Vampires History and Legends Part 3 Elizabeth Bathory and Modern Times

About the history surrounding the vampire myth, the story of Elizabeth Bathory and modern representations of the vampire.


Throughout vampire legend, there is a preponderance of male vampires. However, there is the infamous and grisly tale of one Elizabeth Bathory who, while not actually a vampiress, showed a marked proclivity for fresh blood. Elizabeth was born in 1560 in Hungary, and married Count Ferencz Nadasy. Her manservant, Thorko, introduced her to certain black arts. Aided by her nurse, Ilona Joo, Elizabeth began torturing servant girls at her castle. When her husband died in 1600, Elizabeth was free to exercise her whims without restraint. According to vampire buffs Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu:

Elizabeth was afraid of becoming old and losing her beauty. One day a maid accidentally pulled her hair while combing it. Elizabeth instinctively slapped the girl, so hard that she drew blood which spurted onto her own hand. It immediately seemed to Elizabeth as if her skin in this area took on the freshness of that of her young maid. Blood! Here was the key to an eternally beautiful skin texture. The countess then summoned Thorko and another accomplice, Johannes. They stripped the maid, cut her, and drained her blood into a huge vat. Elizabeth bathed in it to beautify her entire body.

Over the next 10 years, Elizabeth and her accomplices tortured and killed at least 50 young girls. But then a potential victim escaped and reported what was happening. A band of soldiers, sent to examine the castle, discovered evidence that supported the girl's story. All of Elizabeth's henchmen were tried and executed. Elizabeth--because of the entreaties of her cousin, who was the Prime Minister--was spared. Confined to her room, she died 4 years later.

No piece of fiction has so richly portrayed vampirism as Stoker's novel, except perhaps for Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu. There have, however, been several classic films produced on the subject. The 1st of these, made in 1922, was a silent entitled Nosferatu, directed by F.W. Murnau. In 1931 came the famous Dracula, with Bela Lugosi, who had previously played the same role in a stage production. The film was directed by Tod Browning. In 1932 Vampyr, directed by Carl Dreyer, was freely adapted from the vampire story Carmilla.

Since then, there have been many vampire films--a deluge of them, in fact--with only a precious few doing justice to the tradition of horror surrounding vampirism. Two of the noteworthy exceptions are The Horror of Dracula (1958), directed by Terence Fisher and starring Christopher Lee, and Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), a satire starring Polanski and his late wife, Sharon Tate.


FOR FURTHER READING: In Search of Dracula by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu. Greenwich, Conn., New York Graphic Society, 1972. The most readable and comprehensive of the many Dracula books which have been published in the past few years.

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