Ferencz Nadasdy died on January 4th, 1604 (apparently of poisoning although his death was also ascribed to witchcraft). Erzsebet moved to Vienna only four weeks after his death, shocking the royal court. She also began to spend time at estates at Blindoc (Beckov) and Csejthe (Cachtice). According to the terms of Ferencz’s will, Paul was placed under the guardianship of Imre Megyery.
The witch, Anna Darvulia, began serving Erzsebet sometime during this year; with her arrival, the torture and killings escalated. Darvulia was exactly like the classical forest witch that appears in Children’s tales: very old, irascible, and always surrounded by black cats.
The Countess began to experience financial problems, as the Crown would not repay the debt owed to Ferencz. She was obliged to sell her castle at Theben and refuge into Csejthe Castle, a massive mountaintop fortress overlooking the village of Csejthe.
There she began experimented in depravity with the help of Thorko, Ilona Joo (Erzsebet’s former nurse), the witches Dorottya Szentes and Darvulia, and the dwarf major-domo Johannes Ujvary, who would soon become chief torturer. A mysterious woman dressed as man, referred to as “Stephan” (and probably a member of the Hapsburg royal family), used to often visit Erzsebet and join in the tortures.
With the help of this crew, Erzsebet captured servant girls at the castle, taking them to an underground room known as ‘her Ladyship’s torture chamber’ and subjected them to the worst cruelties she could imagine.
Under the pretext of punishing the girls for failing to perform certain trivial tasks, Erzsebet used branding irons, molten wax and knives to shed their blood. To the one who had stolen a coin she would repay with the same coin red-hot, which the girl had to hold tight in her hand.
To the one who had talked during working hours, the Countess herself would sew her mouth shut, or otherwise would open her mouth and stretch it until the lips tore.
Bathory beat her victims routinely and mutilated them as well. Reportedly she froze some in the snows of winter near Castle Csejthe, dumping ice water on them in freezing weather. Soon, the Countess began attacking her bound victims with her teeth, biting chunks of bloody flesh from their necks, cheeks and shoulders. Blood became more of an obsession with Erzsebet as she continued her tortures with razors, torches, and her own custom made silver pincers.
She even managed to bring into the castle the worst instruments of torture. A famous automaton known as the Iron Maiden and initially devised in Nuremberg was placed in the torture chamber. This clockwork doll was of the size and colour of a human creature. Naked, painted, covered in jewels, with blond hair that reached down to the ground, it had a mechanical device that allowed it to curve its lips into a smile, and to move its eyes.
For the Maiden to spring into action it was necessary to touch some of the precious stones in its necklace. Erzsebet would instruct a servant girl to fix the jewels on the Iron Maiden, and when a certain jewel was moved, the Maiden would grab the girl, spikes would come out of the breasts, and the girl would quickly bleed to death. Once the sacrifice is over another stone in the necklace is touched: the arms drop, the smile and the eyes fall shut, and the murderess becomes once again the Maiden, motionless in its coffin.
A cage, too short to stand in, but too narrow to sit in, was one of Erzsebet’s favorite toy. It was on a pulley, and had dozens of spikes jutting into the cage. The cage would be swung back and forth so that the girl inside would be torn to pieces on the spikes.