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Hauptmann's Ladder

A Step-by-Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping

Richard T. Cahill Jr.

Publication Year: 2014

In 1936, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed for the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr. Almost all of America believed Hauptmann guilty; only a few magazines and tabloids published articles questioning his conviction. In the ensuing decades, many books about the Lindbergh case have been published.  Some have declared Hauptmann the victim of a police conspiracy and frame-up, and one posited that Lindbergh actually killed his own son and fabricated the entire kidnapping to mask the deed. Because books about the crime have been used as a means to advance personal theories, the truth has often been sacrificed and readers misinformed.

Hauptmann’s Ladder is a testament to the truth that counters the revisionist histories all too common in the true crime genre. Author Richard T. Cahill Jr. puts the “true” back in “true crime,” providing credible information and undistorted evidence that enables readers to form their own opinions and reach their own conclusions.

Cahill presents conclusions based upon facts and documentary evidence uncovered in his twenty years of research. Using primary sources and painstakingly presenting a chronological reconstruction of the crime and its aftermath, he debunks false claims and explodes outrageous theories, while presenting evidence that has never before been revealed.

Hauptmann’s Ladder is a meticulously researched examination of the Lindbergh kidnapping that restores and preserves the truth of the crime of the century.

Published by: The Kent State University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book is the culmination of many years of hard work. It would not have been possible without the assistance of numerous people along the way. I must first offer my thanks to Dr. James F. Cotter. It was his assignment in Freshman English that started me on this journey. additionally, his thorough education on proper grammar and use of the English language played no small part in...

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pp. xi-xiv

I first became interested in the Lindbergh kidnapping case when i was a freshman in college. My English professor assigned the class a research paper on a topic the writer had never read about or researched. I went to the school library and eventually found a small hardcover book with brief articles on a variety of controversial topics. The book had chapters on Jesse James and Billy the Kid and whether they died...

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Chapter 1: "They've Stolen Our Baby"

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pp. 1-6

In 1932, Charles Lindbergh was the most famous man in America, if not the entire world. His successful solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 catapulted him from relative obscurity to the front pages of every newspaper in the world. From that moment on, his every move was followed by reporters, well-meaning admirers, and crackpots. Every event in his life seemed to generate more and more publicity...

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Chapter 2: Ransom Notes, Ladders, and Chisels

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pp. 7-16

Charles lindbergh surveyed the rest of the nursery. In addition to the ominous white envelope on the radiator enclosure just below the windowsill, there were smudges of yellow mud or clay on the chest directly beneath the window and on the floor. While these were likely footprints, they were too blurred to mark the clear...

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Chapter 3: The Kidnapper Makes Second Contact

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pp. 17-33

By the time the sun rose, news of the kidnapping had reached all four corners of the world, displacing other major news stories of the day. As well, the New York Times received more than three thousand phone calls seeking more information. Reporters were doing their best to get as much information as possible. The Sourland estate was swarming with reporters, and the state troopers could barely control ...

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Chapter 4: J.F.C.

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pp. 34-42

The single most fascinating person involved in the Lindbergh kidnapping was Dr. John F. Condon. anyone investigating this case cannot help but be intrigued by this man. Neither his involvement nor his ultimate impact on the investigation could have been foreseen. With one odd act, Condon went from being a minor celebrity...

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Chapter 5: Violet and Curtis: Two Bogus Stories Begin

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pp. 43-48

While Colonel Breckinridge was placing the first ad in the New York American, a very dubious character was about to join the circus. John Hughes Curtis had a conversation with Rev. H. Dobson-Peacock at a church in Norfolk, Virginia. Curtis claimed that he had been approached the prior evening by a man named Sam. Sam was a very large man whom Curtis knew as a rumrunner. According to Curtis, Sam approached him and asked for his help in contacting Charles Lindbergh. Sam...

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Chapter 6: "Cemetery John"

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pp. 49-58

On the evening of March 12, 1932, Joseph Perrone was driving his cab east on Knox place in the Bronx, just after dropping off a fare at 3440 Gates Place. When he reached the corner of Knox place and Gun Hill Road, he saw a man running toward him, trying to catch his attention. The man was wearing a brown overcoat and...

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Chapter 7: The Negotiations Continue

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pp. 59-75

On Sunday, March 13, 1932, while Dr. Condon was waiting for further word from the kidnapper, the police were bringing Dr. Erastus Mead Hudson, a fingerprint expert and physician, to the Lindbergh estate. Hudson was hoping to obtain fingerprints from the kidnapper’s ladder. Hudson was trained in the use of fingerprints by Scotland Yard. He was now...

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Chapter 8: Double-Crossed

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pp. 76-85

The kidnapper’s instructions were followed to the letter. The requested advertisement appeared on schedule and the money was collected. It was up to the kidnapper to make the next move. On Saturday, April 2, Lindbergh, Breckinridge, and John Condon spent the afternoon and evening waiting for word from the kidnapper. The most recent note...

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Chapter 9: The Wild-Goose Chase

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pp. 86-94

After returning to Decatur Street, Lindbergh and Breckinridge conferred and made several phone calls. Condon sat in the living room with his wife and daughter, discussing his night’s adventure. He had just finished his tale when Lindbergh returned to the room. He announced that he needed to leave, but wanted Condon and Al Reich to accompany...

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Chapter 10: "I Am Perfectly Satisfied That It Is My Child"

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pp. 95-102

On the afternoon of May 12, 1932, at approximately 3:15 p.m., Orville Wilson and William Allen were driving in mount rose on a small road that connected Hopewell and Princeton, delivering a load of timbers. Wilson pulled over to the side of the road because Allen needed to relieve himself.1 Allen walked about fifty to seventy-five feet into the woods bordering the road...

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Chapter 11: The Police Take the Reins

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pp. 103-107

For the first seventy-two days of the investigation, the police had restrained themselves. Lindbergh had insisted that the police follow the instructions of the kidnappers, so the authorities walked on eggshells to avoid upsetting the aggrieved father. It was everyone’s desire to see the child returned safely to his parents. However,...

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Chapter 12: The Sad End of Violet Sharp

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pp. 108-115

While Condon was busy lecturing the Bronx County grand jury, the New Jersey State Police were plotting their next move in the investigation. Some troopers felt that the kidnapping was an inside job and thought that one of Lindbergh’s employees might have intentionally or unintentionally assisted the criminals. Lindbergh...

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Chapter 13: From Bad to Worse

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pp. 116-121

A press conference was held later that afternoon to discuss the death of the Morrows’ young maid. Colonel Schwartzkopf informed the media of Violet’s suicide and said, “The suicide of Violet sharp strongly tends to confirm the suspicions of the investigating authorities concerning the guilty knowledge of the crime against...

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Chapter 14: The Frustration Mounts

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pp. 122-128

The extremely negative press was adding to the immense frustration of the police. The kidnapping and murder case was now over three months old and they were still no closer to catching the perpetrator. With little else to go on, the State Police turned to the only man who actually saw the kidnapper—John “Jafsie” Condon. Not everyone was convinced of the doctor’s...

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Chapter 15: Shoenfeld and Koehler

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pp. 129-139

Up to this point, the New Jersey state police maintained exclusive jurisdiction over the investigation. While the FBI was permitted to assist, their role was greatly limited, much to the chagrin of J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Bureau. Schwartzkopf vainly believed his force could solve the crime. Other departments just wanted to steal the credit...

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Chapter 16: The Trail of Gold

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pp. 140-145

While Koehler and Bornmann scoured the eastern United States investigating lumberyards, the New York City Police, headed by Lieutenant Finn, were following a trail of gold notes. With few, if any, substantial leads, Finn realized that the best way to capture the kidnapper was to catch him spending the loot. Back in April 1932, the united states treasury circulated thousands of fifty-seven page pamphlets to banks throughout the world. These pamphlets contained...

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Chapter 17: Bruno Richard Hauptmann

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pp. 146-151

On September 18, 1934, Lieutenant Finn received a phone call from Special Agent Sisk of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Another bill from the ransom money had been discovered at the Corn Exchange Bank in the Bronx. Expecting another wild-goose chase, Finn grabbed Lieutenant Keaten and went to investigate. The bill turned out to be a $10 gold certificate.1 Unfortunately, none of the tellers...

