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It was impossible to resist the following story. How much of it is true, I cannot say. One thing almost certainly untrue is that the Empress of the Galapagos — the "queen," the "baroness," whatever she chose to call herself — had an army of 20 men, as is claimed in the article.

Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bousquet — one of several versions of her name — arrived in the Galapagos in November, 1932. She had previously lived in Vienna and Paris. Accompanying her were two German lovers and an Ecuadorean laborer, who chose not to remain, though he may have been on hand long enough to greet the two men in the first newspaper story (below).

So when you get to the part that says a couple of foreign-born Ecuadorean farmers were "met at the shore by some 20 men," simply substitute the number two or three.

Also keep in mind this story was an early chapter in what would become a fascinating, unbelievable mystery that has never been solved.

 

Syracuse Journal, February 9
GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (INS)— An amazing tale of how a French baroness set herself up as empress on a tiny island in the Galapagos group, off the South American coast, ruling her domain with an iron hand and forcefully expelling anyone attempting to intrude upon the privacy of her “court” came to light here today.

The daring adventuress was identified in official government reports as the Baroness de Wagner Bousquet. The island she picked as the setting for her creation of a tropical dynasty is Floreana, one of the numerous dots of land in the Galapagos Archipelago.

The baroness’ high-handed seizure of the island became known when the government of Ecuador ordered the territorial chief of Galapagos to proceed at once to Floreana with a detachment of troops and dispossess the “empress” from her “castle” and scatter her court to the four winds.

For sheer romance, ancient or contemporary history has little to compare with the coup d’etat of the Baroness de Wagner Bousquet. Investigating the unusual order issued by the government to the Galapagos territorial chief, International News Service uncovered the dramatic series of events which now threatens an early end to the reign of the empress of Floreana.

In the middle of December, Paul Franke and Kristian Stampa, foreign-born Ecuadorean farmers, set sail from the town of San Cristobal in the little yacht, Falcon, on a hunting and fishing trip. They visited one of several uninhabited islands in the Galapagos group and decided to continue on to Floreana, where a few years ago a German scientist named Ritter took up residence as the climax to a “back to nature” quest.

Franke and Stampa were overtaken by a storm, but eventually reached the coast of Floreana. Believing Dr. Ritter and his wife to be the only inhabitants, they were overwhelmed with surprise when they were met at the shore by some 20 men.

The travelers were greeted cheerfully enough and were immediately escorted to a large and recently built house situated on a hill. There they were ushered into the presence of the “empress.”

With three European gentlemen acting as her aides, the “empress” promptly subjected Franke and Stampa to a searching interrogation, demanding to know their nationality, their intentions and — above all — whether they had any matches.

The voyagers did, and after obliging the baroness with a number of packets, were given curt directions to Ritter’s cabin and bluntly told to pack themselves off.

But their real trouble began after their visit with Dr. Ritter. Frank and Stampa were walking back to their yacht, carrying the carcasses of two animals they had shot in the forest. Upon reaching the coast, they encountered the baroness’ entourage and a dispute ensued.

In the midst of it, the “empress” arrived with a rifle slung over her shoulder. She announced in imperious tones that the island and all of its flora and fauna were her exclusive property by virtue of an alleged purchase from the Ecuadorean government.

When the hunters refused to drop their prey, the baroness and her retinue opened fire. Franke was wounded, but he and his companion managed to escape to their yacht and put out to sea.

The men complained of the incident when they returned to San Cristobal. Local authorities could find no records showing that the baroness had purchased the island or had any right to her pretensions of sovereignty, and the federal government took the matter in hand.

The Ecuadorean investigation was a farce. The governor of the Galapagos Islands sent to investigate was seduced by the so-called baroness, who later enjoyed some R&R with the governor on Chatham Island (today San Cristobal). For her reward she received title to four square miles of the island.

Dr. Friedrich (aka Frederick) Ritter, the German scientist mentioned in the article, was a Berlin doctor (some stories say he was a dentist) before he convinced his girl friend, Dore Strauch, to play Adam and Eve in the Galapagos. They were awarded 50 acres of land (which included a volcanic cone where they had fashioned a crude, circular home topped by a tin roof).

Floreana's other residents, who also received 50 acres as a result of the Ecuadorean government's "investigation," were another German couple, Heinz and Margret Wittmer, who arrived in August, 1932, with teenager Harry Wittmer, Heinz's son by a previous marriage. Margret Wittmer was pregnant and on January 1, 1933, would give birth to a son of her own.

