Nowadays Čachtice is nothing more than a ruin, but centuries ago it used to be the most rumored royal abode of all times – the residence of a woman whose misdemeanors were even crueler than the ones of the infamous Romanian voivode Vlad The Impaler, a.k.a. Count Dracula.
Initially constructed as a Moravian sentry, moderate in size and simplistic in architecture, the 13th century façade was eventually refurbished in the likes of a Romanesque style castle. During the upcoming centuries it underwent several transformations and expansions, swapped numerous styles and rulers. In the latter half of the 1500s it was presented to Countess Elizabeth Bathory as a wedding gift for her union with Ferenc Nádasdy.
Bathory, whose royal Slovak, Hungarian and Polish roots had granted her the honors of being one of the wealthiest, most eulogized and feared women of noble heritage, held a privileged social status, which is one of the primary reasons why her atrocities weren’t discovered from the very beginning.
Historians still debate over the exact count of Elizabeth’s victims (whose life was taken inside the castle), which according to some sources is 650 – and all of them were murdered solely for the pleasure of the countless with no political, jurisdictional or religious motifs being discovered.
The most popular tale is that in her 40s Elizabeth had started yearning only for retaining her youthful looks for as long as she possibly could via blood baths. Legend has it, she murdered young maidens in order to drain their blood and bathe with it in the hopes of preserving her beauty through the warmth of the freshly drained invigorating blood. At first she chose poor farmer girls whom no one would have the funds or power to look for once they’d disappeared. Shortly after she decided that the blood of highborn girls would be more sustainable, and more children and teenagers went missing.
Over the course of two short years the word of Bathory’s repulsive hedonistic deeds had spread like wildfire. She was sent to a royal trial and sentenced to house arrest, which resulted in her being locked inside her very own castle. She spent the rest of her days stoned between four walls with tiny openings left for food and air. The countess endured the imprisonment for just over four years, fading away in her solitary confinement, far away from the restless villagers and the disgusted noblemen who once supported her rule.
Chill-inducing stories of the murdered girls’ spirits haunted the area near the Čachtice castle, as well as the castle itself. When Elizabeth died the locals upheaved against the idea of having her body buried where her victims’ remains lied and although some historians believe she was taken back to the Bathory crypt (now located in Hungary), no one truly knowns where she was laid to rest.
Some time after her death the abandoned castle was invaded by rebels during Austro-Hungarian uprisings. They plundered everything the locals were too afraid to touch because of the dreadful notion of seeing Elizabeth’s ghost. And so began the Čachtice castle’s slow demise. Because of Elizabeth’s murderous sprees the castle was among the most loathed buildings in the 17th century and up to present day it’s still among the most feared ruins in all of Slovakia.
Countless ghost stories have been told about the decaying edifice and several paranormal shows have inspected its grounds. Elizabeth Bathory has officially been classified as the most prolific murderer of female gender by the Guinness World Records. Needless to say, the macabre story of the castle and the events that took place in it quickly became a permanent aspect of Hungarian and Slovak folklore, inspiring artists from all over the world to recreate her gory persona, commemorating her in their novels, songs, comic books, poetry, movies, TV series, video games, musicals and stage plays.