While any crime show has an aura of terror, those with elements of truth are by far the most harrowing. BINGE’s latest movie, Girl In The Basement has people discussing its incredibly concerning subject matter, but what some people might not realise, is that it’s actually based on a true story.
In 2008, Austria would reveal one of the worst humans known to man, who will forever be remembered as one of the sickest, most twisted criminals.
Below, the harrowing true story that inspired Girl In The Basement.
Who is Girl In The Basement based on?
In 2008, the world came to know of a man named Josef Fritzl, from Amstetten, Austria. While he presented himself as a devoted family man, he was concealing one of the most harrowing crimes imaginable, and even now, 14 years later, people are unable to forget the horrors he inflicted on his own daughter, 18-year-old Elisabeth Fritzl.
In August 1984, Josef lured Elisabeth into the basement of the family home, claiming he needed help carrying a door. What she didn’t know, was that he had spent months converting the basement into an underground prison, where he would keep her captive. After rendering her unconscious with a drug-soaked tea towel, Elisabeth would awake to find she was now trapped.
Her mother, Rosemarie, filed a missing person’s report, but Josef had already thought one step ahead, forcing Elisabeth to write a fake letter which claimed she had run away from home and urged the family not to look for her.
Elisabeth was held captive in the basement for 24 years and forced to endure countless assaults and rapes from Josef. During her time spent in captivity, she birthed seven children — three who lived in the basement with her, one who tragically passed as a result of breathing difficulties, and the remaining three, who were taken to live upstairs with Josef, Rosemarie and Elisabeth’s siblings, having been reported as abandoned babies.
Over the course of these years, Josef would visit Elisabeth on an almost daily basis, providing food and carrying out his assaults. They were allowed a television, radio and cassette player, with Elisabeth teaching the children how to read and write. He threatened each of them by claiming they would be gassed if they attempted to escape (which was later proven to be an empty threat, as there was no gas supply to the basement).
In 1994, following the birth of the fourth child, Josef approved the enlargement of the basement, but forced Elisabeth and her young children to dig through the soil with their own hands for years.
By 2008, Elisabeth’s eldest daughter Kerstin fell sick and required medical attention. Josef agreed to take her to the hospital, but left Elisabeth in the basement for the next week, waiting in agony to find out the fate of her child. At the hospital, medical staff were puzzled by Josef’s explanations of how he knew Kerstin and where her mother was. They were also incredibly concerned by her level of malnourishment and rotting teeth. It was at this point, that they reopened Elisabeth’s missing case file.
About a week later, Josef finally allowed Elisabeth to visit Kerstin at the hospital, but the police, who were waiting on standby, quickly detained both of them for questioning. At first, Elisabeth refused to cooperate until police assured her that she would never have to see her father again. Then, she spent the next two hours reliving the horror she had endured for the past several decades. That night, Fritzl, then aged 73, was arrested on suspicion of serious crimes against family members.
A few days later, DNA testing confirmed Fritzl as the biological father of his daughter’s children. The nightmare was finally over.
Josef pleaded guilty to charges of murder by negligence of his infant son as well as the decades of enslavement, incest, rape, coercion and false imprisonment of his daughter Elisabeth and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Police who entered the basement needed to undergo counselling after being in there for just a few hours, so it’s unimaginable to think of what Elisabeth and her children must have suffered through.
Where is Elisabeth Fritzl now?
Elisabeth is now in her fifties, but the most recent known photograph was taken when she was 16-years-old. Understandably, authorities have gone to great lengths to conceal Elisabeth’s identity from the public in hopes of giving her the most normal life possible.
She has taken on a new name since her release, and it is believed that she currently lives in an Austrian village referred to as “Village X” to keep its location hidden.
She lives with her children, whose ages now range from 19-33. They have all undergone therapy to work through their traumas, but it is reported that they all sleep with their bedroom doors permanently open.
Security guards are patrolling the two-story home 24/7 with constant CCTV surveillance. Though there is little public information about her post-imprisonment life, in 2019, reports claimed that Elisabeth and her bodyguard had “found love.”
Josef is still in prison, living out the rest of his days in Austria’s most secure psychiatric jail for mentally ill criminals.