Sunday, October 3, 2010

Elizabeth Bathory -

Original link -

There are two main schools of thought surrounding the case of Elizabeth Bathory: the “she was a clever, educated women who was a victim of vicious rumors” and “she was a demoness sent from hell who bathed in her victims blood.” With very little historical documentation surviving, and what remains thick with heresay and contrived evidence, the story of Elizabeth Bathory remains shrouded in mystery. (also, it’s quite gruesome, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, don’t read on).
Born in Hungary on 7 August 1560 to noble parents (members of the Bathory family ruled Poland and Transylvania), Elizabeth Bathory was a clever child, educated in politics, science and the arts. She spoke four languages and showed a fondness for astronomy.
According to some scholars, Elizabeth suffered from fits and flights of intense rage. She became pregnant by a peasant at the age of 14, and the family had to take drastic measures to avoid a scandal.
Elizabeth married Nádasdy Ferenc, on 8 May, 1575, when she was 15, at the beautiful palace of Varannó. Elizabeth moved to Nádasdy Castle in Sárvár, where she managed the estates while her husband studied in Vienna and commanded the Hungarian troops. To his new wife, Nádasdy gifted Csejte Castle, in the Little Carpathians, and 17 villages.
Apparently, according to some very tenuous accounts, Elizabeth’s husband also taught her a few great “tricks” including how to freeze a girl to death in winter by pouring cold water over her until it froze and she could not move, or how to torture a girl by covering her in honey and leaving her tied up for bugs to nibble and bees to sting.
Part of Elizabeth’s duties included looking after the peasants and serfs, including providing health care. During the Long War she even organised the defence of her husband’s estates against the Ottoman empire. She aided several destitute women, including women raped and beaten by Ottoman soldiers.
According to some accounts, she was incredibly vain, changing clothes six times a day and spending hours admiring herself in the mirror. She was known throughout the land as a great beauty.
Elizabeth gave birth to six children, four of whom survived past early age. Anna (1585), Katherine (1594) and Paul (1597) and Miklós (unknown). In 1604, Nádasdy died from an injury sustained in battle.

The Crimes, the Rumors, the Blood.

From 1602, rumors started spreading about atrocities in the area. It took eight years for the authorities to take these claims seriously, and in 1610 Juraj Thurzo, the Palatine of Hungary and a relative of Elizabeth, sent two notaries to collect evidence.
The notaries took evidence from over 300 witnesses, including commoners, nobility, priests, and members of Elizabeth Bathory’s household. Witnesses say she had started with the torture and murder of the daughters of local peasants, who’d come to the castle to work, but then moved to daughters of the lesser gentry, who came to her gynaeceum to learn courtly etiquette.
one of Elizabeth Bathory's estates
When asked of the nature of the torture, Elizabeth’s servant Flicko said:
“They tied the hands and arms very tightly with Viennese cord, they were beaten to death until the whole body was black as charcoal and their skin was rent and torn. One girl suffered more than two hundred blows before dying. Dorko [another accomplice and procurer] cut their fingers one by one with shears and then slit the veins with scissors.”
According to witnesses, Elizabeth committed many crimes upon these hapless girls, including:
  • severe beatings, administered by Elizabeth herself, who reportedly beat girls about the face “till their bones broke”.
  • applying red-hot irons to the soles of girls’ feet.
  • mutilation of the face, hands and genitals, including cutting off or splitting open the fingers,
  • sexual abuse of the most depraved nature
  • placing oily rages between a girls legs and setting them on fire.
  • mock “surgury”, including forcing one girl to strip a piece of flesh off her own arm.
  • abductions. If girls did not come willingly, they were beaten unconscious and carried to the castle.
  • biting off their flesh, sometimes until they died. Witnesses report she would have male servants eat their flesh.
  • stabbed with needles and scissors
  • freezing to death
  • forcing girls into small cages filled with spikes, or tying them up to the walls in the dungeon.
  • starvation.
Witnesses also said they saw the Countess having sexual relations with the devil himself “due, in part, to his impressive male organ”.
No one knows the exact number of girls Elizabeth tortured and killed. The notoraries listed 80. King Matthias says he knew of 300. One servant speaks of a book containing over 650 names, written by the Countess herself. (supposedly, diaries of Elizabeth Bathory are kept in the state archives at Budapest, but the translation is difficult because of damage, wretched handwriting, old lauguage and horrific content.)
In December 1610 Thuzro arrested Elizabeth, locked her in the castle and arrested four of her servants. When they searched the palace they found one girl dead – her hands burnt and her breasts bitten off, and bones, body parts and personal effects from missing girls. A more thorough investigation threw up more bodies – many with no eyes or arms. They found one girl burned in the fireplace, and more in shallow graves around the castle. Thuzro claimed he “saw no orgies” but, as a relative, he might have been attempting to salvage some dignity.
King Matthias wanted Elizabeth brought to trial, but Thuzro and other family members convinced him against this. Scholars debate his reasons for this: some suggest he realised the negative effect executing a member of such an influential family (who ruled transylvania at the time). Others believe he was under Elizabeth’s spell.
Her servants were not so lucky. The trial in 1611 found all three servants – Dorka, Ilona Jo and Flicka - guilty, and sentanced them to death. Ilona Jo – Elizabeth’s childhood nurse – admitted to killing about 50 girls. She said:
“she had applied red-hot pokers from the fire, shoving them into the mouth of some hapless girl, or up her nose. The mistress herself, she testified, had placed her fingers into the mouth of one girl and pulled hard until the sides split open. She had also stabbed them all over with needles, making them bleed, or had torn open their flesh with sharp pincers. She liked to slit open the skin between their fingers.”
Dorka and Ilona had their fingernails ripped out before they were thrown on a fire, and Flicka was beheaded before he joined them on the flames.
Elizabeth was never tried or convicted, and maintained her innocence, claiming the girls had died of various natural causes. In 1610 she was bricked into a suite of small rooms at Csejte Castle, where she lived in solitude until her death in 1614.
Erzsebet Bathory (painting by Wild)
Legend has it that when they tore down the wall to retrieve her body, they found a brief document to the effect that before her imprisonment she had invoked a dark ritual to send 99 cats to tear out the hearts of her accusers and judges. The priest, who read it, recalled the many cats they had seen that night when they entered the castle.
Some scholars debate the validity of the case and court records. Many of the testemonies sound invented – like her consort with the devil – and based on heresay and peasant myths. Many would have been drawn from witnesses under torture. Some scholars believe the entire case was a conspiracy theory aimed at deposing the powerful bathory family.
Her family buried her in the church of Csejte, the villagers’ revolted over having “The Tigress of Csejte” buried in their cemetery, so they moved her body to her birth home at Ecsed, where she lies in the Báthory family crypt.
Elizabeth’s story inspired tales of terror from the 17th century to this day. The first account of her case, written in 1744 by a catholic priest, included details of witchcraft, vampirism and occult rituals, because at the time, the Catholic church was “discovering” and executing witches, vampires and warewolves. The legend of her bathing in their blood seems to have been created in the 18th century, as part of a tale warning against vanity. The text (translated) reads:
“Elizabeth was wont to dress well in order to please her husband, and she spent half the day over her toilet. On one occasion, a lady’s-maid saw something wrong in her head-dress, and as a recompense for observing it, received such a severe box on the ears that the blood gushed from her nose, and spurted on to her mistress’s face. When the blood drops were washed off her face, her skin appeared much more beautiful—whiter and more transparent on the spots where the blood had been. Elizabeth formed the resolution to bathe her face and her whole body in human blood so as to enhance her beauty.” Her servants would catch the blood in a tub so that Erzsébet could bathe at the hour of four in the morning. After the bath she appeared more beautiful than before.”

Elizabeth Bathory Wiki

Elizabeth Bathory - August 7th, 1560 - August 21st, 1614.  Hungary.
Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian Countess from the renowned Bathory family. She is probably the most famous female serial killer in history. She is also known as "The Blood Countess" and as "The Bloody Lady of Cachtice", after the castle near Trencin at that time in The Kingdom of Hungary, where she spent most of her adult life. After her husband's death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and murdering hundreds of girls and young women, with one witness attributing to them over 600 victims, though the number for which they were convicted was just 80. Elizabeth herself was neither tried nor convicted. In 1610, however, she was imprisoned in the Cachtice Castle, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later. Later writings about the case have led to legendary accounts of the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins in order to retain her youth and subsequently also to comparisons with Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia, on whom the fictional character Count Dracula is partly based, and to modern nicknames of the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula.

