The Horror Chamber

Abduction and Imprisonment of Elisabeth Fritzl

On 28 August 1984, after Elisabeth turned 18, Fritzl lured her into the basement of the family home, saying that he needed help carrying a door. In reality, Fritzl had been converting the basement into a makeshift prison chamber; the door was the last thing he needed to seal it. After Elisabeth held the door in place while Fritzl fitted it into the frame, he held an ether-soaked towel on her face until she was unconscious, then threw her into the chamber


After Elisabeth’s disappearance, Rosemarie filed a missing persons report. Almost a month later, Fritzl handed over a letter to the police, the first of several that he had forced Elisabeth to write while she was in captivity. The letter, postmarked Braunau, stated that she was tired of living with her family and was staying with a friend; she warned her parents not to look for her or she would leave the country. Fritzl told police that she had most likely joined a cult.

Over the next 24 years, Fritzl went to the hidden chamber almost every day, or a minimum of three times a week, bringing food and other supplies, and repeatedly raping her. Elisabeth gave birth to seven children during her captivity. One child died shortly after birth, and three—Lisa, Monika, and Alexander—were removed from the chamber as infants to live with Fritzl and his wife, who were approved by local social services authorities as their foster parents. Officials said that Fritzl “very plausibly” explained how three of his infant grandchildren had appeared on his doorstep. The family received regular visits from social workers, who saw and heard nothing to arouse their suspicions.

Following the fourth child’s birth in 1994, Fritzl allowed the enlargement of the prison, from 35 to 55 m2 (380 to 590 sq ft), putting Elisabeth and her children to work digging out soil with their bare hands for years. The captives had a television, a radio, and a videocassette player. Food could be stored in a refrigerator and cooked or heated on hot plates. Elisabeth taught the children to read and write. At times, Fritzl would punish the family by shutting off their lights or refusing to deliver food for days at a time. Fritzl told Elisabeth and the three children who remained (Kerstin, Stefan, and Felix) that they would be gassed if they tried to escape. Investigators concluded that this was an empty threat to frighten the victims; there was no gas supply to the basement. He also told them that they would be electrocuted if they tried to meddle with the cellar door.

According to Fritzl’s sister-in-law Christine, he went into the basement every morning at 09:00, ostensibly to draw plans for machines which he sold to manufacturing firms. He often stayed there for the night and did not allow his wife to bring him coffee. A tenant who rented a ground floor room in the house for twelve years claimed to hear noises from the basement, which Fritzl said were caused by the “faulty pipes” or the gas heating system.

Josef Fritzl abducted his daughter Elisabeth in 1984 when she was only 18 years old. He imprisoned her in a purpose-built, windowless basement in his house in Amstetten, Austria. Fritzl forced her to live in a cramped, dark, and damp room with no access to sunlight or fresh air. Her only source of light was an electric bulb that was turned on for a few hours each day.

Sexual Assault and Rape of Elisabeth Fritzl

During her 24-year captivity, Fritzl repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped Elisabeth. He fathered seven children with her, one of whom died shortly after birth. Fritzl forced Elisabeth to write letters to her family, pretending that she had run away and joined a cult. He threatened to kill her and her children if she tried to escape or tell anyone about their situation.

Fathering Children with Elisabeth Fritzl

Fritzl forced Elisabeth to give birth to all of their children in the basement, with no medical help. He provided her with only basic supplies and food, which were often inadequate. Fritzl took three of their children upstairs to live with him and his wife, Rosemarie Fritzl, while the other three remained in the basement with their mother.

Treatment of Captive Children

Fritzl treated the children born in the basement as his property and subjected them to physical and emotional abuse. He refused to let them leave the basement or have any contact with the outside world. The children were only allowed to watch TV and listen to the radio for a few hours each day. Fritzl also installed an electric fence around the basement to prevent anyone from escaping. In 2008, Elisabeth and her children were finally rescued after one of the children, Kerstin, fell seriously ill and Fritzl allowed her to be taken to the hospital. Fritzl was arrested and charged with a range of crimes, including rape, incest, false imprisonment, and murder by negligence. In 2009, he was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to life imprisonment

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