A Hungarian noblewoman who killed more than 600 people and drank the blood of her victims to retain her youth is the most deadly female killer on record, according to legend.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory was born into a rich family of landowners in 1560, living a luxurious life in Cachtice Castle, situated in modern-day Slovakia.
But the Countess, who has earned herself the nickname 'Countess Dracula', didn't use her high status for good, instead luring unwitting peasant girls away from their families before imprisoning and murdering them, the Mirror reports.
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And Bathory didn't stop at mere homicide – she would use brutal methods to torture her unfortunate victims, including forcing pins under their nails, biting chunks off their breasts, leaving them to freeze to death, or cutting off their fingers or genitals.
She also killed the daughters of the gentry and local girls who believed they were going to her castle to get an education.
Most horrifically, Bathory is believed to have bathed in the blood of her victims, as well as drinking it to preserve her youth.
This, she believed, would help preserve her youth as by the time she started her killing spree she was in her 30s, and therefore an older person.
Bathory remained untouchable for years thanks to her high status, and was able to continue committing horrific murders from 1590 to 1610.
Finally, Countess Dracula was arrested in December 1610, along with four of her most trusted servants.
The Hungarian King at the time, Matthias II gave the task of investigating the countess to an influential magnate called Gyorgy Thurzo, who collected dozens of witness statements – rising to 300 by 1611 – describing Bathory's abhorrent acts.
Bathory was accused of being a vampire and even of having sex with the Devil, before being charged with the murder of 80 girls – although one witness, who claimed to have seen the countess' diary, said the number was really 650.
The countess was sentenced to lifelong house arrest in her own castle until her death in 1614, aged 54. Meanwhile, her four servants were burned at the stake.
Bathory's buried remains have not been located and their whereabouts remain a mystery, but it is speculated they are somewhere beneath the castle grounds.
But it's for her vampiric tendencies that she's really remembered – Countess Blood has inspired multiple works of fiction and dramatisations, including Bram Stoker's famous vampire novel Dracula.
Some historians argue that the mythical countess may have been treated unfairly, and may be innocent of the crimes she has been accused of.
One theory suggests the king was in heavy debt to Bathory's late husband, Count Ferenc II Nadasdy, and that after his death in 1604, this debt was transferred to her – prompting the 'witch hunt' that followed.
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