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Cited as one of the first vampires in history, Elizabeth Bathory, also known as “Blood Countess”, tortured and murdered somewhere between 100 to 650 girls from 1590 until 1610. The Hungarian noblewoman is the known as the world’s most prolific, not to mention most sadistic, female serial killer of all time. Her childhood and family may have played a part in the person she later on became. The methods of torture used were gruesome and unorthodox, and many myths came about from her supposed actions. Where fact ends and fiction begins in her story is now impossible to figure out, but the legend of Elizabeth Bathory lives on.
Elizabeth Bathory was born August 7, 1560, to a Protestant family which was one of the most powerful families in Hungary at that time. Her father, Baron George Bathory, and her mother, Baroness Anna Bathory, were both Bathory at birth. Possibly stemming from inbreeding within her family, it is said that from an early age Elizabeth suffered from seizures, loss of control, and fits of rage. As a child, she witnessed brutal punishments from her family’s officers on their estates. One account talks about a gypsy accused of theft being sewn up in the belly of a dying horse and left to die. Some of her family was disturbing as well which included an uncle who taught her Satanism and an aunt whom she learned sadomasochism from. (Medical bag)
When Bathory was 11, she was connected to Ferenc Nádasdy of another aristocratic Hungarian family and when she was 15, they married and settled into Csejthe Castle. It is believed that Ferenc showed her some of his own ways of punishing his servants and to please her, he reportedly built a torture chamber to her specifications. While Elizabeth was a loving mother towards her own children, she cruel to her servants and maids. Elizabeth and Ferenc were firm believers in the discipline. If a maid had misbehaved, or broken the law, she would be punished in a harsh manner, though it was not uncommon for Hungarians to degrade Slovaks, whom they saw as peasants, and beneath them. Though somewhere along the way, the line between discipline and torture, was blurred. (Britannica) A common form of discipline taught to Elizabeth by Ferenc was something called star kicking. A maid would be tied up, and pieces of paper soaked in oil would be stuck between her toes. The papers would then be set on fire, sending the maid into a frenzy, trying to put the fires out. The servant would kick until she saw stars, hence the name star kicking. (History footage) Although her husband helped with the torturous acts, it wasn’t until his death in the early 1600’s that Elizabeth’s true evil came to fruition. (Medical bag)
She moved to one of her castles in Cachtice in northwest Hungary, which is now Slovakia, and started to surround herself with servants in order to help her with her torture practices. Legend has it that one day an attendant girl was brushing Elizabeth’s hair when she accidentally pulled too hard and it tugged on a snag in her hair. The countess erupted in anger, jumping up and striking the girl with the back of her hand. The strike was so hard that it made the girl bleed and some of that blood was left on Elizabeth’s hand. Later that night, Elizabeth noticed that the skin on her hand where the blood had been looked more youthful than she had seen it in many years. This gave her the idea that if such a small amount of blood could make her hand look so young, then more could restore youthfulness to her whole body. It’s said that this is when the madness began and Elizabeth started to bathe in the blood of virgin girls. (Medical bag)
Young women and even children began to disappear from villages near and far. They were lured to the castle with the prospect that they would find work there but were never seen again. When they arrived, they were locked up in a cellar as they awaited torture. Elizabeth carried out much of the torture herself, often beating the girls to death. Sometimes she would sew a girl’s mouth shut, force her to eat her own flesh, or burn her genitals. (Rejected Princesses) When she was too sick to get out of bed to beat them, Elizabeth would order her servants to bring up a girl to her quarters where she would bite their faces and shoulders. In other instances, she would stick needles underneath the girl’s fingertips before cutting off the fingers of those who tried to take them out. (History) Soon Elizabeth began to run out of young women, because she had either already taken them, or the villagers had started to hide their daughters out of fear that she would take them. This is when the countess began to resort to noble girls, a decision that would ultimately lead to her demise. After the murder of one noble girl in 1609, which Elizabeth tried to stage as a suicide, the authorities finally decided to act. During a night raid, officials searched the castle and discovered the dead bodies of young girls everywhere they looked. Some were missing arms and eyes. One body was in the fireplace, not yet fully burned. Elizabeth was taken to trial and many testified against her, including her servants as well as survivors. (CNN) One of the servants said that girls were tied up and beaten to death until their whole body was black as charcoal and their skin battered and torn. One girl suffered from 200 blows before dying. Another servant admitted that she had taken red-hot fire pokers and shoved them into the mouth of one girl. She said she placed her fingers in the mouth of another and pulled until the sides split open.
After hearing countless testimonies of the appalling activities that went on behind the castle’s walls, Elizabeth and her servants were convicted on 80 counts of murder, although evidence showed that as many as 650 females may have been killed in total. (CNN) Her servants were sentenced to death, but Elizabeth was imprisoned for life in a room in her own castle that was boarded up with tiny slits for food and air. Elizabeth lived for 3 and a half years before she was found dead lying face down on the floor. (History footage) After her death, Countess Elizabeth Báthory went down in history as one of the evilest women to ever have walked the planet.
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