My article on!

This week I’m very excited to announce the publication of an article I wrote in December for The article is about the Countess’s public perception from the time of her arrest and trial to the present and closely examines the birth and evolution of the blood bathing myth with which she has become synonymous.

I loved writing this one as it was strictly historical and it involved revisiting some of my earlier work and fascination with the Witch-hunt hysteria which gripped the western world for over 200 hundred years. You’ll have to read it to see the correlation.

Enjoy and let me know your thoughts.


6 thoughts on “My article on!

  1. Great article Ro! So nice to read an intelligent viewpoint on the Countess!

    Your assessment seems much as my own. I too disbelieve the theory of conspiracy to take her property. Just like you said, what would be the point of such an elaborate scheme when they would have no trouble simply taking what they wanted? I agree that they would never have let her live, even in such strict incarceration, since it would increase the chance of the plot being discovered. Also, I agree that Thurzo’s behavior points to her guilt.

    I got the impression that Erzebet was manipulated into the things she did by the seemingly scheming and sadistic “witch” Druvia (? I hope I got that name right). It is my opinion that Druvia used Erzebet’s position to help her get away with much more than she would have been allowed on her own. I have also wondered about the possible use of psychotropic herb concoctions, which surely would have been available, to increase the Countess’ susceptibility to Druvia’s malignant suggestions. I don’t doubt that Erzebet had some violent predilections of her own as well though.

    I always assumed the depictions of her bathing in tubs of blood were greatly exaggerated. To fill a bathtub would require too many completely drained victims to reasonably acquire in one evening, even for a woman of her notability. I figured the idea grew from her clothes being soaked to the point of dripping. It would most certainly get on her hands and be transferred to her face during her escapades.

    It has been quite some time since I have done much research on the actual history and my books on the subject are packed away in a storage unit in another state, but I seem to recall reading that the remains of 200+ bodies were found buried on her property grounds. Do you consider this fact or fiction?

    How many children did she have? Were they interviewed during the investigation? Did she seem to care for them, or do you think she passed the property down to them as an act of defiance to the crown?

    What are your views on the idea of the clockwork-style iron maiden that was supposedly used to drain her later victims in a multitude of ways?

    I also got the impression that the Countess suffered from some other kind of physical malady (not just the epilepsy), perhaps a skin disorder, which prompted her intensive interaction with Druvia. Did Erzebet actively seek out her “expertise” or did the “witch” bring her experiments to the Countess’ attention after she was already in Bathory employ?

  2. Thanks Athena, I’m glad you enjoyed the article! To answer your questions one by one:

    The idea that the witch Darvulia manipulated or drugged the Countess into doing what she did seems a little simplistic though it would appear she did help in bringing out her nasty side. Don’t forget that in those days it was very easy to label someone a witch. In a time when medicine as we have come to know it was non-existent any woman with a little knowledge of herbal properties and benefits could be labeled as one, so it’s hard to know how much of her witch persona was real and how much scare mongering. Besides Darvulia, there were also another three condemned accomplices and though they all cast the blame on one another and contradicted themselves, if the various trial transcripts are to be believed, Bathory did not strictly work with Darvulia. My guess is that is was a coming together of some disturbed individuals in a perfect sadistic storm if you like.

    As for the bodies, I’ve read that several fresh bodies were discovered in the castle upon her arrest but I have no record of how many were found on the grounds in total.

    She is recorded to have had four living children and by most accounts she was a good mother and wife. I think passing on the property was both in defiance to the crown but also certainly out of familial duty and for the continuation of her noble titles and rights.

    I think the creation of bleeding devices and torture mechanisms was a later addition to the legend, much like the blood baths, with no foundation in reality.

    I’m not aware of any other conditions she may have had, where did you read that? Darvulia was a member of her husband’s staff at Sarvar for many years prior to working for Bathory.

  3. Thank you so much for answering my questions and for correcting my spelling of Darvulia’s name. It looked wrong when I wrote it but I couldn’t remember the right way for the life of me. I am writing solely from memory at this time. My books on the subject have been in a storage unit for many years now and the storage place is too far away to access. I cannot remember the titles or authors of the books. As you mentioned, the amount of material on the Bloody Countess is voluminous and its credibility is in much question. I am very interested in your perceptions as your research is undoubtedly superior to my own. For me, Bathory is a hobby that I have not indulged in in years. I enjoy subjects that leave much to speculation, a way for me to exercise my logic on the one hand and my imagination on the other. Add in my degree in justice with an emphasis on serial killers and organized crime and a minor in psychology and Erzebet is a dream case-study when I am in need of brain candy.

