Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Elizabeth Bathory

Some call her the queen of blood. Others call her the first true vampire. Whatever her label, Elizabeth Bathory has gone down into the history books as a sadistic woman, and whose horrific crimes have made her one of the most infamous women in vampire lore.

Elizabeth Bathory was born a noblewoman in 1560. Her family held lands throughout Transylvania, and were considered one of the most powerful families in the country. When she was teenager, she was betrothed and married to an equally powerful nobleman by the name of Count Ferencz Nadasdy. Throughout their marriage she took many lovers.

At age 25, Bathory began to be terrified of growing old and losing the beauty that she had come to depend on so greatly. After Count Nadasdy's death in 1604, she moved to her family's lands in Vienna, where her obsession would quickly grow dark and evil. Bathory had by this point in her life, according to some accounts, begun to dabble in some forms of sorcery, attending rituals that would include the sacrifice of horses and other animals.

Bathory's personal obsession with blood started quite harmlessly, by all accounts. One of her servant girls had not been performing to her standards, so Countess Bathory struck the young servant girl in the face with scissors. The servant girl's blood sprayed across Bathory's hands. When the Countess went to rinse off the blood, she felt her skin looked smoother and younger than it had in years. The tenuous connection between blood and youth had been made, and it was from here that she began her bloody descent into evil.

Convinced that blood, particularly the blood of young girls, was the secret to eternal youth and beauty, Countess Elizabeth Bathory began to devise scheme after scheme to provide herself with the blood, and therefore the youth, she so desperately sought. During her reign of terror, which lasted several years, some accounts of her murders number in the 600 region or more. Some of these six hundred women killed were noblewomen like Bathory, albeit of a lower station, that she persuaded to come and work for her.

The murders were not as simple nor as straightforward as you might think. Bathory did not deal in simpicities like slitting the throats of the young girls she killed. Most of these servant girls were tortured by Bathory for weeks or even months before they were killed. They were cut with scissors, pricked with pins, even prodded with burning irons onto sharp spikes in a cage hung from the ceiling to provide Bathory with a "blood shower".

No one, not even a noblewoman, can continue these types of crimes indefinitely without questions being raised. The year 1610 marked the first of the inquiries into her crimes. By December of 1610, she was put on trial for her crimes. It has been speculated that the trial was brought about so speedily not only to bring quick justice for the murdered girls, but also (and primarily) to allow the local government to confiscate her family's not inconsiderable land holdings. Many believe the main reason the noblewoman was put to trial at all was for this reason.

No one can accomplish such a venerable feat as six hundred murders alone. Erzsi Majorova, the widow of a local tenant farmer, has long believed to be both the instigator and the brains behind the procuring and the disposal of the murdered girls. Many other accomplices, not named, were also put to trial, and found guilty. All accomplices, including Majorova, were put to death, each by different methods depending on the roles they played in the crimes.

Due to her nobility, Bathory was not allowed by law to be sentenced to death. She was sentenced to life imprisonment at the top of her castle in Cachtice. Her small room had no windows, no doors, and only a small opening in the wall to allow food to be passed through. There were few slits for air, and that was the total of her contact with the outside world. Elizabeth Bathory died in that room in August of 1614.

Her reputuation as a vampire grew not only from her greed for blood to bathe in to maintain her youth, but also for rumours that surfaced during the trial. It was said she bit the young girls and drank their blood outright. Evidence of this was difficult to come by as her court documents were sealed after the trial due to their scandalous nature. They resurfaced later, but were never found in intact form.

Bathory's reputation as a vampire has been celebrated numerous times in film. The movies Daughters of Darkness (1970), Countess Dracula (1971), Blood Castle (1972), Ceremonia Sangrienta (1972) and La Noche de Walpurgis (1972) all have brought Countess Elizabeth Bathory's story to the big screen.

© Angie McKain

The Vampire of Croglin Grange

Late in the 17th century, there was a town called Croglin Grange (in Cumberland County, England). It's been said by some that the town was visited by a vampire... and the young lady in the tale barely escaped with her life.

A one-story home in Croglin Grange was rented to a two brothers and their sister. One summer night, when the heat from the day still clung to the air, the sister was looking out her window at the stars. It was too hot to sleep. Suddenly, she noticed two lights that flickered in and out of the group of trees that lay beyond her window.

She watched the lights as they emerged from the trees. She had a sense of something dark and foreboding. Frightened, she ran to the door.

As she unlocked the door, she heard scratching at the window, and then pecking, as though someone were trying to get inside. With a start she realized that fingers were unpicking the lead from the window. The window glass crashed crashed into the room and the creature climbed in.

Long bony fingers twisted in her hair as she felt teeth pierce her neck. She screamed aloud. Her scream woke her brothers and they scrambled to break down the locked door to her bedroom to come to her aid. By the time the brothers got through the door, the sister was already unconscious on the bed, and the creature had fled. Although one brother gave chase, the creature eluded him.

The family moved away to help the sister to heal; seven years later they returned to face their demons. That March, the sister heard scratching again at the bedroom window. She screamed as loudly as she could.

One brother managed to wound the creature in the foreleg with a pistol but the creature still escaped into an old family crypt that had been in Croglin Grange for centuries.

The next day one of the brothers summoned everyone in Croglin Grange to the crypt and opened the vault. Inside, all coffins but one had been broken. One was intact with only the lid skewed to one side. Within, the townspeople found a withered, mummified corpse with a fresh bullet wound in the foreleg.

Disturbed, the villagers removed the corpse and burnt it atop a pyre; and the vampire of Croglin Grange was no more.

© Angie McKain

The Story of Arnold Paole

This story is a very curious myth about a man who became a vampire after having had encounters with one of thos undead beings.

It tells the tale of a 18th century man named Arnold Paole that returned to his hometown near Belgrade after having a troubled incident with an undead being while stationed during his military service. In this point I Angie McKain's version states that it was in Greece, while on Wikipedia they mention a place name Gossowa which they suppose is Kosovo.

After having sustained severe injuries from a fall while working he eventually died.

The problems began with reports from locals about having seen Arnold Paole alive after he had been buried a month before. And those locals turned up dead for unknown reasons some time later.

So, a group of experts decided to digg him up. What they found then were clear marks of what they believed was a vampire -  no skin decomposition, fresh skin and nail growth, fresh blood on the , etc.

Upon such evidence they took the necessary measures to "kill the beast" - with the traditional stake and garlic. Wikipedia states also that they did the same to all the villagers that had died after having seen Paole.

The solution worked for some years, but then it started hapenning again - the misterious deaths and reports of dead people walking the village.

The experts got to the graveyard again to investigate the case and they found more than 10 corpses with the same vampiric signs as Arnold Paole had when he was dug up. This time they wrote a report an signed it. The report is still amongst various history books and you can find an English version here:

Nowadays, the story is refuted taking the lack of medical knowledge at the time as the basis among other inconsistencies on the report.


You can find a complete version of the story on Vampyre Vineyards written by Angie McKaig.

Wikipedia has also an article on that: It is much more accurate and descriptive than the one from Angie McKain and the facts differ in many aspects. Many copies of this version are duplicated in several websites so I chose this one as the "proper one" due to the Wikipedia's reputation.