Underground in Austria for Freaks:
The original "Basements of Horrors" Tour

Originally, I had posted a YouTube Clip of Falco's 1985 song "Jeannie" here. Then I realised that it was copyright material and that I am responsible for a violation, even if it is hosted by youtube. "Jeannie" tells the story of a girl that gets kidnapped and disappears in a basement...

Because it doesn't always have to be "The Sound of Music"...

In summer of 2006, a young woman appeared in a garden in the small community of Strasshof an der Nordbahn in Lower Austria. I was working in England when I read the first news reports that described her appearance as rather strange: Pale skin, rather malnourished and behaving in a confused manner. Over the next hours, news updates happened suddenly and to the shock and awe first of the Austrian newsreaders, then of people all over the world, the pale, young lady turned out to be Natascha Kampusch.

She had been kidnapped ten years earlier, when she was a little girl on the way home from school. With time it turned out, that she had been kept like a medieval prisoner in the basement of a residential house. Her kidnapper, Wolfgang Prikopil who had not only a peculiar hairstyle but also enough common sense to understand that keeping girls as slaves in your basement is somewhat illegal, committed suicide on the day of Natascha′s escape.

In summer of 2008, a young woman appeared in a hospital in the small community of Amstetten in Lower Austria. I was working in Salzburg when I heard the first news reports on the radio after her real story was gradually revealed: The woman, who was unconscious and ill with some sort of strange disease, had been taken to the hospital by her grandfather; her mother was said to be member of some cult and not in touch with the grandparents. Three other children had been raised by them, since the mother was not able to take care of them. This was not quite the truth, as it turned out a little later.

Out of the cellar, into the Telly

In fact, as it was found out in the course of police investigations, the mother had been kept as a slave in the basement by her own father Josef F. (the grandfather of the unconscious patient with the mysterious disease). In the basement, he had fathered seven children with her, of whom four (including the unconscious girl) were raised in captivity in the cellar of the family′s house. With a basement net-time of 18 years and several victims, the Amstetten case even bet the story of Natascha Kampusch. Poor Natascha re-gained some media attention a little later, though, by starting her own TV talk show in the style of a poor man′s Opera Winfrey.

International media understandably loved the stories and both Strasshof and Amstetten; the towns looked like the media office of the United Nations′ headquarter for days and weeks. After things had settled a bit, the TV news reported visits to both Strasshof and Amstetten by tourists who were interested in seeing the "houses of horrors". This is rather surprising, since both towns are unappealing and not interesting at all even for the creepiest of all tourists.

That being said, if torture basements are your kind of thing, there is no need to go to Strasshof or Amstetten - Austria got ways better facilities of this kind in much more appealing locations! In this article, I have put together an overview of venues that will finally prove that underground rape, torture, murder and child abuse are anything but rare in Austrian cellars!

Continue with "Austria for Freaks - Part II"

back to "tours & trips"

Further Reading

Spiegel Online on Natascha Kampusch

Official Website of Natascha Kampusch (don't ask...)

Detailed account on the Amstetten / Fritzl Case on Wikipedia