Elizabeth Bathory: Insatiable Bloodlust
In an era where vampire legends were widespread and the belief in the dead rising from their graves ran rampant, a truly sinister figure emerged. Far beyond the fictional accounts of Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Hollywood’s more recent depictions of evil entities, there was a being with an insatiable bloodlust.
This creature’s actions were far from fiction. They were deeply rooted in reality and caused alarm amongst those who became familiar with its gruesome acts.
The identity of the creature was not that of a nobleman with supernatural powers, but that of a human being whose depravity knew no bounds. This individual took pleasure not only in killing but also in drinking the blood of the victims.
The twisted nature of this creature’s killings surpassed even the most macabre imaginations of horror writers. It is a chilling reminder that true evil can exist within the confines of our own species and that the human capacity for malice knows no bounds.
400 years ago, in the Little Carpathian Mountains, a true monster lived. The real-life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula was someone far more horrific than any horror hero – Countess Elizabeth Báthory.
Báthory was consumed by sadism, bloodlust, cruelty, cannibalism, necrophilia, and lesbian sex. She earned her place in history as one of the world’s most heinous female serial killers, with a murder tally potentially reaching up to 600 victims. Her unfathomable acts were carried out on young girls of peasant stock from the villages surrounding Cachtice Castle.
Victims of Báthory suffered indescribably at her hands – being beaten, starved, pierced with needles, mutilated in their faces and genitalia, and even having flesh bitten off. Báthory derived immense sexual pleasure from consuming her victim’s blood.
Sadly, it was an era where the value of human life for peasants was little. Even worse in the eyes of the aristocracy, a popular uprising in 1514 was ruthlessly quashed resulting in barbaric punishment. The serfs were impaled on spikes, dismembered, disemboweled or burned alive. George Dosza, the leader of the revolt, was slow-roasted on an iron chair. Afterward, his lieutenants were forced to eat his flesh before they met their demise on the wheel and with hanging.
The atrocities committed by Countess Báthory serve as a haunting reminder that true evil knows no bounds when it comes to humanity.
The world into which Elizabeth Báthory was born was a dystopian nightmare. Cruelty and violence were accepted sins by the gentry, who held total power over their servants. With hundreds of servants to oversee, the wealthy and mighty Báthory family had no shortage of subjects to dominate.
Despite being educated in an array of languages at her childhood home, Ecsed Castle, it was the education she received from her family and peers that shaped her destiny.
At the young age of ten, Elizabeth witnessed a visiting gypsy musician’s execution, accused of selling his child to the Turks, merely for the amusement of the castle’s occupants. The man denied the charge, but only when money was found on him that he couldn’t account for was his fate sealed: death. Elizabeth found the entire ordeal amusing, and she couldn’t resist hiding in the courtyard before dawn to watch as a soldier slit open a horse’s belly and thrust the man inside, leaving just his head above the gaping wound.
Sadly, she was not a stranger to savagery. Just three years later, a peasants’ uprising was violently suppressed, with 54 rebellious serfs having their noses and ears sliced off before being hanged. Elizabeth was learning well and was ruthless with disobedient servants. However, it was her relative who introduced her to the stunning depths of depravity.
In an era where nobility intermarried within the same circle, resulting in deformities and mental deficiencies, Elizabeth’s family members were no exceptions. A brother with lecherous tendencies and a drinking problem, an epileptic uncle obsessed with devil worship, and a bisexual aunt who delighted in lesbian orgies and sadistic torturing of servants.
The doctors of the time believed that drinking the fresh blood of healthy peasants could remedy weakened bloodlines. And so it was that Elizabeth spent much time with her aunt, discovering a taste for blood along with her first torture techniques while opening a new chapter in her own sexuality.
Elizabeth’s horrifically twisted nature would ultimately lead to her infamy as one of the world’s most notorious female serial killers, with a death toll that was beyond imagining.
Elizabeth Báthory’s sexual preferences were not confined to solely women, even though her sadistic tendencies were predominantly directed towards female servants. At the age of 11, she was promised in marriage to a gruff Count five years her senior, Ferenc Nádasdy. Nádasdy soon grew into a national hero, leading Hungry’s army against Turkish forces in a war that began in 1578. However, he also developed a reputation for brutality.
Elizabeth never let herself be constrained by faithfulness and took part in sexual games with favored servant lads while living with her aunt and future mother-in-law at Nádasdy Castle in Sárvár. She even dressed as a boy on such occasions until she found herself pregnant, causing her wedding to be postponed. Elizabeth was then sent away from the castle to a remote Báthory estate for her confinement, and her newborn child was given a local peasant as per custom, along with hush money.
Nádasdy and Elizabeth were finally united in marriage in Vranov nad Toplou in 1575, achieving high society status for their nuptials. Count Nádasdy willingly took on his new bride’s last name owing to her elevated position, even gifting Elizabeth his home, Cachtice Castle near Trencñn, which would become the scene of great infamy.
At just 15 years old, Elizabeth was developing into a real beauty. However, her young husband’s attention was hard to hold onto, as he was devoted to his military career. So the new Countess enlisted the services of particularly well-endowed servant boys as her personal studs and spent extended periods with her twisted aunt.
