Hauser, Kaspar

Hauser, Kaspar käsˈpär houˈzər [key], 1812?–1833, mysterious German foundling. He appeared in Nuremberg in 1828 in a state of semi-idiocy, producing dubious documents and giving an incoherent account of his past, which, he said, he had spent in a dark prison hole. He awakened immediate interest and sympathy. Subsequently the earl of Stanhope, the British historian, became interested in him and assumed responsibility for his education. The boy's death from a knife wound was regarded as a political assassination by those who believed him—without any serious grounds—to be the son of the grand duke of Baden by his first wife. Others believe that the wound was self-inflicted and that Hauser was a psychopath. Thousands of books and articles, mainly in German, have been written on him. In addition, he is the subject of poems by Verlaine and Trakl and of Jakob Wassermann's novel Caspar Hauser (tr. 1928) and is the main character in Kaspar, a play by Peter Handke (tr. 1970) as well as a 1974 film by Werner Herzog.

See A. Lang, Historical Mysteries (1904); J. A. L. Singh, Wolf Children and Feral Man (1942, repr. 1966); L. Shengold, Halo in the Sky (1988); J. M. Masson, Lost Prince (1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: German History: Biographies