Remembering The Horrific Case of Josef Fritzl's Incest Dungeon

The Fritzl case came to public attention in April 2008, when Elisabeth Fritzl and two of the three children living with her emerged from their basement prison in Amstetten, Austria. Her own father, Josef Fritzl, had locked her in a hidden basement for 24 years. He had repeatedly sexually assaulted his daughter, which resulted in numerous pregnancies. He also forced her to give birth to their seven children in captivity. Elisabeth’s mother lived in the upper sections of the home, believing her 18-year-old daughter had run away.

In 2008, Elisabeth’s eldest daughter, Kerstin, fell ill. Elisabeth convinced Fritzl to take the 19-year-old girl to the hospital. There, doctors wanted more information on Kerstin’s medical history and made public pleas for the mother to come forward. Fritzl let Elisabeth - then 42 - out of the basement for the first time since she was 18. He took her to speak with the doctors, and the police then intervened.

The following year, Austrian courts found Fritzl guilty of multiple charges, including murder, rape, enslavement, and incest. He received life in a psychiatric prison. In 2010, filmmakers released the documentary Monster: The Josef Fritzl Story. By 2013, authorities sealed the cellar space where Elisabeth lived in concrete, although the rest of the building still stands. Elisabeth and her children are living somewhere in Austria and undergoing therapy.  

  • He Began Molesting Elisabeth When She Was 11

    Josef Fritzl began molesting his daughter Elisabeth when she was 11 years old. Elisabeth had six other siblings - four sisters and two brothers, although it is unknown whether Fritzl sexually abused his other children from wife Rosemarie. 

    When she was 15, Elisabeth completed her standard education in Austria and prepared to become a waitress. She ran away from home in 1983 and stayed at the home of a friend to get away from her father. Three weeks later, the police found her and brought her back home. 

  • He Locked Her In A Hidden Basement When She Was 18

    He Locked Her In A Hidden Basement When She Was 18
    Video: YouTube

    Elisabeth was only 18 when her father lured her into his secret basement. He claimed that he needed her to help him carry a door downstairs - the door, in fact, was the last remaining piece of the “compound.” Fritzl then knocked his daughter out with a rag dipped in ether

    Unbeknownst to anyone else in the family, Fritzl had spent several years building a small section of the basement into living quarters for his teen daughter. He got a permit for the space, which Austrian officials had inspected and approved. 

    The excavated space had narrow hallways that connected several rooms. He even added a small bathroom, as well as a refrigerator, a hot plate, and a bed. The basement was not temperature-controlled. There were only two ways to access the covert area, and Fritzl hid both in his workshop - which he secured with a series of five locked doors

  • He Tied Her Up For The First Months Of Her Imprisonment

    Elisabeth spent the first months of her imprisonment bound to the walls. Fritzl first chained her arms to the metal bedposts in one of the rooms in the basement. He then moved the chains around her waist to function like a leash. This allowed her to use the nearby lavatory but not escape.

    After a time - she believes either six or nine months - he removed all of the constraints because they were in the way. He reportedly raped her daily

  • He Sexually Assaulted Her For Years, Allegedly In Front Of Their Children

    He Sexually Assaulted Her For Years, Allegedly In Front Of Their Children
    Video: YouTube

    According to Elisabeth's testimony, she remained entirely alone in Fritzl’s absence until 1988, when she gave birth to their first child, Kerstin. When he came into the secret compound, he brought Elisabeth food and other necessities. He also forced himself on her. 

    After she bore his children - three of whom stayed with her in the basement - he allegedly sexually assaulted Elisabeth in their presence.

  • He Impregnated Her Eight Times

    Over the 24 years Fritzl held Elisabeth captive in the basement, he impregnated her eight times. The first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. She gave birth to seven children. The second-to-last pregnancy consisted of twins, one of which did not survive. The courts later charged Fritzl with Michael’s murder.

    Fritzl took three of the six surviving children - Alexander, Lisa, and Monika - upstairs to live with him and wife Rosemarie. He claimed Elisabeth had run away to a cult and later abandoned the children on his doorstep. He convinced both his wife and social services of this lie and raised the three children in his Austrian home. 

  • He Punished Her By Cutting Off The Lights And Food Supply

    Fritzl cut off power to the lights in the basement when he felt angry. He used this as a way to punish Elisabeth. He would also stop delivering food, forcing her and her children to starve.
    Reportedly, he showed the captive children pictures of other kids - possibly their siblings, three of whom lived with him and his wife, Rosemarie - playing outside in the sun to inflict psychological torture.

    Elisabeth, as well as the three kids living in the windowless basement, never saw the sun.