From Beyond The Woods: The Hinterkaifeck Murders

Posted by Xavier Ortega | June 1, 2013 28

house-fog

The maid stood outside the farmhouse, her bags felt heavy as she placed them next to the steps of the front porch. A somber look in her eyes conveyed her uneasy feelings. She looked out into the dark forest that surrounded the secluded farmhouse. A thick, cold fog began seeping out of the tree line, reaching for the farmhouse like Death’s boney claws.

“I should be going now Mr. Gruber. It’s starting to get dark.” she said. The maid thanked Mr. Gruber again and picked up her bags and began walking down the dirt road.

Mr. Gruber didn’t say a word. He didn’t know what to make of the reason she gave to quit her job at the farmhouse. She refused to work for the Grubers and wanted to leave the grounds as fast as she could. The terrified maid told them that the farmstead was haunted and that she would not stay there another night. She was certain that ghosts inhabited the house and wanted nothing to do with the place or the occupants. He watched as she neared at the end of the dirt road, reaching the main highway that connected to the town of Ingolstadt.

As the rolling fog swallowed the maid into oblivion, Mr. Gruber stood pensive, somewhat confused and somewhat concerned. He couldn’t shake the image of the maid’s terror stricken face as she told them about the strange things she had been hearing in and around their farmhouse. Disembodied footsteps coming from the attic and other noises had lead to many sleepless nights in the house.

Weeks later, Mr. Gruber told the locals of hearing footsteps in his attic and of having found a set of footprints in the snow. The tracks came from the forest that surrounded his property and lead straight up to his house. He told them that the footprints ended abruptly and that there were no set of footprints leading back into the dark forest.

Six months after the maid had left Hinterkaifeck farm, on the evening of March 31, 1922, the entire Gruber Family and their new maid were murdered in cold blood. The Hinterkaifeck Farm Murders remain one of Germany’s most unnerving murder mysteries.

Hinterkaifeck Farm

An hour’s drive from Munich is Kaifeck, a small Bavarian village made up from a few scattered farmsteads. One farm in particular stood apart from the others. Nestled deep in a German forest, Hinterkaifeck existed isolated from the prying eyes of the rest of the villagers.

Everyone in Kaifeck knew of the Grubers, the family of five that ran and lived in HinterKaifeck. Sixty-three-year-old Andreas Gruber. His wife Cazilia of seventy-two years of age and their widowed daughter, Viktoria. Viktoria had two children. Two-year-old Josef and seven-year-old Cazilia.

Andreas was known throughout town to have physically abused his wife and to have had an incestuous relationship with his daughter. For this reason, many people chose not to associate with the Grubers. Rumors had been spreading in the village that Andreas was the actual father of two-year-old Josef.

Watcher in the woods

In the middle of March of 1922, Andreas Gruber was outside inspecting his farm after a brief snowstorm had fallen the night before. While surveying his property, he noticed a printsnowlong track of footprints, deep in the fresh snow that lead to the back of his home. Andreas followed the track until they suddenly stopped, a few feet away from his house. Alarmed, he turned around and began to follow the tracks far into the fields that surrounded his farm.

As Andreas marched through the powdery snow, he could see where the trail was leading to. A few hundred yards out, Andreas saw that the footprints had came from the dark woods that surrounded HinterKaifeck. A chill ran down his spine and he raced back to inspect his home. After searching his barn, tool shed, and house, Andreas sat perplexed at the strange tracks of a late night visitor that seemed to have simply, disappeared.

He thought about what his former maid had told him about the farm. About how she was leaving because of the ghosts that haunted his home. Andreas shook the thought out of his head and went back inside his house. While asleep that night, he was awoken by the sound of footsteps coming from his attic. Andreas woke his wife, who immediately ran to grab his gun. After inspecting the attic and the rest of the house, he found nothing and urged his wife to go back to bed. Andreas sat up all night worrying about the high strangeness that had fallen upon Hinterkaifeck.

The next morning he woke up early to look for more footprints. Having found non, he went back to the house only to find an unfamiliar newspaper sitting in his porch. He inspected the newspaper and shuddered. No one in his house had ever read, nor seen this newspaper before.

