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Shortly before 10 a.m. on September 15, 1934, a dark blue Dodge sedan pulled up to the gasoline pumps at a Warner-Quinlan service station on Lexington Avenue in upper Manhattan. Manager Walter Lyle walked over to the car and filled it with five gallons of ethyl as the man behind the wheel requested. “That’s 98 cents,” the attendant told the driver, who reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled a $10 bill from a white envelope.
Lyle grasped the bill with his greasy hands as his eyes noticed something unusual. “You don’t see many of these any more,” he told the driver. The motorist had given Lyle a gold certificate, which had been removed from circulation more than a year before when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in response to the hoarding of precious metal during the depths of the Great Depression. “No, I have only about one hundred left,” the driver told Lyle. The suspicious attendant recalled his company’s warning that counterfeiters might attempt to reproduce gold certificates, so as the 1930 Dodge pulled away from the station, Lyle scribbled the vehicle’s New York license plate number—4U13-41—on the bill’s margin.
Three days later, after the service station made its deposit, the unusual bill caught the eye of an attentive teller at the Harlem branch of the Corn Exchange Bank who checked its serial number and made a startling discovery. The bill was connected to the “crime of the century,” part of a $70,000 ransom paid to the kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month-old son of the American icon who completed the first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. The bank immediately notified federal investigators, who traced the license plate number written on the bill to a German immigrant carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann who lived in a quiet, leafy residential neighborhood in the Bronx.
READ MORE: 10 Fascinating Facts about Charles Lindbergh
The Investigation of Bruno Hauptmann
The next morning, police and federal detectives peered through their binoculars as Hauptmann left his apartment in a two-story house and backed his Dodge sedan out of the garage. Seeing that the license plate number was a match, the police pulled Hauptmann over and found a $20 gold certificate from the ransom money inside his billfold. Finally, after tens of thousands of man-hours and countless false leads, an arrest was made in the Lindbergh baby case.
The next day, authorities searched Hauptmann’s garage and found $13,750 of the ransom money hidden inside a dirty oil can, stuffed in a package inside a wall and buried beneath the garage floor in an earthenware pickling jar. Hauptmann insisted he had no connection to the crime that had consumed America since the night of March 1, 1932, when the Lindbergh baby’s nurse discovered that the boy had vanished from his crib in the second-floor bedroom of the aviator’s estate in Hopewell, New Jersey.
The only clues left behind were the muddy footprints leading to an unlocked window, a homemade folding ladder left near the house and a ransom note on the windowsill. A month later at a late-night meeting inside a Bronx cemetery, an intermediary delivered the ransom—a wooden box filled with crisp gold certificates. The man who took the ransom passed along a note that the toddler could be found on a boat called Nelly off the Massachusetts coast. A frantic search, however, turned up no sign of the boy.
What Happened to the Lindbergh Baby?
Six weeks later, a truck driver discovered the toddler’s decomposed body in a wooded area alongside a road less than five miles from the Lindberghs’ house. An autopsy revealed a fractured skull, and authorities theorized that the kidnapper had accidentally and fatally dropped the boy while climbing down the ladder.
Hauptmann denied he was the perpetrator. He explained that he had been given the money by a deceased business partner and had been hoarding gold certificates based on his experience living in Germany after World War I. “I’m afraid of inflation,” he told police. “I know what inflation was in Germany and I wasn’t taking any chances.” Neighbors had noticed that Hauptmann had suddenly stopped working in 1932. He told them he was “making money in Wall Street,” although few were during the Great Depression.
News of Hauptmann’s arrest remained a secret for more than 24 hours before the news leaked out. Curious throngs descended upon Hauptmann’s house. Hot dog vendors did a brisk sidewalk business as schoolboys picked through the detritus outside Hauptmann’s garage for souvenirs and newsreel planes circled above to gather footage.
At a press conference announcing the arrest, a reporter asked New York City police commissioner John O’Ryan, “In your opinion, does this solve the Lindbergh kidnapping?” The commissioner paused and conferred with Division of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover and New Jersey State Police head H. Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., father of the general who would lead American forces in Operation Desert Storm nearly six decades later, before responding, “Yes, it will.”
Bruno Hauptmann's Conviction
Although Hauptmann was convicted in 1935 of the kidnapping and murder in a sensational trial and executed the following year, even eight decades later numerous people don’t believe that the arrest was the final word on who was responsible for the crime. Prosecutors argued that Hauptmann, who had a criminal record in Germany and was on parole when he arrived in the United States as a stowaway, used his carpentry skills to build the ladder and showed the jury that the grain of the yellow pine on a ladder rail matched that of a board in his attic. Handwriting experts said the ransom note matched Hauptmann’s scrawl.
Until his execution, Hauptmann maintained his innocence. Some believe him. Others believe he couldn’t have acted alone and that he was part of a conspiracy that could have involved the underworld or, according to some, even Lindbergh himself.
READ MORE: Bruno Hauptmann Executed
The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Mystery
After Charles Lindbergh flew The Spirit of St. Louis from New York to France in 1927, completing the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight, he became America’s most admired hero. “The Lone Eagle,” as he was called, then helped develop aviation and married Anne Morrow, daughter of diplomat Dwight Morrow. Anne learned to fly, and she and Charles made spectacular intercontinental flights together. In 1930, the first of their six children, Charles, Jr., was born, dubbed “the Eaglet” by the press.
But tragedy struck on the windy evening of March 1, 1932. The child was snatched from his second-story bedroom. The kidnapper(s) left a crude note demanding $50,000 ransom. It bore a mysterious “signature”: overlapping red and blue circles, and three punched holes. On the ground outside, police found a chisel and homemade three-piece ladder.
The Lindberghs’ Response
As the largest manhunt in American history began, police and reporters swarmed the Lindbergh estate in Hopewell, New Jersey. Thousands of letters poured in from both well-wishers and cranks. Among these were notes from the kidnappers bearing the strange signature. These scolded Lindbergh for violating their instructions not to involve police. The Lindberghs publicly pleaded for the child’s return, promising to meet the kidnappers’ demands.
Because Charles Lindbergh suspected organized crime, his attorneys contacted known racketeers. The latter offered to make inquiries — but, they warned, the kidnapping didn’t seem like work of “the Mob,” who would have asked more than $50,000 for Lindbergh’s son.
On March 8, John Condon, a retired New York City school principal, published a newspaper announcement, offering to be the intermediary for the ransom exchange. Condon then received an anonymous message authorizing him as go-between, with an enclosed letter addressed to Lindbergh. Because that letter bore the unique symbolic signature, Lindbergh met Condon, and accepted the old man as intermediary.
Condon communicated with the kidnappers through coded newspaper messages. On the night of March 12, at the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery, he met their representative, who became nicknamed “Cemetery John.” Condon told “John” the Lindberghs wanted proof his gang had the baby.
A baby’s sleeping suit was mailed to Condon’s home. Lindbergh identified it as his son’s. The ransom money was gathered though unmarked (as the kidnappers demanded), each serial number was recorded.
On the night of April 2, Condon received ransom-drop instructions. Lindbergh, with the money — and a pistol — drove Condon to St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, where the old man gave “Cemetery John” the cash in exchange for a note on the baby’s location — the boat Nelly off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Lindbergh chartered a seaplane and, with Coast Guard help, scoured the region for two days — but no such boat existed.
Further newspaper messages to the kidnappers went unanswered. On May 12, about four miles from Lindbergh’s house, the baby’s corpse was found in roadside woods by a trucker who’d stopped for a call of nature. However, police and volunteers had already searched this area. Furthermore, advanced decay suggested the body might have been kept someplace warmer — then deposited, conceivably as a “present” for Lindbergh. Outrage filled the nation.
The Police Response
The police suspected an “inside job.” The kidnappers knew where the baby’s nursery was. Furthermore, the Lindberghs always stayed at the Morrow mansion in Englewood, New Jersey, on weekdays, while building their own home in distant rural Hopewell, where they stayed weekends as construction finished. On the week of the kidnapping, however, the baby came down with a cold, and the Lindberghs decided to remain longer at Hopewell. Without a tip, the kidnappers shouldn’t have known about this variation in routine. The baby was snatched on a Tuesday.
Suspicion fell on Violet Sharp, a Morrow maid. Sharp had taken Anne Lindbergh’s phone call about the change in plans. She lied to the police about her whereabouts the night of the kidnapping, saying she went to the movies — but couldn’t recall the film or her date’s name. On subsequent interrogation, she said she actually visited a roadhouse with an Ernie Brinkert — but Brinkert denied it. After the baby’s corpse was found, Sharp became increasingly disturbed. When the police came to question her again, she was dead, having swallowed cyanide. Oddly, a different “Ernie” later corroborated her roadhouse alibi. Today, investigators of the kidnapping still debate the reason for Sharp’s suicide — or was it even murder?
Another evidence of “inside help”: Police found no fingerprints in the nursery — not even the child’s, his nurse’s, or the Lindberghs’. Eventually, Dr. Erastus Hudson — pioneer of a silver nitrate fingerprint process — lifted latent prints from the nursery. Hudson stated the only explanation for the missing fingerprints was someone methodically wiping down the nursery after the abduction. It hardly seemed likely the kidnappers waited around to do this. At the time of the crime, five adults were in the house — Mr. and Mrs. Lindbergh, the baby’s nurse, the cook, and butler. Only the butler, Oliver Whateley, was unobserved during the kidnapping. And like Violet Sharp, Whateley died suddenly, in 1933 of peritonitis.
Heading the investigation was New Jersey State Police Superintendent H. Norman Schwarzkopf — father of “Stormin’ Norman” of Gulf War fame. A “political” appointee, Schwarzkopf’s only criminal justice experience before this position was as a department store floorwalker. President Herbert Hoover ordered federal agencies to assist the investigation — a process facilitated when Congress made kidnapping a federal crime. J. Edgar Hoover offered the superior criminology resources of the Bureau of Investigation (BI — later called FBI), but Schwarzkopf refused. While some might commend this as keeping police independent of federal intrusion, Schwarzkopf also rejected local assistance. New Jersey’s Governor authorized the state’s most famous detective, Ellis Parker, to help. Known as “America’s Sherlock Holmes,” Parker had solved over 200 murders. Yet Schwarzkopf declined, saying Parker was not in his jurisdiction. Since the kidnapping went unsolved for over two years, Schwarzkopf’s refusal of top resources was sharply criticized.
