Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

Children have been hearing about the Pied Piper for 725 years, but who was he and where did the children go? Historians agree that some event did happen in Hamelin, Germany in 1284 that involved the disappearance of the town’s children. What is not clear is what actually happened.

The typical story states that a man dressed in colorful clothing showed up in the rat infested town of Hamelin and offered to rid the town of rats for a fee. The town was desperate and hired him. The man played a flute and the vermin followed him out of Hamelin into the Weser River where they drowned. The story would have ended there if the townsmen had just paid him; however, they backed out and in retaliation the Pied Piper again played his flute and the children followed him doing strange jerky movements out of town. There was a deaf child and a crippled child left behind.

A nanny followed the group and stated that one half went into the woods and the other to the right into a cave in the Weser Mountains. The townspeople went to investigate and found body parts hung from the trees in the forest. There was no sign of the children in the cave, which did not have an exit.

The earliest known reference to the story was a stained glass window in the local Market church depicting the Pied Piper that was created in 1300 and was destroyed by fire in 1600. The original tale did not mention rats, but was added in the sixteenth century. So what really occurred in Hamelin, Germany in 1284?

The Pied Piper’s name suggests two theories. One he was poor and wore patched clothes or he was a King’s representative dressed in official garb. In either case he could have been recruiting for either a crusade or trying to convince people to settle Eastern Europe. The term, “children” could refer to people in general and not just minors. Some believe that people from Hamelin settled in Romania and may be the origin of the gypsy (Roma) clans. Others think if the Piper was gathering children for a crusade to the Holy Land the children did not make it back home. This is quite possible as crusades took years and cost many lives before ever arriving in the Holy Land.

One of the disturbing aspects of the tale is the strange, jerky movements the children did as they walked out of town. Disease or nervous disorders have been suggested, but how could all the children experience it at once?  Did they display such odd behavior before the Piper showed up? Or did the sound of the flute actually trigger that response? Few details of the incident actually survive, so any ideas are pure speculation. It could be that the Piper taught the children a dance of sorts prior to leading them out of town, but to what end?

Another suggestion is that a pedophile kidnapped the children and murdered them in the woods, dismembering them and decorating the trees with body parts. More than likely there were serial killers in medieval Germany, so that cannot be ruled out on the face of it. If that is true, then who lead the other group to the cave? If the music kept the children hypnotized, then why did the cave group not wake up and run back to town? Does this indicate the Piper had a partner?

Throughout history there are stories of caves or openings in mountains that seal up once people enter, such as in the French Pyrenees. The Nazis had many hidden bases in mountains that have not been discovered like the money train in Poland recently revealed. It makes no sense that children could enter a cave and just disappear. There must have been a secret exit in existence at that time that the townspeople did not find.

Or the nanny was not telling the truth about a second group climbing up to the cave. What reason did she have to lie? Could she have known the Piper before he arrived in Hamelin or become acquainted with him while he was there? A young woman with a bleak future might well be infatuated with an intriguing stranger spinning who knows what yarns to impress the locals. She might have been talked into doing anything, including kidnapping and murder.

If the Pied Piper were a King’s messenger recruiting volunteers to settle Eastern Europe, then there is no big mystery to the story. Some villagers simply decided to pick up and immigrate to Romania or Hungry for a better life or more land. Family members remaining behind may have started the story describing the smooth talk of the man who lured loved ones away. The same could be said for a Children’s Crusade.

Two issues remain: the strange jerky movements of the children as they followed the man playing a flute. Such a detail is not likely to be invented, but something actually witnessed. One theory suggests that the townspeople paid the man to get rid of diseased and disabled children, which is plausible with the plague and other contagious diseases running rampant. The colorful clothes the Piper wore might have been patches because he was poverty stricken and desperate to make money however necessary. He might have had some disability of his own as medieval minstrels often were blind or crippled and had no other way to earn a living aPied_piperside from music. The jerky movements could have been the way the Piper moved and the children simply copied him.

The second issue is the body parts hung from the trees. If this really occurred then the Piper may well have been a sadistic serial killer that preyed on unwanted or orphaned children. There are not many other explanations for this situation, if true.

The picture depicts a painting copied from the Market Church stained glass window  before its destruction in 1600 AD.  Clearly, both the forest and cave are illustrated. The stained glass window was created just sixteen years after the incident and thus should be based on memory. The story of the Pied Piper is a fascinating one that mostly likely will never be fully explained unless some hidden diary comes to light.

The Lindbergh Kidnapping-The Folly of Hero Worship

One of the most infamous criminal cases in the United States began in New Jersey on March 1, 1932 when the two year old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh was taken from his nursery at the family estate called, Hopewell.  The nursery was on the second floor of the mansion with entry gained by a ladder leaned against the house. The kidnappers left a note on the window sill demanding $50,000 in exchange for the child. A strange emblem consisting of three interlocked circles served as the signature. Eventually an illegal German immigrant named Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed for the kidnap and murder of the child.

