"The Blood Countess of Transylvania"

"In 1546 Vlad Dracula and an expedition led by Prince Steven Bathory of Transylvania rode into Wallachia to claim the former's throne. Approximately one century later the Countess Elizabeth Bathory became the terror of Transylvania and the most notorious vampiress in world history. Because of recent associations linking Elizabeth with Dracula her story is included here."

Countess Elizabeth Bathory was a lesbian who perpetrated incredible cruelties upon pretty servant and peasant girls. Csejthe Castle, a massive mountaintop fortress overlooking the village of Csejthe, was the site of Elizabeth's blood orgies and became know to the peasants as the castle of vampires and the hated 'Blood Countess.'

Born in Hungary in 1560, Elizabeth had family relatives including satyrs, lesbians, and witches. At fourteen she gave birth to an illegitimate child fathered by a peasant boy and conceived at the chateau fo her intended mother-in-law, Countess Ursula Nadasdy. Elizabeth and Count Ferencz Nadasdy had been betrothed since she was eleven years old. The marriage took place on May 8, 1575 when Elizabeth was fifteen. In those days, well before Women's Liberation, Elizabeth retained her own surname, while the Count changed his to Ferencz Bathory. The Count thrived on conflict and war, preferring the battlefield to domestic life at the castle, and earned a reputation as the 'Black Hero of Hungary.

While Ferencz was away on one of his military campaigns, the Countess began to visit her lesbian aunt, Countess Karla Bathory, and ban to participate in the woman's orgies. Elizabeth then realized her true ambitions, the inflicting of pain upon large-bussomed young girls. Not only was Elizabeth becoming infatuated with her specialized carnal pleasures, she was also developing an interest in Black Magic. Thorko, a servant in her castle, instructed her in the ways of witchcraft, at the same time encouraging her sadistic tendencies. 'Thorko has taught me a lovely new one,' Elizabeth wrote to Ferencz. 'Catch a black hen and beat it to death with a white cane. Keep the blood and smear a little of it on your enemy. If you get no chance to smear it on his body, obtain one of his garments and smear it.'

When the Countess became romantically involved with a black-clad stranger with pale complexion, dark eyes and abnormally sharp teeth, the villagers who believed in vampires had more reason toe be wary of Csejthe Castle. Perhaps, to the imaginative, the stranger was Dracula himself, returned from the grave. The Countess returned alone from her sojourn with the stranger and some of the villagers stated that her mouth showed telltale signs of blood. When Count Nadasdy returned he quickly forgave his wife's infidelity.

Now firmly rooted at her castle, Countess Elizabeth experimented in depravity with the help of Thorko, Ilona Joo (Elizabeth's former nurse), the witches Dorottya Szentes and Darvulia, and the dwarf major-domo Johannes Ujvary, who would soon become chief torturer. With the aid of this crew Elizabeth captured buxom servant girls at the castle, taking them to an underground room known as 'her Ladyship's torture chamber' and subjected them to the worst cruelties she could devise. Under the pretext of punishing the girls for failing to perform certain trivial tasks, Elizabeth used branding irons, molten wax and knives to shed their blood. She tore the clothing from one girl, covered her with honey, and left her to the hunger of the insects of the woods. Soon, the Countess began attacking her bound victims with her teeth, biting chunks of bloody flesh from their necks, cheeks and shoulders. Blood became more of an obsession with Elizabeth as she continued her tortures with razors, torches, and her own custom made silver pincers. Elizabeth Bathory was a woman of exceptional beauty. Her long raven hair was contrasted with her milky complexion. Her amber eyes were almost catlike, her figure voluptuous. She was excessively vain and her narcissism drove her to new depths of perversion.