The nutcase usually called Wagner-Bousquet was Austrian, not French, and there was no indication she was a baroness anywhere but inside her head. Her two German lovers were Robert Philippson and Rudolf Lorenz. With them was Manuel Valdivieso, an Ecuadorian apparently recruited to do most of the work without the benefits Wagner Bousquet bestowed on Philippson and Lorenz.

This is how Wagner-Bousquet's arrival was described on May 23, 1936 when Arthur Maurice of the New York Sun reviewed "Satan Came to Eden," a book Dore Strauch wrote after she fled back to Germany at the end of 1934:

A strange woman who called herself the Baroness Wagner-Bousquet invaded Floreana, accompanied by lovers she ruled by pistol and riding whip.

An Austrian of dubious antecedents, she aspired to take possession of the island as the Empress of Floreana. Her frank announcement of her intention to assume imperial authority provoked Dore to ask:

“Have you bought the place by any chance?”

“No,” was the reply, “but the aristocracy are the natural rulers of the places they come to. It’s in my blood — you wouldn’t understand — it’s a feeling one has to be born to, don’t you know! But please don’t be afraid that I’ll put on airs with you. I’m really very democratic, and have always got on excellently with the common people.”

The women’s battle was on.

“I don’t believe you’re any more of a baroness than I am,” was Dore’s retort.

 

LIKE MANY ISLANDS in the Pacific, Floreana has an unusual post office that depends on the kindness of visiting strangers. That post office consists only of a barrel, mounted on a pole near the beach. A barrel has been there since early in the 19th century when whalers made brief stops. Letters were dropped into the barrel in hopes sailors on a ship headed for port would pick them up and deliver them. Floreana's barrel is still located at the appropriately named Post Office Bay.

While Floreana has always lacked fresh water enough to support a large settlement, there certainly was enough for a whaling crew. The region's famous turtles were plentiful and a great source of food. There also was wildlife and fruit trees on the island, which the English had named for King Charles II, who ruled from 1660 to 1685.

The situation changed in 1819 when helmsman Thomas Chappel of the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts, played a practical joke that backfired, big time. He started a fire on Charles Island while other members of the crew were hunting. But it was the dry season and the fire burned out of control. The crew members safely returned to the Essex, empty-handed perhaps, and the fire burned through the night and well into the next day.

Charles Island lost its shrubbery, most of its trees and some species of animals. Creatures that greeted the ill-prepared Dr. Ritter in 1929 were unexpected and menacing, which was surprising because their ancestors were familiar and helpful. From day one Ritter and his unlucky companion realized there would be no peace and quiet in paradise.

This is explained in an interesting online piece by J. F. Schimpff, who lived several weeks in a pirate cave on Floreana, attracted there by stories about the Ritters. Wrote Schimpff:

“The war has been on ever since we moved in," said Ritter. "Every night there is an attack, and about once a week the enemy storms the walls and sacks the place. So far we have only had one minor victory.”

“Who is the enemy?” I inquired.

“The animals."

This was a surprise. Much has been written about the flora and fauna of these islands, and I understood that since the extermination of the giant tortoises there had been no sizable beasts except some lizards, one of which is the only species known to live in salt water. So I suggested that these must be the foe.

“No,” said Ritter, “the lizards are the best behaved creatures on the place. Our persecutors are wild asses, wild pigs, wild dogs and wild descendants of tabby cats.”

How the ancestors of these beasts got on the island is something of a mystery. Years ago there was an attempt to colonize Floreana, but the settlers gave up, and may have left their domesticated animals behind, cattle, donkeys, dogs, cats and pigs. Some may have been taken ashore sick from visiting ships and left to get well or die. Whatever their origin, they are now as wild as anything the cave man ever faced.

Schimpff wrote glowingly of Ritter's efforts to adjust to conditions, a view not shared by many who came into contact with a man who clearly had no use for other people.

A man named Walter Finsen visited Ritter and Strauch and had this to say in another interesting piece, "Debunking the Baroness," that also (like everything, it seems) can be read online:

Dr. Frederick Ritter left for Floreana in 1928 with Dore Strauch. He claimed to be writing a new philosophy, and seemed to rationalize away his shortcomings. He was a poor builder, so he claimed living in a house was unsanitary; a poor hunter, so he claimed he was a vegetarian. If Dore somehow found meat and cooked it, then he would say it was a great sin to waste food.

