There have been many stories, going back centuries, of real life vampires. One of the most notorious is of course that of Vlad the Impaler, the man who inspired Bram Stoker’s groundbreaking vampire novel, Dracula. However, as some may be unaware, Vlad was not Hungary’s only infamous vampire. In fact, it was the family who ruled over Transylvania following Vlad Dracula, that produced a woman whose crimes and cruelty not only rivaled that of Vlad the Impaler, but perhaps surpassed it. Her name was Erzsebet Bathory, better known as Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess of Hungary. 

Elizabeth Bathory was born in Nyirbator, Hungary on August 7, 1560. Her parents were rumored to be closely related, possibly cousins or even siblings and were protestant nobles. It’s said that, due to her possible inbreeding, Elizabeth may have suffered from seizures and fits of rage caused by epilepsy in her youth. There is speculation that these factors may have contributed to the development of a sadistic mania in Elizabeth. Another factor being a very early exposure to extreme and merciless violence by her father’s officers.

One story says that Elizabeth witnessed her father’s officers sew a gypsy man, who was accused of thievery, into the belly of a dying horse, leaving only his head exposed. She watched as the man was left to die. 

At the age of eleven, Elizabeth was engaged to Count Ferencz Nadasdy, and they were married in 1575. Her husband shared her predisposition to cruelty and was likely aware of, and even participated in, Elizabeth’s perverse interests. Some sources say that he even built her a torture chamber in their castle as a gift. They were also rumored to share an interest in satanism and the occult. 

Ferencz was a military man, and often absent from home. During his absences, Elizabeth took many lovers, both male and female. Over their ten years of marriage, Elizabeth gave birth to four children. By all reports, despite her sadistic nature, she was a loving and nurturing mother to her children.

The Countess of Blood

It was during these times of her husband’s absence that Elizabeth began a regular pastime of torture and murder. It’s told that Elizabeth’s obsession with blood may have began when she struck a servant girl for pulling her hair while brushing it. Elizabeth supposedly wounded the girl with the strike and, after spreading blood from the wound over her skin, became convinced that it made her skin look younger and revitalized. From this story came the later claims that Elizabeth actually began to bathe in the blood of virgin servant girls. Allegedly hanging girls upside down over her tub and slitting their throats, then letting the blood shower down on her naked body. It should be noted, however, that unlike the records of her other crimes there are in fact no eye witness accounts of Elizabeth bathing in blood. 

Elizabeth eventually acquired accomplishes to help her in her gruesome hobby. Dorothea Szentes, known as Dorka, who was a large woman and alleged witch, and Johannes Ujvary, known as Ficzko, described as a dwarf-like cripple. As well as Helena Jo, who was her children’s wet nurse. 

In January of 1604 Ferencz died from an infected wound, supposedly inflicted by an upaid harlot. After his death Elizabeth became lovers with sadist and alleged witch, Anna Darvula. During this time, Elizabeth’s crimes escalated to their most atrocious levels. 

Torture, Murder, and Depravity

Some of Elizabeth’s early crimes included beating her servants with clubs or razor whips, and taking them naked into the snow before dousing them in water and watching as they froze to death. However, those were in her early years and as time went on, Elizabeth’s lust for violence became even more horrendous. 

Some of the acts that were recounted by eyewitnesses included; Starving girls and forcing them to drink their own urine, biting chunks of flesh from girls and drinking their blood, forcing servants to remove and cook pieces of their own flesh, forcing servants to eat scalding hot food, sticking needles under their fingernails, smearing naked girls in honey and letting them be attacked by ants and bees, cutting up and even biting off genitals, sticking red hot rods into girl’s vaginas, burning the soles of their feet with irons, and locking girl’s in cages with spiked bottoms until they passed out and impaled themselves.

Elizabeth also kept corpses under her bed, which she treated as dolls, feeding and dressing them. It’s said that she often spent whole days torturing her servants to such an extent that her room would be filled with pools of blood that would have to be soaked up by cinder. Elizabeth was so depraved that even illness could not keep her from her hobby. Once, when she was too sick to leave her bed, she had Dorka bring a servant girl to her bed and bit pieces of the girl’s flesh from her face and chest. 

Elizabeth’s Downfall

In 1609 Anna Darvula died, and Elizabeth took a new lover, Erszi Majorova. It’s around this time, possibly by Erszi’s encouragement, that Elizabeth began taking girls from lower ranking noble families. Although the disappearances and murders of peasant girls could be overlooked, the disappearances of children of nobility, no matter their wealth, would not, and it was not long before the King of Hungary ordered Elizabeth’s arrest. 

On December 30, 1610, Elizabeth’s castle was raided. During the raid soldiers found many dead bodies as well as servants bound and locked in cells. On that evening they arrested Dorka, Helena Jo, and Ficzko. They also took Elizabeth into separate custody. Erszi escaped the raid, but was arrested later. 

In January 1611, Elizabeth’s accomplishes were tried and convicted of murder. Dorka and Helena Jo were both sentenced as witches and had their fingers- which had been “dipped in the blood of Christians”- torn off with red hot tongs before being burned alive. Ficzko and Erszi were beheaded and their bodies were burned. 

Elizabeth did not attend the trials and due to the strong influence of her family, she was never convicted of any crimes. However, after attempting to flee the country, her family had her walled up into her bedroom at her home castle, leaving only a small slit in her door to receive food through. It’s said that during the three years she was confined to her room, Elizabeth went completely insane. On August 21, 1614, a guard looked into Elizabeth’s room and found her lying dead, face down on her floor. 

The Legend

The story of Elizabeth Bathory remains, to this day, a chilling tale of perversion and depravity. There are many sceptics that believe the stories of her crimes are actually false. Made up by members of her family that wanted to take her political position of power for themselves. Some believe Elizabeth was merely a victim of a horrible conspiracy that has forever bastardized her place in history. Others believe she was indeed the monster history remembers her to be. That she was actually a real life vampire, who used the blood of innocent girls to keep herself young and beautiful. Either way, Elizabeth Bathory is a woman that will live forever in dark legend.