Sadistic slovakian countess of the 16th and 17th century.
Elizabeth (or ‘Erzsebet’) Bathory was born the daughter of George and Anna Bathory in 1560. 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 Austiran (Hapsburg) armies. The area was also split by religous differences. Her family sided with the new wave of Protestantism that opposed the traditional Romanian Catholisism. 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 sequestereduntil 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 victim’s far beyond what her contemporaries could accept. She would stick pins in various sensitive body part, 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 were frozen.
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 Cachitice. Both estates were located in what is now the country of Slovakia. There were 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 farmer’s, 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 sevant girls willing to work for her as rumors of her hobbies spread throughout the countryside. She soon followed Majorva’s encouragment 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 vast number of her victim’s that brought Bathory to court, but rather, political concerns instead. The crown hoped to escape from paying back a rather extensive loan that her husband had made to the king, as well as wishing to confiscate her land holdings, which were rather large as well.
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 initated 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 naes 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 thier roles in the tortures. Elizabeth herself was sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement.
Bathroy was held in a room of her Cachtice castle. The room contained no windows of 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.
All records of Elizabeth were sealed for more than a century, and her name was forbidden to be spoken in Hungarian society.
Unlike most females of the time, Elizabeth was well educated and her intelligence surpassed even some of the men of her time. Elizabeth was exceptional, becoming “fluent in Hungarian, Latin, and German… when most Hungarian nobles could not even spell or write… Even the ruling prince of Transylvania at the time was barely literate.” Some modern scholars and contemporaries of hers postulated that she may have been insane, thus accounting for her seemingly inconceivable atrocities, but even a brief glance into her past reveals a person fully in control of her faculties.
Dracula, created by the Irish author Bram Stoker, was based, albeit loosely, on the Romanian Prince, Vlad Dracula, the Impaler. Raymond T. McNally, who has written four books on the figure of Dracula in history, literature, and vampirism, in his fifth book, Dracula was a Woman, presents insights into the fact that Stoker’s Count Dracula was also strongly influenced by the legends of Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary. Why, for example, make a Romanian Prince into a Hungarian Count? Why, if there are no accounts of Vlad Dracula drinking human blood, does blood drinking consume the Dracula of Stoker’s novel, who, contrary to established vampire myth, seems to appear younger after doing so? The answers, of course, lie in examining the story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
It was largely Slovak servants whom Elizabeth killed, so the name “Csejthe” is only spoken in derision, and she is still called “The Hungarian Whore” in the area.