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

Updated June 21, 2019 395.8k views11 items

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. 

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • Photo: Johann Georg Laminit (1775–1848) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Kaspar's Incredible Story Made Him A Celebrity, But Not Everyone Believed Him

    Once people learned about Kaspar's horrific upbringing and resurgence, he became famous throughout Europe. The young man reportedly could see extraordinarily well at night, and he reacted with absolute awe when he came across things and experiences new to him.

    While many were enthralled by the mysterious boy, others didn't believe his story. Some pointed out his skin was too tan for an individual supposedly kept in the dark most of his life. He was also relatively healthy; someone who spent that much time inside would likely have suffered from rickets, which is caused by a vitamin D deficiency. 

    Kaspar also sported what appeared to be a vaccination scar, indicating he may have been part of the upper class.

  • Kaspar Was Shorter Than Normal And Socially Inept

    When Kaspar emerged from his solitary cell, he was only 4' 8". Facial hair was starting to sprout on his upper lip and cheeks, and he was able to write German proficiently after just three years of study. He did, however, remain socially awkward throughout his academic career.

    Upon his passing around age 21, Kaspar had only managed to grow an additional three inches. His condition was further researched, and in 1992, John Money wrote a book about him titled The Kaspar Hauser Syndrome of "Psychosocial Dwarfism": Deficient Statural, Intellectual, and Social Growth Induced by Child Abuse.