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Elizabeth Báthory (1560 - 1614)

Lifespan: 1560s - 1600s

Related: serial killer - lesbian vampire - cruelty - torture - sadism

Contemporaries: Cervantes - Hendrik Goltzius - Shakespeare - Caravaggio - Robert Fludd - Rubens - Jacques Callot - Artemisia Gentileschi - René Descartes

Elizabeth Báthory's castle at Cachtice (situated in the Carpathians in present-day western Slovakia near Trencin- then part of the Kingdom of Hungary)

The legend attached to the name of Erzsébet Báthory lives on in the 'Carmilla' of J Sheridan le Fanu, the Hammer 'Karnstein' trilogy of movies, and the influential role of the female vampire in today's psyche. Lilith Silver in 'Razor Blade Smile' is the latest incarnation of the female vampire begun with the Hungarian Countess nearly 400 years before.


Elizabeth Báthory (Erzsébet Báthory) (August 7, 1560 - August 21, 1614) was a Hungarian countess, a niece of King Stephen Báthory of Poland. She was a serial killer, reputed to have been responsible for the torture and murder of over six hundred peasants. When her crimes were discovered in 1610, she was tried and imprisoned in solitary confinement, where she died. Her collaborators were executed.

She is thought to have been the origin of numerous vampire myths, the Dracula story, and the trope of the sexually sadistic vampiress in particular. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bathory

Dracula Was a Woman (1987) - Raymond T. McNally

Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania - Raymond T. McNally
[FR] [DE] [UK]

One crucial element is a little out of whack with this book: it is almost 250 pages long, yet only the first 92 are dedicated to the Bathory tale, and only about 50% of that is about Elizabeth.

I'll repeat that because it sounds vaguely important: out of a 250 page book, only part of the first 92 pages have to do with the subject matter. There is more info on the political upheavals going on at the time, and much of it has seemingly nothing to do with Elizabeth. It's sort of a "meanwhile, in another part of the country..." type of digression. The focus is largely on what was going on "around her" instead of what was going on "with" her. As if McNally is saying "look at me, I'm a professor of eastern European history and you're not!"

After page 92, it gets a little ridiculous. Notice how each chapter afterward begins with a sentence which includes Elizabeth's name in it (just to remind you who the book is supposed to be about and poorly attempt to tie her in to the subject matter), then goes way off course and discusses Werewolves, Necrophilia, and then vampire movies. Apparently she fits into these somehow, but I think it is all in McNally's mind. He just needed to fluff up the book by a couple hundred pages with pointless sensationalism, since the actual part about Elizabeth had none and made her seem rather boring, believe it or not. He actually begins to champion her by book's end, as if he were her hero who will clear her name of these acts.

By the end of the tale, I still did not understand why she did it. There is no explanation or barely even a speculation. It's presented in a "yeah, she just kinda got into it for no apparent reason" fashion. McNally even alludes to the possibility of it all being a conspiracy against the Countess by other aristocrats who wanted to have their debts to her cancelled by having her imprisoned.

McNally says Elizabeth *probably didn't* bathe in blood since no official records tell of that, and that much of the killing was done by her servants. And there is nothing more than a glancing touch on her sexuality, which is a subject that could have helped paint a better picture of her as a person. Of course, with such little documentation available, some topics are going to suffer if there is a lack of speculation on the author's part.

Ultimately I was left thinking, this is it? that's all? Not that what she was accused of wasn't bad, but, if this is closer to the truth, it doesn't come near the drama of the legends. A bit of a let down for those fascinated by the myth.

If the legends were true it would have made for a more interesting psychological evaluation of the Countess, and subsequently a more interesting book.

Sorry to burst any bubbles out there, but I personally was a little perturbed about spending a pretty penny on a book that is less than halfway full of what I bought it for. --e-5-i-50, amazon.com

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