There have been many names synonymous with vampires. Bram Stoker created Dracula. Nosferatu. Vlad Tepes (The Impaler). Anne Rice gave us a whole world of vampires in her Interview With A Vampire series. And one of my personal favorites, Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. But another historical figure, and this one a woman, is also one we need to file into the vampire mythos, Elizabeth Bathory.
Born in August in 1560, her family were wealthy and members of the nobility, in high standing. A fact that would later help Elizabeth during her murderous campaign. Elizabeth suffered from epilepsy as a child, believed to have been a result of the inbreeding in her family, which was a common occurrence in European noble families. Cures for epilepsy were more folklore than actual science. It was believed that if a sufferer rubbed the blood of a non-epileptic on their lips, or ingested a mixture of non-epileptic blood and a piece of skull after a seizure that this would help cure them. None of these “cures” were founded in science and do not heal a person with epilepsy. Please do not attempt these.
The Bathory family were cruel. They punished wrong doers harshly, and impressionable Elizabeth was raised in the environment, exposed to such cruelty. Some claim she was raised to be a murderer. Other family members were involved in witchcraft and Satanism, and claims have been suggested that Elizabeth was taught these secrets as well. This is something that is unsubstantiated.
At 10, Elizabeth was engaged to Count Ferenc Nadasdy. Again as custom, it was believed this engagement was for political reasons. As Elizabeth was a higher ranking noble woman than her husband, she refused to change her name, instead Count Ferenc assumed the surname of Bathory.
An often disputed rumor started when Elizabeth was 13. The rumor claims that Elizabeth gave birth to a child that was conceived by a peasant boy. The child was given to a woman whom the Bathory’s could trust, and she raised the child, in Wallachia. This did not prevent her from getting married at age 15, her groom, Count Ferenc was 19. Upon her marriage, Ferenc gifted Elizabeth with his estate. The Castle of Csejte, the Csejte country house, and 17 adjacent villages.
At 18 years old, Elizabeth’s husband was commanding the Hungarian troops against the Ottomans, and Elizabeth handled and managed the castle estates and money. She was responsible for not only the Castle, but for the local people, medical care and defense of the estate from invaders.
Ferenc became ill in 1601, the illness was not known, but it caused debilitating pain in his legs. Eventually he would become permanently disabled. He died in January of 1604, entrusting the care of his heirs and widow to Gyorgy Thurzo. Elizabeth and Ferenc were married for 29 years.
Before the death of Ferenc, rumors had started about Elizabeth’s blood lust, cruelty, and torture. Some say she began to murder young girls to help cure her epilepsy, but other say she enjoyed the sadist acts of torture and murder. It is unknown when she may have started, but according to the 300 witness testimonies some of her first victims were girls aged 10 – 14 years. She normally chose peasants as her victims, as in her mind, who would miss them. But eventually the victim pool ran out and she wasn’t able to procure her victims from the peasantry any longer. She then moved onto the daughters of the lesser nobility. Those daughters who were sent to her to learn etiquette. Elizabeth also abducted several of her victims as well.
The atrocities mostly consisted of severe beatings; burning or mutilation of hands; biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other body parts; freezing or starving the girls to death. The use of needles was also mentioned by the collaborators in court. And according to the Budapest City Archives, the girls were burned with hot tongs and then placed in freezing cold water. They were also covered in honey and live ants. Elizabeth was also suspected of cannibalism.
Due to the high ranking of her family officials were hesitant to pursue the claims that surrounded Elizabeth. Eventually they had no choice. She was arrested while having dinner, by the same man whom her husband had entrusted her care to after his death.
Her family would have been disgraced has her crimes been taken to trial in court. Therefore it was agreed that she would be imprisoned within her own castle and that further punishment would be avoided. Elizabeth was bricked into her rooms in the castle, leaving only a small space to push food through.
She lived in this bricked room until her death on August 21, 1614. Her body was originally laid to rest in the Csejte Church. The villagers were in an uproar that she was laid to rest in their village. Eventually her body was moved to where she was born in Ecsed, and interred in the family crypt. Her current remains are unknown.
As horrible as her crimes, her name and the stories surrounding her live on. Do you think she was guilty of murdering almost 300 young women and girls? Or was it simply because she was a wealthy, land owning woman and wasn’t reliant on a man to care for her?
Stay curious my friends!