Investigation focused on tracing ransom bills, which appeared in a trickle. Since most were passed in New York City — outside Schwarzkopf’s own jurisdiction — this entailed interagency cooperation. Tracing money was difficult, however few cashiers delayed customers to check serial-number lists. Most was found when later turned in at banks, but efforts to trace bills to original passers either failed or located someone cleared of suspicion.
A Suspect at Last
The case broke in September 1934. A Bronx carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, passed a $10 ransom bill at a gas station. Police found about $14,000 more in ransom money hidden in his home.
The German-born Hauptmann told police he’d discovered the $14,000 in a box left with him in December 1933 by an associate, Isidor Fisch, who’d gone to Germany where he died of tuberculosis. (Fisch had indeed been in a joint venture with Hauptmann and died in Germany.) Fisch’s brother was coming from Germany to settle the estate. Hauptmann meanwhile decided to spend some of the cash he’d found — Fisch owed him over $7,000 anyway, and Hauptmann said he didn’t know it was ransom money.
The police, however, dismissed Hauptmann’s explanation as a “Fisch story” he was extradited to New Jersey for trial. In newspapers, the case appeared open-and-shut. Hauptmann had entered the United States as a stowaway, with a prison record in Germany for robberies. John Condon identified him as “Cemetery John.” Condon’s address and phone number were found scrawled in Hauptmann’s closet. Two eyewitnesses placed Hauptmann near the Lindbergh residence around the time of the kidnapping. Handwriting experts indicated similarities between the ransom notes and his writing. A federal wood expert said a board in Hauptmann’s attic matched a rail in the homemade ladder left at the crime scene. The three-quarter-inch chisel found at the scene was asserted to be Hauptmann’s — when police confiscated his tools, the prosecution said, only the three-quarter-inch chisel was missing.
The prosecution claimed Hauptmann alone did the kidnapping, murder, and ransom exchange. Brushed aside was the improbability of a Bronx carpenter knowing about changes in the Lindberghs’ plans. The jury found Hauptmann guilty he was sentenced to death. When Harold Hoffman, New Jersey’s Republican Governor, learned much was wrong with the prosecution’s case, he granted Hauptmann stays of execution while investigating — to jeers of newspapers, who accused the Governor of protecting a child murderer. Asserting innocence to the end, Hauptmann died in the electric chair in 1936. Then the case was gradually forgotten — except by Hauptmann’s widow Anna, who spent nearly 60 years seeking her husband’s vindication.
A breakthrough came with publication of Scapegoat (1976) by crime reporter Anthony Scaduto, who examined police and prosecution records that had been under wraps for decades.
After World War I, food was scarce in Germany. Hauptmann, 19 and unable to find work, did turn to theft with a fellow ex-soldier. But after prison, he promised his devout mother, Paulina, it would never happen again. In 11 years in the United States before his 1934 arrest, Hauptmann never committed a known crime. He always went by his middle name “Richard,” but newspapers called him “Bruno” — it sounded more ruthless.
To her regret, Anna Hauptmann was persuaded by the Hearst newspaper chain to engage attorney Edward Reilly. In exchange for exclusive interviews, they would pay Reilly’s fee. With Hauptmann behind bars and Anna caring for a baby, the family could not afford the enormous defense costs — so Anna welcomed the proposal. Reilly, however, though once notable, was now an alcoholic and two years later landed in a mental institution, suffering effects of syphilis. Before being hired, he opined that Hauptmann was guilty and should burn — sentiments echoed by the Hearst press that paid him. Reilly spent less than 40 minutes with Hauptmann before the trial, and though showing occasional adeptness in court, made mistakes that cost his client dearly. After one key blunder, assistant defense counsel Lloyd Fisher — who never doubted Hauptmann’s innocence — shouted at Reilly, “You are conceding Hauptmann to the electric chair!” Some think Reilly was hired to deliberately lose he was seen dining and boozing with prosecutors.
New Jersey Attorney General David Wilentz, a powerful Democratic Party figure, led the prosecution. Responsibility should have fallen to the county prosecutor, and Wilentz had never before tried a criminal case. Some attribute his involvement to “ambition.” As we will see, there may have been another reason.
• Scaduto discovered the original New York police receipts for Hauptmann’s tools, including his three-quarter-inch chisel later he found the chisel itself in storage at New Jersey State Police headquarters in Trenton. The prosecution had lied about this being missing.
• Hauptmann writing John Condon’s phone number in his closet made no sense, since the Hauptmanns had no phone, and the number was in the phone book anyway. New York Daily News reporter Tom Cassidy eventually acknowledged scrawling it there to get a “scoop.”
• Not one fingerprint linked Hauptmann to the crime — neither in the nursery nor on the 13 ransom notes. Fingerprint expert Dr. Erastus Hudson lifted about 500 prints (including partials) from the homemade ladder at the scene — but none were Hauptmann’s. This seemed improbable if — as prosecutors claimed — he built it. New Jersey State Police Captain John Lamb then asked Hudson a stunning question: Could fingerprints be counterfeited? Hudson indignantly said yes, but that counterfeiting was detectable. The police then washed the ladder clean of fingerprints, and Schwarzkopf refused to let the public know Hauptmann’s were never found on it.
• Hauptmann’s shoes were confiscated for comparison to footprints at the crime scene and cemetery. The prosecution omitted this evidence — presumably they didn’t match.
• The prosecution’s challenge, then, was something to physically link Hauptmann to the kidnapping. The New Jersey State Police took over the lease on the Hauptmanns’ apartment. Detective Lewis Bornmann — whose superior was Lamb — actually lived there. He suddenly reported discovering a partially missing floorboard in Hauptmann’s attic — even though this was unnoticed in nine documented previous searches of the attic by 37 law-enforcement agents. At the trial, the prosecution claimed a kidnap-ladder rail matched the remaining partial-board in Hauptmann’s attic, though of different width and depth. Why would Hauptmann — a professional carpenter with abundant lumber in his garage — rip a board from his attic to help build a ladder? Nonetheless, this became the prosecution’s “smoking gun.”
• Hauptmann said he worked at the Majestic Apartments in New York City until 5 p.m. the day of the kidnapping. His supervisor Joseph Furcht confirmed this in a sworn affidavit with attached documentation. But after being summoned to the New York District Attorney’s office, Furcht was no longer “positive,” and work records for that time vanished.
• Both of the witnesses placing Hauptmann near the crime scene were discreditable and handsomely paid. Unknown to the defense, 87-year-old Amandus Hochmuth was partially blind and admitted to prosecutors pretrial that he couldn’t identify Hauptmann. When Governor Hoffman interviewed Hochmuth, he couldn’t identify a flower vase 10 feet away. Illiterate Millard Whithed, labeled a chronic liar by neighbors, had denied to police seeing anything suspicious after the kidnapping — but came forward two years later, motivated by reward money.
Hauptmann had much better witnesses for the kidnapping time-frame. On Tuesdays his wife Anna worked late at Fredericksen’s, a New York bakery-café. Hauptmann always waited there for Anna, and sometimes walked the Fredericksens’ dog. Not only did the Fredericksens confirm Hauptmann was there on the kidnapping evening, but August Von Henke saw Hauptmann walking the dog. Mistaking it for his own lost dog, he argued with Hauptmann. Louis Kiss, a bakery customer, remembered the argument. Von Henke and Kiss weren’t friends of Hauptmann, had no incentive to lie, and threatened the prosecution’s case.
The day after Kiss testified, a New York attorney named Berko pressed him to change his testimony with a threat of arrest and an offer of money. Berko admitted his legal career was failing, but that Attorney General Wilentz offered to help him get a position on Manhattan special prosecutor Thomas Dewey’s staff if he could persuade Kiss to recant his testimony. Kiss informed Berko he’d told the truth in court and wouldn’t change it for any price. He summarized the incident in a sworn deposition corroborated by a witness.
• When Hauptmann was arrested, Condon declined to say he was “Cemetery John.” FBI agent Leon Turrou wrote: “He [Condon] remarked on one occasion that Hauptmann is not the man because he appears to be much heavier, different eyes, different hair, etc.” Yet in court, after reportedly being threatened with “obstructing justice,” Condon emphatically identified Hauptmann as “Cemetery John.”
• After Hauptmann’s arrest, the New York police gave samples of his writing to handwriting expert Albert D. Osborn, who reported they didn’t match the ransom notes. But after the frustrated police told Osborn large ransom sums were in Hauptmann’s residence, Osborn requested more samples. The police forced Hauptmann to write the ransom note words dozens of times “best” examples were selected. Osborn changed his mind, explaining in court that Hauptmann made the same spelling errors as the actual ransom notes. But as Scaduto revealed, the police forced Hauptmann to write with the spelling mistakes dictated to him.
The state paid eight handwriting experts over $33,000 to testify that Hauptmann wrote the notes. But “experts” testify for who pays their fee, and many differences in Hauptmann’s writing were disregarded. The defense could only afford one handwriting expert, who was simply outnumbered.
• Isidor Fisch, who Hauptmann said left the “money box,” had been a confidence man in many swindles, even swindling Hauptmann in their joint venture. Fisch was seen laundering “hot money” after the ransom payment, and applied for a passport the day the baby’s body was found. Hauptmann’s friend Hans Kloppenburg saw Fisch give him the box before departing for Germany. Kloppenburg told Anthony Scaduto that prosecutor Wilentz warned him: “If you say on the witness chair that you seen Fisch come in with the shoe box, you’ll be arrested right away.” Kloppenburg testified anyway.
• Wilentz used a partner of Isidor Fisch — ex-con Charlie Schleser — to spy on defense witnesses. Feigning friendliness to Hauptmann, Schleser learned about defense plans and reported to Wilentz.
In his summation to the jury, Wilentz demanded the death penalty, calling Hauptmann “a fellow that had ice water in his veins, not blood … an animal lower than the lowest form in the animal kingdom, Public Enemy Number One of this world … no heart, no soul.”
Wilentz’s summation violated jurisprudence rules by introducing new arguments he described Hauptmann using the chisel to bludgeon the child in the nursery. Had he suggested this during normal proceedings, the defense could have refuted it — the nursery had no signs of bloody violence.
