The amount of deaths she was involved in during her lifetime (1560-1614) ranges from 30 on the low end to possible total of 650. While there's a lot of legends surrounding the "Countess Dracula" (the most famous of which was that she bathed in her victim's blood, an act that seems quite unsanitary even for 17th century Eastern Europe), the facts of the case seem to be condemning enough without requiring embellishment (unless of course you subsrcibe to the theory that she was the victim of an elaborate court conspiracy).
The Countess murders spanned over a twenty year period. The reason she seems to have got away with this for so long (and practically in plain sight), was because she was of the privileged upper class. Being an aristocrat entitled these people to certain things, such as titles, land, and the ability to not die of back-breaking labor. I guess she thought that getting away with torture and murder were one of these priviledges. She thought wrong. After eight years of complaining, eventually the crown deployed investigators, which summarily arrested, tried, and convicted her.
What they determianed was that over the the past 20 years, the Countess, along with four collaborators, managed to procure a number of victims either by force or deceit. Once the victims (who were almost exclusively girls) were in the keeping of the Countess, she imprisoned and tortured the girls to the point of death. The causes of death range from beatings to exposure to starvation to bitings (ew). The Countess was sentenced to a comfortable life in prison, while the servants which aided her were burnt at the stake. Take that, proletariat!
What makes her an even stranger chracter is that she wasn't that bad of a governor. She regularly gave food and medical aid to her peasantry and assisted rape survivors. So the next time you're down at the Salvation Army, keep an eye out, that friendly wave might be a scheme to imprison you in their castle in the Carpathian mountains.
While her actions were reprehensible, her heart was in the right place, making strides for females everywhere. She didn't take "No" for an answer, she went out and did what she wanted to, despite the rules of the male-dominated society around her. No, wait a minute, thatís a terrible lesson.
James Kislingbury for Citadel Interactive © 2009Photo courtesy of Hulton Archive, by Apic