Have you heard about the Bloody Countess? She was the most prolific female serial murderer ever recorded. The Countess bathed in the blood of her 700 victims to stay young and beautiful. She was then sealed alive within her own castle as punishment.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614), born as Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, is perhaps one of the most notorious women in history. She’s been given such titles as, “The Bloody Countess” or “The Blood Queen.” Her titles change as often as her victim count, which can range anywhere from 250 all the way to over 600. A few accounts place her victim numbers much closer to 700. She’s been the subject of documentaries, books and countless cheesy horror movies depicting her life or her legacy. Scholars, historians, and researchers have all repeated her horrific legend for centuries. What if this cold-blooded murderer, had never actually murdered at all?
Bathory was said to have slaughtered hundreds of women and girls to retain her youthful beauty. Some accounts state she only murdered virgins, but regardless of their chastity, the reason was always purported to be her vanity.
The most common legend states that, while dressing herself for the day, Bathory grew irate with one of her servants. She slapped the girl so hard her lip bled. Bathory noticed the red liquid made her skin appear more youthful.
Legend states the Countess had several servants who knew of her quest to become young again. These trustworthy individuals scoured the countryside in search of girls for the Countess to murder. Once murdered, the Countess would drench herself in a gory bath.
The Truth Exposed:
In truth, Bathory was born to a respectable family who owned a rare printing press. They were Protestant and often printed pamphlets to support their faith. The king of the land, at the time, was Catholic. This was just before the era of the French Huguenots, when many Protestants were burned at the stake in France.
The king bankrupted his kingdom for his quests. Around this period, Bathory was given in an arranged marriage to an older, wealthy noble. Her husband loaned the king a small fortune to finance his next conquest.
Her husband passed away after 29 years of marriage. She was a perfectly normal noble until an opportunity opened. It is suspected that, in order for the king to avoid repayment of the loan, or the public disgrace that would follow if he couldn’t, he turned Bathory over to the Inquisitors.
She was never convicted. No trial ever took place. The Inquisitors could not easily torture a noble, so they confined her to her home by sealing all, but a single small entry, so food could be pushed inside.
With the Countess confined, the prosecution set about collecting evidence. They tortured the people who knew her, all her servants, and fellow countrymen to amass what they considered “damning evidence.” It consisted of unsubstantiated hearsay acquired under torture.
Bathory died, imprisoned in her own home, before a trial ever started. The infamous “book,” which was reported to list her victims’ names was never found. At the time of her death, she’d been imprisoned for a decade. It’s far more likely the “book” never existed.
Next, we must acknowledge that she was married for 29 years, mothered 5 children, as well as ran her husband’s 17 kingdoms while he fought Ottomans. She was wealthy, had an extended family (along with their governesses), and she had power. It begs the question as to why she would be obsessed with vanity, to begin with. Even if we concede that she was obsessed with vanity, how could she possibly find the opportunity to smuggle a steady stream of victims into her castle, with visitors, children, soldiers, and staff coming and going at all hours? Her legend seems even more fantastic and implausible. Few known serial killers keep their victims’ information neatly charted, and even fewer serial killers are female.
She’s been called history’s “most prolific female serial killer.” The truth is far from this sensationalized version of Bathory’s history. Sadly, the facts seem to prove Bathory was nothing more than another victim of the Inquisition, forever maligned in history.