Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Vampire Killers

The First Vampire

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word vampire as "the reanimated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave at night and suck the blood of persons asleep." Since the word was first coined in 1734 the myth of the vampire has grown, entering into popular culture with the publication of Bram Stoker's {Dracula} in 1897 and more recently through the books of Anne Rice, the most famous of which, {Interview with a Vampire} was made into a film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. But these are works of fiction. Still, myths do not just spring out of mid-air. Throughout the ages, human killers have been fascinated by the blood of their victims. Here are some of history's most notorious "vampire" killers.

Portrait of Countess Bathory
Portrait of Countess Bathory
While she may not actually be the first, Hungarian Countess Erzebet Bathory is credited in many chronologies of vampire-related crime as the first person on record to be murderously motivated by blood. What's notable about her is that most killers with vampiric appetites are male, while Erzebet was female.  She was also one of the most bloodthirsty "vampire killers" in history.

Legend has it, according to historian Raymond T. McNally in Dracula was a Woman, that she slapped a servant girl, got blood on her hand, and believed that it made her skin look younger.  To restore her beauty, she then made a practice of bathing in the blood of virgins.  Whether or not this part of the tale is true, she undoubtedly used her status to murder and torture untold numbers. 

Born in 1560, Erzebet grew up experiencing uncontrollable seizures and rages.  Eventually she married a sadistic man who taught her cruel methods by which to discipline the servants, such as spreading honey over a naked girl and leaving her out for the bugs.  He also showed Erzebet how to beat them to the edge of their lives. 

After he died in 1604, Erzebet moved to Vienna.  She also stepped up her cruel and arbitrary beatings and was soon torturing and butchering the girls. She might stick pins into sensitive body parts, cut off someone's fingers, or beat her about the face until the bones broke.  In the winter, women were dragged outside, doused with water, and left to freeze to death.  Even when Erzebet was ill, she didn't stop.  Instead she'd have girls brought to her bed so she could bite them.

It was only when she turned her blood-thirst to young noblewomen, that she got caught. After a murder in 1609 that Erzebet tried to stage as a suicide, the authorities decided to investigate.  They arrested her the following year.

Erzebet went through two separate trials, and during the second one, a register in her own handwriting was discovered in her home that included the names of over 650 victims.  Found guilty, she was imprisoned for life in a small room in her own castle, where she died three years later.  It was afterward that rumors spread about how she'd bathed in the blood of her young victims.

In his book, McNally made the case that Bram Stoker was influenced by accounts of Bathory while writing Dracula, because in the novel the Count seemed to grow younger after taking the blood of young women.

Erzebet Bathory wasn't the only Hungarian to find blood appetizing.  A few centuries later, a man with a name that belied his violent tendencies -- Bela Kiss -- discovered his own bloodlust.

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