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 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.
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."
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.
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.