Elizabeth Bathory – The First Female Serial Killer?

Bram Stoker became famous for his legendary tale on Dracula. Many speculate that he based his idea on Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler; born 1431, and presumed to have died sometime in December of 1476, although how he exactly died, is still undetermined. 

Vlad Tepes, the man that was imprisoned by the Turks, beaten and humiliated. Finally getting his revenge when he became king. His methods of killing his victims, especially the Turkish soldiers, spread throughout Europe. 

The legendary actions of Vlad the III.

He reveled in their pain, enjoyed the destruction he left. Count Dracula did indeed become well-known as being a Vampire. One that preyed on his victims at night, biting into their flesh, and rejuvenating himself by drinking their blood.

Was the legend, Dracula, really based on Vlad Tepes? 

Or could there be someone around that time period that was far more sadistic? Someone that preyed on the innocent, someone obsessed with beauty and youthfulness. And someone that history tells us actually committed atrocious acts in order to drink and bathe in her victim’s blood….

Countess Elizabeth Bathory.

A girl destroyed when she witnessed a brutal attack and murder of her two sisters, perhaps influencing her to become the infamous Blood Countess. 

Elizabeth Bathory - Death, Children & Facts - Biography
Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Image obtained from Keith Corrigan.

But who was Elizabeth Bathory? Is it really true that her victims reached the six hundred mark?

A Child Destined for Evil.

Elizabeth Bathory was born into a family of cardinals, princes and Prime Ministers on the 7th of August, 1560 by Gyorgy and Anna Bathory. A difficult birth for her mother, Elizabeth would experience violent seizures around the ages of four or five. The doctors in the day could not quite explain it. Whether it was some form of epilepsy, or some other neurological disorder. Some may even surmise that she was indeed possessed.   

Although her family was one of the most prominent protestant families in Hungary, her extended family was known for their wild behaviour. Was she cursed from the beginning? Fated to become what she was?

One uncle dabbled with rituals and satanic worship, while her Aunt Klara was thought to be bi-sexual, bringing young women into her house, enjoying the game of torturing her servants. Klara rumoured to have had four husbands, each mysteriously dying. Ironically, the connection between Elizabeth and Vlad extended to her family. Her uncle, Prince Stephen participated in an expedition with Vlad Tepes in Wallachia, 1475.

Legend has it that her relatives dabbled in the black arts, diabolism and rampant promiscuity. But probably one of the most interesting things to note about her family, was the common practice of incest and rape. 

The small catalyst that might have started ideas forming in Elizabeth’s head was when she witnessed the rape and murder of her two sisters at the age of nine.

At the age of twelve, Elizabeth was engaged to Ferenc Nadasdy; known for his brutality towards servants, and his obsession with Italian sex toys. Being engaged did not stop her from rebelling against the expectations imposed on her; enjoying dressing as a boy and playing boy’s games. Although engaged at the time, Elizabeth gave birth due to a random encounter with a peasant boy. Her child was rapidly taken away, doomed to marry into a family for political reasons. 

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Ruins of Csejthe Castle. Image obtained from https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ruins-cachtice-castle

Even at a young age, Elizabeth was obsessed with beauty, spending hours in front of her mirror. Marrying the twenty-six year old Count Ferenc Nadasdy at the age of 15, and moving to live at the Castle Csejthe forced her to adapt to a completely different life. A life full of cruelty, servants routinely tortured at any little indiscretion.

Her husband spent much of his time away fighting in wars, and was nicknamed ‘The Black Hero of Hungary’. With a domineering mother-in-law, Elizabeth struggled to cope with her new life.

Rebelling against her duties, Elizabeth briefly eloped with a dark-haired, pale-skin stranger. But one day when she woke, he had disappeared, and she had no choice but to return to her life with the count. 

The Persistent Vice

In the year 1578, Ferenc was appointed the chief commander of the Hungarian troops to fight against the Ottomans. Elizabeth took on her role to manage the business obligations of the estate, surrounded by villages and agricultural lands, bordered by the Little Carpathians. 

A well-educated woman, Elizabeth could read and write in four languages. For a time, she looked after the peasants; making sure they were given adequate medical care. She even intervened on behalf of destitute women, or those that were victims of the Turks.

But evil still remained in Elizabeth. In those day, it was common for nobility to torture the servants, in which Elizabeth happily participated in. With guidance by her Aunt Klara, and the Count, she would experiment with ways to inflict maximum amount of pain. 

However, it wasn’t until the death of her husband in 1604, did she finally begin her ultimate path of destruction.

The Liquid Elixir 

Stories differ in accurate accounts, but it is a common belief that at the age of forty, she truly become obsessed with her beauty; terrified of losing her youthfulness. One day, a young servant girl accidentally pulled her hair while combing it. Viciously slapping the petrified girl across the face, she instantly drew blood. Blood fell onto the Countess’s hand, and she was convinced that blood altered her skin, making it appear more youthful.

Determined to keep this youth, her plan began to formulate. Along with accomplices, Elizabeth decided to experiment with the servants and peasants, supposedly torturing them and draining them of blood.

The Obsession Leading to her Demise

The Countess’ downfall was when she decided to spread the word that she could teach the young girls of Aristocracy lessons in etiquette. Instead, she abused these girls just like the servants. 

There are different accounts to what finally happened. Some say one of the girls escaped, others say the Protestant pastor who first buried some of the girls finally came forward, or whether too many girls from influential families disappeared. One way or the other, on the 30th of December, 1609, Elizabeth’s castle was finally raided, and her and her accomplices were arrested. The scene before those that raided the castle was horrific.

King Matthias, through his investigations determined that over 600 girls had been victims of Elizabeth and her servants.

Her servants were put on trial in the year 1611. Some believe they were tortured to confess. Either way, three were executed in a brutal fashion.

Throughout those years, Elizabeth maintained her innocence. Only charged with 80 murders, Elizabeth was not executed because of her nobility, and influence from powerful family members. Instead, she was placed under house arrest, walled up so no one could get in, and she couldn’t get out.

On the 21st of August, 1614, Elizabeth Bathory took her last breath at the age of 54. One can only deduce what she might have died from. When the soldiers reluctantly went to retrieve her body, a document was found. She had written a letter to invoke a darker power to send ninety-nine cats to tear out the hearts of her accusers and judges.

Unraveling the Conspiracy

Records about her were sealed for a century, people were forbidden to talk of her. Several authors, including László Nagy and Dr. Irma Szádeczky-Kardoss claim that Elizabeth Bathory was a victim of conspiracy. That powerful men owed her a lot of money, and had set her up. Others dispute this claim.

Whether Elizabeth Bathory was a victim of a conspiracy, or whether she was indeed one, if not, the first female serial killer, her tale lives on. 

She once quoted,

“I grew up listening to stories about the miraculous restorative powers of blood… Given this liquid medium in which I spent my life, it would be surprising if I did not bathe in blood…”

Elizabeth Bathory.

Her inclinations were there, her childhood background providing a sadistic backdrop, coupled with her involvement with those that enjoyed inflicting pain. One could argue she was worse than the legend, Dracula. 

Whether or not Bram Stoker was influenced by her, or by Vlad Tepes, one may never know. But Countess’ Elizabeth Bathory’s story still lives on, no one really knowing the true number of her victims.

Want to learn more about Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory? My WIP focuses on their lives and if they were truly as bad as history tells us…

Published by sharlene25

Sharlene Almond is the author of the genre-bending Annabella Cordova series, and a New Zealand travel book Journey in little Paradise. She has written a range of health, writing and body language articles; contributing as a guest writer on other blogs. Over the last ten years, Sharlene has attained qualifications in Body Language, Criminology, Journalism, Editing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Pet Care, and Animal Behaviour. While setting up an online nutritional business, she is studying to specialize in Medicinal Cannabis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sharlene is also currently editing her second Annabella Cordova novel, with two others in the works. To support her online business, Sharlene sends out a trimonthly newsletter covering health, body language, writing, and even articles centered on health topics for your pet.

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