Macabre Grimoire Chapter 22 Hinterkaifeck Murders
Hosts Ari Show, Robert Mehling, and Travis Nye
Produced by Robert Mehling
Voice Over by Dave Holly
Opening Theme Enhance Your Starry Night by Mouthful of Bees
In 1922, six people were killed at a remote German farmstead at Hinterkaifeck. They were bludgeoned in their bedclothes, but were their deaths the result of a manic serial killing, out-of-control family feud, or something else?
Strange things began to occur in and around Hinterkaifeck sometime before the attack. Six months before the attack, the family maid quit, claiming she heard strange sounds and that she believed the house to be haunted. Andreas Gruber found a strange newspaper from Munich on the property in March 1922. He could not remember buying it and thus Gruber initially believed that the postman had lost the newspaper. This was not the case, however, as no one in the vicinity subscribed to the paper. Just days before the murders, Gruber told neighbors he discovered tracks in the fresh snow that led from the forest to Hinterkaifeck. While this alone was not unsettling, it was the fact that the tracks did not lead away from the house again that unnerved him. Around the same time, one of the family’s house keys went missing. During the night they heard footsteps in the attic, but Andreas Gruber found no one when he searched the building. He declined to borrow a gun from one of his neighbors to protect himself and his family. 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. The previous housekeeper had quit approximately six months earlier, claiming the Gruber home was haunted. Her sister had escorted her there and left the farm after a short stay and she was most likely the last person to see the inhabitants alive. A few hours later, the six inhabitants of Hinterkaifeck would be dead. It is impossible to reconstruct the exact events of the evening without some speculation, but some details are clear after investigation. It appears that in the late evening, Viktoria Gabriel, her seven-year-old daughter Cäzilia, and her parents Andreas and Cäzilia Gruber, were lured to the family barn through the stable, where they were murdered, one at a time. The perpetrator (or perpetrators) used a mattock belonging to the family farm and killed the family with blows to the head. It is unclear if the family went to the barn as part of a regular routine, or if something out of the ordinary caused them to visit this part of the estate. Later experiments proved, however, that screams from the barn could not be heard in most of the rest of the estate. The perpetrator moved from the barn through the stable into the living quarters, where – with the same murder weapon – he killed the maid Maria Baumgartner in her bedchamber. Presumably, he killed young Josef last, as the two-year-old boy slept in his bassinet in his mother’s bedroom.
Four days passed between the murders and the discovery of the bodies.
On April 1, coffee sellers Hans and Eduard Schirovsky arrived in Hinterkaifeck to place an order. When no one responded to the knocks on the door and the window, they walked around the yard but found no one. They only noticed that the gate to the machine house was open before they decided to leave. Cäzilia Gabriel was absent without excuse for the next few days of school and the family failed to show up for Sunday worship. On Monday, April 3, the postman, Josef Mayer, was delivering the mail at Hinterkaifeck when he noticed that Saturday’s mail was still where he had left it, and that no one had been in the yard. Assembler Albert Hofner went to Hinterkaifeck on 4 April to repair the engine of the food chopper. He stated that he had not seen any of the family and had heard nothing but the sounds of the animals, noting the barking dog. After waiting for an hour, he decided to start his repair, which he completed in roughly 4.5 hours. After the repair, he noticed that the barn door was open, but could not say for certain whether it had been open when he got there. He peeked into the barn but did not go inside. In Gröbern, he met the daughters of the village guide, Lorenz Schlittenbauer, and told them that the repairs in Hinterkaifeck were done. Hofner also told Georg Greger, the mayor of Wangen, about the ghostly emptiness of Hinterkaifeck. Schlittenbauer then sent his two sons Johann and Josef to Hinterkaifeck to see if they could make contact with the family. When they reported that they did not see anyone, Schlittenbauer headed to the farm the same day with Michael Pöll and Jakob Sigl, at which time they discovered the mostly concealed bodies in the barn and home.
Inspector Georg Reingruber and his colleagues from the Munich Police Department investigated the killings. More than 100 suspects have been questioned throughout the years, with the most recent questioning taking place in 1986. None of the questioning ever yielded any conclusive results.
The day after the discovery of the bodies, court physician Johann Baptist Aumüller performed the autopsies in the barn. It was established that a mattock was the most likely murder weapon, though the weapon itself was not at the scene. 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, next to the bodies of her grandparents and her mother. The skulls of the corpses were sent to Munich, where clairvoyants examined them, to no avail. The heads were later lost, possibly destroyed in the Allied bombings in World War II.
The police first suspected the motive to be robbery, and they interrogated traveling craftsmen, vagrants, and several inhabitants from the surrounding villages. When a large amount of money was found in the house, they abandoned this theory. It was clear the perpetrator(s) 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. Neighbors also reported smoke coming from the chimney all weekend. The perpetrator would have easily found the money if robbery had been the intention, but as it was, the money remained untouched. With no clear motive to be gleaned from the crime scene, the police began to formulate a list of suspects.
