What would you do if you lived in a scary old farmhouse in the ass end of nowhere and one day noticed a trail of strange, heavy footprints leading into your house but none coming out? If your answer is, "Poop a whole lot and run forever," congratulations! You're not Andreas Gruber, the master of the Bavarian Hinterkaifeck farm.
On April 4, 1922, a group of locals went to Hinterkaifeck to see why the family members hadn't been showing up for school or church. To their surprise, they found Gruber, his wife, their 35-year-old daughter, two grandchildren, and a maid had been murdered with a mattock (a farm-variety pickaxe). This was particularly surprising because the family had been missing/dead for three days, yet the cows had been milked, food had been cooked, and neighbors had seen smoke rising from the chimney. In other words, someone had been living on the farm after they killed the family. That must have been a pretty horrifying realization for those standing in the middle of said farm, but they've got nothing on the mechanic who had spent five hours repairing a feeding machine at the farm earlier that day without seeing anyone, but had presumably had a hell of a feeling like he was being watched.
Even before things took an unfortunately pickaxe-shaped turn, there were strange things afoot at the farm. Days before the incident, Gruber told his neighbors he had found a strange set of footprints leading from the forest to the farm. Family members also complained about strange noises in the attic, weird newspapers started turning up, and a set of house keys went missing just prior to the incident.
"Oh, and our black friend and the couple who have sex all the time seem to have disappeared somewhere. Eh, it's probably nothing."
What's more, whatever creepiness had been going on at the farm had clearly been happening for some time: A maid had abruptly quit her job at the farm six months earlier because she became convinced that the place was haunted. The new maid had started there just hours before the murders. (Before we start drafting any Lizzie Borden theories here, remember that she was one of the victims.)
Investigators arrived to a scene full of curious townspeople wandering around and helping themselves to snacks from the family's larder, so hardcore CSI-ing was immediately out of the equation. They were able to determine that the killer had methodically stalked the family, luring the four eldest Grubers into the barn one by one. Finally, he entered the house and killed the youngest child and the maid in their beds. However, that's all they had. The exact order of the killings was left unclear, and there was no motivation in sight. Robbery was out of the question because of the considerable sums of cash money the culprit had left untouched.
Former lovers and potentially grudge-holding neighbors were briefly considered as suspects, but the "killed a ton of people and calmly lived in their house for days" aspect of the case wasn't exactly in line with neighborly disputes and crimes of passion. What's more, the horror-flick nature of the crime was further accentuated by the fact that the Grubers weren't exactly a model family; most of his peers intensely disliked Andreas Gruber for his ill temper and greedy nature, and the family had a reputation for being a bit of an incestuous hillbilly clan. Eventually, the investigators just beheaded the bodies, sent the heads off to be researched (they were lost, because of course), and gave up. Although usual suspects in the vein of "A random Russian soldier totally confessed to the murders" and "A demon did it! Aaaaaargh!" kept popping up at irregular intervals, Germany soon found itself neck deep in ... uh, other forms of brutality, and the case was left gathering moss in the "unsolved" file. I'm told Hinterkaifeck still enjoys quite a reputation in German-speaking corners of the land, but WWII and time have all but erased any chance of ever solving it.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
Seeing as this was clearly the work of a larger-than-life horror-movie monster, we might as well go with the biggest one running rampant at the time:
Heinrich Hoffmann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images "Mustache fight, Swearengen."
I'm not even kidding, here: Old Chaplin-stache (or at least his cohorts) is seriously considered among the potential suspects in one of the grisliest non-Reich-related crimes in German history. The year 1922 was a turbulent time in German politics, with extremists left and right holding secret meetings and stashing weapons. Although no one is suggesting that the future Fuhrer personally mattocked an entire family to death and lounged around in their farm for days like it ain't no thing (yet), it has been pointed out that all the "mysterious figures creepin' around" action in the immediate vicinity of the isolated Hinterkaifeck farm does sound a lot like militant political extremists ruthlessly taking over a secure temporary hideout. Of course, it's not exactly a proven theory -- after all, what sort of deranged political movement would just nonchalantly kill a bunch of people so they could further their own agenda?
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked weekly columnist and freelance editor. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.
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