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Mater Suspiriorum, or the Mother of Sighs, (born Helena Markos) is the oldest and wisest of the Three Mothers; the other two are Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears, and Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness. They are a triad of evil sisters bent on world domination. At the dawn of the 11th century, the Three Mothers create witchcraft on the coast of the Black Sea. In the late 1800s, the Mothers ensnare and convince the Italian architect E. Varelli to build houses for them: one in Freiburg, Germany, one in Rome, Italy, and one in New York. Markos, by then also known as the Black Queen, claims the house in Freiburg as her own, while Lachrymarum and Tenebrarum claim the ones in Rome and New York, respectively. From their dwelling places, Varelli notes in his book on the Three Mothers, the witches "rule the world with sorrow, tears, and darkness." In 1895, the Mother of Sighs converts her house into a ballet academy and masquerades as its headmistress. In the 1970s, Markos is challenged to a magic duel by Elisa Mandy, a white witch. Mater Suspiriorum emerges victorious, but is reduced to a shell of her former self. When ballerina Suzy Bannion discovers that the academy's faculty are the wicked witch's coven, Helana tries to kill the girl; however she is too weak and Suzy kills her first.
While she is invisible, making a corpse attack Suzy, the ballerina finds her and stabs her in the neck with an iron feather. Helena's death causes a chain reaction that destroys the school.