Some conspiracy theory claims are so ubiquitous and baked into fringe culture that you might assume they’ve been around for decades, or even centuries. This goes particularly for the Rothschild banking family (to whom I am not related!), which has been at the center of anti-Semitic rhetoric since the late 1700’s.
So after the umpteenth occurrence of some conspiracy believer bringing up the Rothschilds “hunting humans” on their vast estate in Austria, I decided to go searching for the source. Not because I feel compelled to defend a wealthy family to whom I’m not related. But because I like tracking things down to their source, where it’s a nutso blog post or a self-published book or just thin air.
So where did the rumor that the Rothschilds hold great hunting parties where they track down and slaughter children for sport start? Was it some Nazi-era bit of propaganda? An old Napoleonic canard? Something more recent from the poison pen of David Icke or Alex Jones?
Nah, it was QAnon.
But before we get to that, let’s backtrack a bit, because you might not have heard the rumor that the Rothschilds have an Austrian hunting lodge where they play The World’s Most Dangerous Game. To break things down into their basic components, here’s what’s actually true:
- The Rothschilds had a large hunting estate in Austria (not the Black Forest, which is in Germany), which they sold in February 2018 as part of a larger property sale.
- There is no monolithic “Rothschild family,” but a large and interconnected extended family where members of the various branches act on their own making individual decisions.
- Yes, people think it was a human hunting lodge, which the family dumped out of desperation for money.
To state the obvious, there is no evidence that any such “human hunting parties” took place at the Rothschild-owned estate, called Langau after the small town near it, or at any other Rothschild-owned property. Or any property, anywhere. The closest thing I found was a debunked rumor from a blog from 2014 about something called the “Ninth Circle Satanic Child Sacrifice Cult” getting a bunch of European royalty together to hunt children.
The Rothschild family first started doing business in Austria around 1815, and quickly became a top financier of the Hapsburg empire. In 1875, Baron Albert von Rothschild acquired a massive parcel of land in southern Austria, estimated to be about the size of Manhattan. Ownership of the land, which came to include a number of large houses, power plants, and lodges, changed hands in the family several times, until the land was seized by the Nazis in 1938. It was held first by Germany, then by the occupying Soviets, until 1952, when most of it was returned to the family.
Since then, the property was split into two large parcels. By 2018, one of the parcels was owned by Albert von Rothschild’s great-grand daughter Nancy Clarice Tilghman and her husband Geoffrey R. Hoguet. The other was owned by another great-granddaughter, arts patron Bettina Burr. It was Tilghman and Hoguet who sold their parcel (including the lodge) in February 2018, with Burr selling hers a year later. Both parcels were sold to the same buyer, Austrian paper conglomerate Prinzhorn Holding, which plans to keep the popular outdoor areas and lodges intact while likely doing at least some logging.
The deal made for Langau was massive, with the first part selling for $105 million, and the second for a little more than that. There’s no indication that this was a “family fire sale,” or that the heirs needed money. It seemed merely to be two land owners getting a really good offer on something they no longer felt they wanted to own anymore.
So why did anyone think that the heirs of the most powerful family on the planet would willing give up their human hunting ground? Blame it on three QAnon posts from January and February 2018, right after news broke of the first sale.
These three posts comprise the beginning of the conspiracy theory, with Q hinting at sinister machinations behind the Rothschilds selling the Langau estate, while continuing to incorrectly place it in the Black Forest, which is actually over 500 miles from Langau.
Keep in mind that at no point did any of these posts reveal any information that wasn’t already public. The first post, merely mentioning “Black Forest,” came a day after news of the first sale first broke in German-language media. Anyone with a Google alert for “Rothschild” could have run the stories through a translator and known exactly what happened.
But those posts were all it took for a flurry of semi-anonymous Twitter trolls to decide that the Langau hunting lodge was the site of human hunting, sometimes lumped in with the bogus “Ninth Circle Cult,” and sometimes just made up.
Even with just these few strands, the conspiracy theory that the Rothschilds had “sold a human hunting lodge” because they desperately needed money to help them flee the Q team was born. Of course, nobody seriously accused the parcel owners of “human hunting,” nor has anyone ever seriously claimed to have hunted humans or been hunted there. Former owner Nancy Tilghman had even written a piece for Architectural Digest talking about the lodge’s history and the renovations she’d undertaken on it.
What we have here, then, is a real and routine story being transformed into a hysterical conspiracy theory simply because of a few posts from a cult leader and confirmation bias.
The Rothschilds never hunted humans at a lodge in Austria, the Black Forest, or anywhere else. Nobody really thinks they have, other than a few cranks who will believe anything anyone tells them, as long as it’s bad for the people they hate.