However, the judge, Thomas Trenchard, gave Wilentz leeway — as he had throughout the trial. The court transcript reveals Trenchard’s marked bias toward the prosecution, overruling the defense in great disproportion. Perhaps the worst impropriety was his 70-minute charge to the jury, in which he aggressively argued for the prosecution. Reviewing the defense’s arguments point by point, Trenchard repeated, “Do you believe that?” By emphasizing the word “that,” Trenchard conveyed disdain — but helped protect himself, since court records didn’t include voice inflections.
While the jury deliberated, a mob surrounded the courthouse chanting, “Kill Hauptmann!” Perhaps some jurors feared becoming victims of mob violence unless their verdict was “guilty of murder in the first degree” — which it was. As Editor and Publisher declared, “No trial in this century has so degraded the administration of justice.”
Hauptmann was told if he would confess, his death sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment. He refused. His spiritual advisor, Reverend John Matthiesen, stated: “I have had fifteen very intimate and soul searching interviews with Bruno Richard Hauptmann, and am convinced that he tells the truth.” Just before electrocution, Hauptmann requested that John 14 be read to him, then kneeled in prayer. His final statement (translated from German):
Soon I will be at home with my Lord, so I am dying an innocent man. Should, however, my death serve for the purpose of abolishing capital punishment — such a punishment being arrived at only by circumstantial evidence — I feel that my death has not been in vain. I am at peace with God. I repeat, I protest my innocence of the crime for which I was convicted. However, I die with no malice or hatred in my heart. The love of Christ has filled my soul and I am happy in Him.
In a generation no longer gripped with media-driven hatred of Hauptmann, Anthony Scaduto (and subsequent writers like Ludovic Kennedy) convinced many that the carpenter was railroaded to the electric chair. But if Hauptmann didn’t do it, who did?
Over the last two decades, some authors have claimed Charles Lindbergh, or others in his family, killed the baby. This began with Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax (1993) by Gregory Ahlgren and Stephen Monier, whose contempt for the aviator is undisguised.
Lindbergh, known as a practical joker, once hid the baby from Anne as a prank. From that, the authors devised this scenario: Returning home from work on March 1, 1932, Charles decided to play a joke. He himself climbed the ladder and took the baby, intending to enter the front door saying, “Look who was with me in New York.” But, they declare, he accidentally dropped the baby, killing him. Lindbergh, concerned only for his reputation, drove off, dumped the body in the woods four miles away, hurried home and wrote a fake ransom note before the baby’s nurse returned to the nursery.
Their source for this? Their imagination. Their 286-page volume has only one page of footnotes. This theory, like many, cherry-picks details that support it while ignoring what doesn’t. The ladder abandoned at the scene didn’t belong to Lindbergh and wasn’t sturdy — if he’d wanted a ladder, he had a strong one in his garage. It was dark with a gale blowing with no one holding the ladder steady, it would have been insanity for Lindbergh to risk his life and his sick child’s for a joke.
Lindbergh’s daughter Reeve says he was “very gentle” as a father, and he was unquestionably courageous. If Lindbergh had really dropped his son, his instinct would have been to seek help — not cravenly dump the body in the woods.
Many people offered to pay the ransom. But Lindbergh insisted on paying himself, selling investments at steep losses to raise the $50,000 (around a million dollars in today’s currency). If Ahlgren and Monier are correct, why would Lindbergh pay the ransom knowing the child was dead?
Others go beyond this “prank” hypothesis. Lindbergh was a leader of the America First Committee, which, before Pearl Harbor, tried to keep the United States out of World War II. Some Lindbergh haters claim he was a “Nazi racial supremacist,” and deliberately murdered his son over some defect in health or appearance. In fact, Charles, Jr. was a handsome, healthy boy who could talk and run. Although less than two, he already attended a Montessori-type preschool. He did have rickets (not uncommon then) and a couple overlapping toes — hardly incentives for murder.
One year after the Ahlgren-Monier book came Noel Behn’s Lindbergh: The Crime, alleging Anne’s sister Elisabeth had wanted to marry Charles and killed the baby out of jealousy, and Charles covered that up. Behn based this largely on undocumented recollections of 93-year-old Harry Green — an investigator once attached to the case — even though he admits “Green had a habit pleading senility.”
William Norris, in A Talent to Deceive, claimed Lindbergh’s brother-in-law, Dwight Morrow, Jr., murdered the baby.
These suspects, rotated like a game of Clue, are all Lindbergh family members. The theorists rely largely on the same “proofs.” Five trendy ones:
1. “Why did Lindbergh call his LAWYER before calling the police?” So asks the website lindberghkidnappinghoax.com, implying legalities worried Lindbergh more than his child. This question twists the truth over a technicality. While Lindbergh searched the grounds with a gun, he had the butler phone the police. Later he called his friend/attorney Henry Breckinridge for advice.
2. Why didn’t Lindbergh immediately open the ransom note? A concerned parent would! Lindbergh knew a crime scene shouldn’t be disturbed, and that police would dust the note for fingerprints — which they did. If Lindbergh had torn that note open, his critics would surely excoriate his “obstructing justice.”
3. Lindbergh kept the police from the ransom drop — he was hiding something! The kidnappers had warned Lindbergh not to involve police. The Lindberghs complied their priority was the child’s life. Many kidnapping victims have paid ransoms without even notifying authorities. Note the two-headed coin of Lindbergh’s critics — cooperating with police means “guilt” so does not cooperating.
4. Lindbergh himself wiped off the fingerprints in the nursery! The fingerprints of Lindbergh and his family would be expected in the nursery. The wipedown could have only benefited outsiders.
5. Lindbergh cremated the baby’s remains to destroy evidence! Lindbergh, the child’s nurse, and the child’s pediatrician viewed the remains. An autopsy was performed. However, a news reporter and photographer gained entry to the mortuary, forced open the casket, and photographed the remains. Realizing their baby would never escape paparazzi exploitation, the Lindberghs respectfully decided to cremate, and scattered the ashes from an airplane.
Let the arbiter be Anna Hauptmann, who fought for six decades to exonerate her husband. Though Ahlgren and Monier took blame off him in promoting their claim, Anna said she was “outraged” another book was exploiting the tragedy. Her attorney, Robert Bryan, called their book “reckless” and “full of errors.”
In 1992’s Republican presidential primaries, Pat Buchanan was the leading opponent to George Bush, Sr. Buchanan deliberately revived Lindbergh’s cry “America First” while challenging the interventionism of neocons in Bush’s administration. This battle continued in 1993-94 (when the Ahlgren-Monier and Behn books appeared), as patriots fought to keep America out of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. Joining those entanglements devastated American manufacturing and sent millions of jobs overseas.
No one had symbolized “isolationism” more than Lindbergh. And his father, U.S. Congressman Charles Lindbergh, Sr., was a chief opponent of our entering World War I and bitterly fought the Federal Reserve Act, which he prophesied would benefit a few bankers while plaguing average Americans with inflation and economic despair.
In the 1990s, globalists of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) — whose members dominate key positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations — envisioned a “new world order” where America would yield sovereignty to a NAFTA-based North American Union and engage in endless foreign interventions. They also thirsted for billions in bailout dollars for their multinational banks and corporations. Since these bailouts would come largely from “fiat” money (created from nothing by the U.S. Federal Reserve), working Americans would pay for the bailouts through soaring inflation.
These schemes required manipulation of public opinion. The name “Lindbergh” symbolized opposition to them. And since the aviator was still emblazoned as a hero, now was the time to destroy his image. New books would repaint “the Lone Eagle” as “the Nazi who murdered his own son.”
In 2002, President Bush appointed Stephen Monier U.S. Marshal for New Hampshire.
A New Theory
According to the FBI’s files on the kidnapping (released in 1999), gangster Johnny Torrio, Al Capone’s mentor, “expressed his opinion to the Intelligence Unit agents that the Lindbergh baby was not kidnapped for ransom … that the baby was kidnapped and subsequently murdered by someone who had a grouch against Lindbergh and it was purely a case of personal vengeance.”
Logic dictates the kidnapping wasn’t about $50,000. That was a lot in 1932 — but there were many wealthier families whom the public never heard of. To take Lindy’s kid for money would be foolish — the whole country would be after you.
Besides inside knowledge of the Lindberghs’ plans, much evidence suggested conspiracy. Several police officers attempted to reenact the abduction single-handedly, yet none succeeded — even with a sturdier ladder in daylight. Lindbergh and Condon believed they saw lookouts at the cemeteries. Ransom money still appeared after Hauptmann’s arrest. Ellis Parker — considered New Jersey’s best detective — independently found another suspect. But ironically it was Parker who went to prison in seizing the suspect, it was charged he’d violated the new federal kidnapping law!
The prosecution suppressed all evidence of conspiracy, claiming Hauptmann acted alone. Wilentz’ insistence on the death penalty, not life imprisonment, made little sense, given the meager evidence. If really guilty, in prison Hauptmann might eventually reveal how the crime was done, or name accomplices. Electrocution made this impossible. Was Hauptmann made a patsy to protect someone?
The trial’s injustices — involving the prosecution, judge, and some police officers — suggest a powerful hand at work. Lindbergh was popular, but lacked the wealth and political influence to compromise an entire justice system. Could the kidnapping, and eventual smearing of Lindbergh as perpetrator, both trace to the Lindberghs’ enemies?
In his new book The Lindbergh Baby Kidnap Conspiracy, Professor Alan Marlis, who taught for 35 years at City University of New York, believes James P. Warburg was behind the kidnapping. A prominent banker and member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “brain trust,” Warburg is perhaps best remembered for telling a Senate subcommittee in 1950 we would have world government “by conquest or consent.” He was the son of Federal Reserve architect Paul Warburg.
Marlis’ book, currently available only from the McNally Jackson Bookstore in New York City, is clearly a self-published manuscript, but demonstrates extensive research. Marlis describes a context of sudden deaths for enemies of the FDR-Federal Reserve crowd:
• Walter Liggett, speechwriter for Lindbergh, Sr., was murdered in 1935 — a case never solved.
• In 1936, Louisiana politician Huey Long, possibly FDR’s biggest reelection threat, was assassinated — an incident still controversial.
• Louis McFadden, the Fed’s chief congressional critic, survived two attempts on his life before dying suddenly, also in 1936.
