Category Archives: Dark Angels

Dark Angels IV: Erzsebet Bathory

For this issue of Dark Angels, I tapped a good friend of mine, Theresa, a web designer and a woman with a rich knowledge of this particular dark angel…

“She demanded the Heavens and forever to glean
The elixir of Youth from the pure
Whilst Her lesbian fantasies
Reamed to extremes
O’er decades unleashed
Came for blood’s silken cure”

Bathory Aria ~ Cradle of Filth

When the topic of Dark Angels comes up there are many names that can come to mind, from the mythical Lilith and Baba Yaga to Lizzie Borden to Madame Blavatsky in modern times. Yet one name tends to stand above all the others as the darkest of these fascinating women – the Countess Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bathory.

Many do not know her legend and fewer still know her history. The Guinness Book of World Records lists her as history’s most prolific serial killer with anywhere from 600 – 650 maidens her victims.

Little is actually known about Countess Bathory as none of her letters survived her. Erzsebet Bathory, was born in Hungary, August 7th, 1560, the daughter of Baron George Bathory and Baroness Anna Bathory. George and Anna were both Bathory’s by birth; he a member of the Ecsed branch of the family and she of the Somlyo. Such inbreeding was not uncommon in the aristocracy of 16th Century Eastern Europe, as the purity of the noble line was seen as paramount.

Her legend may have inspired Bram Stocker’s Dracula even more than the legend of Vlad the Impaler. Another Bathory – Stephen – fought alongside Vlad in one of his many attempts to reclaim the Wallachian throne and became Prince of Transylvania in 1571, so it is possible that Stoker encountered the Bathory’s during his research.

Elizabeth was a great beauty and at the age of eleven, she was engaged to Count Ferenc Nadasdy. Three years later they married. Elizabeth retained her maiden name, and Ferenc added it to his own less distinguished one, and became Ferenc Bathory-Nadasdy. After her marriage, Elizabeth was mistress of the Nadasdy estate around Castle Sarvar. Here the Nadasdy’s held a reputation as harsh masters. Ferenc is said to have shown her some of his own favored ways of punishing his servants. There are also tales of the couple engaging in diabolic rites and patronizing occultists and Satanists.

Ferenc was a warrior by nature, and frequently absent. Elizabeth occupied her time by taking numerous young men as lovers. She also spent time visiting her aunt, noted at the time for her open bisexuality, and contemporary reports seem to consider Elizabeth’s sexual ambivalence to be an integral part of her overall personality.

It was during her husband’s many absences that Elizabeth is reputed to have begun torturing young servant girls for her own pleasure, although speculation again has Ferenc as her early teacher in harsh treatment. Hearsay testimony at her trial reports she took to beating her maidservants with a barbed lash and a heavy cudgel, and having them dragged naked into the snow and doused with cold water until they froze to death creating statues from their frozen bodies.

In January 1604, Ferenc Nadasdy died of an infected battle wound, though some sources state that it was inflicted by a harlot whom he refused to pay. Elizabeth transferred herself to the royal court at Vienna with almost unseemly haste, and took to spending much time at her castle at Cachtice in north-west Hungary (now Slovakia).

This was the period in which Elizabeth is said to have committed her greatest atrocities, under the guidance of Anna Darvula, described as the most active sadist in her entourage. Alleged to be a witch Darvula was also said to be Elizabeth ‘s lover.

It was this time that legend tells us that she discovered, on striking a servant girl who accidentally pulled her hair whilst combing it, that blood appeared to reduce the signs of aging on her skin. Darvula purportedly told Elizabeth that bathing in the blood of young girls was the secret to staying young. Legend said that she also bit, to the point of tearing flesh from the throats, shoulders and breasts of these maidens. These acts were done in the course of lesbian acts of carnal indulgences while committing sadistic acts of violence.

Elizabeth’s proclivities went largely undetected – or at least ignored – until around 1609 when Darvula had died of natural causes. Fearing that the blood of peasant maids was no longer “vital” enough to keep her youth she opened a school to maidens of noble blood but little wealth. The deaths of peasant girls might be overlooked, but the murder of nobles, even those of such limited means as those Elizabeth selected, lead to her downfall.

