The plain facade of this townhouse betrays nothing of the atrocities that may have taken place here when it was the residence of one Countess Elizabeth Báthory.
Elizabeth Báthory is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific female murderer ever, but she might even be the most prolific murderer of all the Western World. She allegedly tortured and killed more than 600 virgin women in order to drink and bathe in their blood, believing it would preserve her youth and beauty.
Some historians believe that these accusations were trumped up as an intrigue to bring down a powerful woman, but the number of testimonies against her as well as Báthory’s own confessions make for a convincing case.
At the turn of the 17th century, the “Blood Countess” intermittently lived in her husband’s Hungarian House at 12 Augustinerstrasse, right in the heart of Vienna. The rest of her time was spent at Cachtice Castle, where she eventually moved full-time as she drew more and more suspicion.
The city’s nearby markets served as a hunting ground for Bathory’s servant Ficzkó, who was instrumental in providing a steady stream of young Viennese maids for the countess. With the promise of food, shelter, comfort, and security, the young women would leave their families to serve the mysterious noblewomen. Ficzkó and other servants would return year after year, luring in more and more young ladies (all of them beautiful), but those who left would never be seen again.
Some were taken to Cachtice Castle, though in the beginning some were employed at the Hungarian House. Though no townsperson dared to question the countess, there were frequently strange sounds emanating from the house at nighttime. Apparently the nocturnal disturbances once even prompted the monks from the Augustinian monastery across the street to pelt the house with earthenware, demanding silence.
It apparently began as simple domestic abuse, flogging them and leaving them naked in the snow—atrocious, to be sure, but not uncommon in these pre-OSHA days. But the abuse the young women suffered at the hands of the countess and her accomplices grew more and more diabolic. Reports included everything from pulling their fingers off to biting the flesh from their faces, and then, of course, draining their blood so that she could bathe in it.
All of this was eventually discovered at her castle, where she was put on an early form of house arrest—simply walled in and never allowed to venture out. You can visit the ruins, but for some Elizabeth Báthory deep cuts, pay a visit to her townhouse in Vienna, the place it all began.
Know Before You Go
The house is not open to the public, but you can always visit the Italian restaurant on the corner. Take in the air of absolute evil and check if they use extra virgin olive oil.