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Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  518 ratings  ·  70 reviews
This biography explores the life of the 16th-century "Blood Countess" of Hungary, Erzsebet Bathory. Reputed to be both a vampire and the world's worst female serial killer, she allegedly bathed in the blood of her 650 victims. Based on newly-found source material, translated into English for the first time, this book explores the actual life and trial of Countess Bathory, ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  518 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bathory, non-fiction
I’ve always been fascinated with Erzsébet Báthory, ‘the Blood Countess,’ ever since I watched the old Hammer Horror movie “Countess Dracula” with Ingrid Pitt. Yet most of the books written about her are so ghoulishly over the top and steeped in myth, they’re not very helpful.

This book is awesome though. Not only is it a compelling read, but Kimberly Craft has new material on the Countess, translating letters and real testimony. This is no dry biography either. I couldn’t put it down, caught up
Brad Mcguire
Jun 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: true crime lovers, historians, vampire fans, Elizabeth Bathory fans
Recommended to Brad by: Magis Tan
I had heard a lot about Elizabeth Bathory from friends and have been on a quest to find a decent biography. There seems to be a lot of fiction written about her, but very little factual, well-researched material. I understand it's because her name has been banned in Hungary for the past 400 years, so it's been difficult to access information. Friends recommended books by Thorne and McNally, but both are out of print, and I wanted something more current (McNally wrote his biography in the 80s and ...more
Liz Carrington
Jan 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for anyone who is an avid enthusiast of the countess, history and criminal investigations. It is well written, compelling and a significant contribution to the scholarly community. Ms. Craft goes beyond the fragmented story that has been pieced together over the years and presents new information including family history and actual correspondance written by the Countess and those close to her, translated into English for the first time. It brings a new side of the Counte ...more
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history lovers
I have always approached the legends of the so-called "Blood Countess" as a skeptic. The legends of a beautiful, wealthy Hungarian countess bathing in the blood of the hundreds of servant girls she murdered--as a beauty treatment--struck me as fanciful and nonsensical. I am glad to say that the author of "Infamous Lady" thought the same. Using this same skepticism as a springboard, Kimberly Craft launches on an historical odyssey to discover the true facts behind the legend of Countess Erzsebet ...more
Jessica Mastrangelo
Jan 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I am a "fan" of Erzsebet Bathory and have been searching for a book that gives an accurate portrayal of her life for some time. This is the best I found so far. It was fascinating and appalling at the same time and I found myself unable to put it down. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about the life of the "Blood Countess".
Gottfried Reuter
May 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historians, enthusiasts, lawyers, vampire fans, true crime fans
Excellent book and well researched. I had no idea that the woman reputed to be a vampire, lesbian serial killer who murdered 650 people and bathed in their blood as a beauty treatment actually attended the king's coronation, gave charitable donations to the Lutheran church, scholarships to students, and loans to servants in need. Quite the enigma! I also learned from this book that over 300 people testified but hardly a one saw her actually do anything wrong. The handful that did see and partici ...more
William Anderson
