Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pipás Pista, Cross-Dressing Assassin for Hire

Eat your heart out, Quentin Tarantino.

The year is 1886, and the place is Átokháza (literally Cursed House), a remote village somewhere on the Hungarian plains. A little girl is born into a dirt poor family. Viktória Fődi is abused by her alcoholic father, and sent to work at another farm at the age of 13. She takes up smoking a pipe, which is the only good thing resulting from her job. She is abused by her boss, gets pregnant, and is forced to marry a man who is also abusive. Has five children, only one survives.
And then her husband dies, and the girl decides she had had enough.
What follows after is the stuff of many folk legends.

By this time, the scared little girl is gone. Viktória is tall, strong, a tireless worker, and most men know that she can wrestle them to the ground with no effort at all. She lives alone on a farm, works for others, and has her own table at the local tavern, no questions asked. She dresses in men's clothes. She is known as Pipás Pista (Steve with the pipe).

One day, another woman approaches her. She tells her about a man. A contract is made, she is paid in food. And thus begins Pista's career as a killer for hire. Women around the countryside ask for her help in getting rid of husbands - good for nothing, or abusive husbands, specifically, which holds a personal interest to her. She brings a length of rope every time, and hangs the man from the rafters, disguising the incident as suicide. They call her an executioner.

She was arrested in 1933 together with some of her accomplices, accused of two murders for certain, and another seven possibly. She was first sentenced to death by hanging (poetic justice), which was later changed to life in prison. That is where she died in 1940.

There are many legends and anecdotes going around about her, past and present. Her character appears in comics, books, documentaries, and museum exhibitions. Some of the above may be the embellishments of the people who tell and re-tell the tale. The tale itself, however it is told, is dark, and makes you re-think many romantic notions about the 19th century countryside. Either way, she is a character worth knowing.


  1. I am really learning a lot by following your blog. This is a really interesting story and has me rooting for Viktoria/Pista the entire way through.

    LittleCely's Blog

  2. This is a true story? What a horrifying life she led as a young girl!

    Visiting from GenWestUK as part of the A-Z Challenge.

    1. Yep, this is a true story. The details vary based on the sources, but the gist is always the same.

  3. That is so cool to hear interesting things. Such a fascinating story! Visiting from A to Z Challenge at Learning at Cedar Ridge Academy and Cedar Ridge Academy

  4. Fascinating. Like Lizzie Borden. If women did not have any other means to get out of abusive marriages, then she was their last resort.

    Maui Jungalow