Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess, is one of the most famous of all historical vampires. She is perhaps less well-known only than the infamous Vlad Dracula, known also as Tepes (the Impaler) and he – although noted for his savage and very public methods of execution – was no vampire, but has merely been cited as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s fictional Count Dracula.
In fact, the historical Dracula is usually best known as a devout, if savage, Christian warrior and noted for his successful enforcement of the law within the Voevodate of Wallachia. Elizabeth Bathory on the other hand is renowned as a torturer, an eater of flesh and a bather in blood, and has been cited by prominent vampirologist Raymond McNally in his book Dracula was a Woman (which is currently out of print) as a closer model for Bram Stoker’s creation than Tepes.
Bathory, like Stoker’s Dracula, was a Hungarian of noble blood, whereas Tepes was Romanian; the Voevod, or Prince, of Wallachia when said title was not in the hands of his brother. Also, although his deeds were bloody, Tepes is never reported to have drunk the blood of his victims, while Elizabeth Bathory is reputed (admittedly with only anecdotal evidence) to have not only drunk but bathed in the blood of young virgin girls.
The truth of whether she was a model for the Count will remain known only to Stoker, but certainly in the years since Dracula was published, the Blood Countess has exercised a powerful fascination on many writers and film-makers.