Kaspar Hauser Spent His Childhood Locked In An Empty Room, And The Tale Got Weirder Once He Escaped

For years, there have been reports of wild children raised in extraordinary circumstances, including a boy named Kaspar Hauser of Nuremberg, Germany. 

The enigma of Kaspar Hauser involves the way he purportedly grew up - in a dark room by himself with few things to stimulate his mental and physical growth. His name was later attached to the condition Kaspar Hauser Syndrome, defined by a stunted appearance, decreased cognitive abilities, and limited vocabulary. Despite his initial setbacks, Kaspar managed to overcome his upbringing and develop exponentially a few years after his release from what was essentially solitary confinement.

Kaspar's miraculous recovery is not the norm for stories about feral children. While some saw the tale as inspiring, others believed it was too extraordinary to be true. Kaspar stood by his claims, yet detractors were quick to point out the multiple inconsistencies in his ever-changing story, and Kaspar was known for exaggerating and frequently lying about events. It appears he may have even (albeit accidentally) ended his own life. 

  • Kaspar Claimed He Spent His Whole Life Isolated In A Dark Room
    Photo: ungenannt / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Kaspar Claimed He Spent His Whole Life Isolated In A Dark Room

    A teenage boy calling himself Kaspar Hauser showed up out of the blue on May 26, 1828, in Nuremberg, Germany. A shoemaker discovered the young man wandering the streets, wearing ragged clothing and acting as though inebriated.

    Kaspar claimed he had lived the majority of his life in a tiny, dark room by himself. His only distractions were wooden toys and an unidentified man who brought him food and water; this figure also reportedly taught him the alphabet and how to walk.

    According to Kaspar, the room was six or seven feet long and four feet wide, the ceiling only five feet high. There were two small windows (which were kept shuttered) and a straw bed to sleep on, but for as long as he could remember, he was kept in almost complete darkness.




  • Kaspar Carried Two Strange Notes And An Envelope Filled With Gold Dust
    Photo: Michael Zaschka, Mainz / Fulda / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Kaspar Carried Two Strange Notes And An Envelope Filled With Gold Dust

    When Kaspar entered civilization for the first time, he was carrying two letters. They explained the boy had entered his captor's life as a child. For most of his imprisonment, Kaspar was banned from leaving his home, but his captor released him so he could join the military.

    One letter was seemingly from a poor laborer who said he started taking care of Kaspar in 1812 when he was a baby. The other note was allegedly from his mother, who explained Kaspar's father, a cavalry officer, was deceased. The letters seemed to be fabricated, especially because it was later determined they were both written by the same person (possibly Kaspar himself.)

    Kaspar also allegedly possessed a handkerchief with his initials on it, prayer beads, a key, and an envelope with gold dust inside; he also carried a manual titled The Art of Replacing Lost Time and Years Badly Spent.

  • He Passed Under Mysterious Circumstances
    Photo: Kaspar Hauser / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    He Passed Under Mysterious Circumstances

    Just five years after Kaspar allegedly came out of confinement, he passed from what many believed was a self-inflicted knifing gone wrong. And like many things with Kaspar, the circumstances surrounding the event were suspicious.

    First, there was a purse left at the scene containing a handwritten note addressed to Kaspar that included personal information about his assailant. 

    Second, there was only one set of footprints in the snow. Many believe Kaspar attempted to harm himself, only to make a mistake and end up paying the ultimate price.

  • For A Short Time, Kaspar Lived In A Jail Cell And Showed Little Emotion
    Photo: Johann Friedrich Carl Kreul / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    For A Short Time, Kaspar Lived In A Jail Cell And Showed Little Emotion

    While authorities figured out what to do with young Kaspar, he allegedly lived in a jail cell under the protective eyes of Andreas Hiltel. The jailer observed Kaspar showed little emotion. He would usually just smile from inside his cell and exhibited no other expressions, such as anger, fear, or sadness.

    Kaspar was reportedly content to sit in confinement by himself without needing anything to entertain him. He had a difficult time walking, and possessed a toddler's unsteady gait when he did manage to get on two feet. These details lent credibility to his story.


  • He Was Accused Of Faking Three Attempts On His Life

    After Kaspar was purportedly released from his solitary confinement, he claimed he was subjected to three attempts on his life. The first time, an assailant left a light cut on Kaspar's forehead; the second time, he was shot while sitting alone inside; and the third time, he took a knife to the chest while in a public garden. 

    While some might chalk this up to exceedingly bad luck, many believe Kaspar orchestrated the incidents, as there were never any witnesses and Kaspar was unable to identify his assailants. And in the case of the second story, he later admitted to harming himself.

  • Many Believed Kaspar Was The Son Of Royalty
    Photo: Känsterle at Dutch Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Many Believed Kaspar Was The Son Of Royalty

    In order to explain Kaspar's bizarre upbringing, people came up with many theories. They tried to pinpoint why a boy would be treated so terribly for so long, only to become a target once he finally escaped custody.

    Some thought he was actually royalty, locked inside a room to keep him from claiming the throne. Specifically, they believed he was the crown prince of Baden, son of the Grand Duke Charles and Stéphanie de Beauharnais, who was Napoleon's adopted daughter. Charles had no surviving male heir, so if Kaspar was his legitimate son, it would have been scandalous.

    Answers wouldn't come until 1996, when DNA believed to be Kaspar's was reportedly tested with samples from descendants of the grand duke; they did not match. Further DNA testing allegedly took place in 2002, using samples from a descendant of Stéphanie de Beauharnais; these turned up inconclusive.