Make Yourself At Home - The Hinterkaifeck Muders

This week, we have a murder mystery that gets very spooky. A whole family was murdered March 31, 1922, but no one found out for a few days because it looked like someone was living in their house for several days afterwards. Someone lit a fire, had some meals, fed the farm animals... All while the family was laying dead in the barn and in one room of the house.

Additionally, the family claimed to have heard mysterious footsteps, had things go missing and other strange things appear, and to have seen footsteps in the snow that suddenly stop. Their old maid had quit six months earlier because of the strange occurrences (the new maid's first day would also be her last, as she was slain with the family).

I'm including some crime scene images in a slideshow below. They're in black and white, but still disturbing. Proceed with caution. Other trigger warnings for mentions of incest and violence.

The Build-Up

Hinterkaifeck was a small farmstead about an hour outside of Munich, Germany. The farm was maintained by the Gruber family:

 The farm. Image via  Mysterious Universe

The farm. Image via Mysterious Universe

  • Andreas Gruber (62)
  • Cäzilia Gruber - Andreas's wife (72)
  • Viktoria Gabriel - Widowed in the war (35)
  • Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2) Gabriel - Viktoria's children
  • Maria Baumgartner - the maid (44)

The family tended to keep to themselves, since the farm was about 1km from the nearest town of Kaifeck (the name of the farm basically means behind Kaifeck). Though, their isolation wasn't totally self-inflicted. There were rumors that Andreas beat his wife and children (Viktoria being the only child that survived) and that Josef was potentially the result of an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Their only real connections to the community was Viktoria singing in the church choir and Cäzilia (7) attending school in town.

As I said before, six months prior, the family's previous maid quit. She claimed to have heard strange voices and disembodied footsteps in the attic. The family let her leave, assuming she must have been encountering some mental issues and had been making up the instances in her head. But by the beginning of the fateful month of March, Andreas was also reporting some strange happenings in and around the house. A set of house keys had gone missing, and a  newspaper the family had never seen before appeared on the kitchen table. But the piece of information that really stuck out to me was the fact that he claimed to have seen footprints that came from the woods to the house—but never left. Additionally, someone attempted to break into their tool shed.

The Crime

The family was killed on March 31, but their bodies weren't found until April 4. Viktoria hadn't shown up for choir practice, the mail was piling up, and Cäzilia hadn't shown up to school. A search party from town found Andreas, Cäzilia, Viktoria, and her daughter Cäzilia in the barn, brutalized and stacked on top of each other. Josef and Maria were also found dead in their own rooms. Their autopsies revealed that most of them died instantly from a single blow to the head from a mattock from on the farm (in the tampered-with tool shed) with a few exceptions: 

  • The younger Cäzilia showed signs of surviving past her initial blow, with tufts of her own hair clenched in her hands.
  • The older Cäzilia had some signs of strangulation
  • Viktoria had nine "star-shaped" wounds to her head in addition to signs of strangulation. The side of her face was smashed in.

The investigation led the authorities to believe those found in the barn were individually led out there and killed one at a time, and then the killer went in to kill the maid and Josef in their rooms. They were also able to determine that the killer had been feeding the cattle and they had seen smoke coming from the chimney. They had downright made themselves at home.

 Image via  Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

The skulls were sent off for further investigation and testing, but were lost during World War II, so the bodies were all buried headless. 

There is also now a small memorial for the family on the land where there farm was. Since the crime, the farm's buildings were demolished.

Theories

One of the more ridiculous theories was that Viktoria's husband, Karl did not actually die in the war and had come back to steal the family's wealth. Except... Money was still found in the house... And soldiers had seen Karl get hit with a shell and described his dead body. So, pretty unlikely.

  • Lorenz Schlittenbauer

    He had courted Viktoria and had originally believed Josef to be his son. But the rumors about Andreas sexually abusing Viktoria could have sent him into a rage, or perhaps it was just a way to get out of alimony payments. However, there were rumors that Viktoria was actually going to sue him. Still, Lorenz was one of the first members of the search party to find the bodies, and had started moving the ones in the barn. He claimed to have been searching for Josef, but he was also disturbing evidence and, according to reports from fellow townspeople, had been eerily calm when moving the bodies.
     
  • Ghosts?

Mysterious voices and footsteps. Footprints never leaving the house. Was the family murdered by a malevolent spirit? Probably not, but you can't help but consider the spooky elements of the case. Maybe the murderer was trying to make it look like a haunting.

Further Investigation

While more than 100 suspects have been questioned, but to no avail (or arrests). However, in 2007 a German police academy applied modern investigation techniques to the case. They apparently uncovered a suspect, but are not releasing the name out of respect for living relatives. So we could have some answers, but not until there aren't any living relatives or until they agree to the release of the name.

Below I've included the images of the farm and the crime scene.