Human beings are resilient creatures. We can lose limbs, undergo unbelievable physical and mental trauma, and face countless setbacks in our personal lives and yet despite all this, can ascend past it and continue living. Yet, the scars from these ordeals, whether great or mean, remain with us.
In 1998, a 10-year-old Austrian girl named Natascha Kampusch found herself in a situation that no child should ever find themselves in. Over the next decade she fought past the torment of her situation and found a way to carry on: though the scars of the experience still remained…
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Walking to School
Natascha Kampusch was just 10 years old when she was stopped on the way home from school by a man in a white van. Anyone today would be familiar with the path this unfortunate tale was about to take, but 10-year-old Natascha had no idea what was about to happen.
Natascha’s parents immediately informed the police, but the ensuing search proved fruitless. For the next eight years, Natascha would remain a helpless prisoner to her merciless kidnapper: a man who no one would have ever expected to commit such a deplorable act…
Wolfgang Priklopil seemed like any other communications technician. He was an unassuming, quiet man possessed of high intellect and a withdrawn personality. No one suspected that hidden in the basement of his Vienna home was a cramped dungeon cell, housing an innocent 10-year-old girl.
Priklopil had taken Natascha home with him and shoved her, naked and afraid, into the tiny, windowless, soundproof basement beneath his house. For six months, the 10-year-old was stuck in that tiny cell. Then, once he was sure she was broken, the kidnapper brought her up into the main house…
The poor girl didn’t know it at the time but Priklopil had obsessive compulsive disorder, and as such, required that nothing be dirty or out of place inside his home: including Natascha. She was forced to cater to all of his OCD-driven whims. It had been his plan all along, she was going to become his slave.
Clean it All
Natascha was forced to clean the house from top to bottom, scrubbing every stain and speck of dirt from every corner under threat of punishment. If she missed a spot, Priklopil would beat her savagely and withhold meals, water, and even bathroom privileges. And things got worse from there…
Bald and Obedient
One of Priklopil’s greatest pet peeves was hair. He hated it so much that he even made Natascha wear a plastic bag over her head at almost all times. Eventually though, after finding several stray hairs around, he shaved her head completely bald. She didn’t even put up a fight.
The kidnapper fed Natascha only the meagerest of meals. She was so malnourished over the course of her time there that by the time she turned 18, she’d only grown six inches and weighed less than 100 pounds. Unfortunately, constant chores and near-starvation weren’t the worst of it by far…
Natascha was subjected to constant physical and psychological torture. For nearly a decade she was abused, beaten, starved, and treated like Priklopil’s personal sex slave. She was kept naked much of the time and was not allowed shoes at all.
Some Kind of Love
Despite all this, Natascha still felt something like love for her kidnapper. Priklopil was the only person she had known for eight years and she felt a sense of comfort in knowing he was there. It was obviously Stockholm Syndrome, but it wasn’t like she had any choice otherwise…
It was as if Priklopil had two distinct parts of his personality. There was the one on the outside, the handsome, though quiet man with a pleasant, yet detached demeanor. But there was also the dark side, the brutal abuser with no conscience and no patience, who demanded abject obedience from Natascha.
Clean the Car
On the afternoon of August 23, 2006, Priklopil instructed his slave to clean his car. She was to clean it just as she had everything else, thoroughly and completely, from top to bottom. As she knelt in the back driveway, vacuuming out the car seats, she felt absurdly hungry. He had forced her to make breakfast for him, but had allowed her nothing to eat…
At around 12.56 p.m., Priklopil’s cell phone rang and he walked away from the car to speak to the caller. Normally, he would have watched her carefully, as he had always done, but the vacuum’s whirring sound meant he had to step back to hear his caller. The momentary distraction was her only chance.
Normally, the gate to the back yard was closed or blocked with heavy objects, but on this day, it had been opened to allow the car to drive up. She ran to the gate, opened it and dashed down the street to a neighbor’s house as fast as she could. After knocking furiously a few times, she finally got an answer: she was saved at last…
Death of a Maniac
Police immediately went after Priklopil, who had fled the house the moment that Natascha had run off. He knew that if they found him it would all be over. Later that day, Wolfgang Priklopil jumped in front of a train, killing himself instantly. Of course, some believe that he may have been forced in front of the train.
An Eerie Time Capsule
Today, the outdated home where Natascha was kept appears almost untouched. It stands as a sort of eerie, twisted time capsule to her period in captivity. Eerier still is the fact that despite everything that happened to her there, Natascha Kampusch still visits the home…every week in fact…
Keeping it Up
Natascha inherited the home after her kidnapper’s death and didn’t really know what to do with it. So she did the only thing she knew to do, she continued to clean it from stem to stern, every single weekend: just as she was instructed to do when Priklopil lorded over her. The only difference in the house is that her basement cell has been filled in and boarded up.
According to Natascha herself, the meticulous cleaning is something like therapy for her. Though she is still seeing a therapist to help her deal with the lingering effects of her eight years’ abuse, coming to the house helps calm her and cleaning it under her own steam helps her feel as if she finally has control…
But why, you may ask, did Natascha not simply sell the house, or else burn it to the ground? Why would she want to keep the place where her childhood was stolen around? Well, the reason behind this is actually fairly simple. It seems to be a matter of protecting both herself and the house. She didn’t want the house to become some sort of curiosity to others.
Success at a Cost
All things considered, Natascha is doing alright for herself these days. She’s made millions on TV interviews, books, and even a movie collaboration over the years. Yet, despite all this, she still remains, in many ways, the same lost little girl trapped in captivity. It seems there are some scars that will never heal, no matter what we do.