The King of Hungary ordered her arrest and her cousin, Count Cuyorgy Thurzo, lead a raid on Castle Cachtice and supposedly found the bodies of dead girls in the hallway, and discovered many other victims dead, dying, or awaiting torture in cells. Other accomplices of Elizabeth’s – Dorothea, Helena and Ficzko – were arrested, along with Katarina Beneczky, a washerwoman newly entered into the Countess’ service. One more of Elizabeth’s friends, Erszi Majorova, escaped capture in the raid but was later also arrested. Elizabeth herself was held but not taken away with her associates.

In January 1611 Elizabeth’s accomplices were subjected to two hurried show trials, in which they gave evidence, almost certainly extracted under torture, and were convicted of their heinous crimes in a matter of days. In the second trial, another servant named as Zusanna gave evidence of the existence of a register, in her mistress’ handwriting, which recorded over 650 victims who had died at the Countess’ hands over the years.

Elizabeth Bathory was not allowed to attend or give testimony at either trial, and was never convicted of any crime. The Bathory family walled Elizabeth up within her bed chamber, with only small slits for ventilation and the passing of food. Three years later, a guard looking through one of the slots saw the Countess lying dead.

Elizabeth died in Castle Cachtice on 21 August, 1614. The bulk of her estate was divided, according to her will, between her children. She was taken from the castle and buried at her birthplace at Ecsed.

Her legend is powerful, dark and disturbing but is it true? In the second part of her story I will examine the “facts” and the few truly historical records that are available to explore this dark angel, her likeness hung in the black gallery, commanding unease, demanding of Death to breathe…

Dark Angels III: Flannery O’Connor

Dark angels are rare among the women of American letters. There will be others in our pantheon, but few as dark as Flannery O’Connor, perhaps the first person ever to write a darkly humorous and deeply religious story about the murder of a family by a homicidal killer. That story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find ,” probably woke you up if you ever had to read it in an English class.

 Like William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, O’Connor saw the American south as a place of almost medieval travail, populated by mad modern prophets, cold blooded highway fiends, and innocent souls trying to make their way through a world where God is present but damned hard to know. And through all the drama, there is an undercurrent of the sharpest wit, far darker and more subtle than Ambrose Bierce and vicious as Mark Twain.

Unmarried and stricken with lupus at 26, when she wasn’t writing, O’Connor spent her life in Catholic devotions, tending barnyard fowl, and carrying on a voluminous correspondence with her best friend, a lesbian. She lived a short, ordinary life except for the glorious, black vision of her talent.

The mordantly brilliant O’Connor only produced 32 short stories and two novels. One of the novels, Wise Blood, was made into a fine movie by Director John Huston, but her work is not popularly read, being relegated to the literature shelves. It’s a shame, because the bleakness of her vision and the lively horrors of her stories, her preoccupation with themes of madness and crime, place her on that interesting border where literature meets pulp.

Dark angel, chronicler of the blackest nights of the soul, Flannery O’Connor.

Dark Angels II: Bonnie Parker

A man can break every commandment
And the world will still lend him its hand
Yet, a girl that has loved, but unwisely
Is an outcast all over the land.
-Bonnie Parker

The bloody lady of the Dustbowl, the beautiful balladeer of Depression dreams, and perhaps a victim of her own romantic imagination.

How can you not love Bonnie Parker?

Hard times breed hard men. In the 1930s, Tom Joad headed for the promised land of California while Clive Barrow robbed banks and waged war against the Texas Department of Corrections.

Clyde would have just been another backwoods stickup man, probably not even worthy of a song by Woody Guthrie if he hadn’t met Bonnie Parker. At less than five feet tall and featherweight to boot, she possessed intelligence and foresight, and wasn’t afraid to grab opportunity by the horns. Bonnie’s marriage at age16 left her older and wiser when at age 20 she met Clyde and forged a relationship that would captivate a nation.