This sounds like a typical kidnapping gone bad, however, it is far from it. The fiasco that was the Lindbergh Kidnapping case would never happen today. The suspect would have been promptly detected and apprehended regardless of his celebrity status. But it was 1932 and Charles Lindbergh was the darling of America, one above reproach much less suspicion. The police played a secondary role in the investigation with Lindbergh heading up the case and making all decisions. You might ask what does flying an airplane over the Atlantic have to do with criminal investigation, the answer, of course, is absolutely nothing, but Lindbergh directed every aspect of the case with law enforcement taking a back seat.

The kidnapper’s note was full of mistakes that no actual German would make. I am a translator of French, German and Dutch to English and the first thing I noticed was how hard the writer was trying to appear “German”.  The writer attempted to write like a German speaking English, which is ridiculous. Germans writing English know correct spelling, which is unrelated to difficulties in pronouncing certain English sounds.

The first odd thing Lindbergh did was to contact underworld types and distribute the ransom letter to supposedly discover the identity of the kidnappers.  This resulted in numerous copies of the letter spread about so that anyone who desired could extort the Lindbergh family since dozens, if not hundreds, of people now knew the unique signature of the kidnappers.

The second act was to advertise in the newspapers for intermediaries between Lindbergh and the kidnappers. Why this was necessary is open to debate, but was not something the police approved; and then enters Jafsie, otherwise known as Dr. John F. Condon who offered to barter the transactions between the Lone Eagle (a Lindbergh nickname) and the unknown kidnappers.   Jafsie was the moniker he invented to intercede with the criminals holding the baby. He was basically a con man who enjoyed the sound of his own voice and who initially did not identify Bruno Richard Hauptman as the man in the cemetery who is known to history as “Cemetery John”.  The man in the cemetery was to collect the ransom money from Condon.

When the police did offer good ideas such as staking out the mail boxes from which the numerous kidnapping notes were mailed, Lindbergh exploded and forbid it claiming it would endanger the child. Police also suggested tapping Condon’s telephone to discover the origin of the kidnapper calls, but again Lindbergh nixed the idea. In any way possible Charles Lindbergh screwed up the investigation of his son’s disappearance.  Why would he do that?

For months there were no leads, which would trigger another look at the family and household staff in today’s world, especially when you consider that this was the third kidnaping episode involving Colonel Lindbergh. Before Charles dated Anne Morrow he was first interested in her younger sister, Constance, who did not return his affection. When Anne and her parents (Dwight Morrow was a banker and U.S. ambassador to Mexico) went to Europe Constance went to college where she received a letter stating that unless the writer was given $50,000 she would be kidnapped.  It was the exact same amount demanded by whoever kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. Two months before the Lindbergh baby went missing from Hopewell, his father had played a sadistic joke on his wife and the Hopewell staff. He hid the child in a closet and let his terrified wife believe the baby had been kidnapped. (Lindbergh was well known in personal circles for his mean jokes. Amelia Earhart had witnessed one where Charles had dripped water onto his wife’s silk dress in front of company, knowing that the dress would be ruined. Earhart did not like being called; “Lady Lindy” and his in-laws bore him little affection).

When the child disappeared on the evening of March 1, 1932 Anne Lindbergh and the nanny, Betty Gow, both thought that Charles had taken the baby. There was no kidnapping note when the two women searched the nursery; it only appeared later after Lindbergh entered the room. His first response upon entering the room had been, “Anne, they have taken our baby.”  Rather than open the note, Lindbergh ordered no one to open it as fingerprints could still be on it. It was the only time he displayed any concern for preservation of evidence or respect for law enforcement.

The police did manage to override Lindbergh in marking the ransom money, which led to the arrest of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who maintained his innocence despite being offered large sums of money to confess. He claimed to have received the money from an acquaintance named Isadore Fisch, a con man to whom Hauptmann had lost $7000. Fisch gave Hauptmann a sack of money to hold and since the man owned him money, Hauptmann withdrew some of the bills, which were gold certificates recently recalled by the government and spent them.  Police had placed the certificates in the ransom payoff and recorded the serial numbers so that they would be easy to trace.  Aside from the bills, no other evidence ever connected the German to the Lindbergh kidnapping and murder. Later the prosecution would mention Condon’s contact information written inside a closet at the Hauptmann house and a missing board from the attic allegedly from the kidnap ladder, which amazingly was not missing when police searched the attic the first time. The information etched in the closet had been placed there by a reporter who later admitted it.

The child’s body was found on May 12 not far from Hopewell, tossed in a ditch. The American public was outraged and already prejudiced against Germans after the First World War and the Nazi activities abroad (though Lindbergh was an ardent Nazi supporter), so Hauptmann was doomed from the start. He was shafted by his lawyers and Lindbergh sat at the prosecutor’s table further fanning the flames against the poor carpenter who would never have made such a flimsy ladder.