The husband of Viktoria Gabriel, Karl Gabriel, had reportedly been killed in December 1914, during the First World War. However, his body had never been recovered. After the murders, people began to speculate if he had indeed died in the war. Viktoria Gabriel had given birth to Josef illegitimately in her husband’s absence. Two-year-old Josef was rumoured to be the son of Viktoria and her father Andreas, who had an incestuous relationship that was documented in court and known in the village. Some theorized that Karl Gabriel killed the family to seek revenge. Although soldiers from his regiment testified to his death and the police were inclined to believe them, this theory gained new nourishment over the years, after people repeatedly reported that they had met Gabriel or could confirm that he had exchanged his identity with that of a fallen comrade.
Lorenz Schlittenbauer had in 1918, shortly after the death of his first wife, carried on a relationship with Viktoria Gabriel. It is possible that he had fathered Josef, as his initials appeared on the boy’s birth certificate. Perhaps he had killed the family because Viktoria had come after him for alimony. He was suspected, by the locals, as the perpetrator because of several telling acts he committed during the discovery of the bodies. When they had come to investigate, Schlittenbauer and his friends had to break a gate because all of the doors were locked. After finding the four bodies in the barn, his two companions left the stable shocked, while Schlittenbauer went alone into the house, which he seemed to know well. As he went, he said he was looking for his son. When he entered the house, the other men clearly heard him unlock the front door with a key. It seemed that this might be the key that had gone missing days before the murders, though it is possible Schlittenbauer might have had a key for any number of other reasons. Schlittenbauer had also disturbed the bodies at the scene, ruining the initial investigation. Still, he claimed he had done it because he was looking for his son, the illegitimate Josef.
Even years later suspicion fell to Schlittenbauer because of his strange comments. According to reports in the files for the case, local teacher Hans Yblagger surprised Schlittenbauer on the remains of the demolished Hinterkaifeck in 1925, at which time Schlittenbauer, frightful and confused, mentioned an attempt by the perpetrator to bury the remains of the family in the barn. Schlittenbauer reportedly commented that it was not possible due to the frozen ground, something, it seemed, only the perpetrator would know. Although being a neighbor and familiar with the local land, he would also be aware of whether or not the ground was frozen from the weather and may have been making an educated guess.
Before his death in 1941, Schlittenbauer conducted and won several civil claims for slander against persons who described him as the “murderer of Hinterkaifeck”.
On April 9, 1922, lead Detective Inspector General George Reingruber wanted to question Adolf Gump in connection with the murders as it had been rumored he was in a relationship with Victoria. However, no evidence was ever found to prove this claim. With three others, Adolf Gump had participated in the murder of nine peasants in Silesia. Reingruber could not rule Adolf Gump’s potential involvement in the murders at Hinterkaifeck and he instructed the corresponding gendarmerie stations to ask for an alibi for the last few days in March 1922.
In 1951 prosecutor Andreas Popp investigated Adolf’s brother Anton Gump in relation to the murders at Hinterkaifeck. The sister of the Gumps, Kreszentia Mayer, claimed on her deathbed that her brothers Adolf and Anton had committed the murders. As a result, Anton Gump was remanded to police custody, but Adolf had already died in 1944. After a short time, however, Anton was dismissed again, and in 1954, the case against him was finally discontinued because he could not be proven to have participated in the crime.
Result of the investigation
Despite repeated arrests, no murderer has ever been found and the files were closed in 1955. Nevertheless, the last interrogations took place in 1986, and Kriminalhauptkommissar Konrad Müller still determined today.
In 2007, the students of the Polizeifachhochschule (Police Academy) in Fürstenfeldbruck examined the case using modern criminal investigation techniques. They concluded that it is impossible to definitively solve the crime after so much time had passed. The primitive investigation techniques available at the time of the murders yielded little evidence, and in the decades since the murders, evidence has been lost and suspects have since died. Despite these setbacks, the students did establish a prime suspect but did not name the suspect out of respect for still‑living relatives.
“Hinterkaifeck Murders”. 2012. En.Wikipedia.Org. Accessed March 12 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinterkaifeck_murders.
“The Mysterious Murders Of Hinterkaifeck”. 2019. Youtube. Accessed March 12 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r93z8MH_eg8&list=PLNA8VwprukJ0LKxk-aSYgqlCVsXZR9pO4&index=12.
“Mattock”. 2019. En.Wikipedia.Org. Accessed March 12 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattock.
McAuliffe, Cat. 2019. “An Entire German Family Was Murdered With A Pickaxe – But No One Knows Why”. Ranker. Accessed March 12 2019. https://www.ranker.com/list/hinterkaifeck-murder-farm/cat-mcauliffe.