Sunday, December 26, 2010

⅏Did You Know - Elizabeth Bathory the Blood Countess?

Did You Know...

 Elizabeth Bathory believed in retaining her youthfulness through the use of blood from virgins?

Elizabeth Bathory is often looked upon as one of the true sources of the vampire legends and stories about her abound. Although there is some debate as to whether she bathed in the blood of virgins or simply covered herself in it, there is little doubt that she used it to help try to keep herself young and powerful. Fact and fiction are difficult to differentiate in her tale, but if you combine the known facts with the commonly believed but less verified stories of her, it makes for interesting, if bloody, reading.

pic by Wiki user Tkgd2007
Elizabeth Bathory was born into a powerful family in Hungary in 1560. Her parents were George and Anna Bathroy and belonged to one of the oldest, wealthiest aristorcratic families in Hungary. She had a cousin who became Prime Minister and her Uncle, Stephan Bathory, became the King of Poland reigning between 1575 - 1586. No doubt in part caused by inbreeding between many of the noble families, the Bathory family had more than its fair share of strange and often demented family members. These included and Uncle who was knows as an ardent Satanist and an Aunt, Klara, who was openly bisexual (at a time when it was far from 'acceptable') and Klara always had a house fully of very willing 'guests' including frequent visits by Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Bathory's introduction to torture and sadism started early in her life with the first recorded incident being when she witnessed the death of a visiting gypsy accused of selling his children. Penalties for such a crime could be harsh, so after a night of torture in which his screams were heard throughout the castle, he was taken at dawn for his gruesome execution. This involved being sown into the belly of a freshly killed horse and left to die slowly and painfully with the procedure being witnessed by Elizabeth. Needless to say this made a lasting impression on Elizabeth and reinforced her already strongly held belief that lives of those under her were cheap.

As was often the custom at the time, Elizabeth was married early at the age of just 15. by an arranged marriage to Ferenc Nadasdy who became known as 'The Black Knight of Hungary'. After the marriage they moved to one of the largest of their many properties, the mountain fortress of Castle Csejthe overlooking the village of Csejthe in north-western Hungary. Despite his background, Ferenc was poorly educated and spent much of his time fighting and warring, leaving Elizabeth very much to her own devices.

At the time it was common to beat the servants of a household for small infringements, sometimes severely. However, Elizabeth soon took this to new heights and by her early 20's had become very inventive in ways to torture and punish her servants, savouring their screams and pleas for mercy. Her more inventive punishments included the use of heated pins inserted into the face, lips, limbs and fingernails as well as the removal of pieces of sensitive flesh with glowing pincers. When a more severe 'punishment' was called for the offending girl would often be dragged naked into the snow to be doused with iced water until she froze to death.
The ruins of Castle Cachtice in northern Slovakia.
It was here that Bathory committed many of her crimes,
and where she was eventually arrested.
Elizabeth's husband was far from innocent with regard to the tortures. Although he didn't quite share Elizabeth's fondness for screams and blood he often took a part in the tortures on the return from his campaigns. Indeed he was a great source of ideas for new tortures and punishments that Elizabeth could use, having learnt them on his brutal campaigns. One of her favourite punishments at this time would be to sew the lips together of any servant who spoke at the wrong time.

Ferenc Nadasdy's died in 1604, said to have been murdered by a Harlot in Bucharest, so all of his property and responsibilities passed on to Elizabeth. Without her husband to restrain her even a little Elizabeth's tortures and excesses became even more extreme. Hailed throughout Hungary in her early years as a great beauty she soon became obsessed with her age and looks. Rumour has it that when an unfortunate servant girl managed to catch a knot in Elizabeth's hair whilst brushing it, Elizabeth hit the girl so hard that blood splashed on her the back of her hand. As she wiped the blood off, she imagined that the skin touched by the blood had regained the smooth complexion for which it had once been famous, thus restoring her youth. Turning to her friends and accomplices in her torture games, known as Anna Darvulia, Helena Jo and Dorothea Szentes (Dorka), they assured between them that indeed the blood of young women, especially virgins, could be on ready supply to help restore her youth and looks.

From that day on Elizabeth Bathory's excesses grew and so did the number of girls tortured and killed. One of her favourite games was said to be to place the victim in a spherical cage too small to stand up in. The torture cage would hang by chains from the ceiling so that it could be easily swung. The inside of the cage was covered in spikes and the swinging motion would cause the victim to thrown around the cage, tearing the flesh and puncturing body as it scraped against the spikes. Elizabeth was then said to have stood underneath and covered herself in blood as it cascaded from the victims body.

It wasn't long before the source of peasant girls started to dry up and after the death of her friend (and probable lover) Anna Darvulia, she turned to minor nobility for her sport and sadistic games. This combined with the body disposal becoming increasingly careless meant the authorities had no choice but to act shortly after. For mainly political reasons Elizabeth escaped death and instead was walled up in her room in the castle, with just a small hole for light and another for food. Of her friends and accomplices - Helena Jo and Dorothea Szentes had their fingers ripped off with red hot pincers before they were thrown alive into fires. The others were beheaded and their corpses burnt on the same fires.

Last Years and Death

During the trial of her primary servants, Báthory had been placed under house arrest in a walled up set of rooms. She remained there for four years, until her death.

King Matthias had urged Thurzo to bring her to court and two notaries were sent to collect further evidence, but in the end no court proceedings against her were ever commenced.

On 21 August 1614, Elizabeth Báthory was found dead in her castle. Since there were several plates of food untouched, her actual date of death is unknown. She was buried in the church of Csejte, but due to the villagers' uproar over having "The Tigress of Csejte" buried in their cemetery, her body was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it is interred at the Báthory family crypt.

Elizabeth was said to have lasted for several years, sealed in her room, before being found dead one day by a guard in 1614. The more supersticious believe that her death was the result of being deprived of virgins blood that gave her youth for so many years, obviously you're free to make up your own mind on that issue. During her reign of terror 650 girls and women were reported to have been tortured and killed.


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