Like every morning, he opened the small crack in the door to pass the meager ration of daily food. But this time, the woman did not reach out to receive her. She was lying on the floor of the room dead. The discomfort that she had felt the night before and that no one had paid attention to had done its thing.
It was August 21, 1614. Erzsébet Báthory, the bloody countess, had left this world to become a legend.
Ruthless and cruel, it is said that the Hungarian aristocrat killed 650 girls and boys to bathe in his blood and thus perpetuate the beauty of eternal youth.
The number, which was never verified, made her the winner of the thankless record of being the greatest serial killer in history.
A portrait of Erzsébet Báthory made in 1585. Photo: Wikipedia / Public Domain
But there is more. There are dark castles torture rooms, lesbian relationships, red magic rituals, witches and a -also unverifiable or very distant- kinship with Vlad Tepes, the prince who inspired the character of Dracula.
The one that follows is a story that confuses myth and reality; in which historical precision is diluted between lurid data that should always be exaggerated, fabled scenarios and the prejudices from a time when a powerful (and empowered) woman could only make enemies.
Of the Gutkeled clan that came to the Hungarian plain in the mid-11th century, one family outnumbered the already brutal others. It was the Bathory family.
His shield synthesizes it: it contains the image of the dragon -which they claimed to have defeated the patriarch, Vitus Báthory- and three teeth that represent the spear wounds with which he had managed to destroy the mythological animal.
In that complex genealogical tree, with intersecting branches, ancestors of madness and lineage of high Transylvanian ancestry, the August 7, 1560 was born in the Kingdom of Hungary the most famous of the Bathory: Erzsébet.
Herself a product of inbred relationship between cousins Anna and George Bathory, we now know that she was epileptic. Back then, it was a sign of the very Devil It made her shake and gave her intense headaches.
Some versions claim that Vlad Tepes, the character who inspired Dracula, was an ancestor of the bloody countess. Photo: Public Domain
Educated by others for the time, her universe has always mixed barbarism and refinement, science and superstition. Religious in training, he spoke Greek, Latin and German; but he also practiced alchemy and the esotericism.
At 11 she was promised to Ferenc Nádasdy, a count 5 years older, and at 15 she married him. But before the opulent wedding attended by more than 4,500 guests, had several lovers and a son, which was taken from him and raised by peasants.
Love, convenience and silence
As a wedding gift, Erzsébet received something very special from her husband: the imposing Csejthe castle, in present-day Slovakia. It was the way to ensure an inheritance in times when everything was left for male descendants.
While Nádasdy was fighting at the front against the Ottomans, she lucidly and skillfully managed the assets and properties Of marriage. It took 10 years to have their first daughter, then two more girls and a boy were born.
They both had lovers and committed excesses. Together, too, they amassed a great fortune from the treasures of war. Obsessed with SatanismThey had more in common than they had originally imagined.
Ferenc Nádasdy, “The Black Knight of Hungary”. Photo: Public Domain
The torture it was the way in which, they agreed, justice should be dispensed. As in that of all the nobles of the time, the whipping and cruelty were commonplace in his castle.
But the Bathory had exceeded the limits. In their domains, martyrdoms varied with the weather: in winter they buried their victims in the snow; in summer they were smeared with honey and left to the bees’ design.
Who was the more cruel of the two, was never known. But they called him “The Black Knight of Hungary” for the violence that he exerted inside the battlefield. And outside too.
Ferenc died in 1604. The glorious version tells that it happened fighting in the front; the other claims he was stabbed by a prostitute. Although for a few years there were already rumors about the death of young people around Erzsébet, if her husband knew something, he took him to the grave.
Witchcraft, murder and red magic: the initiation rite
According to the legend? After being a widow, her sadism surpassed unsuspected limits. I was 44 years old and afraid of getting old.
She got rid of friends and acolytes of the late husband and began to surround herself with such grotesque characters as wicked to accompany her in her lust.
János Ficzkó, a dwarf, was in charge of recruiting the young women; the maids Ilona Y Dorottya, those in charge of torture; Y Anna darvula, An elderly witch, became his chief advisor.
The story goes that one day, a teenage maid pulled her hair while she was combing it. Angry, Erzsébet gave him a slap.
From the maiden’s nose sprouted blood and a few drops fell on the skin of her mistress, who thought she saw that in that area wrinkles had disappeared and that it regained its softness.
