The Blood Countess
Legend has turned Elizabeth Báthory into the Blood Countess. But the legends are not far from the truth of her crimes. Elizabeth Báthory had an insatiable lust for blood, sex and most importantly murder. She is the most prolific female serial killer in history. Claiming over 600 lives during her 35-year career, Báthory has immortalized herself in history as a vampire femme fatale.
Elizabeth Báthory was a 16th Century Hungarian noblewoman, born in 1560 into one of the most important clans in Central Europe. Her brothers and cousins were princes, bishops and warriors. But behind the façade of nobility and prestige, the Báthory family had an ugly side. Prone to fits of epilepsy and madness, the inbred Báthory’s were known to cruelly torture peasants. As a young girl, Elizabeth had witnessed her father torture a gipsy in court before cutting open a horse and sewing the gipsy inside.
By the time an extremely sexually active 15-year-old Elizabeth was to marry, she had seen her fair share of violence. Her husband, Ferenc Nádasy was to open her eyes to a new world of sexually sadistic torture techniques. The couple worked together to brutally torture their servant girls, each time reaching new levels of depravity. Nádasy was an evil man. Many reports show that one of his favourite torture techniques was to pour honey on a servant girl then throw her outside and watch wasps sting her for days on end. But the student was soon to surpass the teacher.
After her husband’s death in 1604, Elizabeth became truly vicious. Not only did she have the wealth and privilege she also had complete power to do as she wished- a potent combination in the hands of a sadist like Elizabeth. She was left in charge of 10 castles and estates stretching across Hungary and Transylvania. Her castle in Cachtice (modern-day Slovakia) became her main torturing grounds.
Elizabeth Báthory had a fascination with young virgin servant girls. She would burn their pubic hair with candles; bite off chunks of flesh from their bodies; rip open their jaws in fits of rage and ordered her seamstresses to work in the nude. And of course, she slaughtered them. The Countess was aided in her depraved acts by 3 servants, her wet nurse Helena Jo, a ‘witch’ known as Dorka and a disfigured dwarf named Ficzko- yeah you really cannot make these things up.
Many servant girls from the towns surrounding her castles ended up missing. Bodies were found unburied in cemeteries, on street corners and in the gardens surrounding Elizabeth’s castles. The peasants feared the Countess, many hiding their daughters from her. But Elizabeth’s crimes only became an issue with the ruling class when her choice of victim changed. She invited a singer from her church in Vienna to perform at her castle. When the girl failed to impress the Countess, she tortured and killed her in a fit of rage. But the girl was not ordinary peasant that would not be missed, she was of noble birth.
The King of Hungary ordered an investigation of her castle in Cachtice. On entering the troops found the body of a mutilated servant girl. Many other dead and dying girls were found in the castle in various states of mutilation. The true extent of her crimes was exposed and threatened to shake the delicate power balance the Hungarian upper classes fought so hard to maintain. 270 witnesses were interviewed, many of them peasants, but Elizabeth Báthory was never put on trial. Her assistants, however, were tried and executed for her crimes. Dorka and Helena Jo were tried as witches. Their fingernails were ripped off and they were burned alive. Ficzko was beheaded.
In an attempt to preserve the respectability of the upper classes in Hungary Elizabeth was locked in her castle in Cachtice and many records about her life were destroyed.
The legend of the Blood Countess or the Countess Dracula
In books and in movies Elizabeth has been portrayed as a vampire murderess with a powerful bloodlust. As legend has it one day a servant girl brushed the Countesses hair too hard. This angered Elizabeth and she punched the servant in the face hard enough to draw blood. She looked at her blood-stained hands and realised that the blood had rejuvenating properties. This sparked the Countesses bloodlust. From then on, she slaughtered her virgin servant girls drinking and bathing in pints of their blood in order to restore her youthful appearance.
There is no evidence to suggest that Elizabeth Báthory drank the blood of her victims to restore her youth. But the sexually sadistic nature of her crimes makes the vampire stories extremely believable.