As Elizabeth aged and her beauty began to wane, she tried to conceal the decline through cosmetics and the most expensive of clothes. But these would not cover the ever spreading wrinkles. One fateful day a servant girl was attending to Elizabeth's hair and either pulled it or remarked that something was wrong with her mistress' headdress. The infuriated Countess slapped the girl so hard that blood spurted from her nose. The blood splashed against Elizabeth's face. Where the blood had touched her skin, the Countess observed in a mirror, a miracle had seemingly transpired. In her eyes, the skin had lost its lines of age. Elizabeth became exhilarated in the knowledge that she could regain her lost youth through vampirism. Darvulia instructed the credulous Elizabeth how she might again be young. The Countess believed the ancient credo that the taking of another's blood could result in the assimilation of that person's physical or spiritual qualities. Following the witch's instructions, Elizabeth had her torturers kidnap beautiful young virgins, slash them with knives and collect their blood in a large vat. Then the Countess proceeded to bathe in the virgin's blood. When she emerged from the blood she had seemingly regained her youth and radiance.

Elizabeth's minions procured more virgins from the neighboring villages on the pretext of hiring them as servants. When their bloodless corpses were discovered outside the castle, rumors quickly spread that vampires inhabited the old fortress. Countess Elizabeth continued such practices after the death of her husband in 1604. (Count Nadasdy apparently died of poisoning although his death was also ascribed to witchcraft.) When Darvulia died and Elizabeth found herself aging even more, another sorceress named Erzsi Majorova told her that the virginal victims must be of noble birth. But even though Elizabeth tortured young noblewomen and accompanied the blood baths with witchcraft rites, she could not retrieve her lost youth. For over a decade she perpetrated her acts of vampirism, mutilating and bleeding dry 650 maidens. Rumors spread that Elizabeth headed a terrible group of vampires that preyed upon the village maidens.

Reverend Andras Berthoni, a Lutheran pastor of Csejthe, realized the truth when Elizabeth commanded him to bury secretly the bloodless corpses. He set down his suspicions regarding Elizabeth in a note before he died. The Countess was becoming so notorious that her crimes could no longer be concealed. Using the note written by Reverend Berthoni, Elizabeth's cousin, Count Thurzo, came to Csejthe Castle. On New Year's Eve of 1610, Count Thurzo, Reverend Janos Ponikenusz, who succeeded Berthoni and had found the note, and some of the castle personnel found Elizabeth's underground torture chamber and there discovered not only the unbelievably mutilated bodies of a number of girls, but also the bloody Countess herself.

For political reason, Elizabeth never attended her trial. She remained confined in her castle while she and her sadistic accomplices were tried for their crimes. Elizabeth was tried purely on a criminal basis, while her cohorts were charged with vampirism, witchcraft and practicing pagan rituals. All of the torturers were beheaded, except for Ilona Joo and Dorottya Szentes, whose fingers were pulled off before they were burned alive. The Countess was found to be criminally insane and was walled up within a room of Csejthe Castle. Her guards passed food to her through a small hatch.

The trail documents were then hidden away in the castle of Count Thurzo and remained there, apparently 'lost' for over a hundred years. Almost four years after her strange imprisonment, on August 14, 1614, a haggard looking Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess of Transylvania, was dead.

Among the histories written about Countess Elizabeth Bathory are Erzabet Bathory, by Lazzlo Turoczi (Budapest 1744), recording the trial; Elisabeth Bathory (Die Blutgrafin). Ein Sitten-und Charakterbild mit einem Titelbilde, by R. von Elsberg (Breslau, 1904) Bathory Erzsebet, Nadasdy Ferencne, by Rexa Dezso (Budapest, 1908) and Erzsebet Bathory, La Comtesse Sanglante, by Valentin Penrose (Paris 1962) Discussed in the eleventh chapter of this book are the novels The Dracula Archives and The Witching of Dracula, both of which involve Elizabeth Bathory.

