When it comes to the most shocking crimes, the old saying is often true: "it's always the ones you least suspect." The friendly guy next door, the quiet IT tech, the old married couple you see at church every week: they all seem normal enough, but you never really know what’s going on in someone’s head – or in their homes. You could know someone that is keeping human captives locked up in their home right now and not even have a clue.
As absurd and fictional as things like “underground dungeons” and “soundproof bunkers” may sound, there really are crazy people out there who build these things for the sole purpose of storing human captives. This list contains some real cases of people who were held against their will and suffered greatly at the hands of lunatics that appeared normal to the outside world.
Cleveland Man Kept Three Women Captive for 10 Years
Between 2002 and 2004, Cleveland residents Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus all went missing after accepting a ride home from Ariel Castro. Castro lured each girl, restrained them, and locked them up in his basement, where they would suffer repeated rapes and beatings on a regular basis. To everyone in the neighborhood, Castro was just another guy, no one had any clue that he was keeping three girls captive in his home at 2207 Seymour Avenue (just three miles from the area where they were all abducted) for 10 years.
Amanda Marie Berry was barely 17 years old when Castro abducted her on April 21, 2003. On December 25, 2006, Amanda gave birth to a daughter that DNA evidence confirmed was fathered by Castro. Gina Lynn DeJesus was the youngest - she was just 14 years old when Castro abducted her on April 2, 2004. Twenty-one-year-old Michelle Knight spent her first few captive days tied to a bed without food. All three women were kept either chained up in the basement or tied up in the bedroom. Castro had also impregnated Michelle Knight at least five times, but she never gave birth because he would beat her with dumbbells, starve her, and slam her against walls, causing miscarriages.
All three women described being locked up in the dark for days only to be raped and emotionally abused by Castro once the door was finally opened. They were forced to use small, dirty, plastic toilets, they were only fed once a day, and only allowed to shower once, sometimes twice, a week.
It wasn’t until May 6, 2013, when Amanda Berry got the opportunity to escape with her six-year-old daughter. She was able to get the attention of neighbors and call the police from one of their homes. She identified herself as Amanda Berry, stating that she’d been missing for 10 years and had escaped. She sent Cleveland PD to Castro’s house to free the other two women.
Castro pled guilty to the kidnappings, 937 criminal counts of rape, and aggravated murder. He was given a life sentence (plus 1,000 years for good measure) but spent a whopping month in prison (under better conditions than his captives had been given) before he committed suicide. He was found hanging from a bed sheet noose in his cell.
Nobuyuki Satō Kept a Child Captive in His Mother's Apartment
In 1990, Nobuyuki Satō was 28 years old and sharing an apartment with his elderly mother. This apartment was a mere 200 yards away from a police station, and yet Satō was able to keep nine-year-old Fusako Sano locked up in an upstairs bedroom for nine years and two months without anyone knowing.
Sano endured repeated rapes, beatings, and “punishments” with a stun gun. Satō cut all her hair off and dressed her in men’s clothing. He often threatened her with knives to the point where she was terrified to try escaping even when he left doors unlocked.
At last, Satō’s mother called the police because she thought her son was suddenly acting very weird and aggressive towards her, and Fusako was finally found and rescued. Satō received a 14-year prison sentence.
Josef Fritzl Kept His Own Daughter Captive for 24 Years
In the rural town of Amstetten, Austria, 18-year-old Elisabeth Fritzl was reported missing by her father Josef Fritzl in 1984. But she wasn’t missing: her father, who had been sexually abusing her since she was 11 years old, had lured her into the cellar and locked her in. He forced her to write a runaway letter which he showed to her mother and police to convince everyone she was gone. Since she was 18 and the letter said not to look for her and that she had joined a cult, there wasn’t really much police could do. Fritzl kept his daughter in a windowless, completely soundproof prison beneath the home that was only accessible from a small door hidden in a cabinet.
He repeatedly raped and impregnated his daughter for 24 years and his wife, (Elisabeth’s mother) was clueless about all of it. In 1996, she delivered twins: only one of the babies survived, the other died from neglect while being kept down in the basement. Fritzl burned the dead infant’s body in his oven and left the surviving infante down there with Elisabeth. Elisabeth gave birth to a total of seven of her father’s children; three of the six surviving children were eventually brought upstairs to live in the main house. Fritzl told his wife Rosemarie that their runaway daughter had repeatedly dropped her children off on the doorstep for them to raise.
The other three children remained in the basement with Elisabeth, having never seen the light of day in their lives. Finally, one of them, Kerstin, got sick and fell unconscious. Fritzel lied to his wife once again, claiming their long-lost daughter returned to drop off another child for them to care for and that this one needed medical attention. They took Kerstin to the hospital, where it was found she was suffering kidney failure and was put into a medically-induced coma. Doctors sent out a public plea asking for Elisabeth (still believed to be off wandering and maybe in a cult) to come forward so that they could take her daughter's medical history.
It was 2008 when the truth finally came out and Elisabeth (42 years old at this point) and her hidden children (Kerstin, 19; Stefan, 18; and Felix, 5) were finally taken out of their dark prison, stunned by sunlight and the outside world. Fritzl brought his daughter to the hospital, claiming she had just showed up on his doorstep in response to the public plea, but the hospital's DNA testing confirmed the horrible truth: these children were all biologically Josef's children and grandchildren.
Josef Fritzl stood trial for the murder of the infant Michael, as well as rape, incest, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and slavery. He plead guilty to all charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Elisabeth and all six of her children and her mother reconnected and have undergone intensive therapy, but they are all adjusting and flourishing in the outside world.
Gertrude Baniszewski Held Sylvia Likens Captive and Tortured Her to Death
Gertrude Baniszewski was paid to care for sisters Sylvia and Jenny Likens while their parents were traveling as carnival workers. Little did the Likens family know, Baniszewski was a sick and twisted woman with cruel children of her own. The Baniszewski family physically and verbally abused both of the Likens girls until the focus shifted solely to Sylvia and even her own sister was forced to hit her or endure the same treatment.
Sylvia was pulled out of school and kept locked in the basement, eating only scraps. Everyone was told that she had been prostituting herself and had run off with some men. Baniszewski even forced Sylvia to write a letter to her parents confirming these lies.
With everyone thinking Sylvia was gone, Baniszewski, her daughter Paula, her son John, and even some neighborhood kids, Coy Hubbard and Richard Hobbs, felt they had free rein to do whatever they wanted to the girl. She was tied up, had scalded water thrown on her and salt rubbed into her open wounds, cigarettes were put out on her skin, and she was even forced to eat her own vomit and feces. Twice that her sister could confirm, Sylvia was forced to insert glass Coca-Cola bottles into her vagina and Baniszewski carved “I’m a prostitute and proud of it” into her stomach.
On October 22, 1965, Sylvia Likens died in the basement. Her official cause of death was brain swelling, brain hemorrhaging, and shock from the prolonged damage done to her body. After finding her victim dead, Baniszewski concocted a story for the police claiming that Sylvia had been attacked by a group of young men after she offered to have sex with them for money. However, when the police came to investigate. Jenny took this opportunity to say, “If you get me out of here I’ll tell you everything.”
Gertrude Baniszewski and her daughter were both sentenced to life imprisonment.
Richard Hobbs, Coy Hubbard, and John Baniszewski, Jr. were sentenced from two to 21 years in prison for the roles they played in the abuse.