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Chapter 18: The Interrogation Begins

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pp. 152-161

On the way to the precinct, the police made one stop. They brought Hauptmann to the Central Savings Bank so that he could open his safe deposit box. They hoped that some of the ransom money was hidden there. Unfortunately, there were only various documents, which were seized for later review.1 Upon arrival at the station, Hauptmann was partially booked, but not formally...

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Chapter 19: "I Have to Be Very Careful. The Man's Life Is in Jeopardy"

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pp. 162-172

While the police continued to hammer away at the Fisch story, another piece of evidence fell into place against Hauptmann. Albert S. Osborn, a man considered the foremost authority in the world at that time on handwriting analysis, contacted the police station around 3:30 p.m. and announced he had concluded that Bruno Richard Hauptmann had written every ransom letter. Mr. Osborn’s son (also an expert)...

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Chapter 20: More Pieces to the Puzzel

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pp. 173-182

After Jafsie’s disappointing performance, the police brought their suspect before a magistrate for arraignment on the charge of extortion. The hearing was relatively brief. Hauptmann was informed of the charges and his right to an attorney. He was ordered held without bail, and the case was adjourned until the following Monday, September 24, 1934, for a more formal arraignment...

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Chapter 21: Legal Gymnastics in New Jersey

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pp. 183-191

If the police had any doubt about the guilt of their prime suspect, it was eliminated when documents from Germany arrived concerning Hauptmann’s criminal record. The authorities already knew he was an illegal alien and had previously made two unsuccessful attempts to enter the country. They did not know that he...

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Chapter 22: Extradition

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pp. 192-200

On the same day Hauptmann was indicted, New Jersey Gov. A. Harry Moore signed an extradition warrant and sent it to Herbert Lehman, the Governor of New York. This was the first step in bringing the accused back to New Jersey. The following day provided another news story and an event that has been used...

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Chapter 23: The Bull of Brooklyn

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pp. 201-206

The following Monday morning, a meeting was held in the chambers of Judge Thomas W. Trenchard, the man assigned to preside over Hauptmann’s trial. Trenchard was in his early seventies and had white hair and glasses. He was known as a compassionate man with a reputation for fairness and considered to be an excellent judge. At the meeting, Judge Trenchard met with David Wilentz, Anthony hauck,..

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Chapter 24: The Trail of the Century Begins

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pp. 207-217

On January 2, 1935, the hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington was overflowing with people. In addition to the lawyers and court officers, there were reporters, photographers, celebrities, interested bystanders, and more than 150 potential jurors crowded into the tiny courtroom. The room was buzzing with anticipation as first David Wilentz and then Edward...

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Chapter 25: "Der Alte Ist Verrückt"

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pp. 218-226

Charles Williamson of the Hopewell Police Department took the stand while the audience was still clamoring over the battle between Reilly and Lindbergh. He testified that he was the officer who received the initial call reporting the crime and was one of the first two officers to arrive at the Sourland estate.1 He described visiting the nursery and noted seeing the envelope on the windowsill...

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Chapter 26: “John is Bruno Richard Hauptmann”

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pp. 227-238

With Amandus Hochmuth’s testimony completed, attorney General Wilentz decided to try to get his strongest piece of evidence, the kidnapper’s ladder, into evidence. he had failed in his first attempt, but now felt he could show the entire chain of custody. He called Capt. John Lamb to the stand. Lamb testified that he had kept the ladder in his safekeeping at all times with the exception of those few times he sent it to...

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Chapter 27: Paper Evidence

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pp. 239-244

The performance of Jafsie Condon was followed by relatively brief testimony from Henry Breckinridge and Myra Condon hacker. Both witnesses confirmed various portions of John Condon’s testimony, and neither was discredited in any way by the defense. Breckinridge confirmed that he had been present in the Condon home almost...

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Chapter 28: “he is Conceding the Defendant to the Electric Chair!”