While the history of Elizabeth Bathory was rich enough to provide good (albeit gruesome) plot material for the motion pictures, it took until the 1970's, when violence and gore became film commodities, for her story to reach the screen. The Countess, now called 'Marthory,' appeared with such villains as Frankenstein's Monster, Montezuma, Attila, Satan, and the Minotaur in NECROPOLIS, an Italian film of 1970, made in color by Cosmoseion/Q Productions and directed by Franco Borcani. The avant-garde film consisted of various episodes in which the main characters hedonistically seek self-fulfillment. The same year Hammer Films in England filmed the Bathory story as a supernatural horror film under the misleading title Countess Dracula, in an attempt to deceive the public into believing this to be another entry in their series of Dracula films. Posters for this film would inevitably carry such flagrantly misleading blurbs as, 'the more she drinks, the prettier she gets,' when there is no blood drinking in the picture, as well as no Countess Dracula. In the role of Countess Elizabeth Bathory was the current sex symbol of motion picture vampires, Ingrid Pitt, who had already portrayed un-dead females in The Vampire Lovers and the House That Dripped Blood. Countess Bathory is an aging widow who discovers that bathing in th blood of young girls restores her youth so that she appears to be in her twenties. Although these events follow reasonably closely those of history, the element of fantasy is employed and blood literally transforms her into a young woman. The Countess proceeds to order her daughter Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down) kidnapped and placed under guard while she masquerades as the young girl. When Elizabeth discovers that her regular blood baths no longer produce the desired effect, the scholar Fabio (Maurice Denham) reveals that only virgin's blood will continue the transformations, a secret for which he is soon put to death. The youthful-looking Elizabeth is to be married to a military officer named Imre Toth (Sandor Eles). During the ceremony Elizabeth predictably begins to lose her beauty, aging quickly until she appears to be some monstrous hag. In a last effort to regain her lost beauty and youth, the Countess lunges for her daughter, who had been freed, but she inadvertently kills Toth. The final scene in the film shows Elizabeth chained in a dungeon, awaiting her execution, as a woman bystander curses, 'Countess Dracula!' (the only such proclamation in the picture). Countess Dracula was, unfortunately, not only deceptive in its advertising; it is also a dreadful bore. Peter Sasdy's lacklustre direction of Jeremy Paul's often confusing screenplay was further impaired by cheaply made sets and a lead character who could not approximate the incomparable evil of the historical Elizabeth. 20th Century-Fox added to the negative aspect of the film, which was not released in the United States until 1972. In an attempt to changed the picture's R rating to PG, the distributor excised scenes depicting nudity or the actual nature of the Countess' baths. The result is an ambiguity that proves even more confusing to viewers not familiar with the historical account of Elizabeth Bathory.

Countess Dracula, a novel based on the movie, was written by Michel Parry and published in England by Beagle Books in 1971. A third motion picture, Daughters of Darkness, made in Belgium and directed by Harry Kumel, was released in color by Gemini Releasing Corporation in 1971. The film shows how Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig) survived into the seventies as an un-dead vampire. Countess Elisabeth and her pretty companion Ilona Harczy (Andrea Rau) arrive at an almost deserted European hotel. One of the guests, Stefan Chiltern (John Karlen), is a sadist who accidentally kills Ilona, while his girlfriend, Valeria Tardieu (Daniele Ouimet), become a victim of the Countess. Elisabeth and Valerie then slash Stefan's wrists and drink his blood. The Countess perishes when she is hurled through a car windshield, impaled on a stake, and cremated as the vehicle bursts into flames.

Another Elizabeth Bathory film was announced in 1971 by Hungarian director Miklos Jansco. Chapter 9 of this book discusses two other Bathory films: Nella Stretta Morsa Del Ragno and La Noche de Walpurgis. The Bloody Countess (1973) was made in Germany by Transcontinent Films. Blood Ceremony, which went into production in 1973 with Film Ventures International, starred Ewa Aulin as a Bathory-like bather in virgins' blood.