• After triggering the Great Depression, “establishment” bankers wanted Roosevelt elected as President in 1932 to spawn an era of government borrowing, erosion of the Constitution, and moves toward world government. Lindbergh’s father-in-law, Dwight Morrow, now Republican Senator for New Jersey, was touted as a possible presidential candidate. In October 1931, Morrow, 58 and fit, attended a charity dinner hosted by Lehman Brothers — heavy backers of FDR. (Herbert Lehman was Roosevelt’s Lieutenant Governor in New York and signed the papers extraditing Hauptmann to New Jersey.) After the dinner, Morrow returned home — and died that night. Thus vanished a remaining hope for the Republicans, whom newspapers blamed for the Depression.
In 1932, one man still posed a threat to FDR’s election — Charles Lindbergh. Lindy was too young constitutionally to run for President, but his popularity was so universal that his active presence alone might have kept Republican hopes alive. But five months after Morrow’s sudden death, Lindbergh’s baby was murdered — effectively removing the grieving father from the political scene. Some of the links Marlis draws to James Warburg:
• The Lindberghs and Warburgs had what Marlis calls a “blood feud.” In 1913, Charles Lindbergh, Sr. tried to stop creation of the Federal Reserve — which Paul Warburg, its first vice-chairman, had designed. In 1917, Lindbergh tried to have Warburg, as well as FDR’s uncle Frederic Delano, impeached from the Federal Reserve Board. According to Marlis, Lindbergh “Jew-baited” Warburg at the Fed chairman hearings Paul told his son, and the insult wasn’t forgotten.
• In 1941, the fathers’ feud continued between the sons. James Warburg helped found and finance the Freedom First Committee to oppose Lindbergh’s America First Committee, debated Lindbergh at Madison Square Garden, and publicly denounced him.
• Paul Warburg died less than two months before the kidnapping.
• The police had suspected the crime was an inside job. The governess in James Warburg’s household was the sister of the Morrows’ seamstress, Marguerite Junge, who knew about the Lindberghs’ change of plans. Junge’s alibi for the kidnapping night: She was “out riding” with Red Johnsen — boyfriend of the baby’s nurse.
• In April 1932 (just after the kidnapping and ransom payment), James Warburg took a two-month trip to Europe.
• Warburg’s estate was in Greenwich, Connecticut — the town where the very first Lindbergh ransom gold certificate was passed, by a well-dressed woman at a bakery. The cashier, checking the serial-number list, exclaimed it was Lindbergh ransom money. The woman snatched it back and ran outside into a chauffeured sedan — which police unsuccessfully searched for.
Dr. Marlis makes an interesting case, but also seems to draw some unnecessary inferences from coincidences. Warburg ordering the kidnapping cannot be proven. As with Hauptmann, fairness should negate “convicting” him on circumstantial evidence.
Inside the Capture of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapper - HISTORY
Lindbergh flew The Spirit of St. Louis from New York to France
in 1927, completing the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight,
he became Americas most admired hero. The Lone Eagle,
as he was called, then helped develop aviation and married Anne
Morrow, daughter of diplomat Dwight Morrow. Anne learned to fly,
and she and Charles made spectacular intercontinental flights together.
In 1930, the first of their six children, Charles, Jr. (left), was
born, dubbed the Eaglet by the press.
struck on the windy evening of March 1, 1932. The child was snatched
from his second-story bedroom. The kidnapper(s) left a crude note
demanding $50,000 ransom. It bore a mysterious signature:
overlapping red and blue circles, and three punched holes. On the
ground outside, police found a chisel and homemade three-piece ladder.
As the largest
manhunt in American history began, police and reporters swarmed
the Lindbergh estate in Hopewell, New Jersey. Thousands of letters
poured in from both well-wishers and cranks. Among these were notes
from the kidnappers bearing the strange signature. These scolded
Lindbergh for violating their instructions not to involve police.
The Lindberghs publicly pleaded for the childs return, promising
to meet the kidnappers demands.
Lindbergh suspected organized crime, his attorneys contacted known
racketeers. The latter offered to make inquiries but, they
warned, the kidnapping didnt seem like work of the Mob,
who would have asked more than $50,000 for Lindberghs son.
On March 8,
John Condon, a retired New York City school principal, published
a newspaper announcement, offering to be the intermediary for the
ransom exchange. Condon then received an anonymous message authorizing
him as go-between, with an enclosed letter addressed to Lindbergh.
Because that letter bore the unique symbolic signature, Lindbergh
met Condon, and accepted the old man as intermediary.
with the kidnappers through coded newspaper messages. On the night
of March 12, at the Bronxs Woodlawn Cemetery, he met their
representative, who became nicknamed Cemetery John.
Condon told John the Lindberghs wanted proof his gang
had the baby.
sleeping suit was mailed to Condons home. Lindbergh identified
it as his sons. The ransom money was gathered though unmarked
(as the kidnappers demanded), each serial number was recorded.
On the night
of April 2, Condon received ransom-drop instructions. Lindbergh,
with the money and a pistol drove Condon to St. Raymonds
Cemetery in the Bronx, where the old man gave Cemetery John
the cash in exchange for a note on the babys location
the boat Nelly off Marthas Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Lindbergh chartered a seaplane and, with Coast Guard help, scoured
the region for two days but no such boat existed.
messages to the kidnappers went unanswered. On May 12, about four
miles from Lindberghs house, the babys corpse was found
in roadside woods by a trucker whod stopped for a call of
nature. However, police and volunteers had already searched this
area. Furthermore, advanced decay suggested the body might have
been kept someplace warmer then deposited, conceivably as
a present for Lindbergh. Outrage filled the nation.
suspected an inside job. The kidnappers knew where the
babys nursery was. Furthermore, the Lindberghs always stayed
at the Morrow mansion in Englewood, New Jersey, on weekdays, while
building their own home in distant rural Hopewell, where they stayed
weekends as construction finished. On the week of the kidnapping,
however, the baby came down with a cold, and the Lindberghs decided
to remain longer at Hopewell. Without a tip, the kidnappers shouldnt
have known about this variation in routine. The baby was snatched
on a Tuesday.
on Violet Sharp, a Morrow maid. Sharp had taken Anne Lindberghs
phone call about the change in plans. She lied to the police about
her whereabouts the night of the kidnapping, saying she went to
the movies but couldnt recall the film or her dates
name. On subsequent interrogation, she said she actually visited
a roadhouse with an Ernie Brinkert but Brinkert denied it.
After the babys corpse was found, Sharp became increasingly
disturbed. When the police came to question her again, she was dead,
having swallowed cyanide. Oddly, a different Ernie later
corroborated her roadhouse alibi. Today, investigators of the kidnapping
still debate the reason for Sharps suicide or was it
of inside help: Police found no fingerprints in the
nursery not even the childs, his nurses, or the
Lindberghs. Eventually, Dr. Erastus Hudson pioneer
of a silver nitrate fingerprint process lifted latent prints
from the nursery. Hudson stated the only explanation for the missing
fingerprints was someone methodically wiping down the nursery after
the abduction. It hardly seemed likely the kidnappers waited around
to do this. At the time of the crime, five adults were in the house
Mr. and Mrs. Lindbergh, the babys nurse, the cook,
and butler. Only the butler, Oliver Whateley, was unobserved during
the kidnapping. And like Violet Sharp, Whateley died suddenly, in
1933 of peritonitis.
investigation was New Jersey State Police Superintendent H. Norman
Schwarzkopf father of Stormin Norman of
Gulf War fame. A political appointee, Schwarzkopfs
only criminal justice experience before this position was as a department
store floorwalker. President Herbert Hoover ordered federal agencies
to assist the investigation a process facilitated when Congress
made kidnapping a federal crime. J. Edgar Hoover offered the superior
criminology resources of the Bureau of Investigation (BI
later called FBI), but Schwarzkopf refused. While some might commend
this as keeping police independent of federal intrusion, Schwarzkopf
also rejected local assistance. New Jerseys Governor authorized
the states most famous detective, Ellis Parker, to help. Known
as Americas Sherlock Holmes, Parker had solved
over 200 murders. Yet Schwarzkopf declined, saying Parker was not
in his jurisdiction. Since the kidnapping went unsolved for over
two years, Schwarzkopfs refusal of top resources was sharply
focused on tracing ransom bills, which appeared in a trickle. Since
most were passed in New York City outside Schwarzkopfs
own jurisdiction this entailed interagency cooperation. Tracing
money was difficult, however few cashiers delayed customers to
check serial-number lists. Most was found when later turned in at
banks, but efforts to trace bills to original passers either failed
or located someone cleared of suspicion.
The case broke
in September 1934. A Bronx carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, passed
a $10 ransom bill at a gas station. Police found about $14,000 more
in ransom money hidden in his home.
Hauptmann told police hed discovered the $14,000 in a box
left with him in December 1933 by an associate, Isidor Fisch, whod
gone to Germany where he died of tuberculosis. (Fisch had indeed
been in a joint venture with Hauptmann and died in Germany.) Fischs
brother was coming from Germany to settle the estate. Hauptmann
meanwhile decided to spend some of the cash hed found
Fisch owed him over $7,000 anyway, and Hauptmann said he didnt
know it was ransom money.
however, dismissed Hauptmanns explanation as a Fisch
story he was extradited to New Jersey for trial. In newspapers,
the case appeared open-and-shut. Hauptmann had entered the United
States as a stowaway, with a prison record in Germany for robberies.
John Condon identified him as Cemetery John. Condons
address and phone number were found scrawled in Hauptmanns
closet. Two eyewitnesses placed Hauptmann near the Lindbergh residence
around the time of the kidnapping. Handwriting experts indicated
similarities between the ransom notes and his writing. A federal
wood expert said a board in Hauptmanns attic matched a rail
in the homemade ladder left at the crime scene. The three-quarter-inch
chisel found at the scene was asserted to be Hauptmanns
when police confiscated his tools, the prosecution said, only the
three-quarter-inch chisel was missing.
claimed Hauptmann alone did the kidnapping, murder, and ransom exchange.
