very period of history has its fair share of gruesome detail. More often than not, it’s the men who are at the center of the bloodshed. Evil dictators, savage warriors, and notorious serial killers are nearly always male. But there are exceptions to this trend. Over the years, plenty of women have carried out unthinkable acts of evil. And whilst these women aren’t as well known as their male counterparts, the crimes they committed are just as disturbing.
1. Elizabeth Bathory
Elizabeth Bathory was a serial killer like no other. She was born in 1560 and enjoyed a privileged upbringing as a member of the Hungarian nobility. Though she was beautiful, her good looks were overshadowed by her sadistic behavior.
With the help of her companions — which included her aunt, a witch called Dork, and a dwarf called Ficzko — Elizabeth captured, tortured, and killed countless peasants and servants over the course of several decades.
Within the walls of her Transylvanian castle, Elizabeth clawed off chunks of flesh, pressed red-hot coins into the skin, and inserted sharp spikes into the bodies of her victims. She also covered people in honey, tied them to a tree, and let swarms of insects eat their way through the flesh.
Elizabeth was obsessed with immortality as well. She thought that bathing in the blood of virgins would preserve her natural beauty, so she lured young peasants to her castle, tortured them, and collected their blood in vats and buckets.
Eventually, people started to suspect something strange was happening, and the horrors inside Elizabeth’s castle were finally discovered. But because she was a member of the aristocracy, it was against the law for Elizabeth to be formally sentenced.
Instead, her family locked her away permanently and fed her through a narrow gap in the door. Elizabeth remained here until her death in the summer of 1614.
2. Queen Ranavalona
Queen Ranavalona ruled the island of Madagascar from 1828 to 1861, and during this time, she murdered more than half of her citizens.
The source of Ranavalona’s barbarism was her hatred of Christianity. She loathed the missionaries who came to her island to spread the word of God, and when her citizens started to convert to Christianity, she vowed to destroy the lot of them.
Ranavalona killed the Christians in a variety of gruesome ways. They were thrown off high rocks, burned at the stake, beheaded, boiled, and forced to drink poisonous liquids.
Many of these executions were carried out in public as a warning to others. Though the smell of mounting flesh soon became unbearable, the Christian population continued to increase under Ranavalona’s rule. No matter what she did, more and more people were converting to Christianity.
By the end of her reign, the death toll exceeded two million.
3. Amelia Dyer
During the Victorian era, single mothers were often shamed, and to avoid being humiliated, they would give their babies to foster carers, also known as baby farmers.
In the 1860s, Amelia Dyer started to work as a baby farmer in the south of England. But rather than giving the babies a safe home, she strangled them to death instead.
Amelia got away with this for years due to the high infant mortality rate in Victorian England. No one bothered to investigate the rising number of babies who were dying under her care. But Amelia knew she couldn’t avoid suspicion forever, so she started to dispose of the bodies in nearby rivers.
Then, in 1896, one of the strangled babies was discovered in the River Thames. The body was packaged in linen and newspapers, and the police noticed a name and an address inside.
This led them to Amelia’s home, where they found piles of letters, receipts, and newspapers about baby farming. They also dredged the river and found other babies who’d been murdered.
Amelia was later convicted at the Old Bailey and hanged at Newgate Prison. Though the exact number is unknown, historians believe she murdered hundreds of infants during her time as a baby farmer.
4. Enriqueta Marti
Enriqueta Marti grew up in the Spanish city of Barcelona during the late nineteenth century. She was poor and earned money by working as a prostitute before opening her own brothel in 1909.
But this was no ordinary brothel. Enriqueta disguised herself as a member of the lower classes and kidnapped children between the ages of three and twelve. Affluent, aristocratic men would then rent these children for their own sexual pleasures.
Enriqueta also earned money by selling facial creams and healing tonics. She made these substances by meshing the blood, bones, and fat of the children she kidnapped. Many affluent women were interested in her products, as there was a superstition amongst the upper classes that the blood of children could prolong the aging process.
The authorities knew that children were going missing, but they didn’t do anything for years because the families who were affected were mostly poor. Eventually, however, Enriqueta’s twisted schemes were unveiled when the police raided her apartments and discovered the bloodied remains of her victims.
She was sent to prison and died in March 1913. As for Enriqueta’s clients, they avoided any form of punishment, as the police were afraid of a backlash against the upper classes.
5. Irma Grese
Like many who grew up in Germany during the 1930s, Irma Grese was subjected to Nazi ideology throughout her time at school. She rejected the values of her Christian parents and embraced the concept of racial superiority.
When Irma left school, she joined the Schutzstaffel (the SS) and went on a training course at an all-female concentration camp near Berlin. Here, she was turned into a cruel, emotionless guard who loved to mistreat prisoners.
But her most notorious crimes took place at Auschwitz. Though Irma’s official task was selecting victims for the gas chambers, she spent most of her time killing and mutilating. She would stamp, kick, whip, and beat her victims savagely. Sometimes, she would even order her dogs to rip people apart.
Irma also enjoyed watching her victims suffer through the agony of surgery. These painful procedures gave her a sense of sexual gratification, and she always made sure the prisoners weren’t given any anesthetic.
At the end of the Second World War, Irma was captured by the Allies and put on trial. She was hanged for her crimes in December 1945 at the age of twenty-two.
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