Elizabeth Bathory was born on a family estate in Nyírbator, Hungary on August 7th, 1560, and spent her childhood at Ecsed Castle. Her father was George Bathory of the Ecsed branch of the family, brother of Andrew Bonaventura Bathory, who had been Voivod of Transilvania, while her mother was Anna Bathory ( 1539 - 1570), daughter of Stephen Bathory of Somlyo, another Voivod of Transilvania, was of the Somlyo branch. Through her mother, Elizabeth was the niece of Stefan Bathory, King of Poland. As a young woman she learned Latin, German and Greek. She was also interested in science and astronomy.

Elizabeth was engaged to Ferenc Nadasdy, in what was probably a political arrangement within the circles of the aristocracy. The couple married May 8th, 1575, with her at the age of 14, almost 15, in the little palace of Varanno. There were approximately 4,500 guests at their wedding. Elizabeth moved to Nadasdy Castle in Sarvar and spent much time on her own, while her husband studied in Vienna. Nasasdy's wedding gift to Bathory was his home, Csejte Castle, situated in the Little Carpathians near Trencin, together with the Cachtice country house and 17 adjacent villages. The castle itself was surrounded by a village and agricultural lands, bordered by outcrops of the Little Carpathians. In 1602, Nadasdy finally bought the castle from Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, so that it became a private property of the family. In 1578, Nadasdy became the chief commander of Hungarian troops, leading them to war against the Ottomans. With her husband away at war, Elizabeth Bathory managed business affairs and the estates. That role usually included providing for the Hungarian and Slovak peasants, even medical care. During the height of the Long War (1593 - 1606), she was charged with the defense of her husband's estates, which lay on the route to Vienna. The threat was significant, for the village of Cachtice had previously been plundered by the Ottomans while Sarvar, located near the border that divided Royal Hungary and Ottoman occupied Hungary, was in even great danger. She was an educated woman who could read and write in four languages. There were several instances where she intervened on behalf of destitute women, including a woman whose husband was captured by the Turks and a woman whose daughter was raped and impregnated. In 1585, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Anna. A second daughter, Ursula, and her first son, Andrew, both died at an early age. After this, Elizabeth had three more children, Katherine (born in 1594), Paul (born around 1597) and Miklos. All of her children were cared for by governesses as Elizabeth had been. Elizabeth’s husband died in 1604 at the age of 47, reportedly due to an injury sustained in battle. The couple had been married for 29 years.
Early Investigation
Between 1602 and 1604, Lutheran minister Istvan Magyari complained about atrocities both publicly and with the court in Vienna, after rumors had spread. The Hungarian authorities took some time to respond to Magyari’s complaints. Finally, in 1610, King Mattias assigned Gyorgy Thurzo, the Palatine of Hungary, to investigate. Thurzo ordered two notaries to collect evidence in March 1610. Even before obtaining the results, Thurzo debated further proceedings with Elizabeth’s son Paul and two of her sons-in-law. A trial and execution would have caused a public scandal and disgraced a noble and influential family (which at the time ruled Transylvania), and Elizabeth’s considerable property would have been seized by the crown. Thurzo, along with Paul and her two sons-in-law, originally planned for Elizabeth to be spirited away to a nunnery, but as accounts of her murders of the daughters of lesser nobility spread, it was agreed that Elizabeth Bathory should be kept under strict house arrest, but that further punishment should be avoided. It was also determined that Matthias would not have to repay his large debt to her, for which he lacked sufficient funds.
Arrest and trial
Thurzo went to Csejte (Cachtice) Castle on December 30th 1610 and arrested Bathory and four of her servants, who were accused of being her accomplices. Thurzo men reportedly found one girl dead and one dying. They reported that another woman was found wounded, others locked up. While the countess was put under house arrest (and remained so from that point on), King Matthias requested that Elizabeth be sentenced to death. However, Thurzo successfully convinced the King that such an act would negatively affect the nobility. Hence, a trail was postponed indefinitely. Thurzo’s motivation for such an intervention is debated by scholars. The countess’ associates however were brought to court.  A trail was held on January 7th 1611 at Bicse, presided over by Royal Supreme Court judge Theodosious Syrmiensis de Szulo and 20 associate judges. Bathory herself did not appear at the trial. The defendants at the trial were Dorottya Szentes, also referred to as Dorka, Ilona Jo, Katarina Benicka, and Janos Ujvary (“Ibis” or Ficko). Dorka, Ilona Jo and Ficko were found guilty and put to death on the spot.  Dorka and Ilona had their fingernails ripped out before they were thrown into a fire, while Ficko, who was deemed less guilty, was beheaded before being consigned to the flames. A public scaffold was erected near the castle to show the public that justice had been done. Katarina Benicka was sentenced to life imprisonment, as she only acted under the domination and bullying by other women, as implied by recorded testimony.