Brushed aside was the improbability of a Bronx carpenter knowing
about changes in the Lindberghs plans. The jury found Hauptmann
guilty he was sentenced to death. When Harold Hoffman, New Jerseys
Republican Governor, learned much was wrong with the prosecutions
case, he granted Hauptmann stays of execution while investigating
to jeers of newspapers, who accused the Governor of protecting
a child murderer. Asserting innocence to the end, Hauptmann died
in the electric chair in 1936. Then the case was gradually forgotten
except by Hauptmanns widow Anna, who spent nearly 60
years seeking her husbands vindication.
came with publication of Scapegoat (1976) by crime reporter Anthony
Scaduto, who examined police and prosecution records that had been
under wraps for decades.
War I, food was scarce in Germany. Hauptmann, 19 and unable to find
work, did turn to theft with a fellow ex-soldier. But after prison,
he promised his devout mother, Paulina, it would never happen again.
In 11 years in the United States before his 1934 arrest, Hauptmann
never committed a known crime. He always went by his middle name
Richard, but newspapers called him Bruno
it sounded more ruthless.
To her regret,
Anna Hauptmann was persuaded by the Hearst newspaper chain to engage
attorney Edward Reilly. In exchange for exclusive interviews, they
would pay Reillys fee. With Hauptmann behind bars and Anna
caring for a baby, the family could not afford the enormous defense
costs so Anna welcomed the proposal. Reilly, however, though
once notable, was now an alcoholic and two years later landed in
a mental institution, suffering effects of syphilis. Before being
hired, he opined that Hauptmann was guilty and should burn
sentiments echoed by the Hearst press that paid him. Reilly spent
less than 40 minutes with Hauptmann before the trial, and though
showing occasional adeptness in court, made mistakes that cost his
client dearly. After one key blunder, assistant defense counsel
Lloyd Fisher who never doubted Hauptmanns innocence
shouted at Reilly, You are conceding Hauptmann to the
electric chair! Some think Reilly was hired to deliberately
lose he was seen dining and boozing with prosecutors.
Attorney General David Wilentz, a powerful Democratic Party figure,
led the prosecution. Responsibility should have fallen to the county
prosecutor, and Wilentz had never before tried a criminal case.
Some attribute his involvement to ambition. As we will
see, there may have been another reason.
discovered the original New York police receipts for Hauptmanns
tools, including his three-quarter-inch chisel later he found
the chisel itself in storage at New Jersey State Police headquarters
in Trenton. The prosecution had lied about this being missing.
writing John Condons phone number in his closet made no
sense, since the Hauptmanns had no phone, and the number was in
the phone book anyway. New York Daily News reporter Tom
Cassidy eventually acknowledged scrawling it there to get a scoop.
- Not one
fingerprint linked Hauptmann to the crime neither in the
nursery nor on the 13 ransom notes. Fingerprint expert Dr. Erastus
Hudson lifted about 500 prints (including partials) from the homemade
ladder at the scene but not one was Hauptmanns. This
seemed improbable if as prosecutors claimed he built
it. New Jersey State Police Captain John Lamb then asked Hudson
a stunning question: Could fingerprints be counterfeited? Hudson
indignantly said yes, but that counterfeiting was detectable.
The police then washed the ladder clean of fingerprints, and Schwarzkopf
refused to let the public know Hauptmanns were never found
shoes were confiscated for comparison to footprints at the crime
scene and cemetery. The prosecution omitted this evidence
presumably they didnt match.
- The prosecutions
challenge, then, was something to physically link Hauptmann
to the kidnapping. The New Jersey State Police took over the lease
on the Hauptmanns apartment. Detective Lewis Bornmann
whose superior was Lamb actually lived there. He suddenly
reported discovering a partially missing floorboard in Hauptmanns
attic even though this was unnoticed in nine documented
previous searches of the attic by 37 law-enforcement agents. At
the trial, the prosecution claimed a kidnap-ladder rail matched
the remaining partial-board in Hauptmanns attic, though
of different width and depth. Why would Hauptmann a professional
carpenter with abundant lumber in his garage rip a board
from his attic to help build a ladder? Nonetheless, this became
the prosecutions smoking gun.
said he worked at the Majestic Apartments in New York City until
5 p.m. the day of the kidnapping. His supervisor Joseph Furcht
confirmed this in a sworn affidavit with attached documentation.
But after being summoned to the New York District Attorneys
office, Furcht was no longer positive, and work records
for that time vanished.
- Both of
the witnesses placing Hauptmann near the crime scene were discreditable
and handsomely paid. Unknown to the defense, 87-year-old Amandus
Hochmuth was partially blind and admitted to prosecutors pretrial
that he couldnt identify Hauptmann. When Governor Hoffman
interviewed Hochmuth, he couldnt identify a flower vase
10 feet away. Illiterate Millard Whithed, labeled a chronic liar
by neighbors, had denied to police seeing anything suspicious
after the kidnapping but came forward two years later,
motivated by reward money.
much better witnesses for the kidnapping time-frame. On Tuesdays
his wife Anna worked late at Fredericksens, a New York bakery-café.
Hauptmann always waited there for Anna, and sometimes walked the
Fredericksens dog. Not only did the Fredericksens confirm
Hauptmann was there on the kidnapping evening, but August Von Henke
saw Hauptmann walking the dog. Mistaking it for his own lost dog,
he argued with Hauptmann. Louis Kiss, a bakery customer, remembered
the argument. Von Henke and Kiss werent friends of Hauptmann,
had no incentive to lie, and threatened the prosecutions case.
The day after
Kiss testified, a New York attorney named Berko pressed him to change
his testimony with a threat of arrest and an offer of money. Berko
admitted his legal career was failing, but that Attorney General
Wilentz offered to help him get a position on Manhattan special
prosecutor Thomas Deweys staff if he could persuade Kiss to
recant his testimony. Kiss informed Berko hed told the truth
in court and wouldnt change it for any price. He summarized
the incident in a sworn deposition corroborated by a witness.
- When Hauptmann
was arrested, Condon declined to say he was Cemetery John.
FBI agent Leon Turrou wrote: He [Condon] remarked on one
occasion that Hauptmann is not the man because he appears to be
much heavier, different eyes, different hair, etc. Yet in
court, after reportedly being threatened with obstructing
justice, Condon emphatically identified Hauptmann as Cemetery
- After Hauptmanns
arrest, the New York police gave samples of his writing to handwriting
expert Albert D. Osborn, who reported they didnt match the
ransom notes. But after the frustrated police told Osborn large
ransom sums were in Hauptmanns residence, Osborn requested
more samples. The police forced Hauptmann to write the ransom
note words dozens of times best examples were selected.
Osborn changed his mind, explaining in court that Hauptmann made
the same spelling errors as the actual ransom notes. But as Scaduto
revealed, the police forced Hauptmann to write with the spelling
mistakes dictated to him.
The state paid
eight handwriting experts over $33,000 to testify that Hauptmann
wrote the notes. But experts testify for who pays their
fee, and many differences in Hauptmanns writing were disregarded.
The defense could only afford one handwriting expert, who was simply
On This Day: Kidnapped Lindbergh Baby Found Dead
The body of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh’s baby is found on May 12, 1932, more than two months after he was kidnapped from his family’s Hopewell, New Jersey, mansion.
Lindbergh, who became the first worldwide celebrity five years earlier when he flew The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note in their 20-month-old child’s empty room on March 1. The kidnapper had used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and had left muddy footprints in the room. In barely legible English, the ransom note demanded $50,000..
The crime captured the attention of the entire nation. The Lindbergh family was inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison, though it of course was conditioned on his release. For three days, investigators had found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000.
It wasn’t until April 2 that the kidnappers gave instructions for dropping off the money. When the money was finally delivered, the kidnappers indicated that little baby Charles was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. However, after an exhaustive search of every port, there was no sign of either the boat or the child.
On May 12, a renewed search of the area near the Lindbergh mansion turned up the baby’s body. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from the home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the home to charity and moved away.
The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. Suspicious of the driver who had given it to him, the gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down his license plate number. It was tracked back to a German immigrant, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found $13,000 of Lindbergh ransom money.
Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial again was a national sensation. Famous writers Damon Runyan and Walter Winchell covered the trial. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong. The main evidence, apart from the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann and his connection with the type of wood that was used to make the ladder.
Still, the evidence and intense public pressure was enough to convict Hauptmann. In April 1936 he was executed in the electric chair.
Kidnapping was made a federal crime in the aftermath of this high-profile crime.
The Ransom For The Lindbergh Baby
Wikimedia Commons A copy of the first ransom note that the Lindberg’s found in Little Lindy’s bedroom.
Over the course of the Lindbergh kidnapping investigation, the Lindberghs and Condon received a total of seven ransom letters. The first was found by Charles in his son’s room immediately after discovering the boy was gone. It outlined the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and asked for $50,000 to be delivered to a yet-undisclosed location in small bills.
The first note was signed with a “signature,” a hand-drawn symbol comprised of three circles and three punched out holes. The second and third notes, delivered to the Lindbergh home and local investigators, carried the same symbols. The rest of the notes were delivered to Condon and did not carry the notes, though their authenticity was confirmed.
After the delivery of the seventh note, the Lindberghs and the police authorized Condon to orchestrate a drop off of the funds. The ransom money was comprised of gold certificates, chosen because they were about to be withdrawn from circulation, placed inside a handmade box, specifically designed so that it would be easy to recognize in the future. The bills were not marked, but each bill’s serial number was recorded so it could be tracked in the future.
Condon met with “John” on April 2, 1932, to hand over the money. He was told at the meeting that Charles Lindbergh Jr. was in the custody of two innocent women but provided no further information.
Wikimedia Commons The signature found at the bottom of each letter.
Having no leads besides “Cemetery John,” the police began tracking the serial numbers of the ransom bills.
A pamphlet was distributed to businesses in New York containing the serial numbers and providing information for what to do if they were found. Some of the bills turned up, though most went unseen. Most of the bills that appeared showed up randomly and in scattered locations such as Chicago and Minneapolis, though the people who had used them were never located.
A break in the case came on the day that the gold certificates, which made up a large sum of the ransom, were ordered to be turned in for other bills. A New York man brought $2,980 into a Manhattan bank, hoping to exchange them. It was only after he left the bank that it was discovered that the serial numbers matched those of the ransom bills.
Over a period of 30 months, police noticed that many of the bills had started popping up, specifically in the upper east side of Manhattan. Even more specifically, they were being spent along the Lexington Avenue subway route. After a local gas station called and said they had one of the ransom bills in their possession, police were led to Richard Hauptmann.