Guided by witches, Bathory became obsessed with maintaining the beauty of her youth with baths of virginal blood.
Fascinated by miracle, he consulted his witches. It was the evil Darvula who told him about the benefits of red magic rituals: the baths in virgin blood to keep her beauty alive.
He immediately ordered his servants to strip the young woman, the they will slaughter and pour all their blood into a container. Almost in a fit of madness, as if exorbitant, she spread the liquid over her body and then drank it.
From that moment on, the escalation of violence only increased. The ritual multiplied by hundreds. And increasingly savage.
The summit of sadism
In the next six years, until 1610, his servants were forced to catch girls between 9 and 16 years to slaughter and bleed them. They were deceived by offering them work and food in the castle. They all went, none returned.
As that bestial practice proved insufficient for his degenerate fantasies, he began to torture them, to burn their genitals with hot irons and to take the blood from their living bodies, biting their breasts.
Their wild punishments They involved included degrading humiliations, mutilations and even death. They say that one of them sewed up her mouth so that she would not have any more opinions. Several saw how, one by one, their fingers were cut off.
Behind the walls of the castle of Csejthe, the young women were tortured and savagely murdered. Photo: De LMih – CC BY-SA 3.0
Something strange was happening inside the castle of Csejthe. Rumors – and fear – began to circulate among the locals. Is that there came a time when hiding the hundreds of corpses became a big problem.
Sometimes they were tucked under the beds, but the stench it was so unbearable that they had to carry the bodies to a field near the city.
When the poor women of the surroundings began to be scarce, Erzsébet devised a kind of boarding school to train the maidens of the nobility in the secrets of the life of lineage. Every three weeks, one died. That was the first misstep.
Until one of the young women managed to escape from the fortress and recounted, in detail, the horrors that she, and many others, had suffered behind those immense walls.
That was what definitely triggered the authorities, who until now had turned a deaf ear to the disappearance of only poor girls in territories with a powerful surname.
The King Mathías II of Hungary ordered a cousin of the Countess, the count Jorge Thurzó, investigate the secrets of the castle. The nobleman and his men entered the place on December 30, 1610. They were immediately struck by a strong smell of blood and death.
In the entrance yard they saw a maid in the stocks. She had been beaten so badly that all the bones in her groin were broken. Inside, in the main hall, there was a bled young woman. Next to him, another who was still alive but had her body destroyed.
In the dungeon they found some who were still breathing. Many had been hacked, injured, and punctured in recent weeks. Dug up 50 corpses only in the surroundings. The walls were sweating blood. Not even the ashes that covered the floors could disguise the stench.
The countess and her retinue of sorcerers were caught in the middle of one of their bloodthirsty rites.
A representation of the orgies of blood that Báthory organized. Photo: Public Domain
The trial took place in Bytca, in present-day Slovakia. The accusations spoke of cannibalism, perversions and a high degree of sadism. Erzsébet, using her noble rights, did not appear. He didn’t even plead not guilty.
Those who did leave their testimony were the servants. One of his stewards testified that 37 girls and young people between the ages of 11 and 26 had been murdered in his presence.
Others confessed that in addition to blood orgies, the countess organized sex bacchanalia with his servants. Sometimes he participated; sometimes she would watch the scenes sitting in front of a mirror dressed in white.
The exact number of deaths is unknown. “Only God keeps track of all his crimes,” declared a former servant. A maid claimed to have seen the figure of 650 victims in a personal diary of the countess who, however, never appeared.
The dwarf was beheaded and then cremated; Ilona and Dorottya burned at the stake.
The condemnation and the end
“You, Erzsébet, are like a wild animal. These are your last months of life. You do not deserve to breathe the air that is on earth, you do not deserve to see the light of the Lord. You will disappear from this world and you will never return. The shadows will envelop you and you will regret your bestial life. I condemn you, Lady of Csejthe, to a living prison in your own castle “.
This was the pain that Count Thurzó imposed on his cousin. It was the year 1611. From that moment until her death, she lived confined in a closed room, without doors or windows. It only had a small slit to pass food to it. Never saw the light again.
The bloody countess died alone and confined in a dark room in her castle. Photo: Shutterstock
When he passed away three years later, his became an uncomfortable corpse. The people did not want her to be buried in the local church; his body had to be transferred to the family crypt in another city. Mentioning his name was prohibited.
Potions and spells were of no use. She died alone, dark, surrounded by her own waste. The worst ending for someone seeking eternal beauty.