Bloodlust Never Quenched
As she ran Cachtice Castle with an iron grip, Elizabeth’s discipline of the staff went beyond what was typical even by the era’s brutal standards. It was not unusual for Elizabeth to brutally beat her girls, bare and pierced with pins through their lips. If a servant girl found coins and failed to relinquish them, she was forced to stand naked in the castle courtyard while the coins were heated and pressed into her hands.
Eyewitnesses later testified about Elizabeth’s love of abusing her female servants, which built up towards the infamous blood legend that she is known for today.
Elizabeth Báthory derived just as much pleasure from watching her trusted older servants cause pain and death as she did from inflicting the beatings herself. According to one of these trusted helpers, Dorothea Szentes, Elizabeth’s preferred method involved binding a girl’s hands tightly behind their backs before savagely attacking every part of their body. Elizabeth’s bloodlust was not quenched until the victim breathed their last breath.
As Elizabeth’s appetite for torture grew, the punishments inflicted on servant girls became more gruesome. She inserted pins under victim’s fingernails, then invited them to pull them out if they could endure the pain. If any of the girls pulled out the pin, they had their fingers cut off with a pair of shears.
Another twisted game Elizabeth learned from her aunt was ‘star-kicking,’ where pieces of paper were strategically placed between the toes of a girl, set alight, and watched her kick in excruciating agony. Once, a servant suffered severe burns when Elizabeth lit her pubic hair on fire with a candle.
Even Elizabeth’s husband, Count Nádasdy, got in on the tormenting. Though he did not torture his victims to death, he enjoyed maltreating peasants. One girl endured 24 hours stripped naked, smeared with honey, and left outside where she was bitten and stung by insects after Nádasdy dipped her in oil for more pleasurable agony.
Every home Elizabeth lived in, except for the castle given to her by the Nádasdy family, had a designated torture chamber usually situated in the laundry room due to the inevitable mess. Almost all of her female servants eventually found themselves within these chambers after committing a minor infraction. Girls later noted receiving punishment as often as ten times a day through later testimony.
Legend has it that due to her bloodline weakened by intermarriage, Elizabeth Bathory was prescribed the medical beliefs of drinking human blood for its purported health benefits. However, even more terrifying tales suggest she went a step further and indulged in bathing in blood to maintain a youthful appearance. Although there is no substantial evidence supporting these claims, they led to modern nicknames such as ‘Blood Countess’ and ‘Countess Dracula,’ as well as comparisons to Vlad the Impaler of Wallachia upon whom the fictional Count Dracula was based.
Bloodbaths Begin After Blood-Kissed Skin
As time passed, Elizabeth’s beauty began to fade, leading her to stare into mirrors for hours at a time. One day, while being groomed by a servant girl, the girl accidentally tugged Elizabeth’s hair. Enraged, Elizabeth slapped the girl with so much force that it drew blood. To her surprise, she noticed that the area of her skin where the blood had touched was whiter and more transparent. This event supposedly led to the legend that Elizabeth had found her fountain of youth and that henceforth, her life would be a literal bloodbath.
After the death of her husband in 1604, Elizabeth’s reign of terror entered a relentless phase, which began when Anna Darvulia joined the household. As a lesbian and a sadist, it’s presumed that Elizabeth loved her. Darvulia joined two other long-time assistants of Elizabeth, Helena Jo (Paul’s wet nurse) and Dorothea Szentes. The only male allowed an active role in sexual sadism was Janos Ficzko, a crippled dwarf who served as another henchman. According to later testimony, these three stalwarts claimed that Darvulia’s arrival marked the beginning of the most horrible atrocities under Elizabeth’s rule.
Anna, a newcomer to Elizabeth’s household, introduced the macabre practice of freezing torture. She would drag girls into the bitter cold snow, strip them naked, and pour water over them until they froze to death. Elizabeth particularly enjoyed this method because it kept the blood fresh for days.
For any minor transgressions, the punishment would be severe. For instance, one maid who had not pressed Elizabeth’s clothes appropriately had a hot iron thrust into her face, leaving a massive scorched wound. On other occasions, Elizabeth would stick her fingers into a girl’s mouth and pull until it split.
Those who tried to escape were not spared either; one 12-year-old who endeavored to flee was dipped in a river and left to freeze to death. Another girl escaped but was caught and put inside an iron maiden cage filled with spikes and left to dangle from a rope. As she was too slight, the spikes missed her body at first, so Elizabeth had the ropes pulled until the spikes did their deadly work and stripped her skin off.
Jewelled Maidens Of Iron
Elizabeth had iron maidens in most of her many homes and castles. While some were simple cages that had a spring mechanism inside them that released spikes, others were more elaborate, resembling works of art. Strangely enough, some of these maidens were modelled like a slim and beautiful girl.
One such decoration had a jeweled necklace, precious stones for nipples and navel, and pubic hair below. However, it concealed a fatal secret: One of the stones triggered another mechanism that made spikes shoot outwards. Elizabeth’s game comprised coaxing an unwitting servant girl, who inevitably was naked, to polish her “ornament” while waiting breathlessly until the girl touched the wrong button and died screaming in agony.
