Upon first reading the horrific story of 73-year-old Austrian Josef Fritzl, who locked his daughter, Elisabeth, in the family cellar in 1984 and proceeded to allegedly father as many as seven of her children, my reaction was damn, that is some V.C. Andrews shit. But then I read more of the reports, and I can no longer relate Fritzl's crime to a campy, pop culture artifact: Keeping your daughter and half of her children locked for over two decades in what authorities describe as a damp, narrow "series of underground rooms equipped for sleeping and cooking," according to the BBC, is nothing short of evil. CNN reports that on August 8, 1984 Fritzl's daughter, the now 42-year-old Elisabeth, was enticed by her father "into the basement, where he drugged her, put her in handcuffs and locked her in a room." Elisabeth, who had been sexually abused by Josef since she was 11, was reported missing two weeks later.
This crime, perpetrated in the town of Amstetten, 93 miles outside of Vienna, was only discovered because Elisabeth's 19-year-old daughter, Kerstin, became so seriously ill that she had to go to the hospital. A DNA test done on Kersten showed that Josef was her biological father, and that set off an investigation that uncovered Josef's "house of horrors," as many papers are calling it. One of the more bizarre aspects of the gruesome tale is that Josef's wife, Elisabeth's mother Rosemarie, reportedly didn't know about what was going on in her cellar, and thought the three children that she and Josef were raising above ground were left on their doorstep by the still-"missing" Elisabeth.
The case is somewhat of a national embarrassment for Austria, as in 2006, it was discovered that a woman named Natascha Kampusch had been held in a cellar for 8 years by an abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, who had kidnapped her when she was 10 years old. Austrian newspaper Der Standard said in an op-ed about the crimes, "The entire nation must ask itself just what is fundamentally going wrong."
All six of the children — three boys and three girls — who were raised in the Fritzl's household are now in the care of authorities. There was a seventh child, who was the twin of another one of the children, but it died shortly after birth and was thrown into an incinerator by Josef. Police spokesman Franz Polzer told the BBC, "[The children] are being cared for individually - those between 12 and 16 years of age who grew up with their grandparents, and two boys who, when they came out yesterday with their mother, saw the daylight for the first time in their lives."