Reading scary books and watching spine-tingling movies are just as fun as eating candy corn at Halloween. A non-fiction account of an early 17th century aristocrat made me want to switch on all the lights in the house the other night.
According to writer Raymond T. McNally, Dracula Was A Woman.
Born in 1560, Elizabeth (or Erzsebet) Bathory was a member of Central European aristocracy. Unlike most in her class, she was highly educated and intelligent. Her
family was rich and powerful. She married a war hero, who had held back the Turks, and had kings, princes, and counts for cousins.
In his book Dracula Was A Woman: In Search of The Blood
Countess of Transylvania (published in 1983), Professor McNally included actual transcripts of testimony made against Countess Bathory for the torture and murder of several hundred young women over the span of thirty years. The accounts portrayed the lady as a sexual deviant and serial-killing vampire. It was reported that she bathed in the blood of her tortured victims to retain a youthful body. She held frightful power of those serving under her domain: torturing, maiming, and killing for infractions as small as stealing a pear at Christmas or not completing sewing tasks on time.
Alas, Count George Thurzo, the local authority and a relative, could not look the other way when cousin Elizabeth started murdering those of her own kind, noble women. Professor
McNally speculated that Elizabeth’s eventual incarceration was more about money and politics than the stacks of bodies outside the walls of Castle Csejthe. Matthias II, the king of Hungary owed Elizabeth money; her late husband had made generous loans to the crown. The king believed he could cancel his debts if Elizabeth were convicted and executed by decapitation. However, the Bathory family wanted this matter swept behind the castle wall tapestry to avoid scandal at court and to retain the vast property holdings owned by the Countess. An agreement was reached and Elizabeth lived out the rest of her days bricked up in her castle’s tower.
Professor McNally (d.2002) was an expert on all things Dracula. He believed that the vampire characteristics Bram Stoker used in his novel Dracula were based not on Vlad the Impaler but on the Blood Countess of Castle Csejthe. The fictional character Count Dracula was a proud Hungarian aristocrat like Countess Bathory. They both used blood to maintain a youthful appearance. Count Dracula kept a clan of female vampires
at his castle in Transylvania to attract fresh young prospects. Elizabeth surrounded herself with older servants who later confessed to carrying out her gruesome demands on the young servants whom they recruited.
Legal historian Kimberly L. Craft asserts Countess Erzsebet Bathory was a misunderstood Infamous Lady. Ms. Craft believes that, like today’s tabloid reporting on movie stars’ bad behavior, the historical declarations of the Countess’ reign of terror have been overstated and sensationalized. She has recently published a fictional memoir, an historical account and a translation of the Countess’ private letters.
WARNING: When reading these books, be prepared to be haunted. This Common Reader wants to hear from you. What is your favorite scary book?