Elisabeth Fritzl was kidnapped by her father and imprisoned in a cellar for 24 years, the kidnapping resulted in the birth of seven children. 18-year-old Elisabeth Fritzl went missing on August 28, 1984.

Elisabeth Fritzl
Elisabeth Fritzl

The case of Elisabeth Fritzl is far more disturbing than it sounds. Her mother Rosemarie filed a missing person report in a state of panic over the whereabouts of her daughter. There was no word from Elisabeth, for weeks, and everyone assumed the worst. But when they lost all hope, a letter arrived from Elisabeth, claiming she had grown tired of her family life and ran away.


Josef Fritzl, father of Elisabeth told the policeman who came to his house asking questions about his daughter that he had no idea where she would go, but it is more likely that she joined a religious cult, something she had talked about previously doing.

But Josef Fritzl knew exactly where her daughter was; she was kept held 20 feet below where the police officer was standing.

Joseph Fritzl

Josef Fritzl was born on 9 April 1935, in Amstetten, Austria. He married at age 21, to a 17-year-old Rosemarie. The couple had three sons and four daughters including Elisabeth.

Josef Fritzl
Josef Fritzl

Although Josef Fritzel kidnapped her daughter at 18, he began sexually assaulting his daughter Elisabeth when she was just 11 years old.

At age 15 Elisabeth completed her education in Austria and after that, she started a course to become a waitress. In January 1983, she ran away from home and went into hiding in Vienna with a friend from work. Police found her three weeks later and returned her to her parents. After coming home she rejoined the waitress course and finished it in 1984, and was offered a job in nearby Liz.


Elisabeth Fritzl Basement

On 28 August 1984, when Elisabeth turned 18, her father lured her into the basement of their family home, saying he needed help carrying a door. He was re-fitting a door to the newly renovated cellar and needed help carrying it.

The Cellar home where Elisabeth was kept in
The Cellar home where Elisabeth was kept in

After Elisabeth held the door in place while Fritzl fitted the door into the frame, he held an ether-soaked towel on her face until she was unconscious, then threw into the newly built chamber.

For the next 24 years, the inside of the clear would be the only thing Elisabeth Fritzl would see. Fritzl visited Elisabeth in the hidden chamber almost every day, or a minimum of three times a week.

After the disappearance of Elisabeth, her mother, Rosemarie filed a missing person report. Almost a month after her disappearance Josef Fritzel handed a letter to the police. The first of many which he had forced Elisabeth to write while in his captivity.


The letter was postmarked Braunau, claimed that Elisabeth was tired of living with her family and was staying with her friend, she wanted her parents not to look for her or she will leave the country.

The investigation about the whereabouts of Elisabeth would run cold and the world would forget about the missing girl. But not Josef, and he made that very clear to his daughter.

Josef visited Elisabeth in the hidden chamber almost every day, he would go down to the basement every morning at 9 a.m. to draw plans for the machines that he sold. He would spend some nights in the basement occasionally, but his wife wouldn’t worry, after all for them he was a hard-working guy and was thoroughly dedicated to his career.

For Elisabeth her father was a monster, for the first two years he left her alone, keeping her captive. Then, it began, the years of assault, rape, and sexual abuse.


After his arrest he admitted that he repeatedly raped her, which resulted in Elisabeth giving birth to seven children during her captivity.

After two years into the captivity, Elisabeth became pregnant, though she miscarried 10 weeks into the pregnancy. Three of her child Lisa, Monika, Alexander were taken from her. Josef took the children upstairs to live with his wife.

Josef made stories about how he discovered the children, the stories often involved finding children on bushes near the home or on the doorstep. Every time, the child would be swaddled neatly and accompanied with a note allegedly written by Elisabeth, claiming that she couldn’t take care of the baby and was leaving it with her parents to keep the baby safe.

Shockingly, the social services never questioned the appearance of the children and allowed the Fritzl’s to keep them as their own children. Officials said that Fritzl “very plausibly” explained how his infant grandchildren had appeared on his doorstep.

The family received regular visits from the social workers, who never saw or heard anything which aroused suspicions.


Elisabeth Fritzl Children

After the birth of the fourth child, Josef allowed enlargement of the prison from 35 to 55-meter square(280 to 590 sq ft). But the enlargement wasn’t an easy task for Elisabeth and her children as they had to dig out the soil with their bare hands.

A map of the cellar’s layout.
A map of the Cellar’s layout

Elisabeth and her children had a television, radio, and video cassette player. Refrigerator to store the food and to cook they had hot plates. Elisabeth was a brave soul who taught her children to read and write in a horrible situation. Josef would shut off their lights or refused to deliver food for days at times to punish them.

Josef told Elisabeth and her three children who remained with her in the basement that they would be gassed if they tried to escape. Kerstin, Stefan, and Felix remained in the cellar with their mother for the duration of her imprisonment.

Investigators later concluded that this was just an empty threat to frighten the captives as there was no gas supply in the basement. Josef stated after his arrest that he told them that they would receive an electric shock and die if they meddled with the cellar door.


The Discovery Of Elisabeth Fritzl

It is not known for how long Josef Fritzl intended to keep his daughter as a prisoner in the basement. He was not caught in 24 years, and for all police knew he was planning to continue for another 24. But the brutality ended in 2008 when one of the children in the cellar fell ill.