The eleventh issue of the comic book, Forbidden Worlds (November 1952), published by the American Comics Group, presented the Bathory story sans tortures and bloodbaths and portrayed Elizabeth as a bat-winged vampiress. The first Nightmares Annual (Skywald Publishing Corporation), issued in 1972, featured two illustrated stories based on Countess Bathory. 'The Truth Behind the Myth of the Bride of Dracula' written by Alan Hewetson and drawn by Xirinius, told the famous Bathory story. 'Beauty is Only Blood Deep' by Douglas Moench and artist Carrillo, was a Bathory-type story in which a Countess bathes in and drinks the blood of virgins, but dies because her last victim had been previously fed rat poison. The Marvel Comics Group depicted its own version of the Bathory history in 'This Blood is Mine!' by Gardner Fox and artist Dick Ayers, printed in Dracula Lives! no.4 (January 1974) Count Dracula, regarding Elisabeth as a competitor, distributes pamphlets revealing the horrors of Castle Csejthe. After the Countess is walled up, Dracula drinks her blood, transforming her into a withered corpse. An aged Voodoo goungan acquires Bathory's diary and attempts to gain youth and immortality through similar sacrifices in 'End of a Legend!', a Brother Voodoo story by Moench and illustrator Gene Colan in Marvel's Tales of the Zombie no. 6 (July 1974). And the old Bathory castle was the setting for two episodes in the future world HUNTER series in Warren Publishing Company's Eerie, issues 56 and 57 (April and June 1974) by Bill Dubay and artist Paul Neary. In Hunter: Blood Princess and Hunter: Demon-Killer, the castle houses a nuclear bomb and the only existing member is the juvenile 'Blood Princess.' Blood Relation, by Manfred Oravec, published in Web Terror Stories, vol. 4, no. 6, (Nov. 1964) was influenced by the film Maschera del Demononio. The sadistic tale, with its many Dracula references, finds Elizabeth 'Bartholy' entombed with a mask of spikes imbedded in her face. Revived by a man's blood, her beauty tainted by the rotting flesh of her torso, Elizabeth attacks her rescuer, making him a vampire. In 1973, Elizabeth Bathory was represented in an exhibit at Hollywood's Weird Museum."

"The same year as Scars of Dracula, Hammer made a film with the misleading title, Countess Dracula. Actually not a part of their Dracula series at all, this was a horror film based on the life of Countess Elizabeth Bathory."

"La Noche de Walpurgis ('The Night of the Walpurgis') was made in color in 1970 by Plata Films as a Spanish/West-German co-production, directed by Leon Klimovsky. Although Count Dracula does not appear in this film, the French title is Dans Les Griffes de Dracula ('In the Many Claws of Dracula') Actually this is another of the many films based on the historical figure, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, though liberties have been taken with the original character.

Two youngs girls named Elvire and Genevieve search for the grave of Countess "Wandesa" de Nadasdy, a vampiress who maintained her youthful beauty by consuming the blood of virgins. Lost somewhere in the mountains of France, the girls come to the house of Waldemar Daninsky, who has been revived since a doctor removed the silver bullets that were imbedded in his heart. Since the Countess was impaled on a cross of silver, which might also end a werewolf's curse, Waldemar also hopes to find her tomb. After the grave is discovered, Genevieve removes the cross and accidentally cuts her wrist. The flowing blood revives Wandesa. The Countess proceeds to vampirize Genevieve, who then goes to attack Elvire until Waldemar impales her with a stake. Elvire soon becomes the victim Wandesa intends to sacrifice to her master, Satan, as if forsaking vampirism for witchcraft. Waldemar is overcome by the curse of the full moon and attacks the vampiress in his werewolf form, while Elvire stabs him through the heart with the silver cross."

"The next novel, The Witching of Dracula, brought Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess, to the series. Having gone through many incarnations, including Lilith and Circe, Elizabeth (now using her 'real' name of Sabor) is revealed to be a sadistic immortal who lives by draining away the thoughts of her victims. Sabor is also an ancient enemy of Dracula. A Hungarian peasant is led by a wolf to a secret chamber in Sabor's castle, where he finds the red-haired beauty lying naked in a glass sealed box, in which she has been Imprisoned by the senior Dracul. the peasant frees her, allowing Sabor to use her powers to find Count Dracula, creating an army of mindless slaves in the process. In Germany, Harmon becomes her prisoner and Cam is tortured by her rack and branding iron. Dracula finally confronts her, but is warded off with crosses. Only Harmon's disrupting the crosses with a toss of his wheelchair frees Dracula. Cam stabs Sabor with a lance while the Count finishes her off with his fangs. Later, lying dormant in her glass-topped receptacle, Sabor is sunk beneath the Rhine River."

(New York: Stein and Day) was another scholarly investigation of Dracula and the un-dead. Much space was devoted to the origins of vampire traditions and to Countess Elizabeth Bathory, whose deeds, according to Ronay, could have influenced Bram Stoker's literary creation of Count Dracula.