Čachtice Castle in Slovakia might seem like a simple ruin from the outside, but it hides many dark secrets. The castle was once home to "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory, also known as "Countess Dracula".
Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian countess that lived in Cachtice Castle in the early 17th century. The legend says that she used to lure young women into the castle, brutally murder them and then bathe in their blood.
According to legend, she believed the blood, especially of young virgins, would stop the ageing process and preserve eternal youth. That’s how the idea of her as a vampire came about.
Whether the accusations are true or fiction is unclear, but some resources claim that she was convicted of murdering over 600 women. This shocking number (if true) could mean she was one of the most notorious serial killers in human history.
Today the castle attracts thousands of tourists annually, and Elizabeth's dark story inspired multiple books and movies, including Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.
Curious to learn more about the Cachtice castle and the spine-chilling story of "Bloody Lady"? Let's dive in.
Elizabeth Bathory was born in 1560 to a powerful family of Hungarian aristocrats. Her family was among the wealthiest and most influential in Europe at that time.
Although she had a privileged upbringing, she was exposed to brutality from a young age.
It wasn't uncommon to beat servants or watch public executions during those times. It is said that as a child, she suffered from seizures and fits of rage.
At the age of 15, Elizabeth got married to Ferencz Nadasdy from another aristocratic Hungarian family. Cachtice Castle and the land of the surrounding 17 villages were part of her wedding gift.
In their marriage, she bore five children while Nadasdy spent most of his time serving in battles against the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, two of her children died as infants, so you'll mostly find information about Elizabeth having only three children.
She was known to be very strict with her servants and often imposed harsh punishments on them. Her husband Nadasdy encouraged her cruel tendencies.
There were stories of him smearing a girl with honey, then restraining her and leaving her outside to be bitten by insects for Bathory's pleasure. In that sense, the couple was a perfect match.
It was after the death of her husband in 1604 that Elizabeth moved to Cachtice Castle full time, and her cruelty worsened.
Local village girls started missing, and stories of Elizabeth's horrendous crimes became so widespread that local families hid their daughters.
Rumours of Elizabeth’s sadistic behaviour reached the court in Vienna. Finally, the court could no longer ignore the countless accusations, and an official investigation began led by György Thurzó, the Palatine of Hungary.
Evidence collected included testimony from over 300 witnesses and mutilated bodies found around Cachtice Castle.
It was said that she tortured, mutilated and killed hundreds of young women. However, no one can be certain of the exact number of her victims.
The nature of her alleged crimes was so brutal that it's hard to believe how much of it is real and what are just made-up stories.
For example, she was accused of forcing her servants to drink their urine, torturing them with scissors and knives, burning them with metal sticks or even burying them alive and letting them freeze to death.
It is said that she preyed particularly on young virgin women. Why? Because she desired to retain her beauty and youthful appearance by bathing in their blood.
To extract the blood of her victims, she used a special torture device resembling an iron maiden cabinet with knives in its lid. As soon as the victim stepped inside this full body-sized iron cabinet, the cover would close, the blades would pierce the chest, and the blood would spill into the tub.
In 1610, Thurzó arrested Elizabeth, and subsequently, she was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Cachtice Castle.
Following the trial, some of her loyal servants and accomplices were sentenced to death. She died four years after her house arrest at age 54.
The first documentation of Elizbeth Báthory’s killing spree appeared in 1729 in the book Tragica Historia written by László Turóczi, more than a hundred years after the trial.
However, some authors speculate that Elizabeth's crimes were likely exaggerated to discredit her and seize her extensive wealth.
Due to the passage of time, the lack of evidence and all the hype, it's hard to distinguish the facts from fiction.
It is said that all legends have some kernel of truth... the question is, to what extent?
Originally constructed in the mid-13th century, Cachtice Castle has served as a military fortress and an aristocratic residence. The original building was expanded in the 15th century and 16th centuries and became a Gothic castle.
Towards the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, the castle was the primary residence of Bloody Countess Elizabeth Bathory. In 1799, the castle burned down and turned into ruin.
Today, Cachtice Castle is a popular tourist destination in Slovakia and is listed as one of the scariest places on Earth.
You can take a 45-minute hike along a marked trail from the town centre of Čachtice leading to the castle ruins. On top of a hill, you'll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Small Carpathian mountains and castle ruins.
The castle is the main landmark in the area, but you can also visit the Čachtice museum, where you can find more information about Bathory and the history of the castle.
After the hike, you can stop by for lunch or dinner at Pizzeria Bathory, which serves delicious pizzas and a selection of local specialities. The interior is inspired by Cachtice Castle and Bathory.
Most tourists start their exploration of Slovakia in the capital city of Bratislava.
You can go to Čachtice or Nové Mesto nad Váhom by train from the main train station (Hlavná železničná stanica) in Bratislava. You can buy a train ticket at one of the counters at the train station.
To make your trip even more convenient, you can rent a car. The drive to the castle takes about an hour.
I recommend staying in Penzión Kúria in Nové Mesto nad Váhom.
It's a 3-star hotel conveniently located right in the centre of Nové Mesto nad Váhom and a short ride by train, bus or car from Čachtice.
The hotel provides cosy rooms with pleasant decor and an on-site restaurant.
Last Updated 4 September 2023