Spooky Women of History: Elizabeth Bathory

Born in 1560 or 1561, Elizabeth Báthory (Erzsébet Báthory) is considered the most prolific female serial killer in the world. It is said that she murdered over 600 young women between 1585 and 1609. She holds the Guinness World Record.

Báthory was born into a high ranking family in the Kingdom of Hungary (which now spans Hungary, Slovakia and Romania). She was the niece of Stephen Báthory, the prince of Transylvania, who eventually became the king of Poland.

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In childhood, Báthory suffered from “Falling Sickness” (now known as epilepsy). At the time, treatment for Falling Sickness included rubbing the blood of a non-sufferer on the lips as a seizure subsided. While there is no hard evidence to support this, it is speculated that Báthory’s killings later in life were an attempt to cure herself of her illness.

At the age of 14 or 15, she was married to Ferenc Nádasdy and moved to the Nádasdy castles in what is now Slovakia. Nádasdy was an ambitious military man, so he was often away from home. The couple had four children: Paul, Anna, Ursula, and Katherine. Nádasdy died in 1604.

The specifics of Báthory’s killings are a mixture of fact and fiction at this point. It is fact that she tortured and killed over 600 young women. She started with servant girls and the daughters of local peasants. Later, however, she began torturing and murdering girls sent to her by local wealthy families to learn good manners.

It is also fact that she drank their blood, though there is no evidence as to why. The story that Báthory bathed in the blood of her victims to retain her youth was not proven and was most likely hearsay.

In December 1610, Báthory was arrested along with four of her most trusted servants. Three of those servants were put to death, while one was sentenced to life in prison. Báthory’s family standing protected her from execution, however she was put under house arrest and held in a windowless room until her death in 1614.

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From Stay Alive (2006)

The story of Elizabeth Báthory has become quite an urban legend. Also known as The Blood Countess, she became the vampiric subject of quite a few stories, including the 2006 movie Stay Alive. She is rivaled only by Vlad the Impaler of Wallachia, on whom Bram Stoker’s Dracula is loosely based.

Resources:
Wikipedia: Elizabeth Báthory
History Today: “Death of Countess Elizabeth Bathory”
Guinness World Records: “Most prolific female murderer”

Is there a female serial killer or other spooky woman of history you’d like us to talk about? Let us know in the comments below!

(Side note: I told Lilliandra that I was writing this article and her response was “FUCKING METAL” and “She would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those pesky nobles!”)

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