Although the evidence is circumstantial to this day the “Blood Countess” is considered the world’s most prolific serial killer. The vampiress of Transylvania born a noble, a direct relative to the king of Hungary and the Voivod of Transylvania, was alleged to have taken part in the torture and murder of over 600 girls and young women.
In 1610 four servants and Bathory were arrested for the murders of 80 young women. Upon entering Csejte Castle the arresting authorities stated that they found one dead girl, one dying, one wounded and several locked away in cages. Fearing the possibility of a public scandal and the disgrace of a noble family name it was agreed even before the arrest that the Countess Elizabeth Bathroy would not be tried or executed, regardless of what was found. That left the burden to fall on four of her servants and co-conspirators; Dorka, llona Jo, Katrina Benicka and Janos Ujvary (Ficko). All four servants were found guilty with Dorka and llona Jo suffering the brutal fate of having their finger nails ripped from their hands before being thrown onto a fire alive. Ficko received the slightly more enviable and quick fate of the guillotine, while Katrina believed to be forcibly cohered into collaboration received life imprisonment. The “Blood Countess” spent the next four years under house arrest in Csejte Castle until her death in 1614.
The legend of what actually happened and Bathory’s involvement is shrouded in mystery, gore and horror. For over 400 years there has been speculation and exaggeration over the events that occurred during the countesses reign. Over 300 witnesses were called upon during the 1610-1611 trial from peasants to priest and noble men. From these witnesses and their varying accounts the legend of Elizabeth’s reputation as the Blood Countess was born. Among the many rumours circulating around the trial it was believed that Bathory developed her taste for blood after slapping a servant girl across the face, the blood left on her hand left the skin looking fresh and young which was believed to set off her blood lust that saw rumours circulate that she would bathe in the blood of virgins and eat raw flesh.
The original victims were believed to be the adolescent daughters of peasants in the local area who were tricked into coming into the castle under the promise of well paid work. When the supply of peasant girls no longer satisfied the countess it was believed that she was convinced girls from the higher gentry would be a better source of victims. She set upon convincing noble families to send their daughters for etiquette training and even resorted to orchestrated kidnappings to satisfy her blood lust. Among the many tortures that were alleged to have been brought upon the girls were:
The burning of hands, faces and genitalia
The biting and eating of flesh (where the legends of the vampire came from)
Covering the girls in water and freezing them to death in sub zero temperatures
Innovative forms of surgery that tended to lead to death
How Many Victims?
The largest point of debate over the Elizabeth Bathroy legend concerns the number of alleged victims. A witness during the infamous trial stated that Bathroy herself kept a book that recorded the names of over 650 victims who lost their lives at Csjte Castle and Bathroy’s numerous other properties. However, during the trial Szentes and Ficko confessed to the murders of between 36-37 victims while staff from one of Elizabeth’s properties Savar Castle estimated the numbers to be between 100-200, alone. The defendants at the trial estimated 50 and the official conviction was 80 but the actual numbers involved are unknown.
Elizabeth passed away of what is believed to be natural causes during her house arrest in 1614 and was originally buried in the local church of Csejte. Her body was then moved to her birth home Esced after the locals became incensed to have the blood countesses’ body in their cemetery. Since her death the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathoy has infiltrated almost every medium in popular culture from literature, poems and plays to film, television, video games and music. The only thing that remains a mystery is whether she was actually ever guilty in the first place.