Who was Elizabeth Bathory? The most murderous woman in the history of the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This Hungarian countess, who flourished in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, tortured and killed anywhere between 50 and 650 young women for pure pleasure. She reportedly bathed in their blood to keep herself young and sexy, watched them freeze to death for fun, and was allegedly one of the inspirations for the character Dracula.
These Elizabeth Bathory facts are just part of this intriguing woman's story, however. The real life of Elizabeth Bathory included her role as an incredibly rich and powerful noblewoman in Hungary/Transylvania. She was the niece of a king, mother of a secret love child, and a sexually adventurous dame who also happened to enjoy torturing women. Well-educated, she spoke several languages and spawned hundreds of gory legends that persist until this day.
As a Child, She Witnessed Terrible Scenes of Torture
As a little girl, the spoiled, petulant Elizabeth was never chastised for any bad behavior, even though she was prone to fits of rage and violence. From the time she was a young girl, she experienced seizures, wild mood swings, and terrible migraines.
She also observed scenes of horrific torture, including one episode where she watched local authorities slit open the belly of a living horse, cram a criminal inside it, and stitch it closed, leaving the living criminal to writhe and struggle until both the human and the horse were dead.
She Had a Secret Love Child at 13 and Married a Sadistic Husband
After taking a lover at age 13 and giving birth to a secret love child, Hungarian hottie Elizabeth was married shortly before turning 15 to a nobleman named Ferenc Nadasdy. He was allegedly as into dark stuff as his wife, cruelly torturing Ottoman captives and sticking pieces of paper between his servants' toes and setting them on fire. For his ferocity in battle against Ottoman Turks, he earned the nickname "the Black Hero of Hungary."
Her Aunt Was Rumored to Be a Murderous Bisexual Witch
Elizabeth came from one of the most powerful noble families in Transylvania. Her uncle, Stephen Bathory, married the queen regnant of Poland and was a fierce warrior, but things went left when it came to her aunt, Klara Bathory. Contemporary accounts state that Klara took a lover who killed her husband, but rumor has it that she smothered her second husband herself. Other accounts have Klara as a bisexual murderess who practiced sorcery in her spare time and instructed Elizabeth in the dark arts. (Of course, the sexuality of powerful women has also been used to condemn them, so all of these rumors need to be taken with a grain of salt.)
Eventually, Klara was imprisoned, but the legend grew: she became known as a sexually rapacious vixen who seduced her prison guards. Another story claims that Klara and one of her boy-toys were captured by an Ottoman pasha, who skewered the young man on a spit, and the Ottoman garrison repeatedly raped Klara.
She Supposedly Bathed in Virgins' Blood to Keep Herself Young
Elizabeth was reputed to have bitten her young female victims and sucked blood from their wounds, making her one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Reportedly, later in her murderous career, she also bathed in the blood of the virgins she tortured, believing this would keep her forever young and beautiful. However, these stories of her literal bloodbaths come from a later account that mythologized and perhaps exaggerated her cruelty.
She Made Girls Freeze to Death in the Snow or Burned Them with Hot Irons
After marrying the Black Hero, Elizabeth expanded her torture tactics. She stuck young girls in spike-lined cages and hung them from the ceiling and threw others in the snow, tossing cold water on them so they froze to death. Elizabeth enjoyed putting red-hot coins into servant girls' palms; she also thrust pokers into the fire and used them to burn her servants' faces. To top it off, she also tore off their fingers with pincers.
She Smeared Girls in Honey and Sent Them to Be Attacked by Bees
Following the suggestion of her husband Count Nadasdy, Elizabeth smeared servant girls in honey and put them outside for a full day so they would be bitten by bugs and stung by bees. Though the two were frequently separated, Nadasdy would send his wife torture advice from the battlefield while he was away as a sort of "love letter."
After Her Husband's Death, She Became Even More Out of Control
Eventually, Elizabeth outgrew her husband's torture tactics and began to learn new methods of wreaking havoc on those around her, especially servant girls. She wrote to Nadasdy that her servant Thorko had taught her a new method of cursing: "Beat a black hen to death, then smear the blood on your enemy or his clothes to condemn him."
After her husband died in 1604, Elizabeth became even more extreme. Records from her later trials indicate that Elizabeth shoved needles underneath girls' fingernails or into their faces. She would bite chunks of flesh from their bodies or poke their breasts with sharp pincers.
The "Blood Countess" Was Reputedly Also Very Promiscious
Nicknamed "the Blood Countess," Elizabeth was said to have a nearly unlimited libido. In addition to the teenage love affair that produced an illegitimate child, and then her husband, the count, Elizabeth seduced a local hunk named Ironhead later in life. Rumors of bisexuality only hail from centuries after her life.