Elisabeth Fritzl

On 19 April 2008, Kerstin fell ill and surprisingly Josef agreed to seek medical attention for Kerstin, the eldest daughter fell unconscious. Elisabeth helped him carry out her daughter out of the chamber and saw the outside world for the first time in 24 years.

Josef forced her to go back to the chamber, where she stayed for a final week. He called an ambulance, claiming that he had a note from Kerstin’s mother explaining her condition.

Police questioned Kerstin for a week and asked locals for any information about her family. No one came forward, as there was no family to take care of her. Her mother was locked in prison by her father.


The Case of Elisabeth Fritzl Reopened

Medical staff found the aspects of Fritzl’s story puzzling and alerted the police, who then broadcast an appeal on public media for the missing person to come forward and provide additional details about Kerstin’s medical history.

Josef Fritzl
Josef Fritzl being taken to court.

The police reopened the case of Elisabeth’s disappearance. When cops asked Josef about Elisabeth, he repeated the same old story. But this time police contacted a church officer Manfred Wohlfahrt who was an expert on cults. He raised doubts about the existence of the group Josef described. He also found the letters dictated and oddly written.

Elisabeth pleaded with her father Josef Fritzl to be taken to the hospital. Whether Josef finally felt the pressure of had a change of heart regarding his daughter’s captivity, no one will ever know. But on April 26, 2008, he released Elisabeth for the cellar for the first time in 24 years.

She immediately went to the hospital where her daughter was being treated, but the hospital staff alerted police of her suspicious arrival. Elisabeth and her children were taken to a police station for questioning.


Elisabeth did not provide many details until they promised they she would never have to see her father again. Over the next two hours, she told the story of how her father kept her as a prisoner for 24 years.

Elisabeth told the police that Fritzl raped her and forced her to watch pornographic videos, which he made her reenact with him in front of her children in order to humiliate her.

After police officers completed the interview, Josef Fritzl aged 73 was arrested on 26 April on suspicion of serious crimes against family members.

Fritzl House at night
Fritzl House

Fritzl told investigators how to enter the basement chamber through a small hidden door, which opened by a secret keyless entry code.

During the night of April 27, Elisabeth, her children and her mother Rosemarie were taken into care and it was announced on April 29, that DNA evidence confirmed Fritzl as the biological father of his daughter’s children.

As far as Elisabeth’s mother was concerned, she knew nothing about the events that happened right under her feet and Josef also backed her story.

A tenant who rented a ground-floor room in the house for twelve years claimed to hear noises from the basement, which Fritzl explained were from the “faulty pipes” or the gas heating system.


Elisabeth Fritzl Now?

Elisabeth Fritzl fell in love with the bodyguard who was assigned to protect her after spending 24 years locked in her father’s rape dungeon. After escaping his horrific father, Elisabeth was given a new name to start a new life at the age of 42.

She fell in love with her bodyguard, Thomas Wagner – who is 23 years younger than her. He was assigned to guard her and the six surviving children.

She now lives with her six surviving children in a tiny hamlet in the Austrian countryside, which also cannot be identified and only referred to as “Village X.” The house is kept under constant CCTV surveillance and patrolled by security guards, any stranger caught luring the premises will be picked up by the police within minutes.

No one is allowed to meet them, the village X is filled with villagers and every villager contacts police if they note anything suspicious.

Elisabeth’s relationship with her mother was harder to repair as she found it difficult to believe that her mother had no idea about what happened in the cellar.


Josef Fritzl now

After Fritzl was jailed for life in 2009 he changed his name. His health is rapidly declining and he doesn’t want to live anymore as he rots in the prison for torturing his daughter.

A fellow prisoner told local media: “Fritzl was and still is separated from everyone else. He has totally withdrawn himself and barely leaves his cell. He doesn’t want contact with others, and altogether it looks as though he has resigned himself to dying.”

Josef also changed his name to Josef Mayrhoff, in an attempt to escape his own identity and what the prisoners would do to him. But even after being sent to prison, he does not show any remorse for his crimes. He doesn’t believe that he’s done anything wrong at all, and still believes that it’s a failure of Justice and that he’s been wrongly locked up.

Mark Perry, a British Journalist recalls, “He kept saying, Just look into the cellars of other people, you might find other families and other girls down there.”

He added that the other inmates do not want anything to do with Austria’s most infamous convict.


Elisabeth Fritzl Children

An article in The Independent in March 2010 stated that Elisabeth and her children recovered very well despite living in hell like situation for so long. According to Josef’s sister in the law, Christine, Elisabeth enjoys spending her time shopping, driving, and taking frequent showers, Elisabeth even passed her driving test without much difficulty.

All the children recovered and developed relationships with each other and the three children that were sent upstairs slowly began to recognize Elisabeth as their mother.

The children enjoy playing games, being outdoors and spending time with mother and grandmother. Elisabeth forgave her mother for believing her father’s story, and the mother and daughter started visiting each other more.

Elisabeth Fritzl Room

The movie “The Room,” starring Brie Larson is based on a book inspired by the real-life case of Elisabeth Fritzl. The author of the book said in an interview that “The one line notion of a childhood locked room. I got that from the Fritzl case

Elisabeth Fritzl House Now

The property was bought by Herbert and Ingrid Houska for just £140,784 in 2016. They paid a massive amount for the renovation of the house and named the project “bury the past” and now rent out the ten flats for between £347 to £700. But the basement where Elisabeth was imprisoned is still not in used to prevent it from becoming a shrine to other perverts.