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Although a scholarly work, it was actually pretty easy and fun to read. I especially liked how some of the witness testimony was presented in the form of a literary vignette. History has never been so much fun to read. Countess Bathory was a madwoman, but after reading the book, I had a new appreciation for what she must have been put through and some insight as to why she did what she did. I originally read the book because I was interested in someone who supposedly murdered 650 ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
I admit, I went in expecting a scandalous thrill; what I got what was repetitive and morbid listing. To be expected, of course, but poorly written -- repetitive, and confuses her facts (was it the shirt that was so bloody, or the skirt?). Half the text is translated letters.
Aug 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Okay, so as a long time 'devotee' of the weirder aspects of history, I thought this would be a good read. I was hoping for some dialogue, and some conclusions about who the Countess really was, and whether she did the things she was accused of. I mean while I always doubted she bathed in the blood of virgins, I did expect this book to be a bit gory. It delivered, at least with the blood. The descriptions of the Countess setting the servant girls genitals alight with a candle will stay with me fo ...more
Christopher Pierce
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Great book. The author approaches the legends of Lady Bathory like a lawyer, examining the evidence and letting the reader make a conclusion about her guilt or innocence. There are two types of books about this historical woman: gothic fiction which paints her as a sadistic, blood-bathing vampire on a killing spree, hell bent on preserving her beauty through the witchcraft of bathing in virgin blood; and then, accurate, historical accounts of her life and times. Von Elsberg attempted this in the ...more
Magis Tan
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have read almost everything available on Lady Elizabeth Bathory and thought I knew almost everything until I read this book. The life of this infamous serial killer unfolded before my eyes with amazing clarity: I actually felt as though I was there, back in time, experiencing life in 16th-century Hungary. The book features narratives and, as the author describes them, "literary vignettes" in which actual historical testimony is recreated into intriguing dialogue in story form. For the scholar, ...more
Deborah Biancotti
Jan 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: writer-women, non-fic
Fascinating portrait of a complicated woman who was at once undeniably murderous and also a benevolent leader and loyal Hungarian servant. She made a powerful enemy of the Hungarian king by trying to insist he repay the massive debt her husband racked up supporting the Hungarian (vs. Ottoman) war of the 1600s. Despite numerous friends and relatives in the nobility (including the Hungarian Prime Minister, who honoured the dying wish of Erzsebet's husband to protect her from her enemies), Bathory ...more
Ravin Maurice
Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As an aspiring historical fiction writer, biographies are something I have to deal with quite frequently. Most are heavy with the politics of the time and very little about the actual people, making it hard to discover anything about the actual person, and the language is sometimes so complex you have to re read sentences to make sure you caught everything.
Infamous Lady is not any of these things. It is the most accessible historical biography I have ever read, Dr. Craft's writing is clear and
Apr 08, 2012 rated it liked it
The author meticulously researched the history of the Countess, relying on original source documents instead of hearsay and rumours. The Countess is an enigmatic figure and it is shrouded in mystery because of the destruction of a lot of Bathory family records.