Finsen also said Ritter "kicked hell out of Dore and made her work like a mule. She was an unattractive, slovenly drudge. The only special thing I remember her by is that I never saw her neck clean." The photo of Dore Strauch (above) certainly is at odds with that description, though that picture likely was taken a year or two before Finsen visited Floreana. (Strauch was described by others has having a limp and being a victim of multiple sclerosis.)

The endless problems with conditions on Floreana and his inability to solve them affected Ritter's relationship with Strauch, who hated her life on the island and all the work required. Those who lived on Floreana, even briefly, and some who visited, agreed that Ritter began treating Strauch as his slave.

As for Ritter being a vegetarian, it was Schimpff who pointed out — to his readers, anyway — something Ritter hadn't considered when he left Germany.

In case any reader is contemplating a back-to-nature experiment, let me say that I was all wrong in imagining that vegetarianism is an advantage. It is quite the opposite. In the cities anyone can be a vegetarian and get away with it, because, in season and out, a variety of fresh and canned vegetables is available.

It is true that in one of these tropical paradises one may lie under a tree and wait for a ripe fruit to fall down for him, but usually there is some sort of bug or worm in it. Though it is always balmy summer, these fruit trees do not bear all the year, and when they do bear, usually some early bird, bug or beast gets there ahead of man.

But fish, bird or beast is to be caught or shot all the year around, and, as they are not addled by insects, they fall into your hands in perfectly edible condition.

I have never seen any savages who were vegetarians, except from necessity, and many eat insects when they can't get meat. Even Dr. Ritter keeps chickens and eats all the eggs he can get.
In Margret Wittmer's book, "Floreana," she listed these as things that grew on the island: bananas, coconut and date palms, tamarinds, plums, mangoes, figs, papaws. She and her family managed to share these with the bugs and birds. The Wittmers also had their own pigs — about 20 of them. But they, too, had problems with the wild animals, particularly bulls.
 

DESPITE HER QUIRKS and craziness, the so-called "baroness" had nothing on Friedrich Ritter, who may have been infuriating, but also was perhaps the most interesting Floreana resident.

Consider his teeth — he had them extracted before he left Berlin. As a doctor-dentist, he knew conditions on Floreana would lead to problems with his teeth, and he'd be unable to treat himself. He had two sets of dentures made; one of them offered a preview of a popular James Bond villain. Once again, here's Schimpff, who occasionally referred to Ritter and Strauch as Adam and Eve:

Let me say a word about those teeth. They were the first thing I noticed about this remarkable man and the last I am likely to forget. This medium-sized and heavily-bearded Adam opened his lips in a disarming smile. It was not only disarming, but overwhelming.

I have read of savages losing their wits at sight of a white man taking out his glass eye—well, these teeth had almost that effect on me. They were not made of porcelain, to resemble human teeth, but of glittering stainless steel.

Dr. Ritter had tried to devise a remedy for every likely trouble, and thought he could do something for most every ill but a toothache. He could pull, or even fill, one of Eve's teeth, but he doubted if she was competent to perform that service for him.

As nobody would be likely to criticize his unusual appearance in the wilderness, he had them made of unbreakable steel. Instead of toothpaste and a brush he shined them up once in a while with steel wool.

With these he could crack open the shell of a clam, or even an oyster, and sometimes he'd tear into a piece of tough sugar cane in a way that I am sure would have impressed a gorilla.

 

DR. RITTER and Dore Strauch were married to other people when they began their affair in Berlin. After she returned to Germany she wrote "Satan Came to Eden," and explained how she and Ritter dealt with their spouses before they departed for the Galapagos.

The following is from the aforementioned New York Sun book review by Arthur Maurice, published May 23 1936:

With Frederick Ritter and Dore Strauch there was no furtive impulsive flight. They planned with Teutonic thoroughness and with a strict regard for the Teutonic conscience.

There were long preliminary conferences in which all the families involved participated. Let Dore explain the serio-comic situation in her own words:

“I conceived the idea that if in some way the two people whose lives had been upset by us could be brought together, then Frederick and I would be absolutely free and unburdened by the thought that we had achieved our happiness at the expense of others’ misery.

