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 1st 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….
Next week: the 9/11 no-plane theory