Bloody Mary is the legend of a ghost, phantom, or spirit said to be conjured by chanting ‘Bloody Mary’, usually while looking into a mirror as part of a game or ritual. Depending on the version of the legend she may be benign or malevolent but is often believed to be a vengeful spirit or witch.
BACKGROUND, HISTORY AND LORE
The most common version of the legend states that if you chant the name Bloody Mary three times into a mirror, you’ll summon the ghost, or entity, of Bloody Mary.
The origin of the legend of Bloody Mary is most commonly believed to be that of Mary Worth, a witch executed over a hundred years ago’. Many versions of the origin of the entity or spirit behind the Bloody Mary legend seem to involve women who endured a lot of suffering or died violently.
Some believe that the origin of the names Mary Worth and Bloody Mary ‘came from a slight mix up of characters from history’. Mary I, Queen of England who reigned during the Tudor period is also often given the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’. There is however no connection between Queen Mary I and the Bloody Mary of the legend. Some also suggest that the name Mary Worth was ‘derived from a victim of the Salem Witch trials’ however there was reportedly no person involved in these trials by the name of Mary Worth but