Hungarian aristocrat and serial killer (1560-1614). Already famous for her beauty, she married Count Ferencz Nadasdy when she was only 15, and was reportedly delighted when she learned that her husband was a casual student of sorcery and Satanism. The Count spent little time at home, and, bored, Elisabeth began to study witchcraft more intently, consulting with alchemists, sorcerors, defrocked priests, and sadists.
After a brief affair with a nobleman rumored to be a vampire, a penitent Elisabeth vowed eternal fidelity to her husband and set aside Satanism to bear the Count four children.
After her husband's death, Elisabeth became obsessed with her appearance. She returned to her study of sorcery to try to find a potion that would keep her young forever. After striking a maid hard enough to draw blood, she became convinced that her skin looked softer where the blood had fallen on her -- therefore, she reasoned, if a few drops of blood could make her skin look younger, bathing in it would make her whole body look younger...
For the next eleven years, Elisabeth sent a black carriage drawn by black horses down to the villages searching for young girls. She kept them locked in her dungeon, where she fattened them up like cattle for a butcher. She believed that the use of towels would damage her skin, so she required her captives to lick her clean after her baths of human blood. Anyone who balked was tortured to death.
Elisabeth invited sorcerors and devil worshippers to visit her at her castle, where they engaged in human sacrifices and Black Masses. Torture became a daily activity, as religious rites, as experiments, and as entertainment.
Rumors of Bathory's activities were known, but since she came from a powerful family, the authorities were reluctant to investigate her. Eventually, the Hungarian prime minister, Elisabeth's own cousin, led a raid of her castle on New Year's Eve, 1610. What they found...
In the great hall of the castle lay the dead, bloodless body of a young woman. Nearby was another woman, nude, her breasts repeatedly slashed, passed out from loss of blood. Chained to a nearby pillar was another young woman, burned and whipped to death. In the dungeon were several dozen girls and young women, most of them alive, but many of them bled. Other captives were in good health and hadn't been touched -- they were being fattened up by the Countess for later. The raiding party surprised Elisabeth, her guests, and members of the household in the midst of a drunken orgy on the second floor. The raiders later insisted that the details of what they saw on the second floor were too horrible to be repeated.
At Bathory's trial, it was charged that she had bathed in the blood of at least 600 women. Though she is often described as a vampire, there is little evidence that she ever drank blood -- she just liked to slash women to death and bathe in their blood.
The horrified court easily found Elisabeth guilty. All of Bathory's guests were tortured and either beheaded or burned alive. Elisabeth was walled up in her apartment at the castle, with only tiny slits for ventilation and the passing of food. She lived for another four years there, without ever speaking to her captors. It is said that she was still very beautiful and young-looking before she died in her 50s.
Some research from "The Werewolf Book" by Brad Steiger, (C) 1999, Visible Ink Press, pp. 22-26.
Addendum: Master Villain notes that Bathory was also "Reputed to have girls hung in cages lined with spikes, under which she sat and let the blood rain on her (the girls had to stand, and would eventually tire). A web search I did once turned up a site where a 'descendant' was trying to 1: Get her name cleared. 2: Produce a musical about her(!)" Many thanks!