More Crime of the Century FAQs!
21. I have seen various references to Richard and Anna Hauptmann's journeys in (and out of) the US before the kidnapping. Is it possible to find the exact dates?
Ans: BRH planned to make a honeymoon trip in late 1925, but his former room-mate's car (belonging to Albert Diebig) broke down before they could leave the Bronx. In 1928 (June 26 - Oct 22), Anna went to Germany (with Ella Achenbach's 9-year old daughter) to visit her parents and to inquire about a possible return for her husband - he still had about a year left on his 1923 jail sentence. Hauptmann bought his dark blue Dodge in March of 1931 and they made a circuitous trip to California to visit his sister Emma Gloeckner who had immigrated (legally) to the US in 1908. They left NYC on July 6 and returned Oct 3rd (accompanied by Hans Kloppenburg). His detailed accounting of this trip would stun him on the witness stand in 1935, since he had entered $2.25 and the word Boad only months before the kidnapping. Anna went to Germany again, in 1932, to see if they could safely repatriate, but the lawyer's answer was still not yet. She was gone from July 1st till Oct 9th. What must have been a second honeymoon took them to Florida from Jan 16 to Feb 10, 1933 - their son Mannfried was conceived on this trip. Other travels, to NJ and Maine, will be documented; hopefully some details will surface to explain his propinquity there to the Morrow summer home in North Haven, where CALjr stayed when his parents travelled abroad.
22. What is the chronology of John Condon's involvement with the case? Could he really have heard from the kidnapper so quickly?
Ans: Bronx Educator John F. Condon (soon known as Jafsie from his initials) was almost 72 years old and living in a private house at 2974 Decatur Avenue (since 1929) when Lindbergh's son was stolen. His patriotic indignation prompted an early morning letter to the editor of the Bronx Home News (circulation 150,000) on March 7th; edited by Gregory Coleman, it appeared on the lower right front page the following day and added $1000 to the ransom. The BHN was delivered to news stands daily by 11:30 am, but the kidnaper's answer was not mailed until noon on Wed, March 9th - and Condon didn't see it until later that evening (after the 2nd mail delivery). Within hours, he was in Hopewell, NJ, and the drama had begun.
23. Didn't the Prosecution use faked evidence against Hauptmann, especially Condon's address and telephone number written on a board in his son's closet?
Ans: Both Scaduto and Kennedy claim these pencilled words and numbers were secretly inscribed by Tom Cassidy, a staff reporter at the NY Daily News, in order to get a scoop, on Sept. 26, 1934, but the article was written by Warren Hall - the discovery appeared in all the NYC dailies. These two authors also claimed that Cassidy's hoax was known all over town, but this fable only surfaced in the 1970s, and Cassidy was not called to testify. When Hauptmann was confronted with the board evidence by Bronx DA Samuel Foley on both Sept 25 & 26, 1934, he willingly admitted authorship, saying he was a little bit interested in the case. He got Condon's number from the newspapers while re-lining the shelves - but SEdgwick 3-7154 had never appeared there and Condon's new number was unlisted after April 12, 1932. Whether Hauptmann had a home phone or not is hardly relevant (there was none at the Rauch house), since that logic would apply to the newsman as well. In the Stockburger Report for Oct 24, 1934, Hauptmann admitted to Condon himself that I was following up the case like everybody and wrote the number on the board. When later examined about it at the Trial, BRH responded that he was tired at the time and meant to say not my handwriting!
24. What role did hand guns play in this case? Didn't Charles Lindbergh carry a concealed weapon during the trial in 1935?
Ans: Hauptmann owned an illegal handgun since 1925, a German KAL .25 Lilliput, which could fire 7 shots automatically. He was very evasive about its source, saying that he bought the gun, or someone else (Hans Mueller?) had given it to him, around East 86th Street in NYC. He variously denied ever firing any bullets, or acknowledged doing so during his 1931 trip to California. It was found in a cleverly drilled-out board in his garage, hidden with an additional $840 in ransom money. Charles Lindbergh was on the R.O.T.C. pistol team at the University of Wisconsin during his short academic career, and at some point, prior to the Kidnapping Trial in 1935, acquired a .38 Fitz Detective Special from chief Colt designer J. Henry FitzGerald. It was one of fifty custom models given by the Hartford manufacturer to famous people and had a two-inch barrel, cut-away trigger guard, and a bobbed hammer. When Lindbergh fled to England in late December 1935, he gave it up to a friend in the U.S. (because of strict British anti-gun laws) and it was eventually sold - in 1982 - by Christie's auction house for $17,000. According to Lindbergh's Autobiography of Values, he carried the gun everywhere during the Trial - in a shoulder holster and fully licensed - because of threats against his family, except perhaps on the day he was questioned about being armed by Hauptmann attorney Edward Reilly.
25. I have heard that a modern wood-expert named Bruce Hoadley questioned whether Rail 16 of the kidnap ladder was even made of the same (sub-)species of wood as Hauptmann's attic board. Why hasn't this received more attention?
Ans: Because it's not true! On Nov. 30, 2000, I called Prof. Hoadley, who is officially retired from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and repeated this claim to him. He was surprised that anyone had cited him to that effect - he never said that! He asserted that a 100x microscope was sufficient to make the comparison and his report was sent to Robert Bryan, Anna Hauptmann's former lawyer (who has chosen not to release it). But Prof. Hoadley had other concerns about the case, especially trucker William Allen's random? discovery of the child's body on May 12, 1932. In addition, the wood evidence was re-investigated by Botany Prof. S. A. Graham of Kent State University (in the May 1997 issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences) and she validated Arthur Koehler's original conclusions.