    My ideas of Darvulia could be entirely machinations of my own mind. In using the term “witch” I meant only that she was familiar with herbs and dabbled in medicinal uses for these herbs. I agree that anyone with an understanding of something that wasn’t familiar to the masses could easily be labeled a witch. It is my understanding that Erzebet learned of Darvulia’s knowledge of herbs, potions, etc. through other servants, then sought Darvulia to solicit her aide with Erzebet’s headaches, trouble sleeping because of the headaches, and a bothersome skin disorder (I am thinking something itchy, but don’t quote me on that). I am under the impression that at least some of the first victims (mostly servant girls I believe) were coerced into being experimented on by being “reminded” that they owed Erzebet for their jobs, clothing, food, etc. and they should want to help remedy her conditions. Darvulia needed to know how much of a certain pain relieving concoction was necessary to help Erzebet and experiments could not be conducted on the Countess herself because of her societal stature.

    Darvulia also “required” a greater knowledge of physiology to be able cure Erzebet, which, of course, was the ultimate goal. Did they dissect some of the victims after death? I surmised that Erzebet got some of the blood on her during one of these exploratory sessions and she thought it made her skin look younger and feel better. I seem to remember that this was recorded in the confessions of the executed accomplices; however, we will never know if these confessions were factual considering the methods used to obtain them, let alone if my memory serves me properly. I even question the translations of these confessions as I do not read Hungarian myself nor have I seen the actual documents.

    It has been suggested, once again interpreted from the confessions, that Erzebet’s presence at the sessions was so if Darvulia found the right formula it could be administered right away. I find this highly unlikely. I believe the three other accomplices were brought in after a period of time but I cannot remember how long. (Wasn’t one of them reputed to be a servant who had walked in on a particularly nasty session with a girl she knew from her village? She offered to help acquire the victims in exchange for her life?) I was aware that Darvulia was not always present at the sessions but I recall this didn’t happen for years. Once again, I guess we will never really know. Do you know Darvulia’s age at arrest? Perhaps her age/health was a determining factor in involving the others? It seems to me the more accomplices the more likely they would get caught. I figured both Erzebet and Darvulia to be smarter than that.

    Sadism, to the extent of which we are speaking, is not very common. Even in such violent times, it is hard for me to imagine five people in such close proximity to each other with such extreme proclivities without any coercion involved. I’m not suggesting that it’s impossible, just unlikely on its own. The group mentality surely figured into the equation but there must have been a ring leader. Due to her position, visibility, and notoriety I find it unlikely that this was Erzebet.

    Beating servants was the norm of the time and I am sure that it occasionally got out of hand. Was Erzebet really so different from other nobles when she first got married? I find it hard to believe that she could have been a good mother (ie not beating her children) if she had had such a sadistic bent from the start. Maybe she used the whipping-boy concept? I have assumed her married life was not the happiest. Wasn’t her husband gone a good share of the time? Did Erzebet begin murdering these girls under her husband’s nose?

    I appreciate your input.

    1. Hi Athena,

      I am unaware of any skin condition so I can’t really comment on that I’m afraid. It’s true that whatever testimony acquired under torture would not stand in any modern court of law so we’ll never really know how much of what went on was real and how much the figment of some poor servant’s strained imagination.

      You make a good point about the original sources, as any translation of historical documents is fraught with pitfalls and changes in the meaning of words from how they were originally used to how they are today, and that’s not even accounting for them being in a foreign language in the first place. I understand that Hungarian is notoriously difficult.

      Interesting that you don’t believe the Countess to have been the head of the torturing. In one of her letters or testimonies (I can’t remember which) she did claim to have been afraid of them (the accomplices) herself but that could’ve been simply to take the focus off herself.

      Yes, her husband was away at war for long stretches of time but he was more than likely aware of her activities. It was even suggested that he took part on occasion and apparently he was present when she was publically shamed in Church once by two of the Pastors. As for her children, I couldn’t say. If they did have close contact with her while growing up they probably did experience her temper, but nobility tended to pass child rearing duties on to members of their household so contact was often limited.

  4. LOL Every answer brings another question. I caught the article you tweeted on Hungarian history by Dr. Irma Szadeczky-Kardoss. I knew the family ties were extensive and complicated but this shows more than I was aware. And we all know the search for medical knowledge has been, and continues to be, the excuse for an incredible amount of torture.

    Much more to ponder 🙂 Thank you for your time and all the brain candy.

  5. The truth is we’ll never really know the truth. As with any historical mystery half the fun is speculating!

    Medical history is a subject close to my heart and a whole other kettle of fish.

    I hope you pick up your research again one day, it’s obvious you’ve done quite a bit of it and the forensic background must give you a different perspective! 🙂

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