Last years and death
During the trial of her primary servants, Bathory had been placed under house arrest in a walled up set of rooms. She remained there for four years, until her death. King Mattias had urged Thurzo to bring her o court and two notaries were sent to collect further evidence, but in the end no court proceedings against her were ever commenced. On August 21st 1614, Elizabeth Bathory 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, buy 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 Bathory family crypt.
In 1610 and 1611, the notaries collected testimony from more than 300 witnesses. The trial records include the testimony of the four defendants, as well as thirteen witnesses. Priests, noblemen and commoners were questioned. Witnesses included the castellan and other personnel of Sarvar castle. According to all this testimony, her initial victims were the adolescent daughters of local peasants, many of whom were lured to Cachtice by offers of well-paid work as maidservants in the castle. Later, she is said to have begun to kill daughters of local peasants of the lesser gentry, who were sent to by gynaeceum by their parents to learn courtly etiquette. Abductions were said to have occurred as well. The descriptions of torture that emerged during the trials were often based on hearsay. The atrocities described most consistently included:
  • severe beatings, administered by Elizabeth herself, who reportedly beat girls about the face “till their bones broke”.
  • applying red-hot irons to the soles of girls’ feet.
  • mutilation of the face, hands and genitals, including cutting off or splitting open the fingers,
  • sexual abuse of the most depraved nature
  • placing oily rages between a girls legs and setting them on fire.
  • mock “surgery”, including forcing one girl to strip a piece of flesh off her own arm.
  • abductions. If girls did not come willingly, they were beaten unconscious and carried to the castle.
  • biting off their flesh, sometimes until they died. Witnesses report she would have male servants eat their flesh.
  • stabbed with needles and scissors
  • freezing to death
  • forcing girls into small cages filled with spikes, or tying them up to the walls in the dungeon.
  • starvation.
The use of needles was also mentioned by the collaborators in court. Some witnesses named relatives who died while at the gynaeceum. Others reported having seen traces of torture on dead bodies, some of which were buried in graveyards, and others in unmarked locations. According to the testimony of the defendants, Elizabeth Bathory tortured and killed her victims not only at Csejte but also on her properties on Sarvar, Sopronkeresztur, Bratislava, (then Pozsiny, Pressburg), and Vienna, and even between these locations. In addition to the defendants, several people were named for supplying Bathory with young women. The girls had been procured either by deception or by force. A little-known figure named Anna Darvulia was rumored to have influenced Bathory, but Darvulia was dead long before the trial. The exact number of girls and young women tortured and killed by Bathory is unknown, though it is often speculated to be as high as 650, between the years 1585 and 1610. The estimates differ greatly. During trial and before their execution, Szentes and Ficko reported 36 and 37 respectively, during their periods of service. The other defendants estimated a number of 50 or higher. Many Sarvar castle personnel estimated the number of bodies removed from the castle at between 100 and 200. One witness who spoke at the trial mentioned a book in which a total of over 650 victims was supposed to have been listed by Bathory herself. This number became part of the legend surrounding Bathory. Reportedly, the location of the diaries is unknown but 32 letters writtin by Bathory are stored in Hungarian state archives in Budapest. Laszlo Nagy has argued Elizabeth Bathory was a victim of a conspiracy, a view opposed by others. Nagy argued that the proceedings were largely politically motivated. The conspiracy theory is consistent with Hungarian history at that time. There was a great conflict betweeb religions, including Protestant ones, and this was related to the extension of Hadsburg power over Hungary. As a Transylvanian Protestant aristocrat, Elizabeth belonged to a group generally opposed to the Hadsburgs.

Background information
Birthname: Erzsebet Bathory
Also known as: The Blood Countess, The Blood Lady of Cachtice
Born: August 7th 1560 Nyirbator Hungary
Died: August 21st 1614 (age 54) Cjeste, Kingdom of Hungary (today Cachtice, Slovakia)
Number of victims: 80-650
Span of killings: 1590-1610
Country: Hungary
Date apprehended: December 30th 1610