Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Women Who Kill: Part One

The Blood Countess

Hungarian Countess Erzebet Bathory is credited as the first person on record to be murderously motivated by blood — and certainly the first woman.

Edge of Death Tower (Dennis Bathory-Kitsz)
Edge of Death Tower (Dennis
Bathory-Kitsz)

Legend has it, according to historian Raymond T. McNally in Dracula was a Woman, that she slapped a servant girl, got blood on her hand, and believed that it made her skin look younger. To restore her beauty, she then made a practice of bathing in the blood of virgins and having girls lick her dry. By some accounts, she drank the blood herself. Whether or not this part is true, she certainly used her status to bring about murder and mayhem to untold numbers.

Born in 1560, Erzebet grew up experiencing uncontrollable seizures and rages. She might have been epileptic or suffered some other disorder, but whatever the problem was, it appeared to contribute to her aggression. When she was 15, she married a sadistic man, Count Nadasdy, who shared her interest in sorcery and who became known as the "black Hero." He taught her how to discipline the servants, such as spreading honey over a naked girl and leaving her for the bugs. He also showed Erzebet how to beat them to the edge of their lives, although some accounts describe her lesbian affairs with them as well. She also used them in her diabolical experiments and had a habit of biting them, sometimes to death. It was clear that she favored the dark side and developed a lust for cruelty, mentored by her own childhood nurse, a practitioner of witchcraft.

After Nadasdy died in 1604, Erzebet moved to Vienna. She also stepped up her cruel and arbitrary beatings and was soon torturing and butchering the girls. She sent her maids to lure children and young women to her quarters, so she could satisfy her lust. She might stick pins into sensitive body parts, cut off someone's fingers, slit her skin with knives, or break her face. In the winter, women were dragged outside, doused with water, and left to freeze to death. In a dungeon, girls were chained to the walls, fattened up, and "milked" for their blood. Sometimes they were set on fire. Even when Erzebet was ill, she didn't stop. Instead she'd have girls brought to her bed so she could bite them. The villagers could do nothing to stop her, because she had too much power.

When she turned her bloodthirst to young noblewomen, she got caught. After a murder in 1609 that Erzebet tried to stage as a suicide, the authorities decided to investigate. After finding some dead girls in her castle and another nearly drained of blood, they arrested Erzebet. A search of the castle, according to The Mammoth Book of Women Who Kill, produced eight corpses.

Erzebet went through two separate trials, and during the second one, a register was discovered in her home that included in her own handwriting the names of over 650 victims. Accounts of her tortures by witnesses made even the judges blanch, and they could not imagine how a single person had devised so many different types of tortures. Her accomplices were sentenced to torture and death, and Erzebet was imprisoned for life in a small room in her own castle, where she died in 1614. It was afterward that rumors spread about how she'd bathed in the blood of her young victims.

From one predator to another, let's return to the twentieth century.

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