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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Morbid Mailbag: your stories about Lindbergh and Hauptmann

Since starting my research into the Lindbergh trial, I've gotten some fascinating messages.  This is very much a hometown story for me, and that's true for many people from Flemington!

Here are a couple tales for you...

A reply on my first Reddit thread:

Friday, October 16, 2015

I also grew up in NJ and went to college nearby where this occurred. I have always been infatuated with this case. My freshmen year of college, in my speech class, I presented my speech on this case.

After class, an acquaintance of mine approached me and said I should come see somersetting in her room. She showed me a photograph of a man and a letter from the state of NJ. Her great-grandfather was the truck driver that found the baby. She also shared with me that her great-grandfather knew that the baby that was found was NOT the Lindbergh baby. The story she told me is that the police kept repeating to him, "This is the Lindbergh baby, do you understand that?" But that the baby was actually a child from the nearby orphanage that they used as a decoy to make it seem as though the baby had been killed. He overheard that the baby was sent away to another family.

Heart's thoughts:

 Sadly, Lindbergh opted for cremation, so tales like these can never be put to rest. The body was badly decomposed and partly eaten by animals, though, so I doubt the truck driver or assistant would have been able to make an identification.  You can find images of the corpse online (I will refrain from posting one here at the moment).  The face was slightly recognizable, and the corpse was identified based on the undershirt hand-sewn by Bessie Gow and an overlapping toe.

Message from my "Submit a case" page:

October 26, 2015

So I saw your post on the Lindbergh Trial on Reddit. I haven't ever felt comfortable sharing this, so here goes, I guess. I've been doing genealogy for the past few years. I was compiling stories and such, and my grandmother asks me if I know about the Lindbergh baby. I'm like, of course I do.

She says, "Do you know Bruno was innocent?"

Of course I was interested in what she had to say.

My grandfather's mother's father worked with Bruno. He worked with Bruno as a carpenter and a house painter. My great-great-grandfather and Bruno put the ladder together from the slats or flooring in Bruno's attic in order to paint Highfields, since the Lindberghs hadn't been there for some time and they requested the house to have a fresh coat of paint.

By my grandmother's story, Bruno couldn't have kidnapped the baby due to the fact he had an alibi. He was with my great-great-grandfather's parents; I don't know if it was one or both. But he had an alibi and couldn't have done it. My great-great-grandfather was kind of confused why the police didn't contact him, as it was known that they were working on the house. And I have never have seen his name mentioned, ever. 

Heart's response:

That is fascinating.  I've yet to go through Bruno's testimony, but I'll be sure to check that out.  At the time of the kidnapping (this is based on part of the testimony that are available on Murderpedia) Hauptmann had been looking for work, and was supposed to work at a hotel that day but was told he wasn't needed.  So he claims he was going around New York looking for work all day.  His alibi for the time of the kidnapping was having dinner with his wife at a restaurant, so I need to see if there were any witnesses to attest to that (or if there weren't, why weren't any questioned? and so on).

Hauptmann did claim that he never made a ladder, didn't make that ladder, and didn't even sketch a ladder (there was a sketch found in his notebooks).  So I'm kind of skeptical, because if he had a legitimate reason for making that ladder, why not own up to it?  I can see him denying it if he didn't have a lawyer, but being that he did the lawyer must have pressed him like "if you can explain your way out of this, it'll save your life."

So I'm skeptical, but eager to compare this to his testimony!

Anonymous' response:

That is interesting. Their last name is [redacted]. They were from Mercer County, New Jersey. My grandmother says they weren't questioned at all which I don't quite understand.  [Great-great-grandfather] was a carpenter as well as a painter. It might have not been Bruno's, so why did he have it if it was made by [great-great-grandfather]? And deny working on the house. Did he copy it?

They could have pressed him like that and he got defensive and decided to lie, because either way he was going to look guilty like if he told the "truth."  For example,"Well you were working with someone who made the ladder --  how do we know you didn't use it to break in?"

I honestly feel like my grandfather's grandparents knew a lot more then they let on. They were adamant about the eugenics theory [i.e., that Lindbergh had his son killed because he had some sort of a disability]. Well, why? What did they know? They didn't live far from where the Lindberghs' home was. I was told they have a lot secrets or skeletons in the closet considering this it makes them all the more cryptic/ominous.

I don't like that they didn't cross-examine Mrs.Lindbergh.  That leaves so much open. It'd be nice to be able to bring everyone involved back from the dead for one afternoon and just ask, you know, since the dead can't go to prison. Haha!

Do you have a personal tale to tell about the Lindbergh case?  

Or any case, for that matter?  Let's chat!


  1. There's no way the above is accurate. Hauptmann's attic was very, very small and nearly impossible to get into (shelving had to be removed to even get up there). The idea that he'd spend any time at all up there to work would be really tough, especially when he'd built himself a garage recently. Further, there was only a small piece of one board missing (probably from electricians doing electrical work), so saying the ladder was built from ladder boards. It is this piece which the state said matched a board on the ladder. The rest was patched together from various other kids of wood, none matching Hauptmann's attic. Most telling, the idea that Hauptmann, a carpenter, would take to using boards from his attic to build a ladder, when he had a lot of lumber on hand, is a ridiculous.

    The house was brand new. They didn't need a "fresh coat of paint."

    Finally, the NJSP spent countless man hours looking into all of the companies that did work on Highfields, finding any way to tie Hauptmann to the estate. They came up with nothing. The painters were obviously first among these.

  2. Couple other things:

    - Hauptmann always claimed he was scheduled to work at the Majestic Apartments but the time sheets were lots that day.
    - He never claimed to be eating dinner with his wife. The story was that she worked at a local deli and he picked her up at a time that would make him being part of the kidnapping near impossible.
    - Multiple witnesses said they remembered him always picking her up and one even remembered the night in question, because they'd got into an argument. They were strongarmed by the state into changing their story.

    1. From what I read of Hauptmann's testimony that I've found online, he picked up Anna and the two of them went to a restaurant for dinner, as was their usual tradition. I have yet to verify this with Hauptmann's testimony on microfilm, as I'm still in the prosecution witnesses. However, I am quite confident that Hauptmann was at a restaurant on the night of March 1st, 1932:



    2. ^ I mean, that Hauptmann's alibi was that he was at a restaurant.

    3. It was but not eating. He testified that he picked his wife up from the restaurant she worked at.

    4. No, you are definitely wrong. He testified that he picked her up and then they ate at a restaurant.

  3. • The entire nursery was void of fingerprints when investigators arrived, even in places the servants and Ann Lindbergh were said to have touched only an hour before.
    • It was the first weeknight ever that the child was staying at the Hopewell house. It was only decided a few hours before the kidnapping that the child would remain at the house, on the orders of Lindbergh.
    • Always punctual Lindbergh missed his speaking engagement that night and never gave a reason as to why or said where he was.
    • The house was impossible to find to even to the local police in daylight. The idea that a German carpenter from New York City could make his way there in a torrential rainstorm by himself is laughable.
    • The nursery window sill was close to two feet deep, with a chest just past it, then a suitcase sitting on top of that. Atop this case, a few toys sat undisturbed. Nearly impossible for someone to pass over in a terrible rainstorm in the pitch black. Whoever entered would have to launch themselves three feet into the room and conduct some circus-level acrobatics to get out with a child in tow.
    • There were no muddy footprints or handprints in the nursery, except tiny marks. • There was a rainstorm and the house had no grass. Whoever came in would have been covered in wet mud.
    • There were NO sets of footprints leading up to the house but multiple sets leading away. Utterly baffling.
    • Years later, Governor Hoffman hired a non-biased investigator to look into the case. This investigator, Leon Ho-age, came to a very interesting conclusion... The whole scene looked like it was staged to appear as if they came in the window, right down to the note on the window sill (rather than the crib, where you’d expect it), as a way to be like “Look! We went out this way!” It makes far more sense someone passed the kid out the window or somebody grabbed the kid and handed him out the back door, while the scene was staged to look like a kidnapping.

    It was all really, really odd. If this all happened today the first place Detectives would look would be the family. However, Lindbergh was a superhero at the time. On his orders, the detectives were forbidden from interviewing the house staff, following the ransom negotiations or even recording the serial numbers of the ransom bills (the treasury department overruled him on that). It was clear he was hiding something.

    In retrospect, Lindbergh was a fervent eugenicist who believed in perfecting the human race, even having incredibly sympathetic feelings to the Third Reich. In 2003 it came out that he'd fathered numerous children with Aryan parents in Germany. DNA testing confirmed it.

    The problem with his firstborn, however, was that the child was imperfect. It was confirmed he had a some type of condition that manifested itself like rickets and by the time he was a toddler, it was clear the boy had serious health concerns. Lindbergh probably asked a friend or confidant to help with his problem by sending the child away, who in turn hired a gang of people who would come to the mansion, stage a kidnapping and make off with the child, which would then be taken to a hospital somewhere. Death probably wasn't part of the initial equation.

    1. Read The Case That Never Dies. It's really, really good and worth your time if you are interested in this case. The author spent so much time with the original police reports and case documents. It was written with no particular theory in mind and simply dissects the case in linear detail.

    2. I would rather spend time with those documents myself.