Elisabeth Fritzl was just 18 years old when her father locked her in a basement for 24 years, raped her 3,000 times, and fathered 7 kids.
The horrific story was revealed in 2008 in the small Austrian town of Amstetten and it shocked the whole world and has inspired a hit US movie, “The Girl in the Basement.”
But the true story of Elisabeth and her surviving six children is more frightening than any fiction could be.
In 1984, Josef Fritzl, Elisabeth’s evil father, asked her help to install a door in his newly built cellar complex and so she helped him.
Moments later, 18-year-old Elisabeth was drugged, tied up, and chained to a bed by her evil father who would keep her captive for 24 years.
Josef had been plotting the underground prison for 10 years, digging the garden, and even constructing a swimming pool over the complex. The door she had helped fix completed the soundproof bunker and sealed her fate.
After chaining her arms behind her back, Josef convinced his wife Rosemarie, Elizabeth’s mother, that her daughter had run away to join a sect. And the next day, he raped her for the first time.
Six months later, Josef removed the chain because according to him, it was “hindering his sexual activity”.
All through her captivity, he beat and kicked her, forced her into degrading acts, and raped her numerous times a day.
The cellar walls dripped with damp, which Elisabeth mopped up with towels. Rats had infested her living space forcing her to catch and kill them with her bare hands.
Elisabeth gave birth to seven babies in the cellar, with no medical care, and provided with disinfectant and a pair of dirty scissors only. Three of the children, Kerstin, born 1988, Stefan, 1990, and Felix, 2002 lived with her underground, never seeing sunlight, and were forced to witness the disgusting abuse of their mom.
Josef arranged for three of the children, Lisa, born 1992, Monica, 1994, and Alexander, 1996, to be raised upstairs with Rosemarie.
Unfortunately, Alexander’s twin Michael died in Elisabeth’s arms at just 66 hours, leaving Josef no choice but to burn the baby’s fragile body in an incinerator. He managed to convince the neighbors that the children were left on the doorstep by Elisabeth who did not want to raise them in her “sect”.
Josef forced Elisabeth to write letters to her mother, Rosemarie, claiming that she was well but unable to care for the kids, begging her mother to raise them.
To prevent everyone underground from escaping, Josef told the four captives that the doors would give them electric shocks and according to court papers, “poison would be released into the cellar, killing them all instantly”.
If he was angry with Elisabeth, he punishes her by switching off the electricity in the cellar for days leaving her in total darkness.
In April 2008, Kerstin fell ill and it was the beginning of the end of Elisabeth’s suffering.
Josef, in an unexpected act of mercy, drove the 19-year-old to the hospital where she was instantly taken into an Intensive Care Unit. The police were concerned about the ghastly pale girl and put out a petition for Kerstin’s mother to contact them.
Elizabeth who has been watching them on a TV from the cellar begged her father to set her free. And to her surprise, her father conceded and drove her to the hospital, telling the police that the family had recently been released from the sect. But when the police officers managed to get Elisabeth alone, she revealed her entire horrifying story on a condition to never see her father again.
The first thing she said was “no one will believe me.”
In 2009, at Josef’s trial, his lawyers make an attempt into describing him as a loving father who locked his rebellious daughter away to save her from a life of drugs, drink, and blending with the wrong people.
But Elisabeth’s 11-hour recorded testimony, so traumatic it made some jurors watch in short bursts, convinced the court of his father’s immoral crimes, and the 73-year-old abusive dad was sentenced to life imprisonment. He is still in Austria’s Garsten Abbey Jail.
The children with ages ranging from 6 to 19 when their nightmare ended, were given extreme treatment for many years and the whole family is now living under new identities. Based on reports, Stefan couldn’t walk upright after years of stooping in the low ceiling basement, Kerstin was so traumatized she pulled her hair out in clumps and shredded her dresses.
All three children who lived “downstairs” had medical problems caused by lack of sunlight, while the children who were given a chance to live “upstairs” were traumatized to learn the truth.
According to one of their care giver’s statements in the book Monster: “There was a conflict between the cellar children and the upstairs family raised by their grandparents.”
“The day the upstairs children started calling Elisabeth “Mama” was the day she knew she had won their hearts.”
Elisabeth also disliked her mother who she thinks could have stood up to Josef, but they have reunited and started spending more time together.
After years of psychiatric help, Elisabeth found love at the age of 52, when she fell for bodyguard Thomas Wagner, 29, in 2019.
A psychiatrist who had been treating the family told Austria’s Oesterreich paper: “This is vivid proof of love being the strongest force in the world.”
“With the approval of her doctors, she has ceased psychiatric therapies while she gets on with her life – learning to drive, helping her children with their homework, making friends with people in her locality,” the psychiatrist said. “She lost the best years of her life in that cellar; she is determined that every day remaining to her will be filled with activity.”