Bathory was born in Transylvania in 1560 to a distinguished family. One of her uncles instructed her in Satanism, while her aunt taught her all about sadomasochism. At the age of 15, Bathory was married to Count Nadady, and the couple settled into Csejthe Castle. To please his wife, her husband reportedly built a torture chamber to her specifications.
Although the count participated in his wife’s cruelties, he may have also restrained her impulses; when he died in the early 1600s, she became much worse. With the help of her former nurse, Ilona Joo, and local witch Dorotta Szentes, Bathory began abducting peasant girls to torture and kill. She often bit chunks of flesh from her victims, and one unfortunate girl was even forced to cook and eat her own flesh. Bathory reportedly believed that human blood would keep her looking young and healthy.
Since her family headed the local government, Bathory’s crimes were ignored until 1610. But King Matthias finally intervened because Bathory had begun finding victims among the daughters of local nobles.
On December 29, 1610, a garrison of soldiers stormed the Hungarian castle of Cachtice and arrested Elisabeth (Erzsebet) Bathory. According to the surviving testimonials, she and/or her closest servant/confidants:
- Kept her victims chained up every night so tight their hands turned blue and they spurted blood.
- Beat them to the point where there was so much blood on the walls and beds that they had to use ashes and cinders to soak it up.
- Burned her victims with metal sticks, red-hot keys, and coins; ironed the soles of their feet; and stuck burning iron rods into their vaginas.
- Stabbed them, pricked them in their mouths and fingernails with needles, and cut their hands, lips, and noses with scissors.
- Stitched their lips and tongues together.
- Had them stand in tubs of ice water up to their necks outside until they died.
- Smeared a naked girl with honey and left her outside to be bitten by ants, wasps, bees, and flies.
- Kept them from eating for a week at a time, and, if they got thirsty, made them drink their own urine.
- Stuffed five servants’ corpses underneath a bed and continued to feed them as if they were still alive.
In January 1611, Bathory and her cohorts were put on trial for 80 counts of murder. All were convicted, but only Bathory escaped execution. Instead, she was confined to a room of the castle that only had slits for air and food. She survived for three years but was found dead in August 1614.