After inspecting his entire farm and finding nothing once again, Andreas talked to a neighbor about the strangeness that was going on in his farm. His neighbor reported no problems on his farm, nor in any of the other farms that he had visited. Frustrated, Andreas went back home. When he went to grab his keys from his desk he noticed that they were gone, someone had taken them. Checking on his tool shed, he noticed that someone had tried to pick the lock.

After questioning his entire family and coming up with no answers to the whereabouts of his keys or the lock picking, Andreas gave up. He spent another night laying awake in his bed, frustrated and terrified. This was the night of March 30th, 1922. The night before the murders.

Death arrives at Hinterkaifeck

hinterkaifeck_barn

Maria Baumgartner arrived at the Hinterkaifeck farm early in the afternoon of March 31st. Her first day into her new job would be the last day she’d be alive. For hours after arriving at the farm, the maid along with the entire Gruber clan would be murdered with a pickaxe in a grisly and unnerving crime.

Not having heard from any of the Grubers in days, the locals began to grow suspicious. The young Cazilia had not showed for class that Monday and wasn’t in class Tuesday, April 4th. That’s when they found out from the postman mail for the Grubers had been piling up since Saturday, four days ago, and no one had come in to pick it up. The neighbors mounted a search party and traversed through the dark woods and arrived at HinterKaifeck to find the place eerily still. After calling out their names and not getting any responses, they proceeded to inspect the farm.

The first place they checked was the barn that sat a few yards away from the house. In there, they were horrified to find the bodies of Andreas, his wife, his daughter Viktoria, and his granddaughter Cazilia. Laying in a large pool of coagulated blood. All appeared to have been lured into the barn and killed one by one as they entered into their deaths. What unnerved the men was when they noticed that Cazilia had torn clumps of her hair out. She had been alive long enough to see the horrors unfold before her young eyes.

They went on to inspected the house, not to their surprise they found Josef and the new maid also laying in a pool of blood. News of the killings reached the Munich police department within hours.

An investigation at Hinterkaifeck

Munich police found that nothing of value had been taken from the house. In fact, the state in which the farm was found in had everyone spooked. Whoever had killed the Grubers, had also slept and ate next to their cold bodies.

The police were able to determine that the murderer, or murderers, fed the livestock throughout the weekend as well eating some of the food in the house and sleeping inside the Gruber’s home. When questioned, neighbors reported seeing smoke billowing up from the chimney of the house throughout the weekend. Thinking nothing of it, they continued with their daily lives without the slightest inkling that something afoul was stirring inside HinterKaifeck.

Combing through the entire house, police were able to find a large sum of money and other valuables scattered throughout. Their theory of the murders being a ‘robbery gone bad’ was soon giving way. Nevertheless, the police began the task of questioning  several villagers from Kaifeck and the surrounding areas. Travelers and migrant workers were also investigated and questioned, but nothing came of it. The official autopsy reports confirmed that the entire family and maid were murdered in cold blood with a pickaxe.

 

Aftermath

hinterkaifeck-coffins

The HinterKaifeck Murders have remained unsolved throughout the years. All physical evidence leads to the conclusion that this was a crime of passion. Therefore it was speculated that Viktoria’s former suitor, a man named Lorenz Schlittenbauer could have been the killer. But why him?

It was said the Schlittenbauer was Josef’s father, but almost everyone in the village knew that Josef’s father was his real grandfather. When questioned by the police, Schlittenbauer informed them that he knew that Andreas and his daughter were having and incestuous relationship and that Josef was a product of it. Killing them wouldn’t have served Schlittenbauer any purpose. Still, the police continued with their investigation until they weren’t able to pin anything on Schlittenbauer. The case grew cold.

There are those who believe that the only explanation is a paranormal one. The former maid had quit under the guise that the farm was haunted. She was too scared to work there and therefore quit. She had told Andreas and Cazilia about the strange sounds coming from the attic months before Andreas found the footprints leading to his house. Months before he found the unfamiliar newspaper in his home, and months before he himself hearing the strange footsteps coming from attic nights before being murdered.

