If you aren’t already familiar, I’d like to introduce you to my paunchy little friend Kaspar Hauser. We met in the “Mysteries” page on Wikipedia (he also makes appearances in the “Feral Children” and “Conspiracy Theories” categories), and even though he’s been dead since 1833, I like to think that we’ve been fast friends ever since.

Kaspar is a man of few words. When he first hit the scene in 1828 in Nuremberg, he relied on just a few stock phrases to communicate: “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was,” “horse! horse!” and “don’t know.” Why? According to a couple of letters he carried with him, Kaspar had been raised in an isolated tower, his only human contact coming from a mysterious cloaked man who hid his face and would visit occasionally to teach or groom him. Conveniently, the letters even explained why they were in Kaspar’s own handwriting (“he writes my handwriting exactly as I do”), and rumors started swirling that he was actually connected to the princely House of Baden.

To review: just by stumbling into a town square with a few incoherent sound bites, Kaspar convinced much of the public that he was descended from royalty. Yes, it was much easier to pull off this kind of thing in an era when cross-checking even the most basic facts was close to impossible, but this is still impressive work. Unfortunately, Kaspar still had enemies (and skeptics), and over the course of a few years was mysteriously stabbed in the face, mysteriously wounded in a scuffle involving a poorly explained gunshot, and later mysteriously stabbed in the chest, a wound that led to his death. Some say he was a con man and experts believe all these injuries were actually self-inflicted. I say he was a fraudulent flame that burned out too quickly.

His memory lives on in granite, thanks to a Kaspar monument in Ansbach, and in film — Werner Herzog, a fellow friend of Kaspar, made a biopic of his life:

In honor of his legacy, may we all find equally creative ways to force others to financially support us.


 

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