“Frau Ritter was a good hausfrau, whose whole affection was for hearth and home . . . It was my plan that Frau Ritter would come into my husband’s home and manage his household.”

There was an elaborate supper party for the purpose of introducing Frau Ritter into the intimate circle of the about-to-be-deserted husband.

“This party, ostensibly in honor of Frau Ritter, was in reality my farewell party, though outside the actual family no one knew this.”

Then, after receiving the husband’s farewell kiss and somewhat reluctant blessing, Dore and her Frederick departed by train for Amsterdam, thence to sail westward on a Dutch merchantman.

The voyage from Amsterdam to Guayaquil, Ecuador, took four weeks. Ritter and Strauch were delayed in Guayaquil for another four weeks before boarding a vessel that took them the final 570-plus miles to Floreana.

While Ritter hoped for find privacy, peace and quiet, he appreciated yachts or other ships that visited Floreana, because he often begged and bartered for food and supplies.

Ritter also wrote several letters to family and friends back in Germany, trusting the barrel at Post Office Bay would not be misused by passengers and crew from those ships that occasionally visited.

Unfortunately for him, some of his letters were stolen and sold to newspapers. As a result, Ritter and Strauch became celebrities of a sort; publicity they received attracted people curious to see the modern day Adam and Eve. Worse, a few people decided to move into Dr. Ritter's neighborhood. Early arrivals — such a Schimpff and Finsen — never intended to stay, while others simply gave up and left. The first group who came prepared to remain for the duration were Heinz and Margret Wittmer, and his son, Harry, who arrived in August, 1932.

 

THE WITTMERS naively expected Dr. Ritter would welcome them, but he gave them a chilly reception. In her book, "Floreana," Margret Wittmer recalled:

"Despite all I had heard, I had a slight shock when I first saw the former Berlin dentist. Altogether he looked rather frightening, and if I had been on my own I might almost have fled. His eyes shifted uneasily as he inspected me and had a gleam in them which suggest the fanatic. He was short and thickset, with a mop of untidy black hair above a deeply wrinkled brow, a broad nose in a triangular face, with a black mustache."

Mrs. Wittmer, worried about the birth of her child, asked Dr. Ritter if he would assist her during the delivery. She recalled his reply:

"I'm afraid not. I didn't come to Floreana to practice as a doctor. I can't sit around here all the time, can I? I've got too much to do, but you can let me know if you need me."

The Wittmers wisely decided to settle about two miles from Ritter's place, which some newspapers referred to as "the nudist camp." (People who visited Ritter and Strauch were advised to call ahead — in Tarzan fashion — to avoid catching them in their birthday suits.

Until they built a home for themselves the Wittmers lived in connected caves that had been modified and used by pirates in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Wittmers seem to have been relentlessly normal — that is, for a family who left a comfortable home in civilization and moved to a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. Mr. and Mrs. Wittmer adapted to their surroundings much better than did Ritter or the "queen" and her court. The Wittmers were more resourceful, built a better home, and gave every indication of not only surviving, but eventually thriving on Floreana. Which is exactly what happened.

AS FOR THE BIRTH of Rolf Wittmer on January 1, 1933, the delivery was unusual, to say the least. Mrs. Wittmer says she went into labor early on December 30 and remained in pain for three days. On the third day, when her pain worsened, she found herself alone. She correctly assumed husband Heinz and son Harry had heard a bull breaking into the garden.

By then they had moved into a house fashioned from lava stones and logs. But she needed her husband more than she needed the relative comfort of the bed they had made. So she went outside looking for him. Long story short, she walked as long as she could, then plopped down on some straw. The baby was born seconds later. Her scream brought Heinz, who had just killed the bull.

Heinz and Harry carefully took Margret and the baby to their house, and that evening Margret finally got a good night's sleep. But she awoke the next morning in pain. Heinz went to fetch Dr. Ritter. It was three hours before the two men returned. When Margret described her pain, Ritter told her, "I must operate." And so he did. She said "the pain was so cruel I could have screamed my head off."

When it was over, Dr. Ritter told her, "You've been very brave."

