Monday, 24 September 2012

The Blood Countess

Her real name was Erzsebet Bathory and she was born on August 7th 1560 - the daughter of  one of the most powerful noble families in Hungary. But she ended her life walled up in her bedchamber for a series of horrific and sadistic crimes for which she was never convicted.

So who was this woman? And what had she done that was so terrible, her own family incarcerated her?

More commonly known by the anglicised version of her name - Elizabeth - she was the product of generations of inbreeding and, following an unwise dalliance with a peasant, became pregnant by him. The resulting daughter was fostered and soon after, Elizabeth was married off to the son of a less distinguished family, Ferenc Nadasdy. It was hoped that marriage would settle her and, indeed, she does appear to have been a good wife to him - on the infrequent occasions he was present. But the sadistic tendencies for which she became infamous were already beginning to surface and, by all accounts, Ferenc seems to have been a willing accomplice. The Nadasdy family were known to be harsh and cruel masters and the latest members saw no reason to break with tradition. 

Ferenc Nadasdy
As mistress of the Nadasdy estates around Castle Sarvar in modern day north west Hungary, Elizabeth meted out cruel punishments to any servant who roused her displeasure. Some of her most trusted servants became her willing accomplices, dragging half-naked girls who had been mercilessly beaten and lashed by Elzabeth, out into the snow where they were left to freeze to death.

Elizabeth also took numerous lovers - both male and female - and when her husband  died in 1604, from an infected wound, his widow took herself off to her family's Castle Cachtice in an area of northern Hungary now lying in Slovakia.

Ruins of Castle Cachtice
Here, at some stage, possibly while beating a female servant, some of the girl's blood is alleged to have splashed onto the Countess. Elizabeth then noticed how her skin seemed softer and younger-looking where the blood had been and a terrible idea was born.

For the next five years, encouraged by her lover, the witch Anna Darvula, Elizabeth Bathory committed her worst alleged crimes. She was said to have killed 650, or even more, peasant girls and bathed in their blood to keep her youth. Even when so ill she couldn't leave her bed, she demanded a girl be brought to her whereupon she bit her and drank her blood. She also dabbled frequently in the dark arts with her lover and others. Her crimes went either undetected or ignored, her family's position and wealth offering her protection. But then she committed a grievous mistake and started picking on girls from noble families - maybe believing that, as she grew older, she needed what she perceived to be their purer blood. 

No longer could her perverted proclivities be tolerated. Anna Darvula had died but the rest of Elizabeth's accomplices were arrested, tried, and all but one executed, some being burned alive after having their fingers torn out with red hot pincers.

Elizabeth's family used all their power and influence to prevent a similar fate befalling her, but when she tried to escape, they decided enough was enough and imprisoned her in her bedchamber at Castle Cachtice with just small slits for ventilation and to enable food to be passed into her. There, three years later, in August 1614, she was found dead.

Now, all these centuries later, it is impossible to know the real extent of her crimes, or whether indeed she was truly evil or maniacally insane. But there is no doubt hundreds of girls 'disappeared' at her hands and for her own family to have taken such drastic action, she must have become a truly terrifying and dangerous woman. One who has now become known by a title other than the Blood Countess:

Elizabeth Bathory - Countess Dracula.


  1. Wow, this took careful study! Thank you Catherine

  2. Enjoyed reading this. One historical fact about Elizabeth's family and upbringing gave me an idea for a story -- along with a character my daughter created for Halloween. I wrote this novel but won't be submitting it until next year, hopefully for a Halloween release. It is a horror novel. Elizabeth Bathory is in the prologue of the story, since everything in my story happened because of her, and I can only hope I was able to capture her well and portray her as accurately as possible.

  3. Good luck with this Dawn. Sounds great!