There were warning signs in the days before the murders.
Farmer Andreas Gruber told neighbors he had found strange footprints in the snow leading from the woods toward his house, but no footsteps leading away. He heard footsteps in the attic. He found an unfamiliar newspaper. The house keys went missing.
After the murders, after all six residents of the farm were dead, smoke continued to come from the chimney. Someone apparently continued to feed the cattle and to eat the food in the kitchen.
The slaughter happened long ago, in the winter of 1922, at a small farm in Bavaria, Germany called Hinterkaifeck. But today, decades later, investigators continue to be haunted by this tantalizing cold case.
The bodies were discovered four days after the murders, when seven-year-old Cazilia failed to show up at school. Mysteriously, it appears the first four victims had been lured separately into the barn and brutally murdered, one by one. The murder weapon was a pick axe.
After killing Andreas, 63, his wife Cazilia, 72, their widowed daughter Viktoria, 35, and her 7-year-old daughter Cazilia in the barn, the killer (or killers) headed to the house and murdered two-year-old Josef and the maid Maria Baumgartner, 44.
With few clues and no witnesses, police took the strange step of removing the heads of the victims and sending them to a clairvoyant in Munich, but with no results.
More than 100 suspects were questioned over the years and decades – as late as 1986 – but no arrests were ever made. In 2007, investigators reexamined the scene with modern equipment, but, again, turned up nothing.
There is a memorial to the six victims in the graveyard where they are buried, still without their heads. The skulls which were sent to Munich were lost in the chaos of World War II.