Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Báthory Erzsébet) is renowned for her atrocious crimes and has been a famous character in pop culture. However, many debate whether she was indeed a serial killer or not.
She was born in 1560 and was engaged to Ferenc Nádasdy at age 11. Unlike most women from that time, she was highly educated and spoke four languages. Her husband trusted her with managing the estate and business while he was leading the Hungarian troops at war with the Ottomans. They both had control over a wide land and they were the most powerful union in
. Unfortunately, with her
husband missing for battle, she gained interest in occultism and alchemy. Hungary
A lot of her sadistic behavior has been explained by the fact that she might have been mentally ill since she was young, due to inbreeding. Also, her husband was not very far from being as cruel as her and it seems that he “educated” her in his favorite ways of punishing servants. Some tales say that they were both involved in the occult art and participated in different satanic rituals, others say that her husband had no idea of his wife’s “hobbies”. However, one thing is certain: in those times torture and punishment were common, so people even considered cruelty to be a virtue.
While her husband was away she seemed to engage in sexual activities that were seen as perverse at the time, such as: adultery, bisexuality, masochism, and sadism. But the real atrocities started when the count died in battle, leaving Elizabeth and her children alone with his mother. First she got rid of her mother-in-law. Then, she started by torturing her servant girls along with accomplices such as Helena Jo, Dorothea Szentes, and Johannes Ujvary. Her torture methods included: beating her maidservants with barbed lash and heavy cudgel, dragging them naked in the snow and dousing them with cold water until they froze to death, and putting pins underneath their fingernails, armpits and genitals; she also bathed in the young girls’ blood, made different surgeries on her victims, starved them to death, bit their flesh, and sexually abused them.
Her accomplices testified and described certain tortures. Ficzko was very graphic about a specific torture:
“They tied the hands and arms very tightly with Viennese cord, they were beaten to death until the whole body was black as charcoal and their skin was rent and torn. One girl suffered more than two hundred blows before dying. Dorko [another accomplice and procurer] cut their fingers one by one with shears and then slit the veins with scissors.”
Ilona Joo admitted that she applied red-hot pokers in the mouth or nose of girls, stabbed them with needles and torn open their flesh with sharp pincers. She also enjoyed cutting the skin between her victim’s fingers.
A servant refused to testify against
and her eyes were poked and her
breast cut before she was executed by burning at stake. Elizabeth
Bathing in young girls’ blood might be just a legend. Apparently she discovered this when she slapped a young servant and when the girl’s blood touched her skin she thought it made her skin look young again. With this idea in her head, the countess started taking numerous blood baths that were supposed to reverse her aging process.
Her downfall began with Erszi Majorova, the successor accomplice of Darvula (who died in 1609) who advised her to start killing noble people. Although the deaths of peasants were overlooked, too many nobles dying was catching people’s attention and soon the Lutheran minister Istvan Magyari complained about her publicly. She was kept under strict house arrest because she was noble and any scandal would have disgraced the noble family that ruled
Transylvania at that time. The exact number of killed girls is unknown
but it has been speculated that it could be as high as 650. Some say that the
number of victims was approximately 32 while others even argue that she was a
victim of conspiracy (which could be a valid argument since it would be explained
by Hungarian history at the time).
On 30 December 1610 she was arrested along with four of her servants. As I mentioned earlier, she was put to house arrest but her servants were not noble so they didn’t received the same treatment. Three of them Dorota Semtész, Ilona Jó, and János Újváry were tortured and executed. Katarína Benická was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Although many historians believe that bathing in blood is just a legend made to impress an audience, the story of Elizabeth Bathory still influences culture today and has inspired countless fictional characters.