Rutgers historian: Was Lindbergh kidnapping an inside job?
Eight decades after the crime that transfixed the world, a Rutgers professor has added a thrilling new chapter – evidence that Charles Lindbergh may have been involved in the kidnapping and murder of his son.
Lloyd C. Gardner, professor of history emeritus, points to Lindbergh’s fascination with Social Darwinism and evidence that health problems plaguing his 20-month-old son Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. suggested the child was far from perfect.
Gardner had painstakingly researched the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the “Little Eaglet,” son of the American hero-aviator and his socially prominent wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh. His research included the subsequent arrest, trial, conviction and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann for Gardner’s 2004 book The Case that Never Dies: The Lindbergh Kidnapping, published by Rutgers University Press.
Now, after almost another decade of research, Gardner has added a dramatic afterward to his work – the theory that Lindbergh, the “Lone Eagle,” was somehow involved with little Charlie’s abduction. The author also believes the child’s death could have resulted from an accident during the kidnapping, which, to this day, is still considered the crime of the century.
Inside the Capture of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapper - HISTORY
The real question is -
Tuesday evening: - Betty Gow, and Anne Lindbergh, put twenty-month-old Charles Jr., to bed at eight PM.
He was looked in on at nine, and found to be sleeping peacefully.
Fifty minutes later, when the nurse made her final check, the baby was gone. The Lindberghs were sitting in the living room
On day 2 , Congresswoman Ruth Pratt calls Lindbergh and recommends Morris Rosner , a gangster. Rosner appoints two Jewish gangsters, Irving Bitz and S. Spitale, to act as liaisons to the underworld.
A good Samaritan named Dr. John Condon places ads in a Bronx newspaper seeking contact with the kidnappers. Not long afterwards, Condon was sent the pajamas the Lindbergh baby was wearing when he was kidnapped, along with ransom notes.
Ed Reilly , Hauptmann's defense attorney , had his fee paid for New York Evening Journal . He was literally bought, and paid for, by a Hearst newspaper.
Reilly spent no more than 40 minutes with his client over the course of the entire trial. He was an over the hill glad handing drunk.
In early 1932, Fisch met Hauptmann and the two became both friends and business partners, agreeing to split the profits and losses of Fischs fur business and Hauptmanns stock investments equally.
In December 6, 1933 Fisch leaves for Germany paying with the ransom money . One witness testified he had seen Sharpe and Fisch together. Hauptmann testified that Fisch gave him a package to hold, the Lindbergh ransom money.
Hauptmann was just a stubborn, and gullible Kraut, with no connection to Lindbergh- he didn't have the brains or a motive. Historians consider his trial a total fraud.
He was offered $75,000 to confess, but refused.
The ladder weighted close to 100 lbs - Could one person lift it?
They found footprints in the wet ground below the window, but neglected either to measure them or to make plaster casts of them.
Fisch's part was to set up Hauptmann, and get the house schematics.
The Lindbergh maid that provided Fisch with schematics and inside information.
Novitsky deposited $ 2900 of Lindbergh money in a NY bank .
Jacob Novitsky a Jewish bookkeeper/forger/embezzler who worked for the Purple Gang, and wrote the ransom notes.
Jack Stein , and Sam Davis, were the most likely suspects according to Detroit police. They were 'Second story men' ( burglars ).
The planning, and financing, was handled by Detroit's purple gang.
The gang dealt in narcotics, bootlegged liquor, gambling ,high jacking but it's specialty was kidnapping.
The gang was started by Raymond Bernstein, and Harry Keywell, in a Detroit ghetto for newly arrived Russian Jews. Harry Fleisher became the leader after Bernstein, and Keywell , received life sentences for gangland slayings in 1931.
Members were the brothers Louis, Sam, and Harry Fleisher , Harry Keywell , Ray Bernstein , Solly Levine, Abe Axler and Eddie Fletcher Milberg, Ray Bernstein and the four Bernstein brothers Abe, Joe, Raymond and Izzy.
All Russian immigrant Jews
The gang distinguished itself being more than willing to use extreme levels of violence in the course of extorting, collecting debts or protecting a shipment. Purples reputation as one of the toughest of the prohibition gangs when several members were sought out and arrested in connection with the St. Valentines day massacre in Chicago.
The gang was so well known for their involvement in the booming kidnapping for ransom trade that they became the prime suspects in the disappearance of the Lindbergh baby.
Lindbergh was considering politics
Lindbergh saw his father's predictions come true.
The Fed Res tightened credit in 1929, causing a devastating depression, and giving the NY moneyed interests an opportunity to buy America companies and real estate for pennies.
Lindbergh felt Roosevelt was a Communist, and would do anything to get America into war. He saw Stalin, and Communism, as the enemy. In the early 1930s Japan was entangled in a war with Communist China and Roosevelt stood with China. Lindbergh was vocal in his opposition.
He pulled no punches on how Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill guaranteed Poland protection from Hitler when Polish Jews killed 58,000 Germans in the Danzig corridor. He was a representative of ' America First ', an organization that exposed the 1938 Jewish neo-cons, who were behind pushing America into WW2. His famous 1940 Des Moines Speech .
New York newspapers went on a rampage
Lindbergh was portrayed as a Nazi, and a womanizer.
Roosevelt stripped Lindberg of his air force commission and refused to let him re-enlist. He put the FBI on Lindbergh.
cture of charles lindbergh 279 8 charles lindbergh sr 42 1 charles lindbergh kidnapping 286 8 charles lindbergh line charles lindbergh flight 150 4
Was the Lindbergh baby kidnapping a hoax?
The kidnap and murder of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month-old toddler in 1932 became known as the “crime of the century”. Although a man was found guilty and put to death for the crime, many people believe he was innocent, and that the real perpetrator was Charles Lindbergh himself…
Charles Lindbergh was most famous for his record-breaking flight from New York City to Paris in a day in 1927. He was awarded the Medal of Honour and was Time magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’.
But this decorated man had a dark side. He believed in the controversial practice of eugenics – promoting sexual reproduction between those with desired traits, or sterilising those with less desired traits. He had affairs that were made public years later, fathering secret children as a way – people thought – of ‘passing on his genes’. He was anti-Semitic and long suspected of being a Nazi sympathiser, believing that the survival of the white race was more important than democracy. Some writers have described him as cold, not tender or protective, and having a tendency for cruel and sometimes sadistic practical jokes.
These facets of Lindbergh, together with the substantial holes in the case, have led people to suggest that he was the mastermind of a conspiracy in the kidnap and murder of his little boy.
The official story goes like this: at 8pm on March 1 st 1932, Betty Gow, the Lindbergh family nurse, put 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh Junior to bed. At 9.30pm, the baby’s father, Charles Lindbergh, heard a noise. At 10pm, Gow discovered that the baby was gone. Charles Lindbergh checked the house for intruders and found a ransom note on the window sill in the baby’s room, demanding $50,000. Police were called and bits of a ladder were found in a bush near the house.
More ransom notes followed in the post after the police commenced their investigation. The kidnappers – claiming to be a gang of three men and two women – asked for John F. Condon, a well-known Bronx personality, to act as the Lindbergh family’s intermediary in the ransom negotiation. Condon met with the alleged kidnapper and handed over the ransom money.
But the toddler wasn’t returned. More than a month later, the toddler was found dead and badly decomposed in a grove of trees four miles from the Lindbergh family home. He had a massive skull fracture, and a medical examination confirmed this as the cause of death.
Was the “crime of the century” an inside job?
Even though, two years later, Richard Hauptmann was arrested, tried and found guilty of Charles Lindbergh Junior’s murder, he always maintained his innocence. And some of the evidence that led to his conviction was highly questionable. The identification evidence, in particular. John Condon initially said that Hauptmann definitely wasn’t the man he met for the handover, then later said he was. A number of items involved in the crime were found in Hauptmann’s apartment, notably a piece of wood that matched the kidnappers’ makeshift ladder. However, this piece of wood wasn’t found straight away. When found, it was said to have been part of the floorboards in Hauptmann’s attic, which Hauptmann had removed to make the ladder. But it didn’t actually match the floorboards. All this led the governor of New Jersey, Harold Hoffman, to accuse the powers that be of planting the evidence.
Conspiracy theorists have claimed that the kidnapping and the ransom deal were a hoax by the Lindbergh family and their associates to cover up what really happened to the baby. It’s understood that the baby was born was an abnormally large head, overlapping toes and unfused skull bones. Because of his Nazi sympathies and belief in eugenics, it’s said that Lindbergh murdered the child because of these deformities. Lindbergh thought the child had ‘bad genes’.
While there’s no direct evidence for this, conspiracy theorists draw on Lindbergh’s odd behaviour during the investigation – including his refusal of help from the FBI and his obstruction of the police investigation – and the huge number of mysteries, coincidences and unanswered questions associated with the case.
Why would the kidnappers choose to steal a baby at a time when the family would still be up and about?
If Hauptmann took the child using his makeshift ladder to get away, why weren’t his fingerprints found anywhere on the ladder?
Why did the family dog – prone to barking at the slightest disturbance – not make a sound on the night of the crime? And when Anne Lindbergh – the baby’s mother – testified about the dog’s tendency to bark at strangers and disturbances, why did Charles Lindbergh deny this? Is it that Lindbergh wanted to divert the police’s attention, because there was in fact no intruder at all?
Even more bizarre is the fact that NO adult fingerprints were found in the baby’s room. None. Anne Lindbergh and Betty Gow both said they had searched the room when they realised the child was gone. They said they had touched the window sill, and yet somehow they managed not to leave a single print. Were they in on the deception and lying?
It’s horrifying to think that Charles Lindbergh killed his own baby and covered it up with his family’s help, but it’s not an outrageous theory when you look at the holes in the official story. Many authors have rejected Hauptmann’s guilt, citing major flaws in the investigation such as ignoring witnesses who said Hauptmann was working at the time of the baby’s abduction. They’ve suggested that Lindbergh orchestrated the whole thing, forging the ransom notes, framing Hauptmann, and rejecting the help of the FBI so he could enlist his co-conspirator John Condon to help execute the hoax.
Looks like Charles Lindbergh was not the American hero everyone thought he was….
The Lindbergh Child Kidnapping Case
Who says that globalisation is a thing of today?
