If contemporary accounts are to be believed, Elizabeth Bathory is the most prolific serial killer of all time. She makes Ted Bundy look like a chump, and Jeffrey Dahmer a mere dabbler in torture and perversion.
In a word, this lady was a real whack-job.
Bathory was born in 1560 to an aristocratic Transylvanian family that spawned kings, cardinals, judges, and knights. Thanks to copious inbreeding, her family tree also had its share of nuts (giggle), including sadists, lechers, psychotics, devil worshippers, and alcoholics. Elizabeth herself is believed to have suffered from seizures that caused uncontrollable fits of rage.
At the age of 15, Elizabeth was married off to Count Ferencz Nadasdy, also known as “The Black Knight,” who seems a fitting spouse for a gal who would come to be known as “The Blood Countess.”
Stuck out in the sticks while the hubby was away fighting the Turks, young Elizabeth needed to find ways to keep herself amused. She chose to gather around her those claiming to be witches, sorcerers, alchemists and other practitioners of the black arts. Together they engaged in unspeakable acts of cruelty against the local peasant population to while away the hours.
When the Black Knight died in 1604, flagellation, torture with red hot pokers, and leaving honey-covered peasants tied to trees to be eaten by wild animals had grown passe to his widow. Around this time, Elizabeth slapped a servant girl and noticed that her skin where the girl’s blood-splattered was softer and more youthful appearing than the rest.
Elizabeth was now in her early 40’s and very aware of the passing of her youth. This realization was VERY bad news for the local peasantry as a couple of nights a week she began bathing in the blood of young girls with the hope of regaining her lost beauty. If she came across a particularly pretty girl — she’d drink her blood.
After five years of hanging hundreds of peasant girls upside-down in chains by their ankles and slitting their throats to collect their blood, Elizabeth failed to notice the desired results. She decided that she needed to obtain a better class of blood. She figured the best way to go about this was to offer etiquette classes for the daughters of noble families.
Bad idea Lizzie. Nobody gives a hoot about dead peasant girls, but when you start bumping off the aristocracy, the authorities are going to come sniffing around, especially if you get lazy and start throwing corpses over the castle walls.
Now that people who actually mattered had been harmed, King Matthias of Hungary ordered a raid of Elizabeth Bathory’s castle on December 26, 1610. The raid turned up many girls dead, dying, or awaiting torture. The Countess’s accomplices were put on trial and burned as witches. As a noble, Elizabeth herself could not be tried or executed. Instead, she was walled up in a room of her castle, with a slit large enough to pass food through the only opening. She died four years into her imprisonment.
It is estimated that the Blood Countess was responsible for the deaths of at least 650 young women. Never once did she express a single word of sorrow for their deaths or remorse for her beyond-cruel actions.
In fairness, it’s worth mentioning that the tales of Elizabeth Bathory’s blood-soaked escapades could be propaganda spread by the Catholic Hapsburgs, another powerful family. The Bathorys were Protestant rulers in a region that was predominately Catholic, and the “bathing in human blood” story didn’t even surface until Elizabeth had been dead for over a century. Many of the accusations against her were made under torture worthy of the Inquisition.
Regardless, it was a gory, blood-soaked era. Even if just a fraction of what has been said about Elizabeth through the centuries is true, we’re talking about a lady you wouldn’t want to mess with.