Monster in the Family

Lifetime has released another “Ripped From the Headlines” film. The “Ripped From the Headlines” films are projects based on actual events. The Lifetime film, Girl in the Basement, is about a young girl, looking forward to her 18th birthday, is imprisoned by her own father. It premiered on February 27 on Lifetime. The new movie is inspired by the Fritzl case. 

Josef Fritzel History

Josef Fritzl was born on April 9, 1935 in Amstetten, Austria. He married Rosemarie at the age of 21. Together, they had three sons and four daughters. Years later, he would lock up one of his daughters against her will.

Fritzl’s daughter, Elisabeth, was born on April 6, 1966. At the age of 17, Elisabeth ran away from home and headed towards Vienna. Police found her weeks later and returned to her parents. She started and completed a course to become a waitress. Fritzl started abusing his daughter in 1977. She was 11 years old.

When Elisabeth turned 18, Fritzl lured her into the basement of her home. He asked her for help in carrying a door. Little did she know that the door she was holding was the door that would keep her locked for years. Elisabeth helped Fritzl hold the door, while he installed it. Then, Fritzl soaked an ether-soaked towel on her daughter’s face. She fell unconscious. After, Fritzl threw her into the cell. 

The cell was a hidden cellar. Fritzl turned it into a prison cell. In addition, he installed a toilet, bed, washer, and refrigerator. The cell had a 16 ft corridor and was 590 sq ft. There were eight doors to lock the room. Two of the doors had an electronic locking device.

After, Elisabeth’s mother filed a missing persons report. Then, Fritzl gave police a letter from Elisabeth. The letter stated that she didn’t want to live with her family and to not look for her. Fritzl forced Elisabeth to write the letter.

For 24 years, Fritzl visited his daughter down in the cell. He would go every morning, claiming he was drawing plans for machines. Furthermore, he brought supplies such as food and often raped her.

Elisabeth’s Future

As a result, Elisabeth had seven children by her father. One of her children died after birth. Three of her children were sent to live with Fritzl and Rosemarie. They posed as their foster parents. Nevertheless, social workers never suspected anything during visits. The other three were living with Elisabeth in the basement.

The cellar where Elisabeth was kept used to be smaller, but Fritzl made Elisabeth and her children dig soil with their hands. Life went on down in the cellar for Elisabeth and her children. They had a television, radio, and a cassette player. They had food in the refrigerator and cooked on hot plates.

It has become a normal lifestyle. Fritzl brought flowers for Elisabeth and books and toys for the children. They called the cellar the “bunker.” Sometimes, Fritzl watched videos and ate dinner with his Elisabeth and children. Fritzl did have control over the electricity. He would turn off the power for days as punishment.

Most importantly, none of the children nor Elisabeth tried to escape. Fritzl threatened them if they tried anything. He claimed that they would get an electric shock if they interfered with the door. Also, he told the children he would gas them, but there was no gas supply in the basement.

During captivity, Fritzl claimed that he wasn’t raping his daugther and that it was consensual. However, he knew holding his daughter hostage was wrong, but it had become a normal thing for him. It made him feel like he was having a double life.

Fritzl chose to incarcerate his daughter because she wanted to discipline her. As a teenager, Elisabeth didn’t follow the rules. Therefore, he imprisoned her. Later reports revealed that that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t about discipline, but rather about Fritzl’s enjoyment.

A Ray of Light

On April 19, 2008, one of Elisabeth’s children fell unconscious and needed medical attention. Therefore, Fritzl and Elisabeth carried the child out of the cell. For the first time, Elisabeth saw the world again, but Fritzl forced her back inside the cell. They took the child to the hospital.

After, Fritzl claimed to have found a note by the child’s mother. The doctors started to piece Fritzl’s story together and found it confusing. They alerted the police. The police announced on television that the missing mother had come forward. Elisabeth’s missing person case was reopened.
They questioned Fritzl and he claimed that his daughter was in a cult. Elisabeth pleaded with her father to be taken to the hospital. He allowed it and they went to go see Elisabeth’s child. Following a tip-off from a doctor, police detained Elisabeth and Fritzl. She told police what happened during her 24 years in captivity. As a result, police arrested Fritzl.

The whole time, Elisabeth’s mother was unaware of what was happening beneath her home. Fritzl was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 15 years. 

The Lifetime film, Girl in the Basement depicts Elisabeth’s captivity. Scenes were changed and created for dramatic purposes. The film starred Stephanie Scott (Ant Farm) and Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club). Girl in the Basement is available to watch such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Lifetime.