When Baby Charlie Lindbergh jr was kidnapped on the 1st March 1932, all the western world knew it. The abduction and murder of the firstborn child of one of America’s most beloved heroes dominated headlines for months on both sides of the Atlantic and continued to interest people for a few years more.
Like many others, Agatha Christie followed the facts closely. The story made such an impression on her that it became the core of one of her most famous novels: Murder on the Orient Express.
The Lindbergh’s Kidnapping Case Unfolds
Charles Lindbergh , the first man to cross the Atlantic solo in a plane in 1927, was at the time one of the most famous men in the world. He had married Anne Morrow in 1930 and soon after they had a child, Charles jr.
Looking for some respite from the limelight, the couple had built a 23-room rural mansion in the secluded country location of Hopewell. In 1932 the mansion was still being built, but the family had already established a routine of spending the weekends there and go back to Anne’s parent’s mention in Englewood during the week.
But at the end of February 1932, Charlie caught a cold, so the parents thought it wise not to have him travel back to the city. For the first time, the Lindberghs remained at Hopewell even during the week.
On the evening of 1st March, Charlie’s nurse, Betty Gow, found him missing from his crib at 10pm, several hours after having put him to bed. The house was searched and a ransom note of $ 50,000 (more or less half a million today) was found on the nursery windowsill.
A fevered search started. The Lindberghs’s domestic staff was grilled, but nothing useful emerged. The police found traces of mud in the nursery, footprints and two sections of a ladder – it must have broken while being used to reach the window – outside the house, but no bloodstains or fingerprints.
The case offered so few clues that the police and the family tried any way to find information. The underworld was involved (Al Capone famously offered information in exchange for his freedom from Alcatraz), money rewards were offered, investigators were hired. Nothing happened.
Charles Lindbergh, a powerful man and a strong leader, was immediately very involved in the investigation. Even too much, someone thought (the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police certainly was of this opinion), to the point to try and keep the police out of the entire affair. Besides, he had come in touch with a mysterious man called ‘John’ and for weeks communicated with him via newspaper small ads.
Finally, a retired teacher, 72-year-old Dr John F. Condon, was accepted as a go-between to deliver the ransom. When on 2nd April he met “John” in a cemetery, the Lindberghs were waiting in a car nearby. But the boy wasn’t given over. Dr Condon only received a note claiming Baby Charlie could be found on a boat named Nellie near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. A search failed to find the boat or the boy.
On 12th May, a truck driver found the remains of a child partly buried on the side of a road four miles from Hopewell. The child’s head had been crushed. He had been dead for at least two months. Although very little remained of him after decomposition and the action of wild animals, Charles Lindbergh identified his child.
The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case Is solved
It was after these events that the Congress passed a law that made kidnapping a federal offence, so that future cases may be investigated by the FBI. A hunt for the killer was launch. The Hopewell house staff were once again grilled since many clues seemed to indicate an inside job.
A British servant, Violet Sharpe, appeared nervous during her three boots of questioning. This directed suspicions on her, and the pressure was so strong she ended up taking her life with poison later that year. But further investigations eventually cleared her completely, and the police were blamed for heavy-handedness.
The ransom had been paid to ‘John’ in gold certificates. To make tracing the ownership of these certificates easier, in 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that all gold certificates must return to the US Treasury.
In September 1934, an attendant in a New York petrol station, suspecting that a customer was paying him with a forged gold certificate, took down the customer’s registration number. The vehicle was traced back to Bruno Richard Hauptmann , a 35-year-old German carpenter from the Bronx. More gold certificates were found in his possession, and his description matched that on ‘John’.
He was arrested and put on trial in New Jersey in January 1935, although he always protested himself to be innocence. But the clues in possession of the police and the fact that Lindbergh recognised his voice as that of ‘John’ on that fatal day of the handing over of the ransom convinced the jury of his guilt.
He died on the electric chair on 3rd April 1936
Or is it?
So was the case closed? It was, for American justice. Not so for the many scholars and historians that have studied the case in the intervening eighty years. Although the case was never reopened, many doubts have been risen about Hauptmann’s guilt.
Beyond the ransom money, the case against Hauptmann was thin.
Anna, his wife, did alibi him and forever, until the day she died aged 95 in 1994, she swore her husband picked her up at work as he always did on Tuesdays. Several other witnesses and his work records placed him in New York that day, hours away from Hopewell.
If his description matched that of ‘John’, his profile did not. ‘John’ was described in 1932 during the kidnapping time as an antisocial dissatisfied with his life. Hauptman was happily married, had a son and was perfectly integrated into his German community. True, the ransom money was found in his house, but he claimed it was given to him by a fellow countryman, who was indeed then discovered to be involved in a money-laundering business.
But Hauptmann was an illegal immigrant whose wife didn’t know his first name was Bruno until he was arrested. And there was the fact that Lindbergh, the child’s father and a beloved public figure, recognised him as his child’s kidnapper.
But if not Hauptmann, then who?
Over the years, different theories have taken shape. One of the many placed the gilt on gangs. At that time, gangs routinely kidnapped family members of the rich to then ask for a ransom. The two sections of the ladder found outside the Hopewell home suggested the ladder broke, the kidnapper fell with the child, and the child died that same night.
But other, more sinister theories arose that at the time were never even taken into account.
Lindbergh, father and son
Born in 1902 in Detroit, but raised on a farm in Minnesota, Charles Augustus Lindbergh was the first man to cross the Atlantic solo on a plain. In 1927, as an advertisement stunt, a hotel owner offered a prize to whoever crossed the Atlantic solo, on a plane, without stops. Although many had tried, nothing but failure had ensued.
On the 20th May 1927, 25-year-old Lindbergh, U.S. Air Mail pilot, flew away from Long Island in his single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis. He landed in Paris 33,50 hours later, winning the prize and skyrocketing from virtual obscurity to international world fame.
People adored him. He was young and daring, ambitious and strong-willed… but his personality was a lot darker than people were willing to acknowledge. His character’s flaws were twisted into admirable traits by those who knew him and wrote about him. The cruel behaviour he directed to those he disliked or dominated was often excused as ‘practical jokes’. One of these ‘jokes’ occurred a few days before Baby Charlie was kidnapped: his father locked him into a wardrobe and let the house stuff search for hours before revealing where the kid was hidden.
His well-known obsession for order, routine and privacy would eventually inform his entire life, but, misogynistic as he was, he had numerous illicit love affairs and fathered at least five kids out of wedlock from three different women when he lived in Germany.
His sympathy for the Nazi regime was never proven, though he had words of appreciation for the Nazi organisation and efficiency when he travelled to Germany in the 1930s. Still, in that period he indeed adhered to the growing Scandinavian-German notion about the racial superiority of the Northern Europeans compared to the Southern Europeans and the Asians.
His personality and his beliefs, together with his unparallel popularity, created in him very high self-esteem.
Charles Lindbergh lands in Paris
But what about Baby Charlie?
I’m afraid he was far from being the perfect son of a hero.
When Anne was seven-months pregnant with him, she flew with Charles for two weeks in an open cockpit at high altitude. Upon returning, she was hospitalised for four days. When he was born, Charlie was immediately put on a special diet. He appears to have been afflicted with a rickets-like condition that affected the development of strong bones. He required mega doses of vitamin D and daily exposure to sunlamp. He also had hammertoes on his left foot. His head was larger than normal and he had unfused skull bones.
Although everyone tried to hush this down, rumours that something was seriously wrong with the world’s most famous pilot’s child would never subside.
Did Lindbergh kill his own child?
Back in the 1930s, Lindbergh’s popularity was so large, and he was such a beloved hero that nobody ever took into account any sinister possibility concerning him. But in the intervening years, events of that night and the unfolding of the inquiry started to be examined and read in a very different way.
Why that night?
Although the house in Hopewell was not completely built, the Lindberghs had already established a habit of spending the weekends there. They would return to Anne’s parent’s mansion on Mondays and spend the rest of the week there.
When Charlie caught a cold, Lindbergh himself decided not to go back to the city on Monday for the first time ever. Only he, Anne and their house staff knew this. The last-minute decision to stay was unprecedented, and a complete break forms the Lindberghs’ established patterns.
Lindbergh was engaged for a public speech at the New York University, that day. He always loved to speak in public, but that night, he decided to renounce and go back to Hopewell, after telephoning home and instructing not to disturb Charlie in his room until at least 10pm.
Dutifully, Betty the nurse checked on Charlie after 10pm, and she found the crib empty. In the beginning, neither she or Anne worried, because they thought of one of Charles’s notorious ‘pranks’. But when he arrived, Lindbergh answered their questions with, “They have stolen our baby!” and that’s where the kidnapping case was born.
The many questions about ‘them’ – who they were? How did they know which room was Charlie’s? How did they act without anybody hearing any noise – were never fully answered.
Lindbergh took control of the investigation immediately
From the very beginning, Charles Lindbergh took control of the investigation relying more on his solicitor than the police, to the point that, later, the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police accused them of disrupting the investigation and even considered charging them with conspiracy.
Lindbergh directed the investigation away from the house from the start. Assuming the New York mafia had taken his son, he contacted gangster Mickey Rossner and gave him a copy of the ransom note to have it circulate in the underworld and see whether any clue could be discovered. It only led to thirteen more ransom notes be delivered at the Lindberghs’.
He refused the help of the FBI, even threatening to shoot anyone who didn’t follow his biding.
Lindbergh was instrumental to the closure of the case
When the body of the baby was found, the coroner hesitated to identify it, since the poor remains were in such bad condition that a certain identification was very hard to do. But Lindbergh stated that was undoubtedly his child… and had the body immediately cremated.
At the Hauptmann trial, despite the several witnesses placing Hauptmann far away from Hopewell that night, Lindbergh identified his voice – which he had heard just once, from over seventy yards away, three years earlier. It was good enough for the jury.
The Armstrong Kidnapping Case
When Agatha Christie wrote her Murder on the Orient Express , the Lindbergh kidnapping case was still opened. Hauptmann had not been found yet, so all possibilities were still fair game.
Many of the circumstances of the Armstrong case in the novel are easily recognisable as matching those of the Lindbergh case. It was – and it still is – a very mysterious case, which would have made for a good mystery novel itself. Christie moved the story in a very different direction… a very interesting, thought-provoking one, making Murder on the Orient Express one of the more unconventional mystery novels ever written.
