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April 5, 2024 8 mins

The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby 90 years ago led to the execution of a man a few years later. But researchers say there are plenty of reasons to suspect that there was a rush to judgment. And then there’s Charles Lindbergh’s fascination with Aryan superiority, which led him to have seven children with three German women, in addition to the six he had with his wife.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
All right, How could a world famous individual at his
country estate with his wife's servants and guard dog not
hear somebody enter his home and kidnap his one year
old son. The Lindburg baby kidnapping was the biggest story
of nineteen thirty two. But Lindbergh was a flawed hero
who also believed in Aryan superiority. In an effort to

(00:21):
add to the tall, blonde, blue eyed population, he had
thirteen children of four women. I'm Patty Steele. Ninety years
after the kidnapping, there are suspicions about what really happened.
That's next on the backstory. The backstory is back, so okay.
Imagine it's nineteen thirty two, America in the grips of

(00:44):
the Great Depression, and everybody's looking for something to feel
good about. In the midst of this economic turmoil, one
man has captured the hearts and imaginations of not just Americans,
but folks all over the world. In nineteen twenty seven,
just five years old earlier, Charles Lindberg had become the
first person to fly solo NonStop across the Atlantic Ocean

(01:06):
at the age of just twenty five. He was an
icon for Americans to hold on to in dark times,
a symbol of hope and of the possibilities that America offered.
Probably the most famous man in the world at that time,
Charles married Anne Morrow, the daughter of a US senator
and ambassador, in nineteen twenty nine. She went on to

(01:27):
become his co pilot and radio operator on a lot
of his experimental flights, and she was the first woman
to get a US gliders pilot's license. Charles and Anne
were the Prince Harry and Megan Markle of their time,
without any of the negatives, if you think there are any,
but it was a life in an intense spotlight. In
June of nineteen thirty on her twenty fourth birthday, Anne

(01:50):
gave birth to their first child, Charles Lindberg Junior. So
they built a beautiful mansion on close to four hundred
acres called high Fields, in the countryside of western New Jersey,
thinking the remote location would be an escape from the
constant attention they got from the press and the public.
But it wasn't as idyllic as they hoped. Sometime before

(02:15):
ten o'clock on the night of March first, nineteen thirty two,
it became a horror story. The couple is sitting downstairs
by the fire when Charles says he hears a noise
a thud. Anne says she heard nothing, and the dog,
known to bark at strangers doesn't make a sound. Could
an insider have been involved? A bit later, Anne goes

(02:37):
upstairs to take a bath. Around ten pm, the baby's
nanny goes in to check on him and finds an
empty crib. One year old Charles Junior is gone. Immediately,
Charles Senior grabs a gun, and he and the family
butler search the house and the estate grounds. In the
baby's room, they find traces of mud near an open window,

(02:59):
as well as a ran note demanding fifty thousand dollars
written in broken English. Outside, there are footprints in the mud,
as well as a crudely built ladder and baby charles blanket.
The police are called in and the investigation begins. The
Lindberghs were literally compared to royalty at that time, and

(03:19):
the public ghost nuts. Hundreds of people immediately converged on
the estate to support the couple, but they also destroyed
valuable footprint evidence. Three days later, another ransom note arrives,
upping the demand to seventy thousand dollars. Over the next months,
more ransom notes arrive in the same handwriting, bringing the

(03:40):
total to thirteen notes, but no baby. Charles Lindbergh himself
runs most of the investigation, to the dismay of the
local police. He even drives a friend acting as an
intermediary to a meeting in New York City with the
alleged kidnapper at a cemetery. The baby isn't returned, but
Lindbergh claims the voice he heard while sitting in the

(04:01):
car during that meeting was the voice of the man
ultimately arrested in a case over two years later, Bruno Hautmann.
On May twelfth, the baby's badly decomposed body was finally
discovered in the woods, about four miles from the family estate.
He likely died the night he was kidnapped from massive
skull fractures, maybe by being dropped as he was taken

(04:24):
down the ladder they found the next day. The FBI
is empowered to coordinate the investigation. Finally, almost two and
a half years after the kidnapping, German immigrant Bruno Hautmann
is arrested for the murder. After he passed some of
the marked bills used for the ransom. More bills were
found in the garage at his house, and a piece

(04:44):
of wood taken from his attic is identified as the
same wood that had been used to build the ladder
used in the kidnapping. But it wasn't quite that simple.
While the case against Hautman was based only on circumstantial evidence,
including the money, handwriting, his German heritage, the piece of wood,
and Charles Senior's identification of his voice, Hautman was found

(05:07):
guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death in
the electric chair. Even the governor of New Jersey said
Haltmann could not have possibly acted alone, but his appeals failed.
Hautman maintained his innocence to the end, and his wife, Anna,
fought to clear her husband's name even after his electrocution,
stating she'd been with him the night of the kidnapping.

(05:30):
She even tried to sue the state of New Jersey
for wrongful death. Her battle to clear him continued until
her death in nineteen ninety four at the age of
ninety five. So what's the latest on the investigation. Well,
for one, there's evidence that police strong armed people into
testifying against Hautmann and also hid evidence in the case.

(05:53):
It certainly seems he had some involvement, and authorities wanted
the culprit caught, tried, convicted, and executed as quickly as
possible to calm public fears, especially because it involved a
national hero. But at what cost. Several historians recently have
pointed to the possible involvement of Charles Lindberg himself in

(06:13):
the kidnapping and ultimate death of his son. Lindbergh was
known to be fascinated with social Darwinism or eugenics. He
and his wife became close with Adolf Hitler in the
lead up to World War Two. Charles really damaged his
reputation by pushing the US to stay out of the war,
though after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he relented. He

(06:34):
was a believer, like Hitler that people that were tall,
blonde and blue eyed Aryan types like him should be
the ones procreating problem is there's evidence that some health
problems plagued his baby son, Charles Junior, making him far
from perfect. Could that have motivated something so vile that's
kind of hard to imagine. Years later, it came out

(06:56):
that Lindbergh in an effort to add to the Aryan population,
had affairs with three German women, producing a total of
seven more babies in addition to the six he had
with his wife, Anne Morrow. He managed to keep those
baby mamas from going public, and in fact none of
this came out until after two thousand and one, when

(07:16):
Anne Morrow had died, And while three of Lindbergh's children
from those affairs have stepped forward, none of them have
ever tried to get any money from the linn Burgh estate.
At the end of the day, Charles Lindbergh, like a
lot of our heroes and a lot of us regular folks,
had some amazing capabilities, but some serious flaws as well.

(07:38):
Understanding both sides of this complex story is how we
learned from history. If today's episode of The Backstory has
sparked your curiosity, or if you have any other stories
to share, please reach out and please subscribe direct message,
leave a review, and follow on Facebook at Patty Steele

(07:59):
and at Real Patty Steel on Instagram. I'm Patty Steele.
The Backstories a production of iHeartMedia, Premiere Networks, the Elvis
Durand Group and Steel Trap Productions. Our producer is Doug
Fraser our writer Jake Kushner. We have new episodes every
Tuesday and Friday. Feel free to reach out to me

(08:19):
with comments and even story suggestions on Instagram at real
Patty Steele and on Facebook at Patty Steele. Thanks for
listening to the Backstory with Patty Steele, the pieces of
history you didn't know you needed to know.
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