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The evil that lurks within the hidden cellars of men's souls.

Byline: LORNE JACKSON

FOR a genuine understanding of life, it's always best to go to the experts.

Here's what Sherlock Holmes had to say to his old chum, Dr Watson: "Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.

"We could not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence.

"If we could y out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable."

Stripping Holmes's speech of its Victorian verbosity, what he's saying is that life is much more crazy than fiction.

How right he was; just think about it.

The horror writer, Stephen King, could never have imagined anything as abominable as the Holocaust.

And it would have been beyond the powers of even the most talented of disaster-movie directors to have devised September 11.

Meanwhile, none of the James Bond supervillains were as dastardly as Hitler, Stalin or Osama Bin Laden.

Then there's Josef - 'family man' - Fritzl, the Austrian dungeon master who imprisoned his daughter, Elisabeth, in a cellar underneath his house for 24 years, repeatedly raping her, then standing by while she gave birth to seven of his children.

This fiend isn't Dr Jekyll, Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter.

Fritzl is so much worse because he is so much more real. It's the details of the case that chill the blood.

The monster excused his actions by claiming he was merely trying to save his daughter from "the bad inuence of the outside world".

And what, I wonder, could be a more threatening inuence on Elisabeth than her deranged daddy?

Fritzl even had the audacity to boast about providing his imprisoned daughter with a washing machine.

Then there's the disturbing thought of Elisabeth, with no access to sunlight for over two decades, physically weakening.

Teeth rotting, hair turning prematurely grey.

But the most heart-rending revelation involved the trapped family's access to television.

Elisabeth didn't want her children to know that they were deprived of a better life in the outside world.

So when they were given a TV she told her children that the pictures on the screen were just fairytales, or had been beamed from another planet.

Such is the terror and anguish supplied by the real world.

EastEnders would never dare tackle a plot so depraved or sensational.

Even when our soaps attempt to dramatise wickedness, they do so in a cliched, ham-fisted way, supplying pantomime baddies, along with twodimensional psychological excuses for villainous actions.

One reason real life is more threatening than anything fiction can produce is that there are no easy answers.

In the Sherlock Holmes tales, written by Arthur Conan Doyle, the Great Detective almost always uncovers a rational explanation for criminal activity.

In real life, such answers aren't so readily available.

Last week it was claimed that Fritzl became deranged because he was raised in a country overrun by the Nazis.

But there are millions of Austrians in their seventies who never felt the compulsion to imprison their children underground for 24 years.

The truth is that there are no pat explanations why some men become monsters.

All we can ultimately conclude is that there are many cellars in this world, much like the one built by Josef Fritzl.

Only these ones are dug deep within the minds of the most heinous of men.

And they retain their grizzly secrets to the end.

CAPTION(S):

EVIL: Josef Fritzl, now and in his youth, and the cellar
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 11, 2008
Words:628
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