In American History
Yet, almost from the moment of his arrest, questions have arisen regarding Hauptmann’s actual degree of involvement in the case. A small but dogged group of researchers has set forth a number of troubling charges, including lying by witnesses, police fabrication of evidence, and dereliction in Hauptmann’s legal defense.
Together, these journalists, attorneys, and documentary filmmakers—and a fervid group of Hauptmann’s latter-day supporters who continue to research the case—argue that Hauptmann was the victim of a conspiracy. Law enforcement agencies, they assert, were influenced by Lindbergh’s immense celebrity, the fervent anti-German sentiment in the United States in 1934, and the growing pressure to solve such a high-profile case.
Some of the supporters of a conspiracy theory (e.g., Ahlgren and Monier) even point the finger at Lindbergh himself. They suggest that the pilot who became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic in May 1927 may have originally intended simply to play a prank on his wife by “kidnapping” the baby (he had, once before, taken the baby and hidden it in a closet while his wife frantically searched for him) but he accidentally fell off a ladder, killing the baby and requiring a “cover story” to preserve his reputation as a national hero.
Other writers who have examined the case (e.g., Behn) have posited the prospect of an inside job— pointing to a disgruntled employee or mentally unbalanced relative of the family. And there are those researchers who have not attempted to finger the guilty party, but instead focus on what they see as inexplicable lapses in police procedure and gross negligence on the part of the courts in protecting the rights of Hauptmann.
All of the conspiracy theorists build their respective cases on the assumption that the New Jersey State Police, needing a suspect and perhaps working in concert with Lindbergh, coerced and bribed witnesses, altered or manufactured evidence, lied in police reports, and denied Hauptmann adequate representation or access to witnesses and resources that would have proved his innocence.
The Facts of the Kidnapping
The kidnapping occurred between 8 and 10 P.M. The Lindberghs would not normally have been in Hopewell (they always spent their weekdays in the Morrow estate in Englewood, New Jersey, several miles away), but little Charles was said to be suffering from a cold, and as the weather was miserable, the family delayed returning to Englewood.
In the house at the time were Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Elise and Oliver Whately (the cook and the butler), and the baby’s nursemaid, Betty Gow. Charles Lindbergh arrived about 8:30 P.M., having come from New York City. (He was supposed to have been away longer that evening, giving a speech at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. He told investigators he “forgot” the appointment.)
The family dined late, and around 10 P.M., Gow went into the nursery to check on Charles, Jr. When she couldn’t find him, she told Charles and Anne that the baby was gone. Anne raced into the nursery with Gow, and then Charles went in and discovered an envelope on the windowsill, which he insisted not be opened until the police arrived. Later that night, during the investigation of the grounds, a homemade ladder with a broken rung was found. No other physical evidence or usable fingerprints were discovered at the scene.
A week after the kidnapping, a retired teacher from the Bronx named John Condon received a message from the kidnappers. Police verified that the purported kidnapper was not a fraud Condon received some of the kidnapped child’s clothing in the mail.
Negotiations led to midnight meetings in a Bronx cemetery, and eventually, $50,000 in gold certificates were exchanged with the kidnapper. In return, Condon was given a letter that stated that the baby could be found on the “Boad Nelly”—a puzzling reference that neither the police nor Lindbergh understood.
In April, some of the ransom money began circulating in the Bronx. In May, a truck driver passing through Hopewell reported the discovery of a small corpse in the woods a few miles from the Lindbergh home. Though the body was badly decomposed, the Lindberghs positively identified the body as their son (it was wrapped in little Charles’s clothes).
The New Jersey State Police were under intense international scrutiny. No substantive progress had been made in the case. The investigation was being superintended by the chief of the state police, Norman Schwarzkopf (father of the U.S. military’s Gulf War general), who disavowed all offers of assistance from the FBI. When the baby’s body was found, Schwarzkopf boldly announced in the press that the perpetrators would soon be in custody.
Almost a year and a half later, in September 1934, following one of the paths of the ransom-money trail, police arrested Hauptmann at his home in the Bronx, charging him first with extortion and then, later, kidnapping and murder.
The prosecution’s case was made up of witnesses who reportedly identified Hauptmann from the Bronx cemetery or near the Lindbergh house handwriting samples that allegedly matched the ransom notes the presence of John Condon’s phone number, written in pencil, in Hauptmann’s closet and a missing plank from Hauptmann’s attic floor, which was said to have been used in the ladder at the crime scene. He was also found to be in possession of most of the ransom money, which was stored in his garage.
Hauptmann was represented at trial by a flamboyant, alcoholic attorney named Edward Reilly, who was hired by Hearst Newspapers to put on a good show before the inevitable conviction. In the four months before the trial, Reilly spent less than one hour talking to Hauptmann.
The “airtight” case against Hauptmann has proved, on closer examination, to be rather porous. Several researchers (especially Kennedy) have uncovered the dubious origin of much of the case against Hauptmann.
For example, of the two “eyewitness” accounts of Hauptmann at the crime scene, one was given by eighty-seven-year-old Amandus Hochmuth—who was partially blind due to cataracts (but nonetheless was given a $1,000 “reward” for coming forward as an eyewitness) the other was an illiterate and impoverished man named Millard Whited, who stated both the day after the kidnapping and seven weeks later that he had seen nothing suspicious in the neighborhood.
When police informed him he would be able to share in the $25,000 reward money if his testimony proved helpful, he changed his story and said he saw Hauptmann drive by in his car on the day of the abduction.
The writing of Condon’s phone number inside Hauptmann’s closet? In the years since the trial, three different reporters who were covering the case at the time said a fellow reporter from a New York daily newspaper put it there to create a big story for the next issue.
Investigators after the fact have disagreed with the official testimony that the floorboards in Hauptmann’s home matched the wood used for one of the rungs of the ladder—the infamous “rail sixteen.”
Researchers have pointed out that police did not originally note a missing floorboard in Hauptmann’s attic, even though they investigated the house no less than nine times, looking for incriminating evidence. The missing piece of wood was officially noticed only after the police had been scouring Hauptmann’s home for a week.
Further, it has been questioned why Hauptmann, a carpenter who had a garage full of wood, would have ripped up a piece of floorboard, and why he would have “planed” it smooth if it was only going to be a step on a ladder. Also, why was “rail sixteen” one-sixteenth of an inch thicker than the rest of the floorboards? (This discrepancy, according to Ahlgren and Monier, caused then-New Jersey governor Harold Hoffman to accuse prosecutors of “fabricating the evidence.”)
Handwriting experts testified that the ransom note’s misspellings matched the sample the police received from Hauptmann during interrogation. But Hauptmann claimed the police, after twenty straight hours of questioning, asked him to provide writing samples and told him how to spell certain words, such as “rihgt” for “right.”
Regarding the ransom money, Hauptmann said he was given a package from an acquaintance, Isidore Fisch, to hold for him. Hauptmann said Fisch (who, records indicate, journeyed to Germany and then died shortly after Hauptmann accepted the package) had owed him money. When he didn’t return to get the package, Hauptmann began spending some of the money, he testified.
- How could Hauptmann, or anyone outside the immediate family, have planned a kidnapping from the Hopewell home on a night when the Lindberghs were always to be found at their Englewood home?
- Why would someone attempt a kidnapping during a time when all the lights were on, the domestic staff—including the nursemaid—was in residence, and the family was at home having dinner?
- Hauptmann’s footprints were never found at the scene. The ladder contained more than 400 sets of fingerprints. Not one belonged to Hauptmann.
- Why did Lindbergh and Schwarzkopf refuse the assistance of the FBI?
- Why did Hauptmann maintain his innocence—even after he was offered a commutation of his sentence to life in prison if he would simply confess? (This offer was available right up until the time he was executed.)
Since then, other authors (most notably Fisher) have responded to the wave of “Hauptmann-was-framed” charges with their own charges of Lindbergh revisionist hysteria and conspiracy theory fever. Several books published in the 1990s argue unequivocally for the soundness of the original case against Hauptmann and the paucity of evidence pointing to anyone else, or to any organized conspiracy.
Additionally, not withstanding the admittedly slack legal representation provided to Hauptmann, neither the New Jersey courts nor the New Jersey legislature, after reviewing the transcripts, evidence, and more than 30,000 documents now available about the case, has seen fit to reconsider the original findings or to censure—or even question—the legitimacy of police or prosecutor conduct in the matter.
Wikimedia Commona Richard Hauptmann&rsquos mugshot.
Though Hauptmann is considered the official kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby, that hasn&rsquot stopped conspiracy theorists from coming up with their own version of what actually happened during the Lindbergh kidnapping.
Defenders of Hauptmann&rsquos are quick to point out that his fingerprints were never found on the ladder or any of the ransom notes. They also attest to the fact that the crime scene was a mess from the start, and that any evidence available was quickly compromised by the media circus it became.
Some experts &mdash both self-proclaimed and legitimate &mdash have theorized that Hauptmann was a scapegoat and that Lindbergh knew who the real kidnapper was but was either in on it or too afraid to say anything.
In fact, one of the most popular, and some might say substantiated claims is that the kidnapping was perpetrated by Charles Lindbergh himself. Some say that he accidentally killed his son, while attempting a practical joke, and staged the kidnapping to cover up his crimes, pointing the finger at Hauptmann to cover his own back.
Some believe that Lindbergh orchestrated the kidnapping as a publicity stunt and that after the hired kidnappers didn&rsquot get whatever it was Lindbergh had promised them, the stunt went horribly wrong.
Lindbergh, his family, and the New Jersey police have argued against the theories that he was responsible for the kidnapping, insisting that everything they knew about the case suggested it had been legitimate and that the toddler&rsquos death was simply the result of the kidnapper snapping under pressure.
Whatever the case, though it is closed, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping has become one of the most controversial and conspiratorial cases to ever be discussed by the American public.
Outside of pop culture and media, the case broke ground when it pushed Congress to pass the Federal Kidnapping Act, which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal offense. The law is commonly referred to as the &ldquoLindbergh Law.&rdquo
Enjoy this article on the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby? Next, read about how the mysterious Detective X, investigator of the Lindbergh kidnapping revealed himself. Then, read about the harrowing kidnapping of John Paul Getty III.