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pp. 245-252

When the trial resumed Thursday morning, the prosecution turned its attention from handwriting to focus instead upon the discovery of the murdered infant’s body. William Allen and Orville Wilson described to the jury how they found the remains and contacted the police.1 Sgt. Andrew Zapolsky of the new york state police then testified. he described...

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Chapter 29: The Prosecution Gains Momentum

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pp. 253-258

The next day, Henry Eichin returned to the stand for continued cross-examination. Reilly carefully had the witness place marks on the map to identify various locations. he asked no further questions. Wilentz decided to bring out new pieces of information on redirect examination. He had the witness tell the jury that the areas around both cemeteries were...

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Chapter 30: The State Rests

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pp. 259-266

Though the trial was going exceedingly well for David Wilentz, he still had one significant piece of physical evidence to show the jury—the ladder. This was the strongest evidence of guilt, and the attorney general knew the defense would fight tooth and nail to keep the ladder out of evidence. On tuesday morning, Wilentz recalled lieutenant Bornmann to the stand. The...

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Chapter 31: Hauptmann Takes the Stand

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pp. 267-276

When court resumed later that afternoon, the defense began its case. They started by making a motion for dismissal upon the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case.1 This is a standard motion that is always made at the conclusion of the prosecution. It is referred to in legal parlance as a motion for a directed verdict. The defense...

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Chapter 32: More Testimony from the Hauptmanns

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pp. 277-285

When Hauptmann returned to the witness stand on Monday morning, most courtroom observers expected Wilentz to question the witness with the same hammering style he had used on Friday. Instead, Wilentz started slowly and had the witness discuss his various bank accounts and assets. Hauptmann agreed that he was very...

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Chapter 33: “Where Are You Getting These Witnesses? They are Killing Me”

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pp. 286-292

Reilly’s next witness was a young man of Swedish descent named Elvert Carlstrom. He told the jury that he had been a customer of Fredericksen’s Bakery on the night of the kidnapping, arriving around half past eight. he remembered that night because it was his birthday. Asked if he saw anyone in the bakery that night, Carlstrom pointed to Bruno...

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Chapter 34: The Defense Rests

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pp. 293 -303

After Sommer slinked from the stand, Lloyd Fisher called Sebastian Benjamin Lupica to the stand. The defense was hoping for great things from this witness. Lupica was originally subpoenaed by the prosecution and actually testified for them before the grand jury. However, there were problems with his story, and his credibility was...

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Chapter 35: Rebuttal and Summations

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pp. 304-313

In a criminal trial, the prosecution always goes first because the burden of proof rests squarely upon them. A defendant has no obligation to offer any evidence, but has the absolute right to do so. If a defendant chooses to offer evidence in defense, the prosecution is then entitled to contest that evidence. Ed Reilly and his associates spent twelve days offering witnesses and evidence...

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Chapter 36: Wilentz Closes

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pp. 314-323

The following morning, more people than ever crowded into the courtroom. Some concluded that this was because David Wilentz was giving his closing argument, while others thought it was because it was a holiday, Lincoln's birthday.1 Whatever the reason, the courtroom was packed beyond its limits...

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Chapter 37: The Verdict

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pp. 324-330

Trenchard began his discussion of the law by noting that Hauptmann was to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury had any reasonable doubt whatsoever, then Hauptmann would have to be found not guilty. The judge spent the next few minutes explaining the legal definition of...

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pp. 331-345

On April 3, 1936, after numerous appeals all the way to the United States Supreme Court, an ill-fated attempt by New Jersey Governor Hoffman to prove Hauptmann’s innocence, and a last-minute false confession beaten out of a man named Paul Wendel, Bruno Richard Hauptmann died in the electric chair for the murder of Charles...


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pp. 346-390


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pp. 391-402

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781612778327
E-ISBN-10: 1612778321
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606351932

Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Lindbergh, Charles Augustus, 1930-1932 -- Kidnapping, 1932.
  • Hauptmann, Bruno Richard, 1899-1936.
  • Kidnapping -- New Jersey -- Hopewell.
  • Murder -- New Jersey -- Hopewell.
  • Criminal investigation -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Forensic sciences -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Trials (Kidnapping) -- New Jersey.
  • Trials (Murder) -- New Jersey.
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