The book is well written and I enjoyed the author's way of describing things. She writes with the clarity of a lawyer (which she is) and that makes for very easy reading. I finished the book in 6 hours and I could not put it down.

After rea
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I got this in the mail last night and seriously read it all. I read while making dinner, while eating dinner, while my kids watched TV and then after they went to bed.

It had a TON of great information, some of which I didn't know through my own research. I liked that she mentioned which rumors were totally false or that there was no real proof that certain things in folk tale, actually happened. Though she did not touch on stories of Elizabeth having a baby out of wedlock which my research has f
Tracy Sherman
Apr 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Having to do with one of the major historical figures that have shaped the Western Vampire Mythos and taking place in Transylvania this book was of great interest to me.
It's also a story I am very familiar with having read most of the available works on Countess Bathory in English.
There was, unfortunately, very little that was new or of interest here.
Reading about Elizabeth's husband and children was of some interesting but it goes nowhere, that was all that was of worth here.
The constant que

Elizabeth Bathory was a Countess and serial killer who lived in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in what was then Hungry. Over three hundred witnesses testified to her brutality and murdering of several hundred girls and women.
This was a disturbing read, but that is not why I gave it 2.5 stars. Let me start by saying that Kimberly Craft did an excellent job researching this book. She includes a lot of letters and witness statements, which paint a vivid picture. Unfortunately
Christina Graff
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book was simply amazing. I have read many things about Countess Bathory but sadly, most have been fictional accounts. The two biographies by Tony Thorne and Raymond McNally were both very good, but this new book, by far, is the best biography in English on this tragic and twisted woman. If you enjoy true crime and historical biography, this is it. I have never seen so many translated, original documents in one place: letters, legal documents, trial transcripts, witness interrogatories, all ...more
May 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anyone writing a thesis on the Countess and her family
Shelves: nonfiction
This wasn't really a book for casual or fun reading. While the story itself is interesting, this book is more a detailed review of the facts. And because of the way the book is organized some of those facts are stated and restated. I like history, details and genealogy, probably more than the average person, but this was just too much. The first few chapters were all about her and her husband's family history- too many long names and places to even follow. One of the chapters at the end was a pe ...more
Dec 17, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This biography explores the life of the 16th-century "Blood Countess" of Hungary, Erzsébet Báthory. Reputed to be both a vampire and the world's worst female serial killer, she allegedly bathed in the blood of her 650 victims. Based on newly-found source material, translated into English for the first time, this book explores the actual life and trial of Countess Báthory, through letters, documents, and trial transcripts.
May 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an informative case study and presentation of the charges bought against the infamous Countess, sometimes called 'the world's most prolific serial killer'. I was glad to see that it did not take on the narrative popular amongst a lot of modern revisionists who like to claim that Bathory was 'just a poor woman whose reputation was sullied by evil men out to get her fortune, land, and titles'. If anything, it is her position as noble and a woman that ensured her escape from having to face ...more
Amanda Holmes
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love the time period that Elizabeth lived in. Her life is curious, to say the least. It's a great historical read.
Tristan Shelton
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Superb book. The amount of research and detail found here is astounding, and the author's knowledge of the Early Modern period in European history is incredible. I was particularly fascinated by the legal proceedings of the time period and how the authorities behaved against a widow of the high nobility, whose husband was a war hero and who lent huge amounts of money to the crown, when she was accused of having murdered numerous servant girls. It was a real page turner, especially after chapter ...more
Lisa Marie
Feb 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Very informative and well translated! An interesting and complicated person the Lady Bathory was. It's astonishing to see proof that people can do things like this, let alone easily coerce others into helping them do it. And it happened at a point in history where they able to get away with it for far too long. Although, the "witness" testimonies do give one doubt as to exactly what happened. But kudos to the author for taking the time to gather all this information for an accurate history book ...more
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this because my wife had it lying on the bedside. Not sure I'd like it, but then I got hooked. Something about the way in which the author takes history and turns it into an actual story intrigued me. By the end, I read the entire thing, including the appendix. Some of the best information is in the appendix, BTW. No one sugar-coated anything back in the old days. If you think today's murder mysteries and crime stories are bizarre, "out there" or unique, read this.
Romarin Demetri
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Craft was the perfect person to work on this book and translate it! Though we don't know what actually happened, as we hope most of it can be embellished, she shows us every side to the story. I read this for the first time while completing my Psychology B.A., interested in the world's first female serial killer. It also shows you that no one goes looking until the noble girls start disappearing...
Apr 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
What the hell does this stuff have to do with ANYTHING? We don't know who this woman was, what her motives were, who her victims were... This makes the book bland and pointless. But even if it were full of pertinent information, what the hell is the point of reading about serial killers?
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Love it, the author is amazing. :)
Samantha Rizzo
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This book contains similar information you would find in other works of the same topic, but has an overall better execution. Generally, this work is not as “dry”.

Infamous Lady contains an intimate look (as much as is possible) at Elisabeth’s husband’s life, as well as those around her.

There are some excerpts that read like a fictional discourse, and we aren’t really told where this information comes from. It certainly isn’t mentioned in the Appendices (though they are extensive).

In the end I th
Chris Wares
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A historical account of Lady Bathory, the Hungarian noblewoman who gained notoriety as one of history's most prolific serial killers.

Unlike some of the other books on the subject the author focussed on the history and the historical documentation rather than the legend. In subsequent years this story was food for horror stories and several other books I looked at seemed to be more interested in the legend and the gory episodes.

My main interest was the times in which this took place - early 17th
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Kimberly L. Craft holds bachelor and master's degrees as well as a juris (law) doctorate. She also received a Zertifikat Deutsch als Fremdsprache from the Goethe Institut in Munich. Prof. Craft has served on various faculties, including DePaul University and Florida A&M College of Law. An attorney and legal historian, Prof. Craft has spent over a decade researching the life and trial of Countess B ...more

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