While most of us have heard of Jack the Ripper, Vlad the Impaler, John Wayne Gacy and other mass murderers, most of us have probably never heard of Elizabeth Báthory. Báthory is a historical anomaly, a female mass murderer.
Báthory (1560-1614), often called the “Blood Countess,” was a Hungarian noblewoman considered to be the most deranged female serial killer in the history of the world. According to the accounts she lured young peasant girls to her castle with promises of high-paying jobs as servants. These girls were then subjected to horrible tortures. Some were beaten, some stabbed with needles (the needles of the time were larger than the ones we have today) or stripped naked and left to freeze in the snow. As horrible as that was she would also drain her victim’s blood and bathe in it believing that it would keep her skin radiant and youthful. (The accounts of bathing in blood are from a later account so they may not be entirely factual.)
Although she was never convicted in court, it is believed that Báthory murdered at least 80 peasant girls (that’s the number her companions were convicted of murdering) but some accounts put the number as high as 650. A Lutheran minister by the name of István Magyari complained about her activities as early as 1602, but authorities, who had little, if any, concern for peasant girls, turned a blind eye until she started torturing and killing young noblewomen. Finally, in 1610, King Matthias II ordered an investigation in and, in 1611, she was bricked up inside a chamber in Ecsed Castle, where she lived, with only a small opening through which she was given her food. She died in 1614.
Some historians believe that Báthory was framed by political opponents. We may never know what really happened but there’s no disputing that her reputation is a mixture of truth and legend.
Andrews, Evan. 2012. “7 Terrifying Historical Figures,” 29 Oct 2012.
Wikipedia: Elizabeth Báthory
Text © 2017 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.