The trial of Elizabeth Bathory took place during the reign of King Rodolph II of Hungary.
The great lady was desperate about preserving her youth. Witchcraft provided her with a magic remedy, and an astonishing degree of perversion was involved in her attempts to apply it. She had a considerable number of young girls kidnapped and ordered them to be killed in the most abominable manner. She collected their blood and bathed in it, convinced it would help her to maintain a girlish appearance. Her crimes became so notorious that, despite her rank, she was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. Her status, however, meant that she could not be touched, and so it was not possible to hang or decapitate her.
And so she was locked up in a cell with no windows and a blocked doorway, with just a narrow slot to pass through her food. She lived in this darkness for four years. When her jailers noticed she was not touching her food, they realised she was dead.
I visited Cachtice Castle in Slovakia where she spent her last days. Seen from the valley, the village already has a sinister atmosphere about it. You climb up among woods where you expect to see a ghost at any moment. The imposing castle ruins stand on an outcrop, with jagged stone walls standing out against a stormy sky. There is no-one to be seen: nobody dares approach the cursed castle. The atmosphere was so oppressive that I decided to stay there no longer.
The place has witnessed such horrors that its very walls are still impregnated with a vile, lingering memory.