The Hinterkaifeck murder
It’s March 31st, 1922. After 4 days of not hearing from the Hinterkaifeck farm, their neighbors Michael Pöll and Jakob Stig open the doors to the farm’s barn. Inside they find the bodies of Andreas Gruber, his wife Cäzilia Gruber, his daughter Viktoria Gabriel, and his granddaughter Cäzilia murdered with a mattock and later Maria Baumgartner, and the youngest family member, Viktoria’s son Josef dead inside the home, but what led to this gruesome scene?
It’s 6 months before the killings and the family maid left the farm after hearing strange sounds from the attic and believing the farm to be haunted. In March 1922 Andreas Gruber had found a newspaper inside the house that he didn’t buy. He believed it to had been lost by the postman, but that couldn’t have been possible, as nobody in the vicinity had bought it either.
Days before the murders, Gruber told neighbors about discovering tracks in the snow, leading up to the farm’s machine room with a broken lock. Later during the night, they heard footsteps in the attic, but Gruber found no one when he searched the building. Although he told several people about these alleged observations, he refused to accept help and the details went unreported to the police.
On the afternoon of March 31, 1922, a Friday, the new maid, Maria Baumgartner, arrived at the farm. During the late evening, Viktoria Gabriel, her seven-year-old daughter Cäzilia, and her parents Andreas and Cäzilia were lured to the family barn through the stable, where they were murdered, one at a time, using a mattock belonging to the family. Then, the perpetrator (or perpetrators) moved on into the living quarters, where he killed Josef, sleeping in his bassinet, and Baumgartner, in her bedchamber, using the same weapon.
4 days later, the neighbors investigated the farm and found the bodies. An investigation was started by the Munich Police Department. First, it was thought to have been a robbery by a traveling craftsman, but that was ruled out after finding a large amount of money inside the farm. Evidence showed that the younger Cäzilia had been alive for several hours after the assault. She had torn her hair out in tufts while lying in the straw. It was clear the perpetrator(s) had remained at the farm for several days: someone had fed the cattle, eaten the entire supply of bread from the kitchen, and had recently cut meat from the pantry. Multiple arrests were made, but no murderer was found and in 1955 the files were closed, although the last interrogations took place in 1985.
In the inspection record of the court commission, it was noted that the victims were probably drawn to the barn by restlessness noises in the stable resulting in noises from the animals. A later attempt, however, revealed that at least human screams from the barn could not be heard in the living area.
On the night after the crime, three days before the bodies were discovered, the artisan Michael Plöckl happened to pass by Hinterkaifeck. Plöckl observed that the oven had been heated by someone. That person had approached him with a lantern and blinded him, whereupon he hastily continued on his way. Plöckl also noticed that the smoke from the fireplace had a disgusting smell. This instance was not investigated and there were no investigations conducted to determine what had been burned that night in the oven.
On April 1 at 3:00 a.m., the farmer and butcher Simon Reißländer, on the way home near Brunnen, saw two unknown figures at the edge of the forest. When the strangers saw him, they turned around so that their faces could not be seen. Later, when he heard of the murders in Hinterkaifeck, he thought it possible that the strangers might be involved.
In the middle of May 1927, a stranger was said to have stopped a resident of Waidhofen at midnight. He asked him questions about the murder and then shouted that he was the murderer before he ran into the woods. The stranger was never identified.
Nobody still knows who the perpetrator(s) were. The Hinterkaifeck farm has since been demolished and a memorial was built.