26. What is the real story about some mystics in East Harlem, NYC, having advance information about the kidnaping case?
Ans: No doubt you are referring to the Minister of the Divine Power Temple at 164 E. 127th Street (between Lexington and Third Ave). Pietro J. Birrittella (48) opened his informal "church" there in early 1932, but had also maintained a store-front at 324 E. 114th Street with an old-world medium Mary Magdalene. Some sources say they married three months after the kidnaping to avoid implicating each other; her previous name, written on the marriage certificate, was "Marietta Cannestracci" (she was married twice before), but since her father's name was "Michele," she originally was "Mary Cerrito" (39?). The March 6th hypnotic seance at the Princeton Hotel only acquired compelling details after the crime was solved (with devotional "visits" by Condon, Fisch, and some of the Morrow servants thrown in). For some (amusing) human interest on these characters, see the April 4, 1936 issue of Liberty Magazine.
27. Didn't Ben Lupica, the young Princeton Preparatory School student, say that he saw a sectional ladder across the front seat of a "1929 Dodge" in the early evening of March 1, 1932, and that it had NJ plates? Wasn't Hauptmann's NY car a "1931" model?
Ans: Although BRH's auto was indeed listed as a "1931" on his Registration, the VIN (3513972) and Engine No. (DD42570) indicate that it was actually manufactured in 1930 (the DD series was made from Jan 1930 - May 1931 and accounted for only 12,900 cars after July). The previous model year (1929-1930) yielded 185,000 examples; the sidemount spare and wire wheels were optional. Since Lupica, then age 20, also said the car was black or dark blue, the color matched (see FAQ 18). License plates in NJ were yellow on black in 1932, and in NY, white on black. If Lupica's memory was correct - that the plate was from NJ and that it began with 'L' - BRH could have changed it briefly, since his own was '5U 2338' at the time. Lupica was not willing to identify Hauptmann as the driver (beyond 35-40, thin features, with a fedora), but did note a resemblance. He also recalled that the NJ State Police found it hard to believe that ladders could fit within such a car, but he saw that ladder again on the Lindbergh Estate the following day. Arthur Koehler later verified that the three sections fit comfortably inside Hauptmann's car.
28. If the verdict defenders are fairly well convinced that Hauptmann acted alone, why did Condon himself feel that others were involved?
Ans: Very few people (then and now) were immune to this belief - John Condon surmised an Italian presence in the plot since he heard statti citto in the background of the March 11th phone call (Jafsie Tells All, (pp 62-63)). But Condon's knowledge of German was better than his Italian - the correct term for shut up (in the singular) is "sta' zitto." Since Hauptmann did not have a telephone (nor did anyone else at the Rauch household), the call came from an outside location; there was no correlation between the overheard remark and the ongoing conversation. As for the kidnapper's aside that Condon sometimes writes pieces for the papers, that was designed to convince him that the caller was not alone. This was a continuing feature of the ransom notes ("we...") and the "gang" references at the Cemetery meetings - but Jafsie did not realize this himself. He was misinformed (pp 53-54) that the unique "singnature" came from an Italian secret society (Trigamba) - it was more likely derived from the interlocking circles of Krupp Arms, a German trademark in military/industrial use since 1875.
29. I notice that the ransom notes have a dollar sign placed after the numerical amounts requested - what did this signify?
Ans: Investigators early on thought it was the kidnaper's German background that caused him to use an atypical currency signifier. Although Hauptmann defenders claim that he did not do this himself, it is apparent from his notebooks that he used both the American and German systems, placing the dollar sign before in his more formal entries, and afterwards in casual use. Sometimes both styles appear on the same page, as in Exhibit S-259. J. V. Haring also noticed that both the kidnaper and BRH wrote their $'s much larger than the adjacent numerals.
30. Do we know if Hauptmann had any specific plans for the future when he was arrested on Sept 19, 1934?
Ans: According to BRH himself, he was intending to return to Germany soon after that Christmas with his family; he had received a letter from his mother Pauline (dated Sept 4) that it was safe to do so since his earlier crimes (1919-1923) were finally covered by the Statute of Limitations. Within 3 months after the ransom payment, BRH sent his wife to Germany to inquire about his legal status there and was told to wait two years. As an illegal alien in the US, he would only have needed a German passport, obtainable from their Embassy, to leave. Jim Fisher, in Ghosts of Hopewell, suggests that BRH was plotting another kidnapping, because of the discovery of a small 3 oz. bottle of ether in his garage, and would have left his wife. During the trial, Wilentz asked Hauptmann if someone named "Brant" had said that he was tired of his wife Anna. and would give her an excuse if BRH were out late -- this was vigorously denied. The brokerage employee was not called to the stand but was probably William Berndt, of 123-10 15th Avenue, in College Point, Queens. He, and his fiancee, Lucy Zierott, had socialized with the Hauptmanns. An (F)BI Report suggested they were married in Feb. 1933, but there is no record of this. For a short time, Berndt did move in with her relatives Michael and Jane Zierott at 30-26 29th Street, while his brother Raymond stayed at his old address. But Lucy maintained a nearby residence at 26-80 30th Street in Long Island City under her maiden name, so it is difficult to know the exact living arrangements. Intriguingly, Lucy worked as a silver trader at American Express in NYC, and may bear some remote connection to BRH's unexplained (and large) coin deposits.
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