The Wittmers offered to pay, but Dr. Ritter shook his head. "Money — you want to give me money? What can one do on Floreana with money? I want to live without money, live off only what nature offers us." This was his all-too-familiar litany . . . followed by a dose of his equally familiar hypocrisy. "But I'd be pleased if you could bring down a pig sometime. And my chickens are extremely fond of your dried meat. If you'd let me have a sack every fortnight . . . "

Margret Wittmer wrote in her book that "I turned my face away to hide my amusement at a professed vegetarian asking to be paid in pork!"

She also said that by Floreana standards, the "fee" being charged by Dr. Ritter was "hefty." At that point, she says, she didn't care, but she could never forget how rudely he had dismissed her request that he attend to her during the delivery of her baby.

 

WHEN THE "BARONESS" with the long, ever-changing name and her small male contingent arrived three months after the Wittmers, she went out of her way to attract attention. The easiest way was to provoke anyone who visited the island. These folks would go back to wherever they came from and spread the word about the colorful, gun-toting lunatic they encountered on Floreana.

Said Walter Finsen, "She was a sight to see, walking aboard the American yachts, beating her chest like an ape and screaming, 'I am the Queen of Galapagos!' She was quite an actress."

She hoped to create enough interest in Floreana that someone with money to burn would provide backing for a resort hotel on the island. In the meantime she named her tin-roofed shanty the Hacienda Paradiso.

However, the "baroness" wasn't yet thinking of Floreana as a honeymoon destination:

Syracuse Journal, November 25
GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (INS)— Another weird chapter in the life of the Baroness Eloissa Bousquet de Wagner, self-styled “queen of the Galapagos,” came to light here today with the revelation that she and her lawless band of courtiers cast away in a small boat a pair of young newlyweds who sought refuge on her island after a shipwreck.

The victims of her heartless decree were Pablo Rolando of the town of Esmeraldas and his beautiful bride, the former Blanca Rosa Fernandez.

They drifted for several days in an open boat, the husband beating off a group of sailors from their own shipwrecked vessel who attempted to attack his wife, and were finally picked up by the clipper ship, Fortune, bound for Ecuador from the Galapagos Islands.

The strange tale of Pablo Rolando and his pretty wife was unfolded when they reached the mainland, still unnerved by their nearly disastrous experience. The baroness’ decree banishing them to the mercy of the sea was the first heard of this extraordinary woman since the disclosure some months ago that she had set herself up as “queen” of Floreana Island, one of the sparsely-inhabited territories in the Galapagos group.

Pablo Rolando and his wife were passengers on a honeymoon trip aboard the sailing yacht, Santa Rosa. Several miles off the Galapagos Islands the vessel was overtaken by a terrific storm, and all aboard took to the boats.

The first to be rescued was a sailor named Jacinto Perez, picked up by the steamer, Eolo. He returned to Ecuador with the first story of the disaster, and was thought to be the sole survivor.

When the seas calmed, however, Rolando, Blanca Rosa and three sailors who had escaped from the sinking vessel found themselves drifting toward the Galapagos in a lifeboat.

As they approached the shore, according to the story told by the newlyweds, members of the queen’s strange court, consisting entirely of European men, well dressed and heavily armed, came running down to the rocky shore.

The five survivors were taken before the baroness after being bound hand and foot. They told the story of the shipwreck, but the self-styled queen, infuriated over their invasion of her “domain,” ordered them thrown into prison.

For three days they were held under heavy guard in a little hut and then hailed again before the ruler of the island. She told them pointblank she neither was able nor desired to offer them hospitality and suggested that all depart instantly for another port.

The unhappy couple and the sailors agreed to stick together for better or worse, but as a final diabolical act of punishment, the queen commanded that the seamen travel in one boat and the newlyweds in another.

She explained with a laugh that this would afford the honeymooning couple a better opportunity for romance. So that nothing might interfere with love-making, she added, she deprived them of food and water and ordered them set adrift with but a single oar.

Far off the coast, the sailors rowed abreast of Rolando’s craft and under the pretext of seeking to aid the couple, attempted to throw the husband overboard and attack his wife. Rolando drew a pistol he had hidden in his clothing and fired into the midst of the attackers. All three fell into the sea and the couple resumed their struggle voyage alone.

It was several days later that the good ship Fortune happened across their path and rescued the couple, suffering from exhaustion and exposure and on the verge of starvation.

The Baroness De Wagner claims she bought Floreana Island from the Ecuadorian government, whose officials are contemplating the advisability of sending a punitive expedition to the isolated spot to eject her and her court.

