Far away, on the island of Floreana on the outer edge of the Galapagos, two lovers came to settle, to build their hermitage and live out their philosophy. Everything in their grand experiment from the shape of their garden, to their meatless diet (carefully reinforced by the removal of their teeth before they departed Germany), to their nudist lifestyle followed Dr. Friedrich Ritter’s mystical re-interpretation of Nietzschean and Taoist philosophy. His mistress Dore Strauch-Koerwin cleaved to Dr. Ritter’s philosophy long before their departure, embracing a swinger lifestyle and ultimately leaving behind her husband (and Dr. Ritter’s wife) to cross two oceans.
The Wittmers were the sturdy, practical sort and set immediately to establishing a homestead. They did not pretend to be the philosophically rarefied sort of company Dr. Ritter and Dore would easily tolerate.
But the jabs did not remain merely between households. Dore whose condescension had always kept the Wittmers carefully at bay, now pleaded for Margret to visit more often as Ritter became verbally and physically abusive. Lorenz ended up on the Wittmers’ doorstep beaten and deathly ill, a victim of Philippson’s rage for failure to do the Baroness’s bidding.
And thus paradise ended.
While harboring the ailing Lorenz, Margret Wittmer received a visit from the Baroness. The woman left directives that Lorenz was to watch over the Hacienda while she and Philippson join some friends and sail on to the South Seas. Overjoyed to finally be rid of her, Ritter advised Lorenz to sell what he could and make ready for the next ship able to take him back to civilization. Lorenz took the opportunity to make his escape from the island.
decline, he succumbed. Dore returned to Germany shortly thereafter.
The Baroness and Philippson were never heard from again. And the boat that the Wittmers’ claimed whisked the pair away? Researchers can find no evidence of a yacht traveling through the islands at the time of their disappearance. All the while, journal entries record that Lorenz feared for his life in their presence and that Philippson and Ritter engaged in violent altercations before the disappearance. Despite the yacht claim, during life, Ritter put forth the hypothesis of a double suicide due to the failure of their hotel. After his death, an article he had written sloppily accused Wittmer of murder. Disagreeable or desperate?
2000 at the age of 95.
And she never did tell.
So I stumbled across that story when I was researching the Galapagos Islands for Kaitlin and Cam’s story SPECTRE OF INTENTION and I had to laugh. And not just because I have a morbid sense of humor.
As a teenager back in the one-stoplight town of Jerome, Idaho, I’d often speculated about how even more humiliating it must have been in those ancient medieval villages when love affairs ended badly. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, they all lived within a one-mile radius of each other and never, ever moved away. Mortification and hatred…for life.
But this story, it just kept going. Backwards, then, into my even younger days preparing a model of a Martian colony. A gold-plated dome to keep out the radiation, mechanical solutions for drinkable water, breathable air, my friend Rene and I researched deeper and deeper as our clay and foil colony came to life. But then we hit a show-stopper. NASA didn’t believe conscious humans could make the trip. They suspected that six months locked in a tin can with another human being would drive anyone stark raving homicidal. And that was going to need one hell of a workaround, more than our 7th grade minds were up for!
Now couple all that with the fact that the players in our story were already at the psychological fringe of society. A man who removes his own teeth least he be tempted to eat meat…but then builds himself a set of metal ones—just in case. A woman who declares herself empress of the island…but then takes her power from abusing the lovers in her traveling harem.
Those mummified remains never stood a chance.
Unsolved Murder Mystery: The Galapagos Affair, Who Killed “The Baroness?”
Satan Came to Eden
The Wittmers of Floreana
The Last Days of a Paradise
Love, Jealousy Add to Mystery of Death on “Enchanted Isles”: Tantalizing Bits of Galapagos Drama Told as Bodies are Found
What Happened on Galapagos? The Truth of the Galapagos Affair as Told by a Lady from Cologne
Debunking the Baroness
The Lust Mad Empress of Galapagos