I have developed a recent and rather overwhelming obsession with obscure historical crimes, probably because I believe there is very little in the horror genre that hasn’t already happened….in real life. The darkness of the human mind and the greed that plagues man create the scenarios that haunt our dreams and become living nightmares. So for my next couple of posts, I was hoping to introduce you to what I lovingly refer to as “once living-nightmares.”
THE BLOOD COUNTESS
Elizabeth Bathory, aka the Blood Countess, was born into a prestigious family in Hungary. As such, she enjoyed all the privileges that came with her title – a good education, a position in society, and the willingness of those in authority to look the other way when sordid rumors of torture and murder began to circulate around her.
Married off for political gain at the tender age of 15, she took no enjoyment in the fancies of society, preferring the cold chambers of the castles dungeons to the mountainous air outside. She surrounded herself with persons who claimed to be experts in the sinister arts—witches, seers, and alchemists alike. She studied under them, absorbing their knowledge and practicing with them until she finally found her true calling under the tutorage of her Aunt. Torture. With ready access to her husband’s arsenal of weapons, she began the slow torture of her debtors, taking great pleasure as their faces twisted in agony as she flogged them with her husband’s silver claw.
But it wasn’t the debtors who sent her on her serial path of murder, rather a servant girl in the castle. Elizabeth struck her for not minding her chores, drawing blood as her nails raked across her cheek. Some of the blood landed on her hand, and Elizabeth became convinced that that tiny spot, the one that had come in contact with the virgin’s blood, was younger and more vibrant than the rest of her.
And so it began….
Elizabeth was careful at first, kidnapping and murdering children who she deemed were of lesser value – daughters of peasants and servant girls who she thought would not be missed. Perhaps bolstered by beliefs that her position in society rendered her free of consequence, or maybe simply depleted of low-value “stock,” she started abducting the daughters of lesser nobles, daughters of parents whose accusations carried much more weight in certain social circles. It was the escape of two such girls and their reports to the authorities that finally ended Elizabeth’s reign of terror.
More than 300 witness testified against her, claiming Elizabeth Bathory and her accomplices killed nearly six-hundred and fifty girls. However, proof was only obtained in the death of eighty. Eighty! Because of her position in society, the Countess was never tried nor convicted or her crimes, rather put on house-arrest. She was sealed into her castle, several rooms bricked over with tiny slivers left open to deliver her food, water, and air. She lived in those quarters for nearly four years until her death in 1614.
Why Elizabeth Bathory kidnapped, tortured, and killed so many young girls is the source of much speculation, but one rumor always rises to the surface. She believed that bathing in the blood of virgin girls would bring her eternal youth and beauty. Because of this, she is often referred to as one of “the original vampires.”