Here at 6 Nerdy Chicks, we value and appreciate the women who came before us to help to break down gender barriers. Nerd Herstory will be a monthly segment that will honor the history and success of women in the nerd realm who have allowed us to openly embrace the true geeks we are today.
This month’s Herstory subject is not one to aspire to, but she definitely broke down some gender barriers. Countess Elizabeth Báthory was a serial killer in the early 1600s. This was before people even had the designation of serial killer and way before people knew that women could cause as much damage as any man. Elizabeth Báthory was born in Transylvania in 1560. She had a very powerful family with a long heritage of royalty and government leadership. She was a very attractive well-educated girl for the time and was very desirable as a social companion to other ladies as well as eligible bachelors. Elizabeth married Ferenc Nádasdy, a man from an aristocratic family in Hungary, and moved into Csejthe Castle. She was around the age of 15 years old (yes, totally gross), but this was the normal age for a girl to marry, especially for a beautiful girl of royal background.
It was said that she began torturing her female servants shortly after her marriage. Some accounts even explain that Nádasdy built her a room or small house where she could take part in her craziness undisturbed, and he would participate on occasion. Up until Nádasdy’s death around 1604, Elizabeth was relatively tame in her methods. These included pushing pins into her victims’ nails and lips, as well as a few possible murders of young ladies. After Nádasdy died, she seemed to mentally unravel and went on a 6 year killing spree.
Báthory would starve, beat, stab, mutilate, and just generally torture her victims. One of the worst details is that she would spread honey on her victims and leave them to be attacked by bees and ants. The most notorious legend surrounding Báthory is that she enjoyed drinking and bathing in the blood of young women, virgins if possible. Elizabeth was said to believe that the blood of young women would keep her young, especially since she was reaching her mid forties, and there were no good anti-wrinkle creams in the 17th century. Due to her reputation for bloodlust, she would be given the nickname of “Blood Countess.”
In 1610, people began to get suspicious that there was a lack of young maidens in the village and some daughters of noblemen had disappeared. Apparently, nobles would send their daughters to Báthory to learn the manners of a noble woman. Little did they know that Elizabeth had been running out of local ladies to murder and needed fresh blood. She would eventually be investigated and ultimately charged with 80 counts of murder; however, there are theories her murders could have reached into the 600s.
Three of her servants would be put to death by burning at the stake. These servants were said to have helped her kidnap and hide the bodies of those she killed. Báthory herself was found guilty, but due to her royal family, she was kept in a few rooms in the Csejthe Castle. These rooms had slits for windows and for her food. Elizabeth would only last for three years in her prison. She died in 1614.
There is not much on why Countess Elizabeth Báthory began killing and torturing other females. As we now know with other serial killers and murders, there is usually something that happens or a mental disorder that leads to these heinous crimes. In the case of Elizabeth, it is not certain why she was led down this path. There was one account that explained she had given birth to a child at the age of 13. The child was taken away and raised by a peasant family, so perhaps that situation traumatized her. She would go on to have four other children, which are not really reported on in the history of Báthory and her murders. In history, she is regarded as one of the the most infamous female serial killers, and one of the creepiest we have ever read about.