Because Charles Lindbergh took almost complete charge of the investigation into the kidnapping of his 20 months baby, Chas. Jr., the Lindbergh Phenomenon was born– a world of conspiracies and mysteries. From the very first moment the police arrived at the secluded country home, they found Charles Lindbergh in charge. He wouldn’t let the staff be interviewed. He took the police around and showed them the key areas of the crime. We really don’t know if the kidnappers trail was followed to see where they might have parked. Not in any real way, anyway. Today the phenomenon is nurtured by uncovering the unusual paths that the investigation had taken and by some very strange things that developed but were never pursued by the investigation.
It is unquestionable that the prosecution believed that more were involved with Bruno Hauptmann. But they burned him alone for the crime of kidnapping and murder. They would have commuted his sentence if only he’d confess who were the others involved. Hauptmann went to the chair claiming total innocence. He never named another.
There has always been a vociferous group that believed him. They note that both Lindbergh’s haphazard way of running the investigation, along with other facts, indicate that the extortion plot might have been a separate enterprise to the actual kidnapping.
For instance, the first ransom note was left on the window sill of the nursery at Lindbergh’s country home. It demanded 50,000 bucks for the kid’s return. It warned that only notes that carried the complex signature that it carried at the bottom of the page would be authentic. It was a unique artistic design.
The artistic design on the lower right of the page.
The Lindbergh Phenomenon people ask ‘Why did Lindbergh go straight to the mob in order to try and make headway and get information?’
Considering the note was written by someone who seemed to have a German background, this was a curious act. Perhaps the kidnapping seemed too sophisticated. How could some individual or amateur group have found his new home set deep in the woods of New Jersey?
In any case, Lindbergh’s agents went about the dim retreats of New York hoodery showing the letter to see if any recognized the style. None did, but could any of them have imitated it later?
Enters the fullness of the extortion plot. The Bronx Home News was hardly the Times. Within this local publication well-known Bronx school teacher, Dr. John Condon, placed an ad declaring he would add $1,000 bucks to the ransom if the kidnappers would turn baby Lindy over to a Catholic priest. For a kidnapping that occurred far away in the woods of New Jersey this was an interesting gesture. It was grandstanding or it was catering to the theory that the mob was involved, and this must have meant the Bronx was a part of it.
Surprisingly or not, Condon got a personal reply. The writer of the note said he was one of the gang that did it and they authorized John Condon to be their intermediary in dealing with Lindbergh’s people. Charles Lindbergh ran with it and appointed the verbose grandstander to be the middle man to arrange for the transfer of the ransom.
From this point all things eventually led to Bruno Hauptmann. He lived in the Bronx, conveniently between the two places used as the meeting spots– Woodlawn Cemetery and then St. Raymond’s cemetery. His connection to the crime seemed certain when the police found a stake of the ransom money in his garage. It was close to $15,000 dollars, a huge sum back then.
Hauptmann said he was completely innocent. But the DA had the original ransom letter before him. Hauptmann was a German immigrant, and the letter spelled a couple of things in a German way– “anyding” and “gut.” Over several investigations of Hauptmann’s house, it was said that a floorboard had been found removed in his attic. The attic floor wood matched the grain in one of the side rails of the makeshift ladder left at the Lindbergh house, indicating the side rail was the missing floorboard. It was this that tied Hauptmann to the ladder and to the actual crime of kidnapping. This is what burned him.
Arguments persist today that the examination of the ladder was hardly scientific. Those who argue that the evidence was doctored (even a retired police investigator) note how earlier searches didn’t uncover this evidence in the attic, and that the adjacent floorboards did not entirely match up with the runner in the ladder.
If true, this leaves open the possibility the extortion was separate than the kidnapping. Hauptmann may have been a part of an extortion plot, and with a couple of other Bronx underworld buddies took advantage of Condon’s public plea. He therefore had nothing to do with the murder or kidnapping at all.
The Lindbergh Phenomenon can accept that Hauptmann could have been a part of a separate extortion plot, but many prefer to think him totally innocent else he would have named other gang members as he was asked to do in order to get a commuted sentence. They believe his excuse 100 percent. (Hauptmann claimed that the money he had was money that a former partner, Isador Fisch, left behind wrapped in a parcel, before he returned to Germany, where he unfortunately died soon thereafter from tuberculosis. Fisch owed him money, so he started spending it once he discovered there was money in the box and not the important papers that Fisch had said were in there.) Hauptmann therefore is a victim of circumstances.
Total innocence is a big concept.
A couple of points of logic, of course, contradict the “Phenomenon.” How could this band of Bronx impersonators think they could get away with their plot knowing there were real kidnappers involved who had left a ransom note at the house? Would they figure that because they were first to make approaches they would naturally be favored as the real kidnappers? That’s a dicey long shot. Isn’t it too much of a coincidence that the extortioners should also be German, like apparently the writer of the original ransom note?
Yet there are those other puzzlements that favor the “Phenomenon.” If Hauptmann was really a member of the kidnapping gang, what a coincidence that Condon and members of the kidnap gang lived in the Bronx so as to see the ad in the paper. What a remarkable thing that the kidnappers had gone to such pains to find the reclusive Lindbergh’s home in the Jersey woods, devise a complex signature, watch the house, kidnap the kid, and then not have any clue as to how to get their money so that they would actually act upon impulse when Condon put an ad in the local Bronx blatt.
The reason why there are those who believe that the extortion ring was entirely separate to the original sin is that they believe something extraordinary. They believe there was no kidnapping. They cite many points of logic that argue against the notion there was any gang of criminals who had the ability to find the remote house, get into the grounds without trace, have the audacity to kidnap America’s most famous baby and think they could get away with it. They believe that Charles Lindbergh himself was responsible.
In our next post we will continue with the conspiracy theory that Lindbergh set in motion all that happened to cover his own bad joke gone sour.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.