Around this time, Elizabeth’s twisted tastes began escalating into barbarism. During torture sessions, she started biting girls’ flesh. If drinking blood was acceptable to gain strength, then eating flesh was only a mere step away. There was one occasion when she was confined to bed due to illness. However, this did not stop her from having one of her old women bring a girl to her chambers and strip her naked. As the girl was held by the bed, Elizabeth bit mouthfuls of flesh from her face, shoulder, and breast.
Elizabeth began storing the bodies under her bed, but it wasn’t just for necrophilia that she kept them there. She had another motive.
The story of Elizabeth Bathory is one that sends shivers down one’s spine. She would torture, mutilate and murder servant girls that came under her employ. Anna, a newcomer to Elizabeth’s household, introduced the macabre practice of freezing torture. She would drag girls into the bitter cold snow, strip them naked, and pour water over them until they froze to death. Elizabeth particularly enjoyed this method because it kept the blood fresh for days.
For any minor transgressions, the punishment would be severe. For instance, a maid who had not pressed Elizabeth’s clothes appropriately had a hot iron thrust into her face, leaving a massive scorched wound. On other occasions, Elizabeth would stick her fingers into a girl’s mouth and pull until it split. Those who tried to escape were not spared either; one 12-year-old who endeavoured to flee was dipped in a river and left to freeze to death.
Another girl escaped but was caught and put inside an iron maiden cage filled with spikes and left to dangle from a rope. As she was too slight, the spikes missed her body at first, so Elizabeth had the ropes pulled until the spikes did their deadly work and stripped her skin off.
Dead Bodies Everywhere
With so many dead bodies, disposing of them became problematic for Elizabeth. Her son-in-law once found a skeleton in the garden while his dogs were wandering around. At another time, bodies piled up so much that Elizabeth’s castle had to be abandoned due to the unbearable stench.
Elizabeth’s own handwriting documented these horrific acts. According to one of her servants’ testimony during her trial in 1611, over the years, she was responsible for the deaths of 650 girls and women. This number may be conservative. Accomplices who stood trial with Elizabeth even revealed they threw bodies into fruit pits, small canals, and in the path of roaming wolves. The local church refused to bury them.
A local pastor, Ponikenusz, denounced Elizabeth in a letter to his superior. He wrote that she made young boys eat roasted flesh and other girls’ flesh chopped into fine pieces and spiced and then given to them. Despite her morally reprehensible behavior being well known, no one dared challenge her power, which was linked to her husband’s clan.
Elizabeth’s downfall came when she started murdering people of “quality.” Her supply of peasant girls for her torture sessions began to dry up. Her accomplices started recruiting noble girls, but they soon realized how dangerous was living as part of the countess’s entourage, and stopped. Elizabeth’s bloodlust had become uncontrollable. The only solution was to kidnap peasants and scrub them up to look sufficiently like ladies to fool the countess.
People Of “Quality” Disappearing…
Elizabeth’s gratuitous spending finally caught up with her. Parliament wanted her prosecuted after discovering the suspicious disappearance of many people of quality. Thurzo, a local law lord and one-time lover of Elizabeth’s, plotted to have Elizabeth taken away to a convent where she could disappear from sight.
However, Imre Megyery – Elizabeth’s late husband’s estate manager and guardian arrested her before she could escape to the nunnery. She was caught crouched over the bleeding body of another victim during a midnight raid on Cachtice Castle by Thurzo’s men. A mass grave was discovered under a tower at the castle. Upon receiving enough evidence, King Mathias II demanded that Elizabeth be beheaded.
Elizabeth’s four principal accomplices stood before their accusers on January 2nd, 1611. While all four admitted the charges brought against them, all declared they had been acting under orders but gave evidence against the countess. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was never there to defend herself, nor was she tried. That day marked the end of Bela Bathory’s reign of terror.
According to a trial testimony from one of her servants, Bathory was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 650 girls and women. Her accomplices even revealed that she made young boys eat roasted flesh and fed them other girls’ flesh chopped into pieces.
Elizabeth Was Confined In Cachtice Castle
Thurzo executed enough of Bathory’s underlings to distract attention from the principal villain – Elizabeth herself. The countess remained under house arrest, ultimately sentenced by Thurzo to lifelong imprisonment in her own castle. Workmen were called in to seal off a set of rooms in which Elizabeth was to be confined in Cachtice Castle, leaving only a ventilation shaft and a small opening through which food could be pushed connected her with the world.
Four years after her imprisonment, a new jailer arrived at the castle and peered through the small grill to find Bathory lying crumpled on the floor; Elizabeth Báthory had passed away. Although historians have debunked the legend that she bathed in virgins’ blood, what is known for sure about her latter days is that she was deprived of the blood she lusted for and was left in a gruesome state. The once all-powerful Elizabeth Báthory, perhaps history’s most prolific serial killer and one of the most notorious women in history, was finally defeated by death and imprisoned for life in her own castle.