Cover image for The ghosts of Hopewell : setting the record straight in the Lindbergh case
The ghosts of Hopewell : setting the record straight in the Lindbergh case
Fisher, Jim, 1939-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxv, 200 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
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HV6603.L5 F55 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this illustrated examination of the Lindbergh kidnapping case, Jim Fisher seeks to set the record straight regarding Bruno Hauptmann's guilt in "the crime of the century."

In February 1935, following a sensational, six-week trial, a jury in Flemington, New Jersey, found German carpenter Hauptmann guilty of kidnapping and murdering the twenty-month-old son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Although circumstantial, the evidence against Hauptmannthe handwriting on the ransom notes, the homemade kidnapping ladder, Colonel Lindbergh's money found in his garage, his matching the description of the man who accepted the ransom payoff in the Bronx cemetery, his inability to prove an alibi, and his incredible explanation of his possession of the ransom moneywas overwhelming, leaving few to doubt his guilt. After a series of appeals and stays, Hauptmann died fourteen months later in the electric chair. A confession would have spared him the death sentence, but Hauptmann chose to die maintaining his innocence.

It was not until the mid-1970s that revisionists began to challenge the conventional wisdom in the case: that Hauptmann was the lone killer. Revisionist books and articles appeared, as did plays, TV shows, and a movie, all portraying Hauptmann as the victim of a massive police and prosecution frame-up.

At this point, the focus shifted from the evidence to the conduct of the police. By the 1980s, most people familiar with the case were convinced of Hauptmann's complete innocence. Many denied the murder, believing that the Lindbergh baby remained alive. Several men claimed to be the firstborn son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh, one of whom sued to claim his share of the Lindbergh estate after Charles Lindbergh's death in 1974.

Another group held that the kidnapping was an elaborate hoax to cover up the murder of the baby by his parents. Anna Hauptmann s series of federal lawsuits against New Jersey and others in the mid-1980s fueled further interest in the case. Although Hauptmann's widow lost all of her lawsuits, she had won the hearts and minds of the American people before her death at the age of ninety-four.

Former FBI agent Fisher discusses the hard evidence, such as the ransom notes and the wood of the kidnapping ladder. He analyzes and debunks the various revisionist theories and presents new evidence that, coupled with the undisputed facts, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hauptmann was guilty as charged: he kidnapped and murdered the infant son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh."

Author Notes

Jim Fisher, who received an Edgar nomination for Fall Guys: False Confessions and the Politics of Murder, is a professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania He was a special agent for the FBI from 1966 to 1972.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Conspiracy buffs have long held that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was framed for the 1932 Hopewell, New Jersey, Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder case. His wife struggled until her death to have the conviction reversed, and her cause has been championed through TV programs, articles, and books. As trust of police and politicians has decreased in recent years, it has become more plausible to the public that there might have been a conspiracy. Fisher, a former FBI agent and criminologist, seeks to permanently destroy the controversy by displaying the weight of evidence against Hauptmann and the flimsy reasons in support of a frame-up. The author's work, which also debunks the people who claim to be the Lindbergh baby, is thoroughly documented with footnotes and a lengthy bibliography. Fisher's approach is clear-eyed and compelling. He provides a fascinating insight into the cloud of confusion and disinformation that has surrounded the case. This book will certainly be on the "must read" list of true-crime fans. --Eric Robbins

Library Journal Review

The author, a scholar and former FBI special agent, updates his 1987 The Lindbergh Case (Rutgers Univ.) to scrutinize theories on who really was responsible for the Lindbergh kidnapping, concluding that Bruno Hauptmann was indeed guilty. Fisher takes a clear and comprehensive approach to the historical record, physical evidence, the justice system, and commentators both contemporary and more recent, adding his own insights into the never-ending public mania for celebrity and controversy. More photographic evidence could have been used to bolster his arguments, and the grammar could have been more carefully edited. Occasionally, Fisher is a little too quick to dismiss other theorists as cranks without justifying his opinion. In addition, his earlier title and Susan Hertog's Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life (LJ 10/15/99) note an experimental reconstruction by police of the kidnapper's ladder that is not mentioned here. Given the passage of time, the gaps in the evidence, and new forensic techniques, it's not likely that anyone will ever have the final word in a case like this, but Fisher's book provides straightforward coverage of a perennially interesting subject. For all collections.--Barbara Ann Hutcheson, Greater Victoria P.L., BC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Some cases never die: Sacco-Vanzetti, the JFK assassination, and O.J. Simpson, among others, compete with the Lindbergh kidnaping for the "crime of the century" title. Because complex events are never tidy and anomalies occur, loose ends inevitably flap in every revisionist breeze, and there will always be those who will pledge (sometimes against all common sense and evidence) to persist in their search for "the real killer." And so it has been with the Lindbergh case. Most sensible people might have thought the case definitively settled in the 1930s, but a wave of sentiment seeking to rehabilitate the reputation of Bruno Hauptmann crested in the 1980s and '90s. Fisher, a former FBI agent now turned professor, intends to show in this book that the original decision of the judicial system had it right, that the circumstantial evidence against Hauptmann was overwhelming and devastating, and that even new fragments of information tend to confirm his responsibility. The book makes a very good read, although the author's editorializing and emotional style sometimes seem like overkill. Although of course it will not be so, this book deserves to be the last word on a tragic crime. General readers; undergraduates. R. B. Lyman Jr.; Simmons College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Lindbergh Case Chronologyp. xix
Part 1. The Case
1. The Crimep. 3
2. The Investigation and Trialp. 21
3. Bruno and the Governorp. 31
4. The Aftermathp. 39
Part 2. The Theories
5. New Age Revisionsp. 51
6. How Many Conspirators Does It Take to Steal a Baby?p. 61
7. Father Kallok: The Forgotten Storyp. 76
8. Other Voices, Other Storiesp. 85
9. The Lindberghs: Victims or Suspects?p. 92
10. The Butler, the Maid, and the Baby's Nursep. 100
Part 3. The Evidence
11. Hard Evidencep. 119
12. Red Herrings, Pseudologic, and Misinformationp. 128
13. New Evidencep. 144
Notesp. 165
Bibliographyp. 185
Indexp. 195