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.
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
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.
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
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