself.” And yet they found only a single set of footprints in the snowy park where he was stabbed.

Suspicions had already been aired about Kaspar’s surprisingly healthy complexion, the vague details of his imprisonment, his swift adaptation to civilization, and finally his possibly self-inflicted fatal wounds. His death only deepened the mystery of his life.

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