An enduring icon of evil, the Hungarian Countess Elisabeth Báthory continues to fascinate in controversial afterlife.

There have been many attempts to recount and analyse the life of the notorious 16th-century ‘Blood Countess’, before and after my own biography, Countess Dracula, was published in 1997. Past articles on the subject can be found on this site, but earlier this year I spoke to Ronan O’Connell, and his article, for National Geographic is here…

Proof from 2008 of the (debased) legend’s longevity

For what it is worth, I stand by my own comments as they appear in Ronan’s piece, but still have reservations about the lurid ‘facts’ put forward by others when examining her early years or detailing the atrocities she was said to have committed. These have frequently been based on other earlier fictionalisings or embellishment of the recorded history, rather than new and indisputable evidence, and I think that here – again – the descriptions of childhood ailments, erratic behaviour and illicit pregnancies in youth are quite unsupported by contemporary documents, as are the familiar allegations of sadism which were accusations (possibly true) made under duress or in the furtherance of a demonstrable ‘frame-up.’




The face of a woman who killed more than 100 young girls.


A fascination with language can lead to writing about language itself of course, but can also prompt excursions into subjects, themes and real places that are all but inaccessible for Anglophone monoglots. In 1997 I wrote Countess Dracula, the life of the 17th century Hungarian Countess Elisabeth Bathory. The evidence in this sensational and controversial story of serial murder, such as it is, exists only in Hungarian, Latin, Slovak and German. The verdicts arrived at at the time are still being questioned centuries later and the whole affair is periodically revived in novels, film, opera and in rival biographies and press articles. I plan to revisit the haunts of the Countess in Austria, Slovakia and Hungary soon, to search for the new information that I am sure awaits discovery there. In the meantime, here is an article from 2008 marking one such celebration of her infamy…