Infamous Lady by Kimberly L. Craft

For most of us who are not sadists, it is hard to understand how a human being can get pleasure from the acute suffering of another sentient creature. Worryingly, the personality trait has emerged throughout recorded history and exists in the present day. As you read this thousands of humans and other animals are being tortured. It seems to me particularly upsetting that the female of our species could be so inclined as to inflict pain.

The biography of one such is given in this book by Kimberly Craft. She does a fine job of getting to the truth about the lurid, unsavoury life of a woman from the 16th century РCountess Erzsébet Báthory. The author dismisses tales of Bathory bathing in the blood of young virgins, and pinpoints a priest in the 18th century, who invented the story to cash in on the mania for vampire stories at the time. As Craft points out, you would need an awful amount of blood to fill a bath-tub at any one time!

What is fairly clear is that Bathory was a cruel woman who abused her power. She was a sadist who enjoyed inflicting pain on the young women in her employ, and devised tortures for them. With so little to go on about Bathory‚Äôs personality, it is difficult to fully account for her excesses. She was an autocrat to her fingertips who flew into terrifying rages whenever human fallibility (however trivial) interfered with her plans. Psychologists refer to a male egomaniac as suffering from ‘Right Man Syndrome’, someone who believes that he is right about everything, and no one is entitled to gainsay him. Bathory may have suffered from ‘Right Woman Syndrome’.

One of the most popular legends about Bathory is that her madness was due to her being terrified of getting older and losing her looks. This might explain her psychotic attitude towards the young women in her care. There was something far deeper than vanity at work. It could be argued that it was sexual frustration, or lack of fulfilment in her love life. Jealousy of young girls for their youthful bloom could be an explanation. Her own marriage was a business arrangement. There doesn’t seem to have been any great love between herself and her husband, Ferenc Nadasdy. His gift to her seems to have been ideas about sadistic torture gleaned from the battlefield. When Ferenc died, Bathory briefly became a merry widow, heading off to Vienna to spend her vast wealth. The spree didn’t distract her long from her predilections.

Towards the end of her bloody career, Bathory (like so many serial killers) became careless. Maybe she was simply becoming more insane with each satisfaction of her blood-lust, or maybe ‚Äď being an autocrat ‚Äď believed she was untouchable. Running out of local peasant girls, she opened an Academy for Young Ladies, and proceeded to torture and kill them too. It led to her downfall.

The truth about human nature is not always pleasant. There is evidence of it here should you wish to confirm the fact.

Enquire at your local library or consult  for further bibliographic detail.

340 pages in Createspace Publishing

First published 2009

ISBN 978-1449513443

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Erzsébet Báthory

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