The Story of the Brutal Hinterkaifeck Murders (1922)

The Hinterkaifeck Murders remain one of the most famous unsolved murder cases in the modern (or modernish) era. Six people, including two children, were murdered on a farm in Germany in 1922, and yet that alone does not make the case bizarre. The fact that it was never solved doesn't even make it bizarre. The fact that the murders were perpetrated with a pickaxe almost does it. Related: The Astonishing Story of the Missing Sodder Children But no, the weird thing about the Hinterkaifeck murders has to do with the fact that the killer appears to have snuck into the house and hung out for several days leading up to and in the fallout after the murders. It is truly strange, and begs the question: Who in the hell would do this? Almost a hundred years later, and no one really has an answer to that last question. Below are my notes for the podcast episode, if you dig the sausage-making aspect of podcasting. The notes are totally unedited.

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Hinterkaifeck: 43 miles north of Munich March 31, 1922 Six residents were killed with a mattock (like a pickaxe with one flat edge)
  1. Andreas Gruber
  2. Cazilla Gruber
  3. Their widowed daughter, Viktoria Gabriel
    • Cazilla
    • Josef
  4. Victoria’s children
  5. The Maid, Maria Baumgartner
I hate to throw shade at the dead, but here’s some gossip about the Gruber family. From Mysterious Universe:
  • The father, Andreas Gruber, was an abusive monster who beat his wife, Cazilla, on a pretty regular basis.
  • He is also rumored to have fathered his daughter’s youngest child, the 2 YO Josef.

A few days prior to the murders, Andreas Gruber told neighbors about seeing footprints leading from the forest at the edge of the farm to the house but none leading back out. He also purportedly heard footsteps in the attic and found an unfamiliar newspaper on the porch. I can imagine nothing more horrifying. none of it was reported to the police prior to the murders. He checked the house and never found the purported intruder. He even checked the attic and saw nothing. It was like the person had disappeared. But when he ventured out to the shed, he saw scratches that seemed to convey that someone had tried to force his way into the shed. Related: The Unsolved Murder of Famed Direct William Desmond Taylor The Maid Unfortunate timing; the previous maid quit because she thought the house was haunted. The new maid, Maria Baumgartner, showed up the day of the murders and was killed two hours later. Fast forward a few days. On Tuesday, April 4, 1922, neighbors ventured over to the farmstead because they hadn’t heard from the family in a few days, and Viktoria’s eldest child hadn’t been showing up for school. They did an initial search and found nothing. Just a really, eerily silent farmstead. When they opened the barn, they made a ghastly, ghastly discovery
  • Andreas, Cazilla, Viktoria, and Viktoria’s eldest child were stacked upon one another in a pool of blood, covered in hay.
  • Josef was found dead on a cot in his mother’s bedroom.
  • Maria, the maid, was found dead in her bedchamber.
They had all been killed with blows to the head with a pickaxe and were still in bedclothes Viktoria had been strangled, as well, but the cause of death was still a pickaxe blow.
 
Investigators came to the conclusion that they had been led, one by one, into the barn and murdered. Very Blair Witch. Another weird detail: All the bodies had been covered somehow, even Josef inside the house. They also figured out that the date of death had been Friday, March 31, but neighbors had seen smoke coming from the chimney all weekend, which meant the killer had just sort of hung out all weekend. Also, the cattle and other farm animals had been well-fed throughout the ordeal, and the dog had been tied up and cared for, as well.  

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