Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Love can drive you mad

I first ran into her in grad school, while talking about my interest in the human psyche...specifically, serial killers...and Dracula*. I ran into her again a couple weeks ago, at a movie.  She just kept nudging into my life, so eventually I had to pay attention to her.

Meet the Blood Countess:  Erzsebet Bathory.

For those who haven't heard of her, Elizabeth (Elizabeth in English) Báthory was a Hungarian countess who sacrificed everything for love (apparently), and sacrificed others for beauty.

The story goes that Elizabeth - beautiful to behold - had a cruel streak growing up, that only increased as she married an abusive man.  Together, they schemed up ways to abuse their underlings.*  In the 17th century, nobility could do what they liked with those less fortunate.  At some point, Elizabeth becomes close friends with a well known witch, who might or might not have influenced her subsequent actions. Anyway, long story short, Elizabeth begins to torture and kill peasant girls after her husband dies.  Specifically, virginal women.  Why?  Who knows...

The movie The Countess (2009), runs with the popular version of the story.  Elizabeth Bathory went mad for love of a younger man and killed the women to bathe in their blood.  Sounds fabricated and impossible, but it leaves the watcher/investigator filled with a certain dread that it could have happened in history.

This theory has never been proven, and original documents (should you feel the need to look into it) have no mention of bathing in blood.  Another option semi-posed by the movie is that the story was fabricated to take the wealth and power away from the most powerful woman in Hungary.

Nevertheless, the stories of Elizabeth Bathory shed a somewhat vague glimpse into mental illness and an imperfect time in history.  I am left wanting to learn more...though I do have an extensive interest in the human mind and pathologies...from mental illness to the occult, it fascinates me.

Final counts of her victims have ranged from the 60s to the hundreds...her final justice seems slight in light of her supposed heinous crimes.

Did she do it for love?  Was she merely so vain she reached for any option to maintain her youth?  Was it completely fabricated?  What really happened?

*Ever heard of who the character of Dracula was based on?  Google Vlad the Impaler.

**It kind of reminds me of that show, Wicked Attraction, where it explains how two people on their own might not have been murderers, but once fate threw them together, they wrecked havoc on the world...

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