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Elizabeth Báthory: Shocking Story of the World’s First Female Serial Killer

The case of Elizabeth Bathory is chilling and haunting
The case of Elizabeth Bathory is chilling and haunting

Countess Elizabeth Báthory was a Hungarian noblewoman and reputed serial killer from the family of Báthory, who possessed property in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Between 1590 and 1610, Elizabeth Báthory and four attendants were charged with torturing and murdering hundreds of young women and girls. As Báthory was imprisoned in her house, her attendants were tried and found guilty. She was held captive in the Castle of Csejte.

Many historians have referred to the accusations against Elizabeth Báthory as a witch hunt. According to some authors, including Michael Farin in 1989, the claims against Báthory were backed up by the testimony of over 300 people, some of whom spoke of tangible proof and the existence of mutilated dead, dying, and imprisoned girls discovered at the time of her arrest.

Aleksandra Bartosiewicz said in a 2018 essay for Przegld Nauk Historycznych that when Bathory was prosecuted, the accusations were a show to discredit her family’s dominance in the area, which was seen as a danger to the political interests of her neighbors, particularly the Habsburg empire.

Elizabeth Báthory mythology swiftly entered the canon of national myth. Tales about her being a vampire, such as a claim that she bathed in virgins’ blood to stay young, were typically written down years after her passing and are therefore regarded as unreliable.

Others claim that she served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), even though there is no concrete evidence for this claim in Stoker’s draught notes for the book. She has been given the nicknames The Blood Countess and Countess Dracula in literature.

Who Was Elizabeth Báthory, And What Did She Do?

On a family estate in Nyrbátor, Royal Hungary, Bathory was born in 1560. Her early years were spent in Ecsed Castle. Her father was Andrew Bonaventura Báthory’s brother, Baron George VI Báthory of the Ecsed branch of the family, and he had served as the voivode of Transylvania.

She was raised by Baroness Anna Báthory (1539–1670), a Somlyó branch member and the daughter of Stephen Báthory of Somlyó, who was also the voivode of Transylvania. Elizabeth Báthory was a niece of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s Grand Duke of Lithuania, King of Poland, and Prince of Transylvania through her mother, the Hungarian noble Stephen Báthory (1533–1586).

She had a large family. Stephen Báthory, her older brother, was Hungary’s Royal Judge from 1555 to 1605.

Ecsed, the lake and the old castle

Ecsed, the lake and the old castle

Elizabeth Báthory experienced numerous seizures as a kid, possibly due to epilepsy. During this period, epilepsy symptoms were referred to as falling sickness. Treatments included putting non-sufferers’ blood on an epileptic’s lips or giving them a mixture of non-blood sufferers and a piece of the skull when their episode ended.

Several sources have suggested that Elizabeth Báthory was taught to be harsh by her family, which would account for her later life cruelty.

Báthory was brought up as a Protestant Calvinist. As a young woman, she studied Latin, German, Hungarian, and Greek. Báthory was blessed with wealth, education, and a high social status because he was born into a distinguished nobility family.

Elizabeth Báthory purportedly gave birth to a child at 13 before marrying for the first time. The Báthory family allegedly trusted the local woman with the child, whom a peasant boy fathered. The infant was brought to Wallachia, and the woman received compensation for her conduct.

The rumor’s veracity is sometimes contested because peasant whispers led to the discovery of this pregnancy many years after Elizabeth Báthory’s passing.

Elizabeth Báthory’s Documented Life

Báthory and Ferenc Nádasdy were wed on May 8 at the Vranov nad Topou (Varannó in Hungarian) palace. Together, they owned territory in the Kingdom of Hungary and Transylvania due to their marriage.

Nádasdy gave Báthory his home, the Castle of Csejte, as a wedding present.

The pair resided in Nadasdy’s castle in Sárvár after their wedding.

Aerial view of Castle of Csejte

Aerial view of Castle of Csejte

Three years into their marriage, in 1578, Nádasdy rose to the position of chief commander of the Hungarian army and commanded them in the battle against the Ottomans.

Anna Nádasdy, a child of Bathory, was married to Nikola VI Zrinski and was born in 1585. Báthory’s other known children include Orsolya (Orsika) Nádasdy (1590 – unknown), who would later become the wife of István II Benyó; Katalin (Kata or Katherina) Nádasdy (1594 – unknown).

András Nádasdy (1596-1603); and Pál (Paul) Nádasdy (1598-1650), father of Franz III Nádasdy, who was one of the leaders of the Magnate conspiracy against Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.

On January 4, 1604, Ferenc Nádasdy, then 48 years old, passed away. Although the precise form of his sickness is uncertain, it appears to have started in 1601 and initially manifested as crippling agony in his legs. He never fully recovered after that and was rendered crippled in 1603.

Accusations of Elizabeth Báthory being a Vampire

Lutheran preacher István Magyari lodged charges against Báthory between 1602 and 1604 after stories of her crimes had spread throughout the realm. He did this both publicly and at the court in Vienna. Matthias II tasked György Thurzó, the Hungarian Palatine, with investigating in 1610.

In March 1610, Thurzó gave two notaries, András Keresztry and Mózes Cziráky, the task of gathering evidence. They had gathered 52 witness statements by October 1610; by 1611, they had amassed more than 300.

Elizabeth Báthory from Zay artist.

Elizabeth Báthory from Zay artist.

According to legend, Bathory started murdering daughters of the lower gentry whom their parents had sent to her gynaeceum to learn proper courtesan. The courtroom collaborators also brought up the use of needles. Elizabeth Báthory is said to have used a variety of different methods of torture.

