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.
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|
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.