Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lady of Blood: Countess Bathory

Testimony of the Torturers

Ficzko, a dwarf who had worked for Erzsébet for 16 years, claimed he had been taken there forcibly. He was not sure about how many women he helped to kill, but he did know the count of the girls: 37. Five were buried in holes, two in a garden, two at night in a church, and so on. They had been lured from the country with the promise of employment in the castle, and women in some of the villages actually conspired to provide girls for money or small gifts. If the girls did not come willingly, they were beaten into unconsciousness and carried off. At the castle, they were bound and stabbed with needles and scissors, among other cruelties. They had been chosen for the softness of their skineven of their tonguesand for their youth and beauty.

When asked about the type of torture used, he said (as recorded by Penrose), 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.

Erzsébets childhood nurse, Ilona Joo, admitting that she had killed about 50, said that 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.

Erzsébet, it was said, administered many cruel and arbitrary beatings and was soon torturing and butchering the girls. She might cut off someone's fingers, or beat her about the face until the bones broke. Even when Erzsébet was ill, she didn't stop. Instead, she'd have girls brought to her bed so she could slap and bite them. Sometimes she bit them until they died, and she made her male servants consume their flesh. According to Ilona Joo, the countess might place oiled paper between a girls legs and set it on fire, or used candles to burn them. There was often so much blood from cutting the girls in strategic spots that cinders were place around the countesss bed to absorb it. When they buried the bodies in secret places, they chanted over them.

The third accused accomplice added that the countess liked to apply a red-hot iron to the soles of the girls feet, and another witness said that she had seen four girls bound in shrouds, barely alive but unable to move. Yet another claimed she had seen the devil himself sitting on Countess Báthorys lap, and that she had sexual relations with him, completely under his spell. That was due, in part, to his impressive male organ. Only one servant refused to testify against her mistress, and for that, says Codrescu, her eyes were put out and her breasts removed before she was ultimately burned at the stake.

Testimony also revealed that the kidnapped girls had been chained to walls in the dungeons and fattened up, because the Countess believed this increased the blood in their bodiesand blood was critical to her moonlit sorcery. They were also forced into deviant sexual activities with her. If they reacted with displeasure, they received torture and possibly death. Yet, even those who did well eventually bored her and they, too, were dispatched. Sometimes, depending on the countesss whim, her favorite girls got the worst treatment. One had been forced to strip a piece of flesh off her own arm. A few were shoved into small cages full of spikes.

Even during an age when torture was commonplace, the judges who listened to these accounts were appalled, especially when survivors recounted their own stories. They told how they had been pierced, pinched, beaten, and burned by the mistress of the castle. Many were disfigured for life.

The hearing grew more gruesome by the day, as more people added their own tales of horror and how many dead bodies they had witnessed. Finally, it was over. Based on the skeletons and cadaver parts found, as well as witness reports, Countess Báthory and her cronies were convicted on 80 counts of murder. In a second part of the trial, a newly discovered register was entered as evidence that included in Erzsébets handwriting the names of, and small details about, more than 650 females, according to some accounts. The suggestion, which could not be proven, was that she had kept track of her victims and had actually killed that many. The formal charges remained at 80, although Penrose says that King Mathias indicated in a letter to Thurzo during the hearing that he knew of at least 300 victims.

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