Elizabeth Báthory: The West's Most Legendary Serial Killer

By | May 12, 2020

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One of the most prolific alleged serial killers who's ever lived, Elizabeth Báthory, had the perks of timing and aristocracy on her side. This Hungarian noblewoman is believed to have used her position of power to cull so many victims from the countryside without repercussions that even though her horrific crimes (she is said to have used skewers, hot pokers, and bugs to torture her victims) are well known, we still don't know exactly how many people she killed. Without a trustworthy record of her misdeeds, it's impossible to calculate, but at her trial in 1611, the number was estimated to be around 650 over a period of just six years. When did she find the time? Well, it's possible that she didn't.

Bathed In Blood

Born to Baron George VI Báthory of the Ecsed in 1560, Elizabeth Báthory might as well have come out of the womb drinking blood. It's believed that Báthory suffered from epilepsy, a condition that would easily be inherited thanks to inbreeding in the Hungarian royal family, and one common treatment for seizures at the time involved rubbing blood into the skin of the afflicted. Victims of the disease were also fed the blood of healthy people as a means to cleanse the sufferer of their illness. Much of what we know about Báthory comes from texts that are hundreds of years old that attempt to explain her actions later in life, so this could be a conflation of events, but it's possible that her parents, nurses, and other caregivers really did feed her blood at a young age.

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(History Collection)

The Sins Of The Father

In the case of Elizabeth Báthory, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Baron George Báthory and Baroness Anna Báthory were known to revel in torturing Hungarian peasants for the most minor infractions, even—especially—in the presence of their daughter. An often-quoted story about her grim childhood claims that she stood by as a Romani man who was accused of theft was sewn into the belly of a dying horse and left there for the remainder of his short life. Her attendance at these scenes was no accident or act of negligence: It was explicitly for the purpose of teaching her how to treat those beneath her. Witnessing such acts of brutal sadism seemed to have left the desired impression on young Elizabeth.