Nearly a hundred years after the entire Gruber family was murdered on their isolated farm and still no one knows who, or what, killed them...
The Gruber family kept themselves to themselves. Hinterkaifeck Farm where they lived was a half-mile walk from the nearest village, surrounded by dense trees and forest. That’s the way the Grubers liked it.
On Friday 31 March 1922 there were six people living at the remote farm outside the small Bavarian village of Kaifeck.
Andreas Gruber was 63. A brutish, aggressive man. Cazilia, 72, was his wife. They shared the farm with their daughter, Viktoria, 35, and Viktoria’s two children, little Cazilia, 8, and Josef, 2.
Viktoria had come to live with her parents after her husband, Karl, had gone missing, presumed killed in action in 1914, while fighting in the Great War.
But that was eight years before. And Viktoria’s son, Josef, was only 2.
People had started to talk. There was no other man living at the Grubers’ farm. Josef’s father had to be Andreas. Viktoria’s own father.
And that’s perhaps why the Grubers kept themselves away from the village. They went shopping, they went to church, young Cazilia went to school. But that was all.
The sixth member of the household was their maid, Maria. That day in March was Maria’s first day working for the Grubers. Their previous maid had left a few months earlier.
Her reason for leaving? Ghosts.
She said she’d heard footsteps from the attic at night, whispering when there was no one there. And so she’d packed her bags, too scared to stay.
The Grubers hadn’t known what to make of it and got on with their lives.
On the day before the new maid arrived, old Andreas had been at the village market. He was pale, shaken.
He’d started hearing the footsteps in the attic, too. And the whispering. But there was more.
The usually taciturn Gruber told his neighbours he’d found a set of footprints in the snow. The tracks came from the woods and lead straight up to the farm. There was no set of footprints leading back from the farm to the woods.
And yet, the Grubers hadn’t had any visitors.
His house keys had gone missing, too.
None of the folk he spoke to at the market could make any sense of it. So Andreas had headed home – never to be seen alive again.
The first anyone knew about the events that had unfolded at the farm was the following week. Little Cazilia hadn’t turned up at school for the second day running. So the neighbours went to the farm.
What met them was a horrific site – in the barn, the bodies of Andreas, his wife, Cazilia, Viktoria and little Cazilia were piled up one on top of the other.
Their heads had been cracked open with a pickaxe.
There were no signs of a struggle. It was as if they’d gone into the barn, one be one, to be killed. As if they’d known they were going to their deaths.
Little Josef and Maria the maid had been killed in their beds.
Police autopsies showed the family had been killed the previous Friday night. But how could that be?
Witnesses said they’d seen smoke coming out of the Grubers’ chimney all weekend. There were remnants of recently eaten meals in the kitchen.
And the Grubers’ farm animals had been care for and fed.
It seemed that whoever had killed the Grubers had stayed on at the house all weekend. With the Grubers’ cold, dead bodies. And then simply vanished.
At first, police suspected robbery.
But nothing of value had been taken from the farm, not even the large amount of money Andreas had kept there.
And how had a single robber overpowered an entire family?
Why had none of them run away during the attack, but instead seemingly walked to the barn – and to their deaths?
Then there was the Grubers’ dog. A Pomeranian that barked whenever a stranger came. He could be heard by the neighbours half a mile away.
The dog was alive and well. And no-one had heard it bark all weekend. Which meant the dog must have known the killer.
Despite a thorough search and investigation, no one was ever arrested for the murders committed on that lonely farm.
The police became so desperate for answers, they even consulted psychics. But still nothing. The case went cold.
In the years since, there have been many theories.
The murders have been blamed on Viktoria’s husband – supposedly dead, although his body was never found.
A local man, supposedly fond of Viktoria, was also in the frame for a time.
And an escpaed patient from a local asylum was another suspect.
No evidence coud be found to like any of these men to the slayings.
Little wonder, then, that people began to speculate that the murders at the farm could only be explained by something else. Something that wasn’t human…
What could explain the footsteps in the attic? And the footprints in the snow? The missing keys and whispers?
Perhaps, in a case like this, it is safer not to ask these questions at all…
The answers may be more terrifying than we could ever imagine.
In the frame?
The ‘dead’ husband
Some investigators believe Viktoria’s husband Karl Gabriel hadn’t die during WWI. His body was never found. Could he have come back home only to find his wife had had a baby with her father, flown into a rage and killed everyone? But if this was the vase, why did he wait eight years to take his revenge?
A jealous local
Lorenz Sclittenbauer was a man from the village who, it is thought, had possibly had a romance with Viktoria. Was he angry she’d had a child with her own father?
A hidden menace
Had the killer been hiding in the farm for some time before the murder? Could that explain the footsteps in the attic, the missing keys and the footprints in the snow? And had the arrival of the new maid in some way triggered the fatal attack? If so, why?