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The Blood Countess: The Real Vampire Of The 16th Century.

Updated on January 1, 2016

Who was the Blood Countess?

Elizabeth Bathory, also known as the Blood Countess of Hungary, was one of the world's most sadistic, intriguing and prolific female mass murderer of all time. She was born on August 7, 1560, into Protestant nobility. Her family controlled Transylvania, while her uncle was the king of Poland. Her religious tolerance is also documented, since she allowed Lutherans of free expression of religion on her lands, and helped finance the building of schools and the education of Lutheran ministers. It's told that she was pledged in marriage with Ferencz Nádasdy, but 1 year later she had a child by a lover. Count Ferencz odrered to have him castrated and then ripped apart by dogs. The daughter she had was locked away from prying eyes. She married Count Ferencz Nádasdy at the age of 15, and by 1595, she had four children. In total she had 7 children, most of which became very important in society. While growing up, one of her uncles taught her about Satanism, while one of her aunts taught her about sadomasochism, (which is the practice of causing pain and humiliation, in order to get sexual gratification). Some people explain her sadism as a mental illness, resulting from inbreeding in her family tree. According to Dr. Irma Szádeczky-Kardoss ,the Ecsed and Somlya branches of the Bathory family had separated many generations before the marriage of Elizabeth’s parents. Anna Bathory of Somlya and György Bathory of Ecsed were separated by seven generations from their last common ancestor, which comes to a two-hundred-year distance and six intervening ancestors on each side.

Portrait of Elizabeth Bathory, by unknown artist
Portrait of Elizabeth Bathory, by unknown artist

Why is she nicknamed The Blood Countess?

Elizabeth Bathory is not only known for being one of the most interesting female serial killers of all time. She was also known for practicing vampirism. It all began one day when one of her servants made a mistake while combing her hair. Overcome with anger the Countess struck the girl in the face, drawing blood that splashed on her. It is said that she tasted the blood and enjoyed it. She would also vent her anger on the young girls, which led to her searching for more inventive ways to get a thrill. After torturing and murdering young virgins, her servants would drain her victims blood, in order for her to drink it and bathe in it. She believed that by doing so, she preserved her youth. Modern science might have an explanation as to why drinking blood made her feel younger. There's records of her also biting and consuming her victims flesh. Forensic Anthropologist, Dr. Janis Amatuzio, believes that Elizabeth was iron deficient. Before iron replacement therapy, women would lose blood from their menstrual cycle, so many women were iron deficient, which means that their hemoglobin levels dropped. Since blood is such a rich source of iron, it's possible that she felt her skin become more vibrant, and got a rosy color on her cheeks, because she had in fact, an iron deficiency.

How did the torture begin?

The Countess began torturing young girls, with the help of her husband. Together they committed cruel acts on peasant girls they lured to the castle on the promise of well-paid work, in order to fulfill her macabre fantasies. According to Jesuit scholar László Turóczi, who wrote the book called Tragica Historia, a century after her death, Elizabeth tortured her victims by starving, freezing, rigorous beatings, burning and mutilation. She was also known for rubbing honey on her victims and leaving them to be attacked by bees or ants. Another form of tortured she used was pushing pins under her victims fingernails. Her husband most likely helped her contain some of her extreme impulses and fantasies, but that all changed after his death in 1604. With the help of a local witch, Dorotta Szentes and her nurse, Ilona Joo, she continued her long streak of unspeakable acts.

The end of her murderous streak.

After years of murdering peasant girls, she eventually ran low on girls to feed her horrific habits, so she found another source among the local noble families. After her husband's death, rumors of her cruelty began to surface, but were ignored by the king, since she was also royalty. After noble families began sending her their daughters in order to be taught good manners, and never returned, the King appointed Elizabeth's cousin,György Thurzó, to investigate the Countess in 1610. During the investigation, it is said that authorities collected testimony from more than 300 witnesses, whom no one was hurt by the Countess and had never witnessed the real events, including nobles, priests and servants. Today's records show documentation of only 13 witnesses. She was arrested the same year along with her 4 favorite servants, who were tried as her accomplices. Thurzó was able to convince the king to not let the Countess be put on trial, to avoid shaming the aristocracy. Three of her accomplishes received the death penalty and were burned at the stake, while the fourth one received life imprisonment. In total she is said to have murders around 80- 650 young girls. The Countess was imprisoned in Čachtice Castle, in a windowless room with only small openings for ventilation and receiving food. She died 4 years later in 1614, but the terrors are still haunting the people living in the town of her reign.

Present Day

Her castle was abandoned in 1701, but visitors can still hike to the town of Cachtice and observe it from a distance, even though it is now in ruins. Also, it is said that the diary of Elizabeth still exists, even though no one really knows where it is today. One can only imagine the horrors described in it. Elizabeth is still among the top of various internet lists of serial killers world-wide, and her case is one of the most fascinating ones I've ever come across.

The Cachice castle, in present day Slovakia.
The Cachice castle, in present day Slovakia.
Drawing of what the castle looked like.
Drawing of what the castle looked like.

Which serial killer is more fascinating?

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      Connor Boyd 23 months ago

      Good read, I remember hearing about her in one of my European History classes.