The Hinterkaifeck Murders: Killer Feeds the Livestock

Hinterkaifeck Murders Memorial
Murder, even a group murder, is not bizarre. It is sad, really, but too common to be considered out of the ordinary. However, there are some cases that have strange features, as with the Hinterkaifeck murders. These are six murders that occurred on March 31, 1922 and are unsolved.

Hinterkaifeck is actually the name of a farmstead in Germany. Sixty-three-year-old Andreas Gruber lived at a farmhouse there with his 72-year-old wife Cazilia, their daughter Viktoria and Viktoria's two children, 7-year-old Cazilia and 2-year-old Josef. A few hours before the murders took place, the family had taken on a new maid by the name of Maria Baumgartner. Maria's predecessor allegedly claimed the house was haunted and that is why she left.

Within days before the murders took place, Andreas Gruber noticed footprints in the snow around his house and remarked on it to his neighbors. The keys to the farmhouse were also recently missing. Whether either had anything to do with what happened on March 31 is anyone's guess. The murder being unsolved makes it hard to say if the family was being stalked or if the crimes were premeditated.

Judging by where the bodies were found, it is assumed that the killer or killers coaxed Andreas, his wife, his daughter and his granddaughter into the barn, where they were all slaughtered with a mattock, which is essentially a digging tool with an ax blade. Sadly, young Cazilia lay alive tearing at herself in distress, until she perished hours later. Josef and Maria were murdered inside of the house, he in his bed and she in her room.

The above is horrific, but, again, in no way bizarre. It is what happened after the murders that is strange. Reports say the lights were on in the home for days. The chimney puffed smoke on at least one occasion. Moreover, police found evidence that someone had been eating at the farmhouse after all of its residents died. Even stranger is that the cattle were fed at some point or points between the murders and the discovery of the body roughly four days later.

Were the Grubers victims of a wanderer who wanted a warm place to stay? Could someone they knew have killed them and stayed around to care for the cattle out of some perverted wish to stay in their home? One theory is that Viktoria's husband, who was presumed dead in the war but never found, came home and killed his wife, her family and their children. There is no way of knowing. All we do know is that someone murdered them all, ate their food and tended their animals.

Bizarre Products: Darkie Toothpaste

Darkie, darky or darkey are all spelling variations of a term used to disparage people with dark skin color. The term was originally used in the United States, but apparently picked up international usage, as evidenced by a brand of toothpaste that came out in Shanghai, China in 1933. This toothpaste was originally sold as Darkie toothpaste. Just in case anyone thought the meaning was ambiguous, the manufacturers put a big picture of a literally black (think the Crayola color, not the skin tone) man on the packaging with a huge smile, a bow tie and a top hat.

What this caricature of a dark-skinned male and the name of the toothpaste were meant to signify is a mystery. It's obvious the company had no problem making use of racist terms, but what does skin tone have to do with toothpaste? Moreover, why is this man dressed like a backwards butler? Do all black butlers have nice teeth? If so, why use this as a marketing gimmick, but pile a disparaging phrase on top of it? I suppose it is just a lesson in the absurdity of racism.

The company that made Darkie toothpaste was eventually purchased by a large, reputable company that did not market the name. However, it took until 1990 to change the name to Darlie. It is the most shocking thing of all that such a product still existed up until about two decades ago. The box still features a black man, but at least he does not look like a racist caricature from the Civil War.