It has long been believed that men have cornered the market on torture and brutality; historical figures such as Vlad the Impaler and the Marquis de Sade dispensing their own brands of punishment. The list of barbaric males goes on and on, but there are some ladies that could put their opposite sex to shame. One such woman was Elizabeth Bathory, whose torture and murder of her female servants branded her as, quite possibly, the world’s first female serial killer.
Elizabeth was born in August 1560, into one of the richest and most powerful families in Hungary, a family that had more than its fair share of scandalous members, including an uncle who was believed to be a worshipper of Satan, a bi-sexual aunt, Klara, with a penchant for torturing servants, and a brother, Stephan, who was prone to bouts of heavy drinking and lecherous acts. That, combined with the witness of a gyspy being sewn into a horse and left for dead at a very young age, may have played a part in the vile lady she was to later become.
At the tender age of 15, Elizabeth married Ferenc Nadasdy, a union though to have been arranged by both families as a political power move. Nadasdy was besotted with his young bride though, and as a wedding gift, he presented her with Csejte castle, and as he was often away at battle, Elizabeth was left with the task of disciplining the servants, a job she attacked with unbridled glee.
Among the punishments doled out were, beating with a heavy club, sticking pins into the lips, flesh, and under the fingernails, and, probably most brutal of all, taking the girls outside, laying them in the snow and pouring cold water on them until they froze to death. It is believed that Elizabeth had some help when it came to carrying out these acts, in the shape of her manservant Ficszko, Helena Jo, who helped look after the Bathory children, Dorka, and washerwoman Katarina. In the early 1600’s, Elizabeth befriended a woman named Anna Darvulia who was believed to have been both a lover and teacher of new torture techniques.
After the death of her husband in 1604, and the passing of Darvulia a few years later, Elizabeth’s levels of depravity and torture reached their peak. Not content to punishing her sevants, she picked young women from the surrounding area, as well as some supplied by her aunt Karla, and performed barbaric acts of cruelty and sexual abuse upon them. The blood flowed freely and legend says that Elizabeth would bathe in the crimson offal in an attempt to keep her beauty, an act that led to her receiving the moniker of the blood countess.
It is believed that Elizabeth and her gang of accomplices were involved in the murder of more than 650 young women during their reign of terror. That ended in 1610, when Gyorgy Thurzo was dispatched to investigate the alleged crimes, and collect evidence that would lead to arrest and trial. Thurzo and his men went to Cjeste Castle in December of that year and discovered one dead girl and another dying. The arrests were made, and the trial set for January, 1611; Helena, Dorka and Ficszko were sentenced to death by burning, the two women having their fingers cut off, and the manservant beheaded, before they were cast into the flames.
Elizabeth was never convicted, but was condemned to a single, walled-in room in her castle where she lived out the remainder of her days, passing in 1614 at the age of 54. The legend of the blood countess has continued to grow over the years, with the total body count and the blood bathing being brought into question, but what cannot be questioned is that Elizabeth Bathory may go down in history as the most brutally sadistic woman to have ever lived.