In April 2008, a woman named Elisabeth Fritzl alerted police that she’d been held captive in a basement for 24 years by her father. This is the story of the true crimes of Josef Fritzl.
Josef Fritzl’s daughter, Elisabeth Fritzl was born on April 6, 1966 and by the time she was 11 years old, her father was reportedly abusing her. It wasn’t until 1984 when her real nightmare began.
The Fritzl house’s construction dated back to the 1890s and in 1978 a basement extension was added after Fritzl filed for a building permit. He stated that he started to turn the hidden area into a prison cell between 1982 and 1983 and installed a washbasin, toilet, bed, hot plate, and refrigerator.
The non-hidden area of the basement was inspected in 1983 and satisfied the property inspectors. Little did anyone know that Fritzl illegally extended the basement further underground by excavating more space.
After inspection, he created even more space by creating a passageway to a pre-existing basement area under the old part of the property. Something that no one knew existed.
It was sound-proofed, had high security including an electronic door that only he knew the combination for and alleged tamper-proof electric shock security on the inside.
Many sources including Wikipedia claim that Josef Fritzl asked Elisabeth to come to the basement and help him with a door, but after speaking with Austrian authorities and journalists, we discovered that’s not what Fritzl shared.
On August 28, 1984, when Elisabeth was 18 years old, her and her father had an argument which resulted in him dragging her to the garage and smothering her mouth with an chloroform-soaked cloth until she passed out. Most sources claim it was ether, but that’s an entirely different chemical, despite having similar effects.
Elisabeth Fritzl woke up sometime later and discovered that she was handcuffed in her father’s make-shift dungeon.
A month later, Josef Fritzl delivered a letter to police that was postmarked ‘Braunau’, a town further north where the only Austrian man that was worse than Josef Fritzl was born, Adolf Hitler. The letter stated that Elisabeth was tired of living with her family and was staying with a friend; she warned her parents that any efforts to search for her or pursue her would result in her leaving the country.
This was the first of several letters that Fritzl forced his daughter to write in order to explain and justify her missing. Trapped, terrified and alone, Elisabeth’s nightmare was only beginning.
Her father kept her trapped in this secret chamber for the next 24 years. Over this time he would abuse her and frequently rape her with no concern for protection resulting in her falling pregnant and birthing seven inbred children from her father.
The small underground chamber became Elisabeth’s new home. It was small, unhygienic and lacked any kind of airflow or light from the outside world.
In November 1986, just over two years after being forced to live underground, Elisabeth suffered a miscarriage in the 10th week of pregnancy.
About a year after the miscarriage, Fritzl impregnated his daughter again and on August 30, 1988, Kerstin was born. Elisabeth had to endure labor and birth in the chamber without any kind of medical equipment, assistance or personnel. All she had was a book on pregnancy and childbirth from her father as he refused to take her to hospital.
About nine months later, she fell pregnant again and on February 1, 1990, her first son named Stefan was born. The first boy and girl lived in the underground chamber with Elisabeth, but the next baby she gave birth to had a different fate.
On August 29, 1992, Lisa is born, but by the following May when Lisa was nine months old, Josef took her upstairs to live with the family. He explained the appearing baby had been left on the doorstep with another note from Elisabeth that he forced her to write. The letter basically stated that she wasn’t able to look after the baby and wanted her family to support baby Lisa.
After being impregnated by her father again, Elisabeth Fritzl’s fourth children was born on February 26, 1994. A girl she named Monika.
By the end of the year, Monika was taken upstairs to live with the family. Again Josef claimed she had been abandoned on her doorstep in a pushchair. Shortly afterwards, Rosemarie Fritzl received a phone call from Elisabeth asking her to take care of the child. It’s theorized that this phone call was a recording that Josef took in the basement to further disguise the truth of her existence.
Following the call, Rosemarie contacted the police as she was surprised that Elisabeth had their new unlisted phone number. Unfortunately the strange phone call lead nowhere.
On April 28, 1996, Elisabeth gave birth to her fifth and sixth child, twin boys. One was named Alexander, but the second twin, Michael, died after just three days from respiratory issues. Josef took the baby’s body and cremated it. Alexander joined the family upstairs at 10 months old and was ‘discovered’ in a similar way to Lisa and Monika.
Elisabeth Fritzl’s final child was born on December 16, 2002. The baby boy, Felix, remained in the basement chamber. This is how Elisabeth, Kerstin, Stefan and Felix lived for the next six years.
Elisabeth did everything she could to educate her children and treat them with kindness and respect, though they had to watch their mother be raped and abused by their psychotic father.
Over the years Josef Fritzl brought snow down so the children could see what snow was like and even brought a live bird down for them at one point as they had never been outside and never even seen the sun or natural light.
After 24 years old masking all his crimes in a secret sound-proof basement, the true crimes of Josef Fritzl would be put at risk when Kerstin became ill.
On April 19, 2008, Elisabeth managed to finally convince her father to allow Kerstin to go to hospital. She was admitted to hospital with life-threatening kidney failure.
Two days after Kerstin was taken to hospital, Dr. Albert Reiter spoke with Josef Fritzl and discussed her condition. Fritzl delivered a note that was allegedly from Kerstin’s mother, but things didn’t match up and looked suspicious so on April 21, 2008, the hospital staff alerted police to a potential situation.
They publicly broadcasted an alert for Kerstin’s mother to come forward as her medical history was absent. Of course, she could not comply as she was locked in the underground chamber that she’d spent that last quarter of a century in.
On April 26, 2008, Elisabeth Fritzl finally managed to convince her father to let her attend the hospital under the condition that she not share his secret about his entrapment. It was also said they he used the children as leverage and would harm them if she said anything.
Following a tip-off from Reiter that Josef and Elisabeth were at the hospital, the police attended and detained both of them which was followed by them being taken to the police station for questioning.
Elisabeth didn’t share anything at first, but after some convincing she agreed to lay out the whole story for police if they promised her that she would never have to see her father again, to this they obliged.
Over the next two hours, she told the entire story of her 24 years in captivity in great detail. She shared how her father would rape her, even in front of the children. How he would make her watch pornographic videos so she could reenact such things on him in front of the children and how he would be violent, abusive and threaten them constantly.
After the story was shared with police, Josef Fritzl was arrested for the suspicion of said crimes and he told police about the secret underground lair and how to access it.
April 29, 2008; DNA evidence confirmed Josef Fritzl was the biological father of Elisabeth’s children. Elisabeth’s testimony allowed police to calculate that she was raped about 3,000 times during her 8,516 days in captivity.
March 19, 2009; After a four day trial Josef Fritzl plead guilty to the charges of the murder by negligence of his infant son, Michael, as well as the 24 years of enslavement, incest, rape, coercion and false imprisonment of his daughter Elisabeth.
Josef Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment and may be released in 2023, though according to a 2019 article from the Daily Mail, his health is deteriorating and he may not live that long anyway.