Some say that Countess Elizabeth Báthory, considered by many to be the world’s worst female serial killer, was the true inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After all, legend has it that she bathed in the blood of at least 650 servant girls she had tortured and killed. She was said to be so evil that villagers kept their daughters in hiding for fear that Elizabeth would take them. Her gruesome activities even earned her such names as “the Infamous Lady” and “the Blood Countess.” This is her story.
Erzsébet Báthory, more commonly known in the Western world as Elizabeth, was born in 1560 to one of the most powerful Protestant families in Hungary at the time. She was the daughter of Baron George Báthory and Baroness Anna Báthory, who were both Báthorys by birth. Possibly stemming from inbreeding within her family, it is said that from an early age Elizabeth suffered from seizures, loss of control, and fits of rage. As a child, she witnessed the brutal punishments handed out by her family’s officers on their estates; one anecdote describes a gypsy accused of theft who was sewn up in the belly of a dying horse and left to die. Her family tree certainly included some disturbed kin as well. One of her uncles taught her Satanism, and she learned about sadomasochism from her aunt.
Elizabeth was married by the time she was 15 years old to Count Ferenc Nádasdy, a soldier who would go on to lead the armies of Hungary against Ottoman forces threatening Central Europe. After her marriage, the countess became the mistress of the Nádasdy estate, where the couple earned a reputation as harsh masters. Building upon her own cruelty, it is believed that Ferenc showed her some of his own ways of punishing his servants. After 10 years, Elizabeth gave birth to 3 daughters and a son.
Although the count participated in his wife’s torture activities, it wasn’t until the death of her husband in the early 1600s that Elizabeth’s true evil came to fruition. She eventually moved to one of her castles at Čachtice in northwest Hungary (now Slovakia) and began surrounding herself with a cohort of servants to help her with her torture practices. Legend has it that one day an attendant girl was brushing Elizabeth’s hair when she accidentally pulled too hard and it tugged on a snag in her hair. The countess erupted in anger, jumping up and striking the girl with the back of her hand. The strike was so hard that it made the girl bleed and some of that blood was left on Elizabeth’s hand. Later that night, Elizabeth noticed that the skin on her hand where the blood had been looked more youthful than she had seen it in many years. This gave her the idea that if such a small amount of blood could make her hand look so young, then more could restore youthfulness to her whole body. It’s said that this is when the madness began and Elizabeth started to bathe in the blood of virgin girls.
Young women began to disappear from villages near and far, as well as children. Unhappy girls were lured to the castle with the prospect that they would find work there but were never seen again. When they arrived, they were locked up in a cellar as they awaited torture. Elizabeth carried out much of the torture herself, often beating the girls to death. Sometimes she would sew a girl’s mouth shut, force her to eat her own flesh, or burn her genitals. When she was too sick to get out of bed to beat them, Elizabeth would order her servants to bring up a girl to her quarters where she would bite their faces and shoulders. In other instances, she would stick needles underneath the girl’s fingertips before cutting off the fingers of those who tried to take them out. Soon Elizabeth began to run out of young women, because she had either already taken them, or the villagers had started to hide their daughters out of fear that she would take them. This is when the countess began to resort to noble girls, a decision that would ultimately lead to her demise.
After the murder of one noble girl in 1609, which Elizabeth tried to stage as a suicide, the authorities finally decided to act. During a night raid, officials searched the castle and discovered the dead bodies of young girls everywhere they looked. Some were missing arms and eyes. One body was in the fireplace, not yet fully burned. Elizabeth was taken to trial and many testified against her, including her servants as well as survivors. One of the servants said that girls were tied up and beaten to death until their whole body was black as charcoal and their skin battered and torn. One girl suffered from 200 blows before dying. Another servant admitted that she had taken red-hot fire pokers and shoved them into the mouth of one girl. She said she placed her fingers in the mouth of another and pulled until the sides split open.
Finally, after hearing countless testimonies of the appalling activities that went on behind the castle’s walls, Elizabeth and her servants were convicted on 80 counts of murder, although evidence showed that as many as 650 females may have been killed in total. Her servants were sentenced to death, but Elizabeth was imprisoned for life in a room in her own castle that was boarded up with tiny slits for food and air. Elizabeth lived for 3 and a half years before she was found dead lying face down on the floor. After her death, Countess Elizabeth Báthory went down in history as one of the most evil women to ever have walked the planet.
- About the Countess. Infamous Lady website. http://www.infamouslady.com/about_the_ countess.html.
- Ramsland K. Lady of blood: Countess Bathory. Crime Library website. http://www.crimelibrary. com/serial_killers/predators/bathory/countess_1.html.
- Wirawan A. Legend of the female Dracula: Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Anita’s Notebook website. August 17, 2013. http://anitasnotebook.com/2013/08/legend-of-the-female-dracula-countess-elizabeth-bathory.html.