Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lady of Blood: Countess Bathory

Beyond Belief

On the cold stone floor of the great hall lay a pale, partially clothed young girl. She failed to move. They wondered if she might simply be asleep or drunk, so several men went toward her. Still, she made no effort to rouse herself. One man reached down to touch her and shook his head. He told the others she was dead. They turned her over and saw how pale she looked. She appeared to have been drained of bloodexactly as the rumors went.

Then they heard a moan. Just a few paces away was another girl, sprawled face up but still alive. The men discovered that her body had been pierced in many places. She was also pale, as if from severe blood depletion. It was clear to them that she would not last longnot even long enough for them to take her to the village. Reluctantly, they left her there and moved deeper into the castle. They could smell the foul odors of decomposition.

Against a pillar, the party found another female corpse chained to a post. She bore marks of beatings and burns, as well as cuts from a whip. She, too, had lost most of her blood. Clearly, whatever was happening to these girls was related to some kind of blood ceremony, such as those practiced by devil worshippers.

Anxious now about their trespass into this domain, the men moved down the stone stairs to the lower floors to locate the dungeons. Thurzo had seen this area years earlier, as a child, so he remembered the way. As they made their way by touching the cold stone walls, their hearts beat hard at the prospect of discovery. Then they heard movement in the darkness and plaintive cries not far away. Rushing to the sounds, they discovered prison cells full of women and children, most of whom bore the scars of repeated bleedings. Those who were still healthy begged for help, and it was clear that they were to be sacrificed. They had learned that no one left the castle in the same state of health as they had come, so on this night these women had been lucky. They were rescued.

The men freed the captives and led them out of the castle before venturing to the higher floors to find the woman responsible for these carnal atrocities. To their surprise, (some sources say) inside a large torch-lit room they discovered evidence of a drunken holiday orgy, complete with torture. The lady they came for had already fled, but they knew where she had gone and it was not difficult to find her.

Its not easy distinguishing truth from legend in a case more than three centuries old. What follows is gleaned from several accounts, with contradictions on significant issues noted.

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