Historical Fiction

Elizabeth Bathory: Infamous Serial Killer

Some of my favorite books are based on historical events or people. Anything that tells me a piece of history I might not have known automatically makes the story interesting. I recently read a historical fiction series, and I didn’t even know it until after the first book. This series is called The Progeny by Tosca Lee.

The series is about the desendants of Elizabeth Bathory and how they are hunted and killed to pay for the sins of their ancestor. Because there are fantasy elements to the story, I assumed it was all fiction. However, when I realized it was based on an infamous serial killer from the 1500 and 1600s, the story was more interesting to me.

The Blood Countess

Elizabeth Bathory was born on August 7, 1650, in Hungary. She was engaged by age 11 and mothered an illegitimate child before her marriage. Bathory was married at 15 and gave birth to her first child ten years later. Two out of her five children died in infancy, but two daughters and a son survived.

Sources say that Bathory’s husband might have taught her about torture, but most of her murders took place after he died in 1604. She started finding victims from the young women who worked for her at her estate, but it became inconvenient to replace them. Bathory began to lure young peasant women in from neighboring villages. After she grew bored of torturing them, she would throw their bodies over the castle walls for the wolves to eat.

Later on, she grew bored of killing peasant women and began to seek a way to find noble victims. Up to this point, all rumors of her murdering servants were ignored because peasants couldn’t press charges against nobles. When girls from wealthier families began to disappear, the king of Hungary asked Thurzo to investigate. Thurzo listened to several witnesses–some were survivors of her torture–and even caught the crew in the middle of a torturing session.

The Torturing

There are so many different records that show multiple different ways that Bathory chose to torture her victims. Some sources account for her sticking sewing needles under the nails of servants who missed a stitch while sewing. Others say that she cut off fingers, bit off chunks of flesh, and even forced victims into cannibalism. Some counts say honey was spread on victims as they were left to be attacked by ants and bees. Victims were often stripped while they were tortured and were killed when she got bored of torturing.

Some of the girls’ bodies were thrown over the castle wall for the wolves to eat, while some were buried in shallow graves. A rumor started after Bathory’s death stating that she used the blood of virgins for bathing in to stay young. Because none of the statements taken at the time of the investigation talked about this, the story has no evidence to back it up.

The Arrest

By being caught in the middle of a torturing session, Bathory and her assistants were all arrested. Everyone but Bathory was tortured and killed for their crimes against the daughters of nobles–any torture against servants was ignored. Because of her status in society, Elizabeth Bathory herself was confined to her castle in Hungary–she was not to be imprisoned like a commoner. She survived for three years in confinement and was found dead in 1614.

Learn More

This was a short post, but I just had to write about this woman. The link for Tosca Lee’s book is above if you’re interested in reading it. I also linked a video about Elizabeth Bathory in this post and included several links if you’re interested in reading more about her.

I might have to start looking for more stories from history like this one. Until next time, happy learning!