Other witnesses mentioned relatives who passed away while they were at the gynecological hospital. Others claimed to have observed signs of torture on deceased bodies; some were interred in unmarked graves.

The Arrest of Elizabeth Báthory

Nikola VI Zrinski ratified the arrangement with Thurzó on the arrest of Bathory and the estate division on December 13th, 1612. Thurzó visited Csejte Castle on December 31 and detained Bathory along with four of her slaves, Dorotya Semtész, Ilona Jó, Katarina Benická, and János jváry (“Ibis” or Fickó), who were thought to be her collaborators.

One dead woman and another living “prey” girl were discovered in the castle, according to Thurzó’s letter to his wife, but there is no proof that they questioned the living girl about what had happened to her.

Although it is commonly believed that Báthory was caught in torture, she was having dinner. Thurzó initially announced to Báthory’s guests and the townspeople that he had caught her in the act.

Nevertheless, she was taken into custody before the victims were found or presented. The story that Thurzó found Bathory covered in blood seems to have been embellished from fabricated stories.

Thurzó discussed the next steps with Nikola VI Zrinski and György Drugeth, two of Báthory’s sons-in-law, as well as Paul, Báthory’s son. Báthory was initially supposed to be taken to a nunnery, but as word of her activities spread, Thurzó, Paul, and her two sons-in-law opted to keep her under severe house imprisonment instead.

Ferenc II Nadasdy and Elizabeth Bathory

Ferenc II Nadasdy and Elizabeth Bathory

Most of the witnesses claimed they had only heard about the claims from others and had not personally witnessed them. The confessions of the servants were obtained by torture, which is not believable in current proceedings.

Although they were the king’s witnesses, they were put to death. Dorottya Szentes and Ilona Jó were burnt alive after having their fingers severed by a pair of hot pincers. János jváry was beheaded since it was a far less painful manner of execution, and it was thought that because he was young, he was less guilty.

He was later burned on the same pyre as Jó and Szentes. Erzsi Majorova, a different servant, initially managed to avoid capture but was later apprehended and burned alive. After evidence of her mistreatment by the other women surfaced, Katarna Benická was given a life sentence.

Murderous claims were made based on rumors. There is no evidence to support any local complaints against the Countess. During this time, a complaint letter was submitted if someone was hurt or even if someone stole a chicken. Following Báthory’s arrest, there were two trials: the first on January 2 and the second on January 7, 1611.

The most significant number of victims mentioned during the trial of Bathory’s collaborators was 650. However, this figure is based on an allegation made by a servant girl named Susannah that a court official for Bathory had seen the number in one of Bathory’s books.

Szilvássy never referenced the book in his testimony, and it was never made public.

What Happened to Elizabeth Báthory Later?

Thurzó informed King Matthias in a letter dated January 25, 1611, that they had kidnapped and imprisoned Bathory in her castle. Also, the palatine coordinated the investigation’s steps with his political conflict with the Prince of Transylvania. She spent the rest of her life imprisoned in the castle of Csejte, where she passed away at 54.

Elizabeth Báthory was reportedly placed under house imprisonment in the castle, while other sources (written records from the visit of priests, July 1614) contradict György Thurzó’s account that she was imprisoned in a bricked-up room.

In her testament, which she penned in September 1610, she bequeathed to her children all of her present and future possessions.

Accuracy of allegations against Elizabeth Báthory

László Nagy and Dr. Irma Szádeczky-Kardoss are two authors who have claimed that Elizabeth Bathory was a victim of a plot. Nagy contended that Báthory’s legal actions were mostly politically motivated, probably due to her considerable fortune and possession of substantial amounts of land in Hungary, which rose following the passing of her husband.

The argument is in line with that period’s Hungarian history, marked by religious and political strife, particularly about Hungary’s wars with the Ottoman Empire, the growth of Protestantism, and the expansion of Habsburg rule. Moreover, Matthias owed Báthory a sizable sum that was forgiven when she was detained.

Main tower at the Castle of Csejte

Main tower at the Castle of Csejte

There are reasons raised in opposition to this hypothesis. It is necessary to address or contest the physical evidence gathered by the investigators after allegations from a Lutheran clergyman named István Magyari began the investigation into Báthory’s misdeeds.

As Thurzó entered the castle, he discovered countless bodies and dead and dying girls. Thurzó depicted dead and injured patients as Báthory’s victims, according to Szdeczky-Kardoss, who claims that the physical evidence was inflated and that discrediting her would considerably advance his political state ambitions.

Elizabeth Báthory In Popular Culture and Folklore

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, countless legends were inspired by the case of Elizabeth Bathory. The most frequent motif in these paintings was the countess soaking in the blood of her virgin victims to maintain beauty or youth.

The Jesuit scholar László Turóczi’s Tragica Historia, the first book to discuss the Bathory case, published this tradition for the first time in print in 1729. The witness statements, which first arose in 1765, were published in 1817, casting doubt on the claim.

They made no mention of blood baths. John Paget wrote about the purported beginnings of Báthory’s blood-bathing in his 1850 book Hungary and Transylvania, albeit his account appears to be a fabricated retelling of local lore.

How accurate his description of the events is is still being determined. Considered a lot more likely explanation for Báthory’s actions is a sadistic pleasure.

Though the exact number of her victims is disputed, Báthory has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the most prolific female serial killer.

RIP Victims.

Next, read about The Hidden Kennedy Who Was Forcefully Lobotomized. Then, about Some of the Worst Torture Devices from the Past!

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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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