Bavaria 1921 and the end of a long cold winter. Who could possibly know then, that a small farm seventy kilometres from Munich and close to the small hamlet of Kaifeck, was about to provide Germany with one of its most enduring mysteries?
Almost a century later and the events of Friday 31st March still baffle amateur sleuths and paranormal investigators.
The Hintercaifeck mystery remains unsolved, posing far more questions than answers. Intriguing and puzzling, it provides the German police with a most frustrating cold case.
Hintercaifeck Farm was a small farm a short distance from the hamlet of Kaifeck. Backing onto a forest, the farm was relatively isolated.
Although it was small, the farm was successful and the occupants, although not rich, were certainly comfortably off.
The owner of the farm Andreas Gruber, lived there with his wife Cazilla, his widowed daughter Viktoria Gabriel and her children Cazilla who was 7 and Josef 2.
On the 31st March, Maria Baumgarten, a very unlucky lady, arrived to replace the Grubers’ maid who had left six months before. The cast of this mystery was complete and the scene was set for a very gruesome murder to take place.
Murder in The Barn
Sometime during the evening of Friday 31st March, the first two victims of this shocking crime, Viktoria Gabriel and her daughter Cazilla, were lured into the barn of the farm and attacked.
Possibly returning a cow to its stall and still wearing their day clothes, they entered the barn and met their deaths. Both mother and child had been partially strangled before being attacked with a pick axe.
The poor child did not die immediately and was found clutching clumps of her own hair which she had pulled out herself.
Sometime later that evening Andreas Gruber and his wife Cazilla entered the barn in their night clothes and were also killed. Their attacker then entered the house and murdered the small child Josef and the maid Maria, as they slept in their beds.
One of the most fascinating aspects to this case is the strange series of events which preceded the murders. The Grubers had been without a maid for six months before the unfortunate Maria arrived to meet her fate.
The previous maid had fled, convinced that Hintercaifeck Farm was haunted by a malevolent spirit who moved around the attic. Clearly nobody had warned the unfortunate Maria before she took up the post.
A few days before the murders Andreas Gruber had been disturbed by footsteps in the snow outside his home. The footsteps emerged from the nearby forest and led to his door, they then ended abruptly.
There were no visitors to the farm and the footprints did not belong to any of the occupants. A search of the farm revealed nothing. That evening Gruber heard noises from the attic above, again a search revealed nothing.
Over the next few days attempts were made to break into a shed on the property, a strange newspaper was found in the doorway of the house and a set of keys to the farm disappeared. Gruber was concerned enough to discuss it with his neighbors.
By the 4th April 1921, the absence of the family was raising concern and a group of neighbors arrived at the farm to investigate. What they discovered adds another bizarre twist to this story.
The animals on the farm had been tended to and were well fed, despite almost five days passing since the murders. There was food on the table in the house and a fire had been lit.
The murderer clearly felt confident enough to stay around for a few days, without being discovered. The bodies in the barn had been neatly stacked and covered with hay, Maria the maid was covered with a sheet and the toddler Josef, with one of his mother’s skirts.
Over 100 people were interviewed by Munich police determined to crack the case and solve the murder. Robbery was clearly not a motive as jewelry and coins were found in the house and would have been easily discovered.
Eventually, frustrated by the lack of progress, the police took the decision to decapitate the bodies of the poor victims, sending their heads to Munich to be examined by clairvoyants for clues.
They could offer no answers. The cold case was reopened in 1996 by police and again in 2007.
The final conclusion was that the original investigative techniques were too primitive and that too much time had passed to solve the case. They did state though that there was a prime suspect for the murders, but refused to release the name out of defence to the suspect’s family.
Viktoria Gabriel was widowed almost seven years before the murders took place, yet she had a two year old son, Josef. Viktoria was insistent that the father of her son was a local man Lorenz Schlittenbauer.
He denied that he was the father of the child and in turn accused Andreas Gruber of incest with his daughter. Viktoria was in the process of suing Schlittenbauer for alimony when she was murdered.
Was this Schlittenbauer’s way of avoiding alimony?
One of the first neighbors to discover the bodies, others remarked at his coldness when seeing them for the first time. Indeed, he busied himself feeding the animals and preparing himself food while they waited for the police to arrive.
Another theory suggests that Viktoria’s husband was not killed during the First World War as previously thought and incensed to discover she had a child by another man, resorted to murder.
Although there is no grave for Karl Gabriel, other soldiers testified that they had seen him die on the battle field.
Viktoria had drawn her life savings out of the bank a few weeks earlier and borrowed a sum of money from a friend in order to buy a farm. She later left this sum of money in the confessional of the local church, clearly her plans had changed.
Falling asleep in school one day, the child Cazilla told her teacher that she was tired because her mother had run sobbing into the forest the night before and the family had been up late searching for her.
Had Viktoria begun a secret relationship that had gone wrong?
Was it coincidence that Maria Baumgarten arrived on the very day of the murders?
The Grubers had found it difficult to fill the post. Did Maria take the post because she was in trouble desperately trying to escape from someone or something who discovered her destination?
Or is there indeed a supernatural explanation for the murders of this poor family. Was the Gruber’s first maid correct when she said the farm was haunted by a malevolent spirit?
The Hintercaifeck mystery is unlikely to be solved today. Lovers, husbands or the supernatural , you decide. One thing is for sure though, almost a century has passed and the answers lie hidden in the dim and distant past .