Bathed in Blood: Elizabeth Báthory | True Crime

To be a Báthory

Elizabeth Báthory was born into a noble, landowning family in Hungary.  Her paternal Uncle was voivode of Transylvania as was her maternal grandfather. She was also the niece of The King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and the Prince of Transylvania. And her family brought her up in a style befitting of her position. Including instruction in reading, writing, languages, and from the more disturbed members of her family Satanism and sadomasochism.

Although she was well educated and already engaged, this did not prevent her becoming pregnant by peasant boy. The child whisked away and hidden before note could be taken of the misadventure, and her reputation marred. It is said her fiance had the peasant boy castrated and torn apart by dogs.

Elizabeth Báthory


Engaged to a man for what were most likely political reasons at age eleven, she was married at fifteen. Refusing to take her husbands name as her own political standing was above his, he adopted hers instead.

Elizabeth Báthory’s husband, Nádasdy, gifted her his household, the castle Čachtice and 17 surrounding villages. Where he reportedly built her a torture chamber to her own specifications. Elizabeth would spend a lot of time alone at the castle without her husband, responsible for running the business affairs and estates. Increasing her standing and power.

Her husband died after they had been married for 29 years, of a debilitating illness, at the age of 48. Until his death, he may have had a restraining hold on Báthory’s torturous hobbies, although it is believed he also participated in them. And after his death, without that restraint, she showed none.

The legend

Depicted as a vampire who killed virgin girls to bathe in their blood for the rejuvenating effects, many deaths were attributed to her. The exact number of people she was responsible for killing will most likely never be known. It is even said that to accompany weddings and notable occasions torture and bloody orgies would be held. But at one point the number 650 was mentioned in court, a number seen by a serving girl in a book of  Elizabeth Báthory’s. Although her diaries and notebooks were never found, a number of letters remain readable in the Hungarian State Archives. And have been translated into English:

Elizabeth Báthory

Some named her Countess Dracula and her actions and behaviours have no doubt influenced the vampire legends and stories we have come to know and love.

The Truth of Elizabeth Báthory

Although initial accusations were made as early as 1602, the claims were not seriously investigated until 1610. And more than 300 witnesses gave evidence. Many said her first victims were the daughters of local peasants, serving girls of no more than 14. And that later she moved onto the daughters of the lesser gentry, sent to her to learn proper etiquette.

The nature of the torture varied with her mood. Everything from freezing to death on an icy winter night to cannibalism, forcing one girl to cook parts of her own flesh and eat it. She is said to have used needles under nails, beatings, biting breasts and arms and legs, boiling, ice baths, mutilation, burning with heated tongs and coins, starvation, and smearing girls in honey for the ants to enjoy.

Caught in the Act

One night, just after Christmas, Elizabeth Báthory and four servants who were said to be her accomplices were arrested by Thurzó, the Palatine of Hungary. And although it is said he found one girl dead, one injured, and one dying as Elizabeth stood covered in blood, the victims were found later.

Whilst her accomplices were put on trial, Báthory herself was kept under house arrest in solitary confinement. Her rooms bricked up to prevent her escape. Small slits provided light and for the passage of food to the prisoner.

On the 21st of August 1614, Báthory complained of cold hands. The following morning she was found dead in her bed.

Gone but not forgotten

Her crimes were so vile that her story has been told again and again. Written about from as early as 1729, made into movies, and spoken about for many years the world over. Báthory has become half truth half legend as the tales spread and grew and changed. Some say the whole thing was a conspiracy and that in fact, the victims were actually patients. All to remove a woman with great wealth and power from her position. To the benefit of others.