Walter Finsen said the above incident never happened, but, again, I believe there was some truth to the story. Finsen himself wrote this:

"A short time after my visit, she took to her court a young Dane. For some reason unknown to me, she shot this fellow and nearly killed him which goes to show that she could be dangerous."

A piece on divingthegalapagos.com identifies the unlucky Dane as Knud Arenz, an interpreter who accompanied the governor of the Galapagos to investigate the "baroness." Story goes that Bousquet Wagner seduced both Arenz and the governor. Arenz either hung around Floreana or returned. He was shot in the stomach by the "baroness" while she also was entertaining two Germans who were visiting the island. Supposedly she was aiming at one of the Germans.

Anyway, Arenz was taken to Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he recovered. He never went back to Floreana.

Bousquet Wagner's alleged reason for attempting to shoot her visitor can be called Extreme Jackass. Apparently she admitted to several people — including Dore Strauch — that she liked to shoot animals in the legs so she could have the pleasure of nursing them back to health. Theory is she was trying to do the same to the visiting German, who had annoyed her by resisting her advances.

EVEN IF STORIES about the "baroness" were exaggerated, there could be no denying that trouble was brewing. Ritter especially despised Bousquet Wagner. She intercepted his mail, kept items visitors left for Ritter and the Wittmers (including canned milk for their baby), and her boy toys sometimes vandalized Ritter's property.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Ritter and Strauch worsened, and Bousquet Wagner's two German lovers regularly fought — with fists, sticks and rocks — for their queen's attention, something she encouraged. Finally Rudolf Lorenz, almost always the loser, briefly moved in with the Wittmers, though he continued to do work for the "baroness."

The end was in sight. Bousquet Wagner's stay on Floreana lasted only 17 month, with 1933 being her only full year on the island. What happened in March, 1934, to the "queen" and her court in remains a mystery, as does the shocking death of Dr. Ritter.

There's the likelihood three murders were committed on Floreana in 1934, eliminating one-third of its population. In addition, a mummified body found on another island late that year belonged to Lorenz who may have left Floreana a few weeks after he killed the "baroness" and her favorite lover.

New York Sun, November 20, 1934
LOS ANGELES (UP) — Capt. G. Allan Hancock, oil millionaire and patron of science, announced today an expedition to “get at the bottom” of the mystery of Galapagos Islands. Mr. Hancock will head the expedition in an effort to identify the two persons found dead of thirst on a beach at one of the volcanic isles and to clear up other puzzling phases of recent happenings among the isolated colonists, who fled from civilization to create their own “Eden” off the South American coast.

Hancock led several expeditions to the Galapagos. Three years earlier he had visited Floreana and met Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch. Since then they had corresponded. So when newspapers reported on November 19, 1934, that two bodies had been found on Marchena Island in the Galapagos, Hancock was quick to respond. He already had been in the process of planning an expedition with scientists from the Smithsonian Institution who wanted to study microscopic parasites that live in the gills of tropical fish.

For a few days there was all kinds of speculation about the bodies. Initially the bodies were thought to be a man and a woman and were tentatively identified as Heinz and Margret Wittmer because several letters written by Mrs. Wittmer were found on the beach, near the bodies.

Another theory is the bodies were Bousquet Wagner and Robert Philippson, who had disappeared from Floreana in March, something it took the press several months to report. I think this guess was partly based on a statement by a man who saw the bodies and said one of them was dressed in lingerie, which wasn't true.

The bodies eventually were identified as those of Rudolph Lorenz and Trygve Nuggerud, a Norwegian mariner who was taking Lorenz from Floreana to another island in the Galapagos. What happened to Nuggerud's ship or to his deckhand was never uncovered. Lorenz had taken with him many items that belonged to Bousquet Wagner, including some she had brought from a gown and novelty shop she operated in Paris. (Lorenz had been one of her employees.)

MANY BELIEVE Lorenz, regularly beaten by Philippson in fights encouraged by Bousquet Wagner, finally snapped and retaliated, killing his rival and the "baroness." He may have had help from Dr. Ritter. The bodies of Bousquet Wagner and Philippson were never found. One theory is their bodies were burned.

After the "baroness" and Philippson disappeared, Lorenz was anxious to leave Floreana; Nuggerud became his first option — and his last.

Also in November came the mysterious death of Dr. Ritter, perhaps at the hands of Dore Strauch, who also may simply have had enough.

