Josef Fritzl

The Second Worst Man In Austrian History

A HISTORY OF MYSTERY AHistoryofMystery.com Crime Crimes Mystery Mysteries Solved JOSEF FRITZL JOSEPH FRITZEL

Josef Fritzl, if you haven’t heard of him, is an Austrian criminal who did the unthinkable, for an absurd amount of time.  The Fritzl case, as it became known, headlined news papers and media channels all over Europe, and also reached as far as America and Asia.  If you don’t know the name, or you aren’t aware of the brutal crimes Fritzl is guilty of, brace yourself…

Josef Fritzl physically assaulted and raped his daughter, impregnating her seven times.  He kept her in captivity for 24 years in the most horrendous conditions.  She gave birth to all seven children, 3 of which joined her in captivity, 3 of which Josef Fritzl and his wife, Elisabeth’s mother, Rosemarie, raised, and one child who died just days after being born.  He would make his daughter, Elisabeth, watch pornographic videos and reenact certain scenes in front of the children.  And he did all of this for close to a quarter of a century without his wife ever knowing about it.

A HISTORY OF MYSTERY AHistoryofMystery.com Crime Crimes Mystery Mysteries Solved JOSEF FRITZL JOSEPH FRITZELHow It Began
In August 1983 when Elisabeth (Josef Fritzl’s daughter) was 18 years old, Josef asked her to help him carry a door down to the basement, little did she know this would be her last glimpse of life as she knew it.  She held the door while he fitted it into the frame, then he took a ether-soaked cloth, smothered her face until she was unconscious, and threw her in the chamber she helped complete.

In Captivity
After Elisabeth woke up, that’s when her new live in captivity began.  Her mother, Rosemarie, reported her missing, but Josef Fritzl forced her to write letters, which he delivered to the police, letters that stated she was staying away because she didn’t want to live with her family, and attempting to find her would result in her fleeing the country.  Josef told police she likely joined a religious cult and didn’t want to be contacted by her family.

A HISTORY OF MYSTERY AHistoryofMystery.com Crime Crimes Mystery Mysteries Solved JOSEF FRITZL JOSEPH FRITZELDuring her captivity, Josef would go down to the cellar every 1-3 days, on average, to provide her food and other supplies.  For 24 years, he continuously raped her and assaulted her in front of the the children.

The Children
Three children, Kerstin, and sons Stefan, and Felix were imprisoned with their mother in the hidden cellar.  The next three children, Lisa, Monika, and Alexander, lived upstairs in the home.  Josef Fritzl claimed they were foundlings outside his home.  Fritzl and his wife became foster parents to the three children, knowingly by local social service authorities.  Officials said that Josef Fritzl “very plausibly” explained how the three children had appeared on his doorstep.  Fritzl and his family received regular visits from social workers, who heard and saw nothing to arouse suspicion.  The seventh child died three days after birth due to respiratory issues and denial of medical attention.  Fritzl incinerated the new-born’s body in a stove in the cellar.

A Family In Captivity
When the fourth child was born, Fritzl increased Elisabeth’s living space from 380 sq ft to 590 sq ft.  In their new nightmare home they had a television, radio, video cassette player, a refrigerator, and a hot plate to cook their food.  Elisabeth taught her children reading and writing skills, but only when Fritzl allowed them to have light.  He would also refuse to deliver food, as punishment.  Josef told Elisabeth and the three children that if any of them tried to escape, they would be gassed and electrocuted because he had booby-trapped the door.  Later, the gas threat was discovered to likely just be a scare-tactic according to investigators, because there was no gas supply.

Often he would go down to the basement, stay down there for the night, and not allow his wife to bring him coffee.  A tenant who rented a ground-floor room in the house for 12 years claimed to hear noises from the basement,  to which Josef Fritzl explained were from the gas heating system.


A HISTORY OF MYSTERY AHistoryofMystery.com Crime Crimes Mystery Mysteries Solved JOSEF FRITZL JOSEPH FRITZELCase Closed
On April 19, 2008, Elisabeth’s eldest daughter, Kerstin, who was 18, fell unconscious and Josef agreed to seek medical attention for her.  He made Elisabeth help carry her out the chamber, and up the stairs, which is when she got her first glimpse of the outside world in almost a quarter of a century.  An ambulance took Kerstin to hospital and admitted her with life-threatening kidney failure.  Later, Josef turned up at the hospital with a letter, supposedly from Elisabeth, but after discussing the letter and Kerstin’s medical history with Dr. Albert Reiter, something didn’t add up, and hospital staff discreetly alerted the police to a potential situation.

After begging her father to allow her to visit the hospital, Elisabeth was released by her father on April 26th, 2008 to see Kerstin, but police swarmed in on all of them at the hospital and took them into custody for questioning.  After making police promise her she would never have to see her father again, Elisabeth opened up about her life over the past 24 years in captivity.  Josef Fritzl was arrested that day.  After a 4 day trail, Fritzl pleaded guilty to rape, incest, enslavement, false imprisonment, and coercion, and was convicted.  He was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 73.

As of 2016, he is currently in a psychiatric section of Garsten Abbey prison for the criminally insane.  If doctors confirmed he responds to the treatment, they will approve him to be moved to the normal prison.  He was sentenced to life in prison in 2009, which is 15 years in Austria.  Providing the treatment, and his behaviour, are positive, he is expected to be released in 2023-2024, at the age of 87-88, should he live that long.  He has shared that he is looking forward to getting out of prison to re-unite with his other family.  We think his sentence is a little unfair, he will spend less time in prison that his daughter spent in his captivity.  In addition, he is in a clean prison with his own personal computer and television.  In New Hampshire, you can get double Fritzl sentence for 5 grams of crack cocaine.

A HISTORY OF MYSTERY AHistoryofMystery.com Crime Crimes Mystery Mysteries Solved JOSEF FRITZL JOSEPH FRITZEL

How Did Josef Fritzel Keep His Secret With People Living In The House?
One of the first things that may jump out about this case is how did Josef’s wife go 24 years without knowing the events that were taking place in the home.  Well, Josef had access to a secret area in the basement which he concealed by walls.  According to his statement in 2008, he started converting his basement into a prison cell layout in 1982, and installed a washbasin, toilet, bed, refrigerator, and hotplate.

In 1983, he added more space by creating a passageway to a pre-existing area under the old part of the property, which only he knew of.  In the end, the door leading to the main chamber was protected by an electronic code entered using a remote control unit.  In order to reach this door, five locking basement rooms had to be crossed. To get to the area where Elisabeth and her children were held, eight doors in total needed to be unlocked, of which two doors were additionally secured by electronic locking devices.  More on the house layout from BBC News.

A HISTORY OF MYSTERY AHistoryofMystery.com Crime Crimes Mystery Mysteries Solved JOSEF FRITZL JOSEPH FRITZEL

  • Amanda W.

    This story really disturbs me and I think it is crazy that his wife didn’t know!

    • Jay Wheeler

      If you look at the size of the house/complex, it wouldn’t of been hard to hide it! 8 doors just to get to the chamber, electronic entry systems, sound proofing, etc. Still crazy, though!