The case of the Gruber family murders in 1922 remains one of the strangest unsolved mysteries ever. It all took place approximately 60 miles north of Munich, Germany, on Hinterkaifeck ranch — the Gruber family’s farm.
Before the family of five, as well as their housemaid, were brutally killed, patriarch Andreas Gruber reportedly told neighbors about footprints spotted in the snow coming from the nearby woods to the farmhouse’s back door, but the footprints allegedly never went back to the woods. He also spoke of odd creaks and curious footfalls in the attic. He even noted that a newspaper the family had never seen before showed up in the kitchen, and someone apparently tried to bust open the lock on the family’s tool shed.
Even with all of those oddities, the region was shocked when the family and their housemaid were brutally murdered at home on the night of Friday, March 31. According to reports, police determined that Andreas, his wife Cazilia, his daughter Viktoria, and his granddaughter Cazilia were killed in the farm’s livestock barn. After that, they believed that his grandson Josef was murdered while he slept. They believed that the killer then went to the bedroom of the housemaid, Maria Baumgartner, and killed her as well. All were bludgeoned in the head, and the autopsy reports that researchers have unearthed suggest that the elder Cazilia and her daughter Viktoria showed signs of strangulation as well. Disturbingly, investigators know that the younger Cazilia was the last to die, and may have survived the initial attack. She was found with clumps of her own hair in her clenched fingers.
As if this weren’t enough, the killer reportedly did not immediately leave. Police initially suspected that the motive for the brutal murders might have been robbery, but that was dismissed as money was found still in the house. In addition, instead of ransacking the farm or killing the animals, neighbors told police that they saw smoke coming from the chimney in the house afterwards, and they could tell that someone had been feeding the Grubers’ cattle.
The murder weapon was determined to have been a mattock, which is a tool similar to a pickaxe. According to a farmhand who helped out during the harvests, Gruber had crafted the mattock himself, and it was stored in the tool shed. In addition, rumors abounded about the parentage of the youngest victim, 2-year-old Josef. The boy was believed to have been the result of an incestuous relationship between Andreas and his daughter, Viktoria, but no proof was ever found.
Over the years, police have reportedly interrogated at least 100 potential suspects. The most recent interrogation was reportedly in 1986. In 2007, students from the Fürstenfeldbruck Police Academy were asked to apply modern investigative methods to the case to see what they could possibly add. They determined that considering the time that had passed and some evidence that had either gone missing or had never been gathered to begin with, the case was probably never going to be solved.
Check out this Buzzfeed video about the murders:
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