The prosecution claimed that Hauptmann placed the ladder against the house, outside the only window that had shutters that did not latch. (A recent book Cemetery John claims that Hauptmann then took off his shoes and tiptoed upstairs to snatch the baby, which is farfetched. However, the contention that a man named John Knox could have been Cemetery John is entirely possible, since many people had access to the initial kidnapping letter.) Charles Lindbergh sat fifteen feet from the front door of an isolated house built for the purpose of evading snooping reporters and fans, so why would the door be left unlocked? Charles reported that he heard the sound of wood breaking sometime around 9pm, but never got up to check it out. Odd, since he put on a good show of running about the house with a rifle two months earlier during his practical joke. Anne heard nothing. The dog, a viscous one that Lindbergh bought for that very reason, failed to hear strangers outside or inside the house, but barked at police or anyone else entering the property. The baby was not checked on until 10 pm per Lindbergh’s orders that the child not be pampered.

It was definitely an inside job since the Lindberghs were not usually at Hopewell, but had been staying with the Morrow’s. Someone close had to have been involved to know the change in plans. The nanny later committed suicide prompting suspicions toward Gow and her boyfriend who was later deported, but not charged. Charles telephoned his wife the afternoon of March 1 and told her not to bring the baby out in the rain since he had a cold, but Anne wrote to her mother-in-law that the baby was over the cold and either way could have been bundled up. The fatherly concern does not hold water as Lindbergh ran his household like a boot camp, being very hard on his future children.

Lindbergh was extremely focused on details and planning, so his later explanation for arriving at Hopewell at 8:25pm and honking the horn to announce his presence is suspicious. He had an important speaking engagement that night and claimed that he just got the dates mixed up.  He should not have even been at Hopewell or the Morrow’s residence that evening.

To anyone with common sense Charles Lindbergh should have been considered a suspect, especially with a kidnapping practical joke just two months earlier. The public never knew the inconsiderate side of Lucky Lindy that make his pregnant wife fly thousands of feet in the air with no oxygen for hours, more than likely causing some damage to the fetus. Whether Charles Jr. suffered mentally or physically from that incident is unknown, but Lindbergh would hardly have had any sympathy for a disabled child.

Recently, the sleeper and other items kept as evidence were released to the family who plan to lay the whole incident to rest. The evidence should have remained in a museum as historical exhibits. Questions about the identity of the body recovered will remain unanswered as Charles Lindbergh had the body of Charles Jr. cremated before any examination could be done, which is strange right in the middle of a criminal investigation and once again nobody stopped him. Lindbergh was the only one to identify the infant body as Charles Jr.

An interesting note on the sleeper that helped put Hauptmann in the electric chair was that it was new or recently washed with nothing to distinguish it from thousands of others on the market. Why would kidnappers wash a sleeper before sending it in an age before DNA? It’s obvious that someone bought one and sent it to the Lindberghs to identify it as belonging to their son. Charles Lindbergh was a major force in the prosecution and execution of Hauptmann for the crime.

On June 25, 2012 a man claiming to be the Lindbergh baby did an interview on Coast to Coast AM radio. His story is very plausible in that he states his father, Charles Lindbergh, was not the great guy the media portrayed him to be and he was into cruel practical jokes that included staging his earlier kidnapping.  The man known as “Paul” for years was followed by FBI agents and in fact met with Charles Lindbergh at a coffee shop in California in 1943. His DNA test matched that of his Lindbergh sister indicating that they both shared Anne Morrow Lindbergh as a mother. Charles was a well known Nazi supporter who had numerous affairs that included German women. By 1943 it was clear that supporting Hitler was a mistake and Charles was trying to repair his reputation. Admitting that he had his son kidnapped because of a deformity or as a joke was not an option by 1943, so he never admitted Paul was his son.

The case is an interesting one and too complicated to fully investigate here, but even in grade school I wondered why Lindbergh was never investigated or questioned regarding the kidnapping and death of his child.  For further reading check out;

The Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax by Gregory Ahlgren and Stephen Monier

Cemetery John by Robert Zorn

The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Kidnapping and the Framing of Richard Hauptman by Ludovic Kennedy

Examiner Article on Charles Jr.

http://www.examiner.com/article/man-claiming-to-be-lindbergh-baby-appears-on-coast-to-coast-am?cid=db_articles

D.A. Chadwick

D.A. Chadwick

I am the author of several  books and a professional translator of French, German and Dutch to English.  My latest thriller is about the French villages of Rennes le Chateau and Perillos, a region in the South of France that has long fascinated me. In Rennes le Chateau: The Point of Origin, I combine my interests in history, genetics and bioengineering.

My last novel, The Good Nazi, examines the friendship between two best friends during the Third Reich, one Jewish and the other Protestant. Anna and Ingrid end up on opposite ends of the fence when Ingrid becomes a camp guard and Anna joins the resistance. They meet up again in 2006 when Ingrid, who has been a rabbi’s wife for fifty years faces a deportation hearing and reaches out to Dr. Anna Mendel for help.

I live in the Midwest and I am also a high school Special Education substitute teacher.  I have an adopted daughter with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and autism. I would like to find a copy of the book written by Annie Pecher who started a school for autistic children in Belgium. It was very well regarded and used by professionals in the field.

My current project involves translating 300 letters from German soldiers on the Eastern Front during WWII that I bought from a collector in Croatia.  I plan a nonfiction book about their experiences.