History Lesson: Elizabeth Báthory

Rooster introduces us to history's most prolific female serial killer, Elizabeth Báthory, on this edition of History Lesson.

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“A malignant force runs through her veins
A soulless shell as blood she rains
Fair servant girls she does enslave
Tortured and bleed in ways depraved “ -T. James Becker

She is history’s most prolific female serial killer and in part the inspiration for Dracula. Thanks to all of the hearsay, lore, myth, and this being a long ass time ago – much of her life seems largely exaggerated and possibly untrue. But hey, I have a history degree from MTSU so you can trust me. Just kidding, you can’t trust me, but this is going to be weird and fun.

Countess Elizabeth was a noblewoman of Hungary born in 1560. With her nobility, she had wealth, privilege, and a great education in Latin, Greek, and German. She was related to cardinals, knights, kings, and judges, but everyone has that one weird uncle, right? Well her uncle and aunt introduced her to Satanism and sadomasochism. She was engaged at the age of 11, had a love child she gave up at 13, and was married at 15.  Totally normal childhood if you ask me. She refused to give up her last name because her political standing was greater than that of her husband’s and approximately 4,550 guests attending the wedding. Her husband went to study in Vienna but he gave her a big ass castle complete with a torture chamber.

In 1578, Elizabeth’s husband became the chief commander of Hungarian troops and led them during the Long War. Her husband contracted an illness that left him in debilitating pain and crippled him. He died in 1604. It was around this time that Elizabeth began to torture servant girls and peasants. The tortures consisted of jamming needles under fingernails, some light cannibalism, and she supposedly forced one girl to cook and eat parts of herself. Elizabeth reportedly believed that the blood of virgins would keep her young and healthy, thus becoming one of the first vampires.

She had several accomplices and, because people can’t keep their damn mouths shut, word got around. Elizabeth was caught in the act of torture; one girl was dead, one dying, and others imprisoned waiting their turn. She was absurdly put under house arrest. Now I say absurdly because she clearly has all she needs in her castle already so what good does that do? But the Báthory nobility didn’t want to be shamed and lose the estate and the king owed a large debt to Elizabeth, so she never faced trial.

Unfortunately for them, the Countess’s accomplices were put on trial. They were burned at the stake. Elizabeth was placed in solitary confinement within her own castle. She remained in a bricked up prison of a few rooms with just small slits for windows and died there four years later in 1614. The trial put the death count at 80 for her accomplices. But Elizabeth’s personal death count is difficult to number. Due to political hush-hush and the superstitious exaggerations of the village, it’s anywhere from 80 to 650. Elizabeth Báthory died at the age of 54, the average life expectancy back then was around 40 – so maybe there is something to be said about the blood of virgins. Just some food for thought.

Rooster stars in the history/spooky/society and culture/current events/everything show, Phone It In. She also covers the broad, daunting topic of ‘general history’ on History Lesson. Follow her on Twitter @SoBroRooster

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