Today we continue to hear stories about Dracula, more and more research is always being done and the remains of his castle have been explored and excavated multiple times. However, it's rare that we so much as hear a mention of Bathory. Why is that? Well, there are a few obvious reasons. For one, Dracula was in fact working to aid his country, from his perspective and the perspective of his people, what he did was a great deed. Then there is the simple fact that Dracula is a man. As most of us today know, women in history simply didn't matter. While men litterally ruled the world, women were seen as little more than property. And just like you do not make large note of what your pets do from day to day, as a whole history tends not to record major actions of women either. The third, and most obvious reason, is simply that Bram Stoker used Dracula's name and not Bathory's. BUT, Bram Stoker was nice enough to hang on to his notes after publishing his novel. His notes have enlightened scholars as to just what he was drawing from for inspiration. MANY of these notes were research on the life and actions of a Translvanian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory. Today, she is even referred to as "Lady Dracula" as well as other things.
If ever there was a person who fit the description of vampire, it was Bathory! Among her horrid titles we can list rapist, torturer, child molester, kidnapper and most notably cannibal and blood drinker. And like many of today's more horrible offenders Bathory had a troubled childhood, adult life and marriage.
Born in to a noble family in Hungary in August 1560, Elizabeth spent her childhood with her family in Nagy-Ecsed, near the Romanian border. Her mother was sister of Stephen Bathory, King of Poland, Prince of Transylvania and counterpart of Vlad Tepes. She had a rather cruel older brother and two sisters who survived in to adulthood. In 1566 the German Emperor and the Ottomans came to a temporary truce. So while Vlad Tepe's life was ruled by the wars going on around him, Bathory's childhood would have been relatively peaceful - at least on a governmental level.
She was greatly educated, as would any young woman of nobility have been. But she was a woman, and it's fair to say abuse was a daily activity in the Bathory home. Her older brother would become known for his drunkenness and rape of young women. She would also spend a great amount of her young life with her Aunt Klara, an overly sexual woman who greatly enjoyed torturing servants, presumably for fun. When Elizabeth was a child, she had even witnessed the torture and execution of a Gypsy woman who was sewn up inside a horse carcass and left to die there.
In 1570 she was engaged to a wealthy Count Ferencz Nadasdy de Nadasd of Fogarasfold. As was customary in this time, it's acceptable to assume that Elizabeth would have had little to no say over who she would marry, instead it was most likely a political move for her father. Elizabeth was to be come a very young woman of the house as she was sent to reside with her mother-in-law to be, who would die within a year. Elizabeth even at this very young age was already known for her beauty. And in 1574 she became pregnant and gave birth to an illegitimate daughter. History says the baby was smuggled away to protect her, and most likely to save her life.
|Artist Depiction of Bathory's Castle Home|
While her husband was away she would also "vacation" at her aunt Klara's home. Who is credited with teaching Bathory many of the "techniques" she would use to carry out her disciplinary position in the castle. While with her aunt her sexual experimentation would become quite extensive.
Nadasy had an inflammable temper and servants would be severely punished and beaten for the tiniest mistakes at his order. This was a tradition his wife happily kept upon his leave. Elizabeth used branding irons, razors, pincers, torches and pins & needles quite consistently in her punishments. A servant girl who talked to much had her mouth sewn shut. A girl suspected of stealing money was stripped and burned repeatedly with white hot coins. And she would freeze servants who displeased her by having them striped, thrown in the snow and dumping water over them.
Three loyal female servants, Helena Jo, Dorthea Szentes (also called Dorka) and Katarina, and manservant, Ficzko, who was most likely Autistic (history records him as being "retarded") would help Elizabeth carry out her cruelties through her rein of terror. Also, between the years of 1604 and 1610 a mysterious woman named Anna Darvulia, who was probably a lover of Elizabeth's, who taught her many new torturing techniques and was "one of the most active sadists in Elizabeth's entourage". After a severe stroke that left her blind, Darvulia left her work to Elizabeth, Helena Jo, and Dorka, content that she had taught them well. With Darvulia's death, Elizabeth only grew in cruelty. However, here downfall would be her growing recklessness.
Elizabeth was a very vain woman, and sometime around her 40th birthday she started to become obsessed with the idea of youthful beauty. However, unlike so many forty-somethings today Elizabeth wasn't content with simply lotions and potions. One day while her team of young servant girls groomed her, she struck one of them in a fit of rage so hard that the young girl's nose began to bleed. Some of this blood splashed on to Elizabeth's face and it's said that when she wiped it away she believed the skin beneath it to have a more youthful, fresher appearance. This single act of violence would lead her down the path that would eventually lead her to earn the name "Blood Countess."
Elizabeth began to bathe regularly in the blood of virgins. It's said that when she wanted to bathe she would have a servant girl fetched and held upside down over a tub with her throat slashed until all of her blood was drained. From approximately 1600 onwards, the death rates among her servants greatly increased. Her trusted help would recruit new girls from neighboring towns. They would offer poverty stricken families a small sum of money in effort to persuade them to send their daughters off to "a life of security in the service of the mighty House of Bathory." Once in the castle, they would simply never be heard from again, becoming prey either to Elizabeths never-ending quest for youth or her lust for the pain of others. The girls' bodies, bruised, cut and burned, would be buried unceremoniously outside the castle walls upon their death.
Prior to Darculia's death, Elizabeth had used young peasant women to fill her needs. But she turned to a widow of a farmer from a nearby town whom she knew to fill the void left by the loss of her love. It was apparently this woman, named Erszi Majorova, who "encouraged Elizabeth to go after girls of noble birth as well as peasants." And in 1609, she decided to listen. She started taking in aristocratic girls to "teach them social graces" but of course, they usually died as well. And rumors of the horrors going on inside the castle became more prevalent.
|Elizabeth's Death Tower|
On December 10, Elizabeth and her accomplices were arrested by Count Thurzó. The trial started in January 1611 but because of her rank, it was held in secret and the Countess never attended it. At that time in history however, servants and pesants were considered to be serfs, and the nobility of the day had the right to do with them whatever they pleased. So even though her victims most likely number in the THOUSANDS, she could only be tried on what she had done to the girls of noble birth.
Under torture her accomplices described between 36 and 50 death as a result of mistreatment. Then there were additional witnesses heard, each of which had a more horrifying story than the last. One mentioned 80 girls, another said 175, then the number 200 came out and so on. Some of these witnesses were testifying purely on what they had heard, others had more "hands on knowledge." It's said that the Countess kept journals which chronicled the torture and death of more than 650 girls. However, this was never shown in the court.
ALL of those accused were found guilty. While Darvulia had died years prior Helena Jo, Dorka and Ficzko were not so lucky. While Ficzko's fate is a little hard to track down. Helena Jo and Dorka were to be burned at the stake after having their fingers removed with hot pincers. Bathory herself, being nobility, could not be punished equally, instead she was to live out the remainder of her life walled up in a small tower room in her own castle. Three and a half years later, on August 21, 1614, Elizabeth was found dead in her room. Since there were several plates of food untouched, her actual date of death is unknown. She was buried in the church of Csejte, but due to the villagers' uproar over having "The Tigress of Csejte" buried in their cemetery, her body was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it is interred at the Báthory family crypt.