Lindbergh Baby resurfaces again
Cousin's phone call set Florida retiree on a strange journey.
ORLANDO Fla. Fruitcake Nut case. Crazy as loon.
Robert Aldinger understood how people would react
if he revealed that he believed he was Charles
Augustus Lindbergh Jr. - the blue-eyed,
golden-haired baby kidnapped and murdered in one
this century's most sensational crimes.
Aldinger had kept the shocking discovery mostly to
himself. His children didn't know. Friends and
neighbors in Orlando didn't know.
His lawyer knew, because he helped Aldinger bank
his DNA. "I'm leaving a trail, " said Aldinger, 70.
And his wife knew. How could she not? Since the
belief planted itself in Aldinger's brain last
year, blooming from the suspicion to full-fledged
obsession practically overnight, she has listened
to hours of talk about the mysterious 1932 murder.
Barbara Aldinger isn't 100 percent convinced that
Bob is the Lindbergh Baby, but she's supportive.
"It'd be some story if it were true," she said.
Dozens have claimed to be the famous aviator's son,
kidnapped from his second-story nursery in central
New Jersey and killed 67 years ago.
They started showing up in the 1950s and never really
stopped, even though Charles Lindbergh Sr. had
identified the corpse, and the State tried and
executed a German immigrant, Bruno Richard Hauptmann,
for the murder.
Aldinger, the affable retiree, is simply the latest
in a long line. Others included a country western
singer, a factory worker, a couple of business men,
a black women, and a man who put his claim on a
postcard above three smudgy fingerprints and a stamp
signature, "The Purple Planet Owner, Lt. Col.
Frank C. Eyrwa, Tampa, Fla."
The Lindbergh family called them "The Pretenders" -
deluded and maybe greedy folks who hungered to be
recognized as the son of the renowned Lindbergh.
And they have ignored Bob Aldinger as they have
all the others.
Unlike some of the pretenders, Aldinger isn't
looking for money. What he wants, he says, is a
"The first thing I want is for you to know the truth.
Next I want to be in the presence of my mother, and
to hold her hands" he wrote recently to Reeve Lindbergh,
the youngest of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Charles
Lindbergh's five surviving children, all born after
the kidnapping. "After that, I would like to meet
you and my brothers."
It's hard to understand why a guy like this would
decide in his 70th year that he is someone else.
Hard except to those familiar with the details of
the kidnapping and the conspiracy theories that
abound. Fascination with the case has bred a steady
stream of documentaries, articles and books.
Such a book started Aldinger's strange route from being
who-he-was to who-he thinks-he-is-now. It wasn't a
pleasant journey. "Darn near broke me up", he said.
Last year a cousin researching the family tree,
phoned him from West Virginia with a curious question.
Had he ever heard that his grandmother, Lena Aldinger,
had introduced Bruno Hauptmann, the Lindbergh baby
kidnapper, to Hauptmann's wife Anna? She had read it in a book.
Aldinger, a self-educated man and avid reader whose
hobby was researching art history, suggested the cousin
consult court records. She did, confirming that Bob's
grandmother had in fact introduced the couple. She
also learned that Bob's father, Fred Aldinger, had
been Hauptmann's buddy.
Intrigued, Aldinger began studying the case - a
laborious task since a progressive eye disease has
made him legally blind. He is also quite deaf.
He looked at the facts and thought about his own
life, particularly the years spent as young boy in
the Home for Friendless Children in the Bronx, N.Y.
His father, who told him his mother was dead, rarely
visited. When he was 10, his father took him out,
but life didn't get much better. The boy,
nearsighted and hard of hearing, was beaten and
emotionally abused. A few years later, he ran away
From a letter he obtained through the New Jersey
Lindbergh Kidnapping Archive, Aldinger learned that
his mother had actually been alive during those years.
He pondered that information, plus his father's
connection to Hauptmann.
One day, quite suddenly, he went from reading about
the case to inserting himself in the story.
He was the baby, kicked out of the rightful family
by Charles Lindbergh because something was wrong
with his hearing, and placed with someone else,
for money. After all, Aldinger knew, there had been
rumors back in 1932 - never documented - that the
Lindbergh baby was slow to develop.
"Lindbergh wanted to get rid of his child because
he was defective," Aldinger said. "He had some
connection through Fred Aldinger, whose own son,
"The Lindbergh baby was dropped into hands of Fred
Aldinger, and the baby found in the woods was
Aldinger telephoned Mark Falzint, archivist at the
Kidnapping Archive in West Trenton, N.J., who has
charted the appearance of 14 "Lindbergh Babies"
since 1961. Falzint recorded Aldinger's news with
equanimity. After all, he'd heard similar stories
Over time, the pair chatted for hours, Aldinger
picking up the phone and Falzint politely confirming
or countering questions he asked.
Falzint says the pretenders he has met have "all
been nice friendly people." Most of them are orphans
or foster children, with miserable childhoods.
One, Kenneth Kerwin, Maine, told this story: A man
whose child had died arranged the Lindbergh
kidnapping to regain a son. The man didn't like the
new boy and gave him up for adoption.
One of the wilder accounts came from Geneva Cato
Fields of Trenton, N.J., a retired kitchen worker.
Fields says she first learned her identity from a
former boyfriend in the CIA. She filled in the gaps
with library research and self-published an account
of her life, which she sold from the trunk of her
The Lindbergh baby was born deformed, "With dual,
perfectly normal male and female reproductive
organs," Field said in an interview. "They removed
the male and left me a perfect female. They also
made me black and sent me away.
Angry but touched
In a family memoir, "Under a Wing," Reeve Lindbergh
expressed bewilderment that so many people believe
they are her parents' first child.
"I am sometimes angry - Why doesn't this craziness
ever stop? - but most often touched," she wrote,
"What could have happened to these people? Where
are their real families?"
In an interview she called them "poor things."
Lindbergh said she never answered any of the pretenders'
letter, because acknowledging them would "compound
their suffering, the suffering of the child who
died, and the suffering of my mother."
Anne Morrow Lindbergh is 93 and in failing health.
Charles Lindbergh Sr. died in 1974.
"There was never any question about the body until
years later," said Reeve Lindbergh, "when people
arrived at the door and said: We are the baby."
Source: San Francisco Examiner, Sunday, July 11, 1999, page 6 , by Mary Jo Patterson, Newshouse News Service
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