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Countess Elizabeth Bathory

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Elizabeth Bathory was a Countess who became known as one of history's "true" vampires, due to her torture and murder of numerous young women.

Bathory was born the daughter of George and Anna Bathory in 1560.  Although she is frequently cited as being Hungarian (due mainly to the Hungarian Empires shifting borders), she was more correctly associated with the area that is now known as the Slovak Republic.  Bathory spent most of her adult life at Castle Cachtice.  Though the castle was mistakenly reported as being in Transylvania by Raymond T. McNally, it is actually located near the town of Vishine, just north-east of what is present day Bratislava (where Austria, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic come together).

Bathory grew up in an era when much of Hungary had been overrun by the Turkish forces of the Ottoman empire and was a battleground between Turkish and Austrian (Hapsburg) armies.  The area was also split by religious differences.  Her family sided with the new wave of Protestantism that opposed the traditional Romanian Catholicism.  She was raised on the Bathory family estate at Ecsed in Transylvania.  As a child Bathory was subject to seizures accompanied by intense rage and uncontrollable behavior.

bloodbath In 1571, Bathory's cousin Stephen became Prince of Transylvania and, later in the decade, additionally assumed the throne of Poland as well.  He was one of the most effective rulers of his time.  However, his plans for uniting Europe against the Turks where somewhat foiled by having to turn his attention toward fighting Ivan the Terrible, who wanted Stephen's territory.

Elizabeth became pregnant as the result of a brief affair with a peasant man in 1574.  When her condition became evident, she was sequestered until the baby's birth, due to her engagement to Count Ferenc Nadasdy.  They were married in May of 1575.  Since Nadasdy was a soldier, he was frequently away for long periods of time.  This left Bathory with the duties of managing the affairs of the Nadasdy family estate, Castle Sarvar.  It was here that Elizabeth's career of evil truly began with the disciplining of the large household staff, especially the young girls.

In a time period in which cruel and arbitrary behavior by those in power toward those who were servants was common, Elizabeth's level of cruelty was noteworthy.  She did not just punish infringements on her rules, but found excuses to inflict punishments and delighted in the torture and death of her victims far beyond what her contemporaries could accept.  She would stick pins in various sensitive body parts, such as under the fingernails.  In the winter she would execute victims by having them stripped, led out into the snow, and doused with water until they froze.

Bathory's husband joined in some of her sadistic behavior and actually taught his wife some new varieties of punishment.  For example, he showed her a summertime version of her freezing exercise-- he had a woman stripped, covered with honey, then left outside to be bitten by numerous insects.  He died in 1604, and Elizabeth moved to Vienna soon after his burial.

Around this time, Bathory also began to spend her time at her estate in Beckov, as well as spending time at her manor house in Cachtice.  Both estates were located in what is now the country of Slovakia.  It was at these estates where her most famous and cruel acts took place.

Anna Darvulia, a woman about whom very little is known, was Bathory's main associate in crime during the years following her husband's death.  In 1609, Darvulia became ill, so Elizabeth turned to the widow of one of the local tenant farmers, Erzsi Majorova, as her new cohort.

Majorova is noted as being the one mainly responsible for Bathory's eventual downfall, by advising her to include a few women of noble birth amongst her victims.  Elizabeth began having troubles in obtaining servant girls willing to work for her, as rumors of her hobbies spread throughout the countryside.  She soon followed Majorova's encouragement sometime in 1609.  She killed a young noble woman, but was able to cover up the act with charges of suicide.

In the summer of 1610 an official inquiry began concerning Elizabeth's actions.  However, it was not the vast number of her victims which brought Bathory to court, but rather, political concerns.  The crown hoped to escape from paying back a rather extensive loan which Elizabeth's husband had made to the king, and also to confiscate her landholdings, which were rather large.

On December 19, 1610, Bathory was arrested, and a few days later, placed on trial.  The trial, mainly for show, was conducted by an agent of the king, Count Thurzo.  It was initiated not only for a conviction, but for the confiscation of her lands as well.  One week following the first trial, on January 7, 1611, a second trail was convened.

During the second trail a register that had been retrieved from Elizabeth's living quarters was submitted as evidence.  The register recorded the names of 650 victims, all written in Bathory's handwriting.  Bathory's accomplices were sentenced to be executed.  The manner of their deaths was determined by their roles in the tortures.  Elizabeth herself was sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement.

Bathory was held in a room of her Cachtice castle.  The room contained no windows or doors, only a few slits for air, and a small opening for food and water to be given to her.  Elizabeth remained in confinement there until her death three years later on August 21, 1614.  She was buried in the Bathory lands at Ecsed.

Bathory - click for fullsized image Amongst her numerous acts and tortures, the accusation that Bathory drained the blood of her victims and bathed in it was what earned her the title of a vampire.  It is also noted that she occasionally bit the flesh of the girls during their torture.  It is said that the reason Bathory bathed in blood was to retain her youthful looks and beauty, and she was, by all accounts, a most attractive woman.

There are various tales as to where Bathory originally got the notion that her blood baths would keep her looking young and beautiful to begin with.  Two of the more popular one's are as follows...

The first tale says that an aging Bathory was having her hair combed by a young servant girl.  When the girl accidently pulled Bathory's hair, she turned around and slapped her, drawing forth blood.  Some of the young girl's blood had gotten upon Elizabeth's hands, and when she rubbed the blood in, she noticed her hands begin to take on the youthful appearance of the servant girl.  This incident is said to have sparked her desire for the blood of young virgins.

The second tale involves Elizabeth's behavior after the death of her husband.  She was said to have associated herself with many younger men during this time.  On one occasion while with one of these men, Elizabeth saw an old woman and remarked, "What would you do if you had to kiss that old hag?"  Of course he responded as expected, with words of distaste towards the act.  The older woman, upon hearing the conversation, accused Elizabeth of excessive vanity, and told her that an aged appearance was inescapable by anyone, even a countess such as her.  After which she became obsessive with the notion of aging, and began to bath in blood hoping to retain her beautiful appearance and youthful looks.

by Lady Silvereyes Andromeda  
http://www.geocities.com/ladysilvereyes

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