Packing a pearl-handled revolver, a riding crop and three lovers, the Baroness Eloisa von Wagner Bosquet disembarked on the Island of Floreana, in 1932, and declared herself “Empress of the Galapagos.” She was not alone on the island.
Two other German families preceded her. Dr. Friedrich Ritter, an eccentric
philosopher, and Dora Strauch were first to arrive, inspired to seek
solitude on this remote island by William Beebe's book, Galapagos, World's
End, which described a place of primitive beauty (they were also motivated
by their spouses' discovery of their two-year affair). Next, Heinz and
Margarita Wittmer, seeking a better life for their sickly son Harry,
settled in old pirate caves, built a farm, and ruined the Ritters' solitude.
After her dramatic entrance, the Baroness made her estate near the beach.
Before long she imposed fees on the other residents for goods delivered
by boat, and enforced them with her revolver. Her disregard for the others
was typified by her bathing in the island's only drinking water.
Of her lovers, Alfred Lorenz was her favorite. When she replaced him
with Robert Phillipson, Lorenz, hurt, left her and revealed the details
of her sordid past—she had been a dance hall girl and perhaps a
The others grew more and more furious with her antics and petitioned
the Governor of the Galapagos. He visited the Island and the Baroness
showered him with attention, winning his favor.
Lorenz was desperate to return to Germany. Impoverished, he pleaded with
the Baroness for help, but she responded with violence. Meanwhile, Dr.
Ritter began abusing Dora.
Tempers and temperatures flared in 1934. The Baroness announced that
she and Phillipson were moving to Tahiti. No one saw her leave the island.
Her packed suitcase was found, but her money and valuables were gone.
Lorenz finally left the Island on a small fishing boat, which was never
seen again. His decomposed body and that of the boat's captain were found
on a beach at Marchena Island.
That same month, Dora went for help, saying that Dr. Ritter had eaten
some spoiled canned meat—yet Dr. Ritter was a vegetarian! On his
deathbed, he wrote an unaddressed note, saying “I curse you with
my last breath.”
Did Lorenz kill the Baroness and Phillipson, dragging their bodies to
the shark infested waters? Did Dora, brutalized by Ritter, kill him?
Did Margarita, who ended up with the Baroness' possessions, murder all
three? These questions are among the many mysteries in the strange history
of the Galapagos Islands.
Click Here for information on our Galapagos Tours.