On this day in 1609 or 1610 (sources are not conclusive), Count Gyorgy Thurzo makes an investigative visit to Csejthe Castle in Hungary on orders from King Matthias and discovers Countess Elizabeth Bathory directing a torture session of young girls. Bathory was already infamous in the area for her torture and murder of servants and peasants, but her title and high-ranking relatives had, until this point, made her untouchable. Her bloodthirsty activities have led many to cite her as one of the first vampires in history.
Bathory was born in Transylvania in 1560 to a distinguished family that included kings, cardinals, knights, and judges. Though she counted many luminaries among her relatives, her family tree also featured some seriously disturbed kin. One of her uncles instructed her in Satanism, while her aunt taught her all about sadomasochism. At the age of 15, Bathory was married to Count Nadady, and the couple settled into Csejthe Castle. To please his wife, her husband reportedly built a torture chamber to her specifications.
Bathory’s torture included jamming pins and needles under the fingernails of her servant girls, and tying them down, smearing them with honey, and leaving them to be attacked by bees and ants. Although the count participated in his wife’s cruelties, he may have also restrained her impulses; when he died in the early 1600s, she became much worse. With the help of her former nurse, Ilona Joo, and local witch Dorotta Szentes, Bathory began abducting peasant girls to torture and kill. She often bit chunks of flesh from her victims, and one unfortunate girl was even forced to cook and eat her own flesh. Bathory reportedly believed that human blood would keep her looking young and healthy.
Since her family headed the local government, Bathory’s crimes were ignored until 1610. But King Matthias finally intervened because Bathory had begun finding victims among the daughters of local nobles. In January 1611, Bathory and her cohorts were put on trial for 80 counts of murder. All were convicted, but only Bathory escaped execution. Instead, she was confined to a room of the castle that only had slits for air and food. She survived for three years but was found deadin August 1614.