The following year after the murders, locals had the isolated farmstead destroyed. The memories and the unsettling rumors of the Grubers buried away deep in the dark forest. Where only the woods from which those strange footprints emerged that cold March morning, only they know exactly what occurred in Hinterkaifeck.

Hinterkaifeck-Marterl

Sources used:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinterkaifeck

http://www.hinterkaifeck.net/wiki/images/Sargbild_Weltbild_1953.jpg

http://www.funtrivia.com/en/subtopics/Hinterkaifeck-Germanys-Most-Famous-Cold-Case-343240.html

http://joeyclifton.smugmug.com/Landscapes/Landscapes/i-kdwqDV6/0/L/Canada4_20110513-425-L.jpg

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I'm a writer, a runner, and a hell of a coffee drinker residing in Los Angeles. I'm currently working on a book about Doris Bither and her terrifying account of a haunting in Culver City, California. The case was dubbed "The Entity" and it stands to be one of the most controversial cases ever to be studied by parapsychologists.

  • duckman0605

    It was a different article about this murder that mentions the dog. This article is not complete.

  • Seraph

    Yeah, right, they should have questioned the dog as a witness. Some fine police work you’ve got going on there!

  • shelly

    thank you for writing this it helped a lot with my research paper

  • Chase Capozzi

    i read in a different article that when Schlittenbauer was near the dog when he was in the search party, the dog barked at him and seemed to be wary of him

  • Delax

    Personally, I’m glad that house was torn down, and with that forest… It should be burned to the ground. We don’t need paranormal spirits lurking in woods or houses.

  • dr. rosenp

    Right. Ghosts don’t need food.

  • Henri Dominique Paratte

    I do not think there anything paranormal here. I think these people were viewed as evil and sinful by the community and someone decided they should be killed to atone for those sins in a terrible blood ritual. This is a Bavaria where Catholic belief reigns supreme.

  • Henri Dominique Paratte

    I think you’re on the right track but I doubt a vagrant would have mustered the type of violence necessary or the type of knowledge of the place necessary to arrange for the murder. The murderer (or possibly murderer-executioner assisted by someone else) had to be both extremlely violent and full of rage, and at the same time very methodical, since none of the family members ran away to the road in a frenzy after hearing screams or seeing a bloody corpse in the barn. In some way, this had to be someone who knew at least one of the Gruber-Gabriel family. If we discard the notion that Viktoria’s husband might have lived after the war unknown to most and come back with a serious PTSD or physical disorder, it had to be someone from the community and very likely someone at least one member of the family knew – very likely Viktoria, who was rumored to be a beautiful woman and partook farily easily of her charms for all we know. We have no indication that the person who supposedly lived in the attic, supposedly stole the keys and tried to get into the shed, and the murderer, are necessarily the same; regardless, it was obvious someone wanted to frighten the maid beyond her wits, so that she wouldn’t be there when the murders took place since they were directed towards eradicating a sinful family. My guess is the murders were planned for Friday night regardless, and the new maid unfortunately showed up right before when it was not expected and sealed her fate – but in her case she was, like the boy, probably killed straight from sleep. The blood ritual was to hit only the Gruber “gene” which was tainting the whole community. This was a Bavaria of old, very fanatic, religious Catholic stock that must have been appalled at what was going on in that farm. Eugenics was all over as well in 19th and 20th century Europe, probably reinforcing the notion that incestuous degenerates had to be killed to cleanse the community; this would be, not so long later, the basis for the nazi government T-4 action against “degenerates” and against Jews viewed as the ultimate degenerates.. Unless we consider that this extremely violent murder was perpetrated by the returning husband (who would of course have stayed at the farm before, but to all intents and purposes had nowhere to go since he was officially dead) and feel that passion and lustful rage of a cuckold were the motive behind the murders, we may consider that following the murder as a blood (and very bloody) ritual, some form of exorcism took place during the days that followed. On the other hand, if we consider a conspiracy for a cleansing ritual by the community, all neighbours would have sworn to outside police that they had noticed nothing and that the chimney was smoking – a prearranged testimony shared by all. My guess is that the community, and some people in the community, planned this and were very much involved, but tried to pass it off to Munich police first as robbery (that’s the term the police used at first in German), then as something done by a jilted lover (who was either a patsy or aware of the whole scheme), or as something done by a vagrant (they were fairly numerous in Germany at the time). In my view, the quick destruction of the farm buildings (a year later) and the erection of a “holy” grave site instead tends to confirm this. It may also be that nobody stayed in the farm but simply moved there from time to time as a kind of warning to the Grubers to try and amend their ways, so to speak. Tracks in the snow to frighten them. Noise in the attic at night, disappearance of keys, all to frighten them, I consider that you can only consider “ghosts” if any other explanation is out, and ghosts and spirits (who usually have been demonstrated to be hoaxes as in Amherst, for instance) usualluy don’t perpetrate a planned, organized, terribly violent massacre in two rooms and with a mattock. There is no doubt in my mind, though, that this is a murder clearly connected to a “spiritual cleansing” and “blood cleansing” of some kind – all members of the Gruber-Gabriel clan had to be killed on the same specific Friday night. March 31st or April 1st probably had a very specific meaning once the decision to get rid of that sinful sore on the community had been taken. Similar blood cleansing murders have been seen in other cults and religious groups.

