Elizabeth was born into extreme power and privilege. Bathory was a clan who’s name literally means “brave” but in order to preserve their blood, decades of inbreeding led to mental instability, violence, and VERY disturbing behavior. Torture and mistreatment of peasants was very common in the very turbulent times of Elizabeth’s youth. Wars with the Turks and religious battles were fought throughout Hungary and Transylvania. It’s certainly no excuse- but gives us a little insight on her brutal behavior. She was, indeed, a monster. There is one (unproven) story that Elizabeth witnessed her father have a man sewn inside the body of a live horse as punishment for treason. Yikes. (Edward Snowden… lookout.)
Church and village records show that over 600 women went missing from the villages surrounding Elizabeth’s castle. Villagers who were proud to have their daughters work in the castle, soon discovered that their children were not coming home. Families began to hide their girls after hearing the gruesome tales of murder. Bodies were scattered in parts in the areas surrounding the villages to instill fear and maintain control.
Many of the stories that surround Elizabeth are hard to prove. There is no evidence that she bathed in blood (a myth most likely sensationalized in literature and movies) but eyewitness accounts (over 300 reports) confirm that her methods of torture varied from extreme mutilation (ripping jaws off entirely) to covering a girl with honey and leaving her outside, naked in the sun- letting the bees and ants have at her. It’s horrifying. Access, ability, power, control, and an obsession with sexuality and youth led to a perfect storm for a well-documented sexual sadist.
Some have tried to say she was framed by men trying to acquire her lands, some say the mutilated bodies were due to the fact that she was running some sort of hospital or abortion clinic… these theories all appear to contradict the evidence.
It wasn’t until King Matthias II launched a full investigation into the complaints against the countess that her crimes were exposed. Because of her wealth and power, she was never brought to trial- but three of her faithful servants were found guilty, had their fingers ripped off and were eventually burned at the stake. Elizabeth spent her last four years confined to her Castle. Boo hoo.
There is a great documentary here: http://documentaryaddict.com/Lady+Killers+Elizabeth+Bathory+Blood+Countess-10658-documentary.html