STBM: The legend of Elizabeth Báthory, the Blood Countess

Posted May 21, 2010 by 3 Comments

Everyone seems to know who she is except Mina. Now you can be in the know, too.

Sometimes called Countess Dracula, the Blood Countess or the Infamous Lady, the legend of Elizabeth Bathory is mentioned several times in both Sucks to be Me and Still Sucks to be Me as the crazy lady who murdered young girls so she could bathe in their blood to retain her youth.

Gross, right?

Sometimes things get blown out of proportion and sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, so which is the case with Báthory? There’s much debate over what really happened, but most agree that both the legends and her actual life story are bizarre.

Biography

Countess Erzsébet Báthory was born in 1560 in Hungary.  In truth, she led a pretty normal life for nobility – up to a point. She married young, had a number of children, patronized the arts, managed her husband’s business affairs, etc. But in early 1610, after her husband died (in 1604), she was investigated for having murdered an unknown number of young girls, both peasants and the daughters of lesser nobility.

She and four of her servants were arrested. The servants were found guilty and put to death (some after allegedly having their fingernails ripped out). Báthory, as legend goes, was walled up in her castle until her death in 1614.

Although reports of her blood lust are grossly exaggerated (and probably the result of a political conspiracy) records of her official trial paint a disgusting picture.

Alleged witnesses accused her of:

  • severe beatings over extended periods of time, often leading to death
  • burning or mutilation of hands, sometimes also of faces and genitalia
  • biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other bodily parts
  • freezing to death
  • surgery on victims, often fatal
  • starving of victims
  • sexual abuse

The number of victims also varies. Servants put the number around 30-something, while others thought hundreds. Rumors spread of a ledger in Báthory’s own hand that recorded the number at 650, hence her designation as the world’s worst female serial killer.

The blood bath legend stems from a 1729 book by Laszlo Turoczi called Tragica Historia. In 1817, the witness accounts were published for the first time, and suggested that the baths were the stuff of imagination. However, witnesses reported Báthory showering herself in her victims’ blood and biting them until they bled. (Please note that trials back then were nothing like we have now. Confessions were often forced by various methods of torture.)

Want to find out more?

Wikipedia offers this list for further reading (but be warned, there’s some gross stuff out there):

  • Courtland, Charlie (2009). Dandelions in the Garden. ISBN 978-1449977801.
  • Craft, Kimberly (2009). Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory. ISBN 1449513441.
  • McNally, Raymond T. (1983). Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania. New York: McGraw Hill. ISBN 0070456712.
  • Penrose, Valentine (trans. Alexander Trocchi) (2006). The Bloody Countess: Atrocities of Erzsébet Báthory. Solar Books. ISBN 0971457824.
  • Thorne, Tony (1997). Countess Dracula. Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747529000.
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