  • Henri Dominique Paratte

    There have been several documentaries done from this, at least one being a docu-drama so there is a part of acting fiction as well as purely documentaty material, and of course a movie was made following the success of the novel Tannöd which is certainly worth seeing. It is hard for us, particularly in North America, to imagine the type of human and spiritual environment people in Bavaria at the time were living through, especially following the huge upheaval of the war and the end of kingdoms and empires. Fortunately, movies were made by Germans, and one filmmaker in particular comes from the area where the story has become part of traditional folk-lore.

  • Henri Dominique Paratte

    It is highly unlikely a woman would have killed in such a way, plus it would easily lead to her in some way. What is likely, though, is that either she witnessed Gruber and Viktoria having intercourse (she would have known and not believed in spirits, women have a strong intuition for such things) and reported to some people in the community that the shameful blood defiling was going on, or quite possibly she was herself the object of Gruber’s sexual desires, and decided at one point, for some reason, to leave – either he had not given in to some of her demands in order to continue the relationship and she was mad and jealous, or she simply did not really welcome the penis of a 63-year old and did not want to get pregnant. You see where this leads: let’s imagine she got pregnant, how do you get rid of the product of sin in fanatic Catholic Bavaria? And could she have had a boyfriend who decided to put an end to that sinful behavior once and for all – in that case you might imagine a scenario where she led him to the farmhouse, kept the dog quiet, and arranged for the Grubers to go one by one to the murder site. My guess remains that Viktoria was the first to be killed, despite the fact that killing Gruber was obviously more urgently needed since he was the strongest. This crime has a number of unexplored dimensions once you start thinking. None were followed by the police, and probably for a very good reason – the community steered them away from them as much as they could.

  • Henri Dominique Paratte

    Removing the heads is, when you think about it, an extremely strange twist of this fascinating massacre. Whatever is being offered as a “scientific” explanation, there is clearly something of a more spiritual nature in preserving heads, which would tie in with popular beliefs as well as the blood ritual itself. What was the belief in Bavarian Catholic-inspired folklore about bodies being laid to rest in the ground without heads, when Catholic belief officially considers a body has to be buried in hallowed ground with all its parts to be able to rise for Christ’s Second Coming? Sure, many 19-th century crimimals were beheaded (as in France) so their brains could be studied. But in this case we had victims, and their heads had pretty much been bashed in and presented no interest for scientists analyzing crime, unless of course someone wanted to study the “degenerate” brains of a whole family…

  • Henri Dominique Paratte

    Thanks for this reference to Villisca.

  • Manda Block

    It is quite eerily similar in some aspects. Both cases haunt me and won’t leave me alone with all the questions they bring.