Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Barthory—original source of vampyre legends.
Vlad Dracul (1390?-1447) was father to Vlad the Impaler (1430-1477), the person who has been identified as the historical Dracula. Was the illegitimate son of Prince Mircea, the ruler of Wallachia, that area of present day Romania south of the Carpathian Mountains. Mother might have been Princess Mara of the Tomas family of Hungary. 1430 Vlad appeared in Transylvania as an official in charge of securing the Transylvanian border with Wallachia. Resided in Sighisoara, where towards the end of the year his son (and 2nd), Vlad (later called Vlad the Impaler) was born. First son Mircea. Bearing title of Prince of Wallachia after Sigismund I assigned it. Second wife married Eupraxia, the sister of the ruler of Moldavia. Had 3 other children, Radu, 2nd Vlad (commonly referred to as Vlad the Monk) and a second surnamed Mircea.
Got the name Dracula later as Drac, a Romanian word that can be interpreted variously as “devil” or “dragon”.
Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) was the countess who tortured and murdered numerous young women and because of these acts, became known as one of the “true” vampyres in history. She was born in 1560, the daughter of George and Anna Bathory. Though frequently cited as Hungarian, due in large part to the shifting borders of the Hungarian Empire, she was in fact more closely associated with what is now the Slovak Republic. Most of her adult life was spent at Castle Cachtice, near the town of Vishine, northeast of present-day Bratislava, where Austria, Hungary and the Slovak Republic came together (The castle was mistakenly cited by Raymond T. McNally as being in Translyvania). Bathory grew up in an era where much of Hungary had been over run by the Turkish forces of the Ottoman empire and was a battleground between Turkish and Austrian (Hapsburg) armies. Her family sided with the new wave of Protestantism that opposed the traditional Roman Catholicism. She was raised on the Bathory family estate at Ecsed in Transylvania. As a child she was subject to seizures accompanied by intense rage and uncontrollable behavior. In 1571, her cousin Stephen became Prince of Transylvania and, later in the decade, additionally assumed the throne of Poland. He was one of the most effective rulers of his day, through his plans for uniting Europe against the Turks were somewhat foiled by having to turn his attention towards fighting Ivan the Terrible, who desired Stephen’s territory.
In 1574, Elizabeth became pregnant as a result of a brief affair with a peasant man. When her condition became evident, she was sequestered until the baby arrived because she was engaged to marry Count Ferenc Nadasdy. The marriage took place in May 1575. Count Nadasdy was a soldier and frequently away from home for long periods. Meanwhile, Elizabeth assumed the duties of managing the affairs at castle Sarvar, the Nadasdy family estate. It was here that her career of evil really began- with the disciplining of the large household staff, particularly the young girls.
In a time period in which cruel and arbitrary behaviors by those in power towards those where were servants was common, Elizabeth’s level of cruelty was noteworthy. She did not just punish infringements on her roles, but found excuses to inflict punishments and delighted in the torture and death of her victims far beyond her contemporaries could accept. She would stick pins in various sensitive body parts, such as under the fingernails. In the winter she would execute victims by having them stripped, led out in the snow and doused with water until they were frozen.
Elizabeth’s husband joined in some of the sadistic behavior and actually taught his wife some new varieties of punishment. For example, he showed her a summer-time version of her freezing exercise-he had a woman stripped, covered with honey then left outside to be bitten by numerous insects. He died on 1604, and Elizabeth moved to Vienna soon after his burial. She also began to spend time at her estate at Beckov and a manor house at Cachtice, both located in the present-day country of Slovakia. These were the scenes of her most famous and vicious acts.
In the years immediately after her husband’s death, Elizabeth’s main cohort in crime was a woman named Anna Darvulia, about whom little is known. When Darvulia’s health failed in 1609, Elizabeth turned to Erzsi Majorova, the widow of a local tenant farmer. It was Majorova who seems to have been responsible for Elizabeth’s eventual downfall by encouraging her to include a few women of noble birth among her victims. Because she was having trouble procuring more young servant girls as rumors of her activities spread through the countryside, Elizabeth follows Majorova’s advice. At some point in 1609, she killed a young noble woman and covered it by charges of suicide.
As early as the summer of 1610, an initial inquiry had begun into Elizabeth’s crimes. Underlying the inquiry, quite apart from the steadily increasing number of victims, were political concerns. The crown hoped to confiscate Elizabeth’s large landholdings and escape having to pay back the extensive loan that her husband had made to the king. With these things in mind, Elizabeth was arrested on December 29, 1610.
Elizabeth was placed on trail a few days later. It was conducted by Count Thurzo as an agent of the king. As noted, the trail (rightly characterized as a show trail by Barthory’s biographer Raymond T. McNally) was initiated to not only obtain a conviction, but to also confiscate her lands. A week after this trail a second trail was convened on January 7, 1611. at this trail, a register found in Elizabeth’s living quarters was introduced as evidence. It notes the names of 650 victims, all recorded in her handwriting. Her accomplices were sentenced to be executed, the manner determined by their roles in the tortures. Elizabeth was sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement. She was placed in a room in her castle at Cachtice without windows or doors and only a small opening for food and a few slits for air. There she remained for the next three years until her death on August 21, 1614. she was buried in the Bathory land at Ecsed.
Above and beyond Elizabeth’s reputation as a sadistic killer with more than 600 victims, she has been accused of being both a werewolf and a vampire. During her trails, testimony was presented that on occasion, she bit the flesh of the girls while torturing them. These accusations became the basis of her connection with werewolfism. The connection between Elizabeth and vampirism is somewhat more tenuous. Of course, it was a popular belief in Slavic lands that people who were werewolves in life became vampires in death, but that was not the accusation leveled at Elizabeth. Rather, she was accused of draining the blood of her victims and bathing in it to retain her youthful beauty, and she was by all accounts a most attractive woman.
--No testimony to this activity was offered at her trail, and in fact, there was no contemporary that she engaged in such a practice. Following her death, the records of the trails were sealed because the revelations of her activities were quite scandalous for the Hungarian ruling community. Hungarian King Matthias II forbade the mention of her name in polite society. It was not until 100 years later that a Jesuit priest, Laszo Turoczy, located copies of some of the original trail documents and gathers stories circulating among the people of Cachtice, the site of Elizabeth’s castle. Turoczy included an account of her life in a book he wrote on Hungarian history. His book initially suggested the possibly that she bathed in blood. Published in the 1720’s, it appeared during the wave of vampirism in Eastern Europe that excited the interest of the continent. Later writes would pick up and embellish the story. Two stories illustrate the legends that had gathered around Elizabeth in the absence of the court records of her life and the attempts to remove any mention of her from Hungarian history.