Certainly the oddest – and most recent – piece of evidence in the Lindbergh kidnapping is the “table block confession.” Last week attorney Richard Cahill, author of the new book Hauptmann’s Ladder: A Step-by-Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping, spoke with us about the case in general. He’s returning this week to tell us about the unusual confession.
The writing in the table top confession was discovered in 1948 by a man renovating a table he had purchased eight years earlier. In 2003, Mark Falzini, an archivist at the New Jersey State Police Museum found it in a box, compared it to the signature in the ransom notes, and made a startling discovery.
Richard Cahill analyzes the confession in his book and concludes it was both a hoax and an important clue. To understand how one piece of evidence can be both, you need to know about the kidnapper’s signature on the ransom notes.
Richard Cahill on the Table Block Confession
Ann Marie: Tell why the kidnapper’s signature was so unusual.
Richard Cahill: The holes in the ransom note were actually part of the “singnature” itself. The signature was an odd symbol consisting of two interlocking blue circles about the size of a half dollar coin. In the oval formed by the blue circles was a red circle about the size of a nickel. Three holes were punched in the symbol with one in the middle of the red circle and the other two just outside the outer circles equidistant from the center hole. Lastly, there were wavy vertical lines inside the outer circles but just outside the inner red circle.
Was the writing actually on the table top or on a block reinforcing the corner of the table?
The writing was not on the outer table. The writing was on a piece of wood used to reinforce the joint.
What did the confession say?
In Hamberg da bin ich gewesen in Samet und in Seide gekleidet. Meinen Namen den darf ich nicht nennen Denn Ich war einer der Kidnapper des Lindberg babys und nicht Bruno Richard
Hauptmann. Der Rest des Lösesgeldes liegt in Summit New Jersey begraben.
In English, “In Hamburg, I wore velvet and silk. I cannot tell you my name because I was one of the kidnappers of the Lindbergh baby. The rest of the ransom money lies buried in Summit, New Jersey.
NSDAP are the initials of the German Nazi party.
The block of wood had holes in it where it had been attached to the table. In 2003, Mark Felzini discovered the holes in the block aligned perfectly with the holes in the ransom note.
Why did you conclude the table block confession was fake?
Four reasons. (1) There is no evidence to show this table even existed in 1932. (2) The message does not appear to be written by a native German speaker. The message suggests the writer thought in English. (3) The timing of the message is odd. If this was intended to be a confession, why hide in a place it might never be found. (4) The signature of the Nazi party is ridiculous. In 1932, the Nazi’s were still trying to gain power in Germany. They would never have used their resources to kidnap Lindbergh’s child. Such a tactic would have been completely foolish and illogical.
Note from Ann Marie: The beginning of the confession is a parody on a German sailor’s chanty:
In Hamburg, da bin ich gewesen,
In Samt und in Seide gehüllt,
Meinen Namen den darf ich nicht nennen,
Denn ich bin ja ein Mädchen fürs Geld.
In my opinion, it shows that while the table top confession was likely not a genuine article, the holes in the ransom notes match the industry standard for these type of tables. The kidnapper used something very similar as a template for the ransom notes.A carpenter would certainly have access to and knowledge of something like this.
Thank you, Richard!
If you enjoyed this interview, take a look at Richard’s book, Hauptmann’s Ladder, on Amazon.