In 1828, a 16 year-old boy appeared in a square in Nuremberg unable to walk properly and incapable of speech. He had been locked up in a narrow low-roofed rat-hole almost since birth, fed bread and water, and had never seen the light of day. His senses were acutely developed for he could see in the dark, he could hear a spider crawling and he could sense a metallic object placed near his face.
Much has been written about Caspar Hauser. But one that stands out, to my mind, as the most plausible account of Hauser’s life is that of the German jurist Feuerbach. Why was there no one looking for a lost son? Feuerbach believed that Hauser was of royal blood, and that a spiteful woman from another noble family had him substituted at birth with a dead baby. Peasants living on the Rhine were paid to lock him in stone enclosures with hay for a bed; a wooden horse was his only companion. At one point in time, a bottle with a message was found floating in the river. The message read: There is a prince held captive on the Rhine. But no one had given it a second thought. Feuerbach died soon after he announced that he knew the noble family involved in Hauser’s captivity. It was strongly suspected that he had been poisoned. Later, Hauser was stabbed and his murder was regarded as a political assassination.
The story of Caspar Hauser is fascinating. It is a depiction of the human nature of Man–the malice of greed, envy and jealousy–a force within Man’s character that is both despicable and dishonourable.