History

The Female Murderer Known as "The Blood Countess" May Have Inspired "Dracula"

Think of the most deplorable, disgusting, miserably wretched being imaginable. Great. You've successfully conjured the amount of evil in Elizabeth Bathory's left pinky toe. This vicious woman, appropriately dubbed the "Blood Countess," is widely considered to be the most prolific murderess in history. The high estimate of her death count is 650, and she is said to have been one of the main inspirations for Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

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You've Been Warned ...

It's hard to describe Elizabeth Bathory's malevolence. But summed up in a word, it'd probably be a single, drawn-out, blood-curdling scream. Known as the Blood Countess, Bathory was born in 1560 in Transylvania to a family of Hungarian/Transylvanian nobility. Her uncle had been the King of Hungary, and her cousin Stephen Bathory was the Duke of Transylvania. At age 15, Bathory married Count Ferencz Nadasdy, a man affectionately known as the "Black Knight of Hungary." He was often off on business trips (a.k.a. war), and Bathory would ask for details of his gory adventures in letters. Allegedly, Bathory spent her downtime torturing and murdering peasants around her while he was away, sometimes with the help of elderly female accomplices.

Portrait of Elizabeth Bathory.

And now (warning!) the moment you've all been waiting for — a small sampling of the downright despicable acts Bathory allegedly perpetrated upon her victims, as reported by Rejected Princesses:

  • Beat them to the point where there was so much blood on the walls and beds that it had to be soaked up with ashes and cinder
  • Pricked their mouths and fingernails with needles and cut their hands, lips, and noses with scissors
  • Had them stand outside in tubs of ice water up to their necks until they died

If you're twisted, there are plenty of other, more gruesome examples here.

Elizabeth Báthory spent her childhood at Ecsed Castle in Nyírbátor, Hungary.

Okay, But How Can We Know for Sure?

There are two important things to consider whenever you're reading about events that took place way in the past. First, the facts may not be totally straight, since the documentation could be inaccurate documentation and there are no more living witnesses to tell it like it really was. And second, context is critical. To that point, many of the twisted ways Bathory allegedly tortured and killed her victims weren't completely uncommon at the time.

There's also the fact that Bathory had a lot of money, influence, and power, and not everyone was cool with that. Rejected Princesses suspects George Thurzo, Palatine of Hungary, was set on taking Bathory down and smearing her reputation to an incredible degree: "So, even if she did commit said acts (which is possible, although nowhere near the scale of the accusations), ask yourself what is more likely: an incredibly outlandish list of violence perpetrated by a cadre of old women over decades; or, an orchestrated persecution against a powerful, harsh, and independent woman — in the age of actual witch hunts, no less!"

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Hear the whole bloodcurdling story in "Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory" by Kimberly Craft. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto January 7, 2017

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