The “Bloody Countess” was responsible for a hundreds of awful crimes in Hungary at the turn of the 17th century. Who knows where the truth lies?
Erzsébet Bathory, also known as Elizabeth, was born in Nyírbátor (in the North-East of modern day Hungary) in the year 1560. Hers was an aristocratic family so her destiny was marked from the outset. The Bathory family were exceptionally wealthy and they had the same bad habit of all noble families, marrying within the family, generating dangerous relationships between people who were actually close relatives.
An evil bunch of “friends”
At the age of fifteen in 1575, the girl was married to her betrothed Ferenc Nádasdy. She had very little occasion to spend time with him as he was always occupied fighting the Turks in the valleys of Eastern Europe. Erzsébet would get bored staying at home alone so she began to spend her time with a group of courtesans in the castle of Csejte. Among these was her aunt Karla who specialised in organising depraved orgies, her faithful maid Ilona Joó, lover László, the evil Dorothea Szentes who was an expert in black magic, as well as the house servant Thorko, an enthusiast of sorcery and demonic rituals.
In those days the Countess liked to torture her underlings with red hot irons, sharp objects, strong ropes and simple scraps of paper which were burned between their toes. Once a servant girl suffered a nose bleed and the blood ran down the hand of her mistress. Which is when Countess Bathory saw her skin changing, almost as if it were becoming young again. She immediately consulted her alchemists and they confirmed the outrageous hypothesis that she had discovered the “elixir of youth”. Which is when all hell was let loose.
The most brutal serial killer of all times…?
Between 1585 and 1610 the Countess killed one young woman after another: servants, farm girls, ladies of good family, and used their blood for long luxurious baths which she believed would grant her eternal beauty. Her technique was worthy of an engineer, a sort of production line of terror, with victims tricked into coming to the castle, then stunned, stripped and hung upside down before their throat was cut and their blood collected in one of the bathtubs below.
The massacre only came to an end when the sadistic Erzsébet moved on to local noblewomen, girls barely out of their teens, and the local gentry rose up in protest and asked the Catholic Church to carry out an investigation into the mysteries of Csejte. A search of the castle revealed unimaginable atrocities: in the dungeons they found dismembered corpses and dying women with parts of their body brutally amputated. Elizabeth was tried on the spot and walled up alive in a room in her fortress. Her only contact with the outside world from that day forward was to be a hole through which her food was passed.
… Or a bloody political conspiracy?
She died in the space of just four years, in 1514, at the age of fifty-four. And yet there are some prominent historians who claim that the notorious lady Erzsébet Bathory, though doubtless a libertine with certain bizarre vices, bore no resemblance whatsoever to a bloodthirsty beast. It may well be that her story is merely the heavily embroidered result of a political conspiracy to seize her money, jewels and lands. Her husband Ferenc had been dead for ten years and the Countess was alone against the aristocracy which had finally had enough of her carry on.
Today the countess is still idolised by the Metal community, so much so that the seminal group Venom actually wrote a track for her called ‘Countess Bathory’. The British band Cradle Of Filth dedicated an entire concept album to Elizabeth (the marvellous ‘Cruelty and the Beast’) which came out at the turn of the last century. And then there is Bathory, a legend of Scandinavian black metal lead by its creator Thomas Forsberg (aka Quorthon) who went and borrowed the name of this woman who, in the most literal sense of the word, created a bloodbath. The legacy carries on.