Here's how it is recounted in yet another interesting online piece, Murder in the Galapagos by George Burden:


It should be noted that Ritter had earlier shot a huge feral pig he dubbed “the satanic boar,” which had been ravaging his garden. The canned meat from the animal was found to have spoiled and was fed to his chickens, which all died. Ritter canned the chickens and advised that they would be safe to eat if thoroughly boiled, which was the correct way to kill botulinum spores, the cause of the usually fatal botulism type food poisoning (and possibly providing the murder weapon used on the Baroness and her lover).

By now Dore, while still professing to admire Ritter’s philosophical expertise, thoroughly loathed the man. On subsequently consuming chicken prepared by Dore, Ritter fell ill with the classical botulism symptoms of paralysis and increasing difficulty breathing. Suspiciously, she did not summon help until he was no longer able to speak and his illness progressed with increasing respiratory difficulty. It would seem that Dore forgot to boil Ritter’s portion of chicken.

The upshot was Ritter died, Strauch didn't. And a few weeks after his death, she hitched a boat ride to Ecuador with the always helpful Captain Hancock. From Ecuador Dore Strauch boarded a ship bound for Europe.

This left Floreana to the Wittmer family, who, in 1934, numbered four, with the addition of son Rolf.

Margret Wittmer and Dore Strauch generally avoided each other, but they were together when Dr. Ritter succumbed from the poisoned chicken. And their recollections, later recorded in their books about life on Floreana, could hardly be any more different:

The Wittmers remained on Floreana, had a baby daughter a few years later, and eventually had neighbors as some 50 families settled on the island, almost all of them arriving after World War 2.

The Wittmers opened a hotel as more and more tourists made the Galapagos a destination.

Heinz Wittmer died in 1963. His son, Harry, had disappeared years before after a boating accident. Margret was 96 years old when she died in 2000. Rolf Wittmer died in 2011, leaving the Wittmer's daughter, Inge (aka Floreanita) to operate the Wittmer Lodge.

Incredibly, it wasn't until last year (2013) that a movie was released about what the strange events on Floreana Island from 1929 through 1934.

"The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden" is a documentary made by Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller. Included is old film footage showing the people involved. Featured are the voices of several actors, including Cate Blanchett (as Dore Strauch, whose book was titled "Satan Came to Eden") and Connie Nielsen (as the "baroness"). The film is available through Amazon.com.

Online the Smithsonian Institution Archives has a page devoted to these early Floreana settlers, along with a film clip that shows Dr. Ritter and Dore Strauch at their home and the "Baroness" with her two lovers, Robert Philippson and Rudolph Lorenz (identified in the film as Lorenzo). At the end of this film clip is a grim look at the bodies of Lorenz and Trygve Nuggerud.

Incidentally, the photo of the "Baroness" and Philippson about midway down this page actually is a still photo of a scene from a hokey silent film made by G. Allan Hancock during a 1933 visit to Floreana.

 

MISCELLANEOUS:

A United Press story (December 4, 1934) quoted Mrs. Karin Guldberg Cobos of Chatham Island, as claiming to be the only woman friend the "baroness" had made in the Galapagos. Mrs. Cobos claimed Bousquet-Wagner had told her she had a premonition of tragedy and buried her jewels somewhere on Floreana Island. Mrs. Cobos was among those who believed Bousquet-Wagner and Robert Philippson were dead.

On December 16, 1936, journalist Arthur Brisbane, in his daily column, wrote that President Federico Paez of Ecuador had "sent 30 Communists to live on the island of Floreana, one of the dismal Galapagos Island," telling them, "You may now practice Communism to your heart's content."

A story in the Cortland (NY) Standard on March 26, 1938, written in Los Angeles, but crediting no writer or wire service, said a couple from Redding, California, had settled on Floreana Island. Ainsley Conway, 43, had been a mining engineer, and Frances Conway had been a high school teacher. On April 18, 1938, Margret Wittmer gave birth to daughter Inge.

An Associated Press story (August 16, 1939) told of a 10-year-old boy, Jose Perez (Quiteno), who had been found living on Floreana Island by himself. He was taken to Guayakill aboard an Ecuadorean cruiser. He said he went to Floreana in 1936 with a family (named Zavala), but ran away into the interior because of ill treatment. There was no further word on the boy or the Zavala family.

 
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