The romantic version of their story says she fell in love with him the moment they met and probably saw hope when his flinty eyes grew soft, if not of happiness then at least of excitement. The gossip of lesser women say Bonnie was a tramp, but she must’ve been a girl of considerable vision. She seems to have seen the myth even as she was making it.

More than any of the other Depression gangsters, Bonnie and Clyde played to their audience. Clyde wrote a fan letter to Henry Ford — “even if my business hasn’t been strictly legal it don’t hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8” – and Bonnie wrote an epic poem about their adventures as well as other poems about the outlaw life. They took snapshots of themselves posed like movie gangsters.

Most accounts say Bonnie never shot anyone – she was a “great loader” — but Clyde certainly did. He and the other Barrow Gang members killed somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen lawmen, accounts and attributions vary, in what amounted to a tiny, armed insurrection against the state of Texas. The public loved them, and Bonnie and Clyde molded a unique piece of wholly American legend in their brief time together.

When they were ambushed by Texas Rangers in Louisiana in 1934, they had achieved fame in the hardest way possible – in a storm of bullets and unimaginable bravado. By some accounts, 10,000 strangers attended their funeral. The death car toured the south for decades, like a holy relic. In 1967, director Arthur Penn, along with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, ensured their immortality with a movie that merged romance and explicit violence in a way no movie had before.

A perfect legacy for our second dark angel, Bonnie Parker.

A newsboy once said to his buddy;
“I wish old Clyde would get jumped.
In these awfull hard times;
we’d make a few dimes,
if five or six cops would get bumped.”
-Bonnie Parker

You can find more of Bonnie Parker’s story and poetry at
http://texashideout.tripod.com/poem.html


Dark Angels I: Lilith

Dark angels.

Women with the power to fascinate, to hold the world in their spell, desiring and sometimes destroying, because no one should ever hold an angel too close for too long.

Bad girls who changed the world.

This is the beginning of a series that Drake and I will assemble, our Compendium of Dark Angels.  As we were contemplating and compiling our list, we both came to the conclusion that it was only fitting to begin with the original dark angel – Lilith.

Future entries will be about real women who have shared their dark light with the world, but we thought we should start with the one that is the gold standard of wicked women.

And who’s to say she’s not real?

The word Lilith occurs only once in the Bible, but good King James’ scribes rendered the Hebrew word as “screech owl.” The association of wicked female spirits with birds of ill omen is common enough, so perhaps the scribes felt comfortable with the translation.  Other ancient writings give evidence that the word had a much different meaning.

Lilith was probably born in ancient Sumeria as a demon of primal forces, storm and darkness, sometimes winged and taloned, but always dangerously seductive.  She lived in desolate places, but even deserts could not stop her once she set her mind to something. Jewish tradition adopted her and, by the Middle Ages, had woven her into the story of Eden.  By at least the 10th Century AD, some legends had established that Lilith was the first wife of Adam, created by God before Eve. But Lilith was disobedient and would not lie beneath Adam, insisting that she take the upper position (like this is a problem??). Lilith and Adam parted ways (read: divorced), him to the more compliant Eve and she to the wasteland, where she lurks as a menace to the children of Adam.

Lilith is the original succubus, the ancient queen of delightful nightmares.

Throughout the Middle Ages, she weaves in and out of demon lore, sometimes merged with Eden’s serpent (perhaps confused with the mythical lamia), sometimes as the bride of Asmodeus, always as a seductive emblem of destructive desire, and always fascinating.  By the 19th Century, Lilith had become a symbol of defiant pagan sexuality and, in the 20th Century, an important element in occultism and ceremonial magick.

Lilith is the patron goddess of bad girls. Her disobedience and sexuality openly defy repressive paternal churches and stand in sharp contrast to the puritanical strains of western civilization. But, as we all know, nothing fascinates more than the forbidden. If sin were not attractive, then we would all be saints.

Avatar of female desire, spirit of lust, Lilith is the first dark angel, and all those we will be covering here in the future are her glorious, wicked daughters.