Monsters Among Us: Elizabeth Bathory – Blood Countess
Note: This article was originally posted for our “100 Days of Halloween” campaign in 2014. It has been updated in 2017.
“The worst monsters I’ve ever met
have been human.” -K.N. Porter
Today we delve into a category of creature that has not been covered yet … human.
Today’s subject? Elizabeth Bathory.
Few historical figures are as deeply disturbing as Bathory, often referred to as the Blood Countess. While it’s true that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was largely based on Vlad Tepes III, Bathory was also an inspiration for the granddaddy vampire. Particularly, the bloodlust.
Bathory was no stranger to violence and torture as a child. The noble family from which she came was a cruel one, strict and inventive when the time came to punish anyone they deemed deserving.
One famous story relates that Bathory watched as her father ordered a thief sown into the stomach of a horse, leaving both the horse and the criminal there to die in their own way. Talk about a nightmare!
(Nightmare…mare….horse? Get it? Yeah, o.k., sick joke. Nevermind…)
Marrying the “Black Hero of Hungary” Ferenc Nadasdy, as a teenager, Bathory was left alone for several years as her husband went off to fight many battles. There was a scandal in which she eloped with a dark mystery man, although no one knows who. (“Vlad Tepes!” cry some, even though he was born nearly a century before her…but this IS the archetype for Dracula we’re talking about.)
Bathory’s castle was filled with many strange characters whose influence only added to her sadism, including a dwarf servant who became her favorite torturer, a forest witch, her old nanny (also a witch), and Thorok, a servant who tutored her in the black arts.
Despite her savage cruelty, she was a highly intelligent woman, being well-read and fluent in multiple languages; and her beauty was considered second to none in her day.
Bathory carried the tradition of punishing anyone who was unlucky enough to dampen her day, and she mastered the ability to prolong a person’s death, torturing young women for hours, weeks, or even months for the smallest of infractions. A servant girl once stole a pear, only to be beaten with a club for hours, finally being stabbed to death with scissors later on. Bathory herself carried out this punishment.
Of course, the most infamous part of her story unfolded when Bathory began to age.
Later, the man who was given appointment to look after Bathory and her affairs raided her castle and found her horrifying dungeon, as well as the remains of many young women. A trial was held, and some of Bathory’s involved servants were beheaded and their bodies burned to ash. (Vampire legends, much?)
Bathory herself never showed up to that trial, and she was not punished by death or beheading, or any traditional method. She was walled up in her own castle, living the next four years in that tower with food being passed through a small hole in the wall until one day she was simply seen dead on the floor.
Bathory allegedly kept track of how many girls she murdered in a diary, the number rising well past six-hundred young women. Though she is listed in the Guiness of Book of World Records for the number of her murders, this is questioned by historians, and the diary was never submitted during the trial.
For updated information about Elizabeth Bathory, listen to our more recent podcast about the Blood Countess here: The Monster Guys Podcast – Episode 047: “Monsters Among Us – Elizabeth Bathory”
Hang around (hehe…), as we will be featuring some of humanity’s more sordid and morbid monsters over the next several days.
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Elizabeth Bathory Portrait [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons