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Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess…

Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory

by Kimberly L. Craft

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This biography of Erzsébet Báthory reveals one of the most evil women in history. No, she’s not the vampire that many suggested her to be during the centuries when superstition often blinded people from reason, but it’s fair to say that she was a demon in human form.

Along with a small number of helpers, the “noble” countess committed crimes of a horrific nature, invariably against girls aged from 10-14 years old. One abominable example is the cutting off of girls’ hands with scissors.

All this took place in the late 1500s/early 1600s when diabolical methods of torture were not uncommon. I’ve heard of many horrors that occurred in England and France but this account of Hungarian history introduced another type that seems unimaginable, namely sewing people inside a horse but leaving their head free. I’m sure most people of today would be at a loss to try picturing something so barbaric, never mind watching it, but here’s a quote that shows Erzsébet Báthory’s response to witnessing such inhumane treatment:

“Upon seeing the gypsy stuffed and sewn into the horse’s belly, his head sticking out of the animal’s body, Erzsébet found herself giggling at the bizarre spectacle.”

How the evil countess and her cohorts got away with so many cruelties towards so many young girls for so long a period is shocking. The main reasons seem to be her position in society, the period in history, the remote location, the fear Erzsébet Báthory injected into people, but also because others didn’t care enough to act.

This is a biography one reads with a morbid fascination. The information is limited, which is hardly surprising. I found parts of the narrative somewhat tedious, as certain info was repeated, while other segments proved over-exhaustive.

The style also detracted me at times, owing to long-winded sentences held together by semicolons and colons, most of which could’ve been replaced with full stops to create shorter sentences and a smoother read.

There’s no excuse for the most common fault I see in grammar in general, namely inserting an apostrophe between the “0” and “s” when relating to decades, such as writing “1590’s” instead of “1590s”. This isn’t the first published work that I’ve seen make this most common of errors but it’s unusual to see it occur in a biography.

Anyway, although I’ve rated this book 3 stars, I commend the author for the amount of time and research she’s put into this grisly topic. No doubt the lack of evidence will have made the job a difficult one. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Oct 27, 2015 |
Superb book. The amount of research and detail found here is astounding, and the author's knowledge of the Early Modern period in European history is incredible. I was particularly fascinated by the legal proceedings of the time period and how the authorities behaved against a widow of the high nobility, whose husband was a war hero and who lent huge amounts of money to the crown, when she was accused of having murdered numerous servant girls. It was a real page turner, especially after chapter four (although the first three chapters provided necessary detail for later parts). If you like true crime, history, political intrigue, and a look at one of history's most unusual characters, you will love this book. ( )
  Tristan-Shelton | Jul 6, 2010 |
This was a fantastic book, filled with first-time information in the English language about a brutal serial killer whose name has been banned over 400 years in Hungary. I found myself hating this woman and yet feeling sorry for her at the same time, through no manipulation on the author's part. Everything was laid out simply and without bias; the feelings were my own. Very complex person, and explained very well. The history and complex legal proceedings of the early 1600s were also explained so that the lay person could not only understand but follow along on an exciting ride. ( )
  JamesTShelton | Jun 20, 2010 |
Excellent book and well researched. I had no idea that the woman reputed to be a vampire, lesbian serial killer who murdered 650 people and bathed in their blood as a beauty treatment actually attended the king's coronation, gave charitable donations to the Lutheran church, scholarships to students, and loans to servants in need. Quite the enigma! I also learned from this book that over 300 people testified but hardly a one saw her actually do anything wrong. The handful that did see and participate in her heinous deeds, however, went on record reporting unbelievable acts of cruelty that, even today, give one pause. I won't spoil anything. I'll just say that Hannibal Lechter had nothing on this woman. The actual trial and witness testimonies are far more shocking than any of the silly legends that grew up hundreds of years after this woman died. All of them are presented here, along with letters, including the speculations of her friends and family who themselves had no idea what she was up to until the very end. The first few chapters explain her family history as well as the politics of her time. For me, that was a little slow going, but the book soon delivered in a chapter called "Strange Goings On." It just got better and better from there. It also has photos of rare portraits that, apparently, are well known in Europe but not in the U.S. A great read for the history and crime buff. ( )
  Jager5 | May 11, 2010 |
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