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Erzsébet Báthory

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Erzsébet Báthory (Elizabeth Bathory) (August 7, 1560 - August 21, 1614) was a Hungarian countess, a niece of King Stephen Báthory of Poland. She was a serial killer, reputed to have been responsible for the torture and murder of over six hundred peasants. When her crimes were discovered in 1610, she was tried and imprisoned in solitary confinement, where she died. Her collaborators were executed.

She is thought to have been the origin of numerous vampire myths, the Dracula story, and the trope of the sexually sadistic vampiress in particular.

Table of contents

Motive

It is believed that Báthory's primary motive for murder was that she sought to improve her complexion by bathing in the blood of girls.

Báthory Lineage

The Báthory family line stems from the Hun Gutkeled[?] clan, which once held power in broad areas of east-central Europe (in what is now Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania) The Hun Gutkeled emerged to assume a role of relative eminence by the early 13th Century[?] and assumed the name of one of their estates (Bátor meaning "valiant"). Their power peaked during the mid-16th Century, and was virtually gone by 1658.

Báthory's Psyche

It is believed that the Báthory family was inbred and this may have helped cause various psychotic disorders, which the family was known to have.

Early Life of Erzsébet Báthory

At 15 she was forced into marriage to a soldier and became the lady of the Castle of Csejthe[?] (Čachtice), his home, situated in the Carpathian mountains[?] of what is now western Slovakia - then part of the Kingdom of Hungary. The castle was surrounded by a village of peasants and rolling agricultural lands, interspersed with outcroppings of the Carpathians.

Erzsébet began to gather those who claimed to be witches, sorcerers, seers[?], wizards, alchemists, and those who would practice the most depraved deeds in league with Satan.

Torture

While interrogating Turks, her husband employed a device of torture: articulated claw-like pincers, of silver; which, when fastened to a whip would tear and rip the flesh to such an obscene degree that he abandoned the apparatus in disgust and left it at the castle.

Aware of Báthory's preoccupations, her aunt had introduced her to flagellation (enacted upon others, of course), a taste she quickly acquired. Equipped with her husband's silver claws, she generously indulged herself, whiling away many lonely hours at the expense of forlorn Slavic debtors. She preferred to whip her subjects on the front of their nude bodies rather than their backs, so that she could watch their faces contort, in horror, at their fate.

Vampirism

Her husband died in 1602 or 1604, murdered by a harlot in Bucharest, to whom he owed money. Through some strange governance, Erzsébet was next in line to become the King of Poland. At this time she was able to read and write in four languages.

Báthory became obsessed with youth and vitality, desiring to acquire political power. One day, as she struck a servant girl, she drew blood when her pointed nails raked the girl's cheek. The wound was serious enough that some of the blood got onto Elizabeth's skin. Later, Elizabeth was convinced that her skin had been improved by the blood. Her alchemists informed her that the blood of a young virgin just might have such effects.

Elizabeth reasoned that if she bathed in the blood of young virgins -- and in the case of especially pretty ones, drank their blood -- then she would become gloriously beautiful and strong. Báthory began to roam the countryside by night, hunting for suitable girls.

Each batch of young girls would be hung upside-down by chains, wrapped around their ankles. Their throats would be slit and their blood drained for a bath or shower. Occasionaly, she would drink blood: at first from a golden flask, but later, directly from the dying body.

After five years, Báthory began to realize that the blood of peasant girls was having little effect on the quality of her skin. In the early 17th Century, parents of substantial position often wished their daughters to be educated in the social graces and etiquettes. In 1609, Elizabeth established an academy in the castle, offering to take 25 girls at a time finish their educations.

Assisted by Dorotta Szentes[?], these students were kiled by Báthory. However, during a frenzy of lust, four bodies were thrown off the castle walls.

The Trial of Báthory

Word reached the Hungarian king, Matthias II, who ordered that the Countess be placed on trial. She was brought before a formal hearing in 1610.

The Executions of her Collaborators

Dorotta Szentes and Báthory's other assistants were burned alive, but the Countess, by reason of her noble birth, could not be executed. She was sealed into a closet of her castle and died there after 4 years.

References

  • McNally, Raymond T.: Dracula was a woman: in search of the blood countess of Transylvania. New York: McGraw Hill, 1983.



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