Friday, October 16, 2009

#77 - Long Term Kidnappers

It was the decade when...

It was trendy to lock your children up for years in horrific dungeon-like scenarios.

In the annals of psychopathology the serial killer has reigned supreme; a media darling inspiring countless movies, books, and TV shows, the serial killer has been everyone's favorite brand of psycho since a nut with a knife and deerstalker cap prowled the streets of foggy Whitechapel. The names are household: Bundy, Gacy, the Zodiac, Dahmer, the last of whom must take the cake when it comes to pure satanic salaciousness. But the stream of media-friendly psycho murderers had all but sputtered to a drip by the time the Aughts rolled around; wackos no longer posess the theatricality to send taunting, cryptic letters to newspapers (probably because no one reads them anymore) or moonlight as birthday party clowns. The stage was set for a new kind of monster to keep us awake an night. Ladies and Gentlemen, for your consideration may I present to you Mr. Josef Fritzl.

Successful electrical engineer, proud Austrian, devoted family man, Fritzl was a poster boy for middle-class mundanity. A father of seven with his devoted wife Rosemarie, his daughter Elisabeth was his favorite child. The sexual abuse started at age 11. Seven years later, faced with the prospect of losing his daughter to the world, Fritzl built an elaborate bunker underneath his backyard, lured 18 year old Elisabeth into it, knocked her out with ether and locked her inside...for 24 years-a captive beneath her own home. Frequently raping her in the new subterranean dwelling, Fritzl sired seven children with Elisabeth, all but one of whom survived infancy (Josef incinerated the lone fatality). The dungeon being too small for a full family Von Trapp, Fritzl raised three of the children upstairs with Rosemarie, claiming that his daughter (who, according to Fritzl's front story had joined a religious cult) left the children on their doorstep. Ping-Ponging back and forth between families in some kind of sick farce, Fritzl avoided detection for over two decades, his wife Rosemarie (she claims) believing the cult story all the while; the neighbors were totally oblivious. Only when one of the dungeon children had a medical emergency did Fritzl allow Elisabeth to again see light of day to take her sick child to the hospital. The facade quickly came crashing down, and Fritzl's chambers of horrors was exposed to a shocked public.

Right now you are probably thinking, "Holy Fucking Christ, I think that is the most fucked up story I have ever heard." And indeed, you'd be correct. This is the most fucked up story you have ever heard. This is the most fucked up story I have ever heard. This is the most fucked up story anyone has ever heard. And the award for sickest mother-fucker in history goes to: Josef Fritzl. Now, someone get Michael Haneke to make the movie.

If Fritzl was a one-off, a true lone nut, as horrifying as this story is, you'd nAUGHT want to remember. But sadly, Fritzl was but one in a bizarre and unsettling criminal trend to take hold in the Aughts: the long-term kidnapper. Now, no other psycho out there quite went "the full Fritzl" but, in what must be some aberrant schizo meme, the similarities with Austria's demonic Dad were often dismaying.

Even before Fritzl's dungeon was discovered Austria was aghast with the story of Natascha Kampusch, a ten-year old girl kidnapped by communication technician Wolfgang Priklopil in 1998. She was held in a custom-built basement dungeon (isn't it hard to build a dungeon?) for eight years before she escaped. Showing a modicum of self-awareness, Prikopil had the good sense to jump in front of a train when he discovered that his captive had escaped. Kampusch has gone on to become a television host in Austria and animal rights activist. She currently owns Prikopil's old house, and, according to some reports, lives there. She will soon auction off some dungeon items for "good causes." It's like Elie Wiesel summering at Belsen. Weird.

There was an Australian Fritzl, who trapped his daughter from age 11 and gave birth to four children with her, three of whom survived despite severe health problems. This freak was just discovered this year. There was an Italian Fritzl, also caught in 2009, who imprisoned and raped his own daughter for 25 years, sometimes with his son participating in the festivities. (It seems that these liaisons bore no fruit of the womb - thank god.) The son would abuse his own daughters as well, imitating his father as best he could. There was a British Fritzl who, though he had no "dungeon," relocated his family often to avoid detection. He frequently raped both his daughters, and, over the course of 25 years, fathered nine children/grandchildren with them. He impregnated them a total of 19 times but lost 10 to either miscarriages or terminations. He was caught in 2008. Finally, also in 2009, there was a Colombian Fritzl who locked up and raped his adopted daughter for 25 years.

Jesus. H. Christ.

Thankfully, America has yet to produce a true Fritzl but the recent discovery of Jaycee Lee Duggard, kidnapped and held captive for 18 years over which time she gave birth to two daughters, is a case study that comes close. At least the captor in this particular horror show was a delusional stranger (with a blog no less).

One things for certain, the Aughts certainly gave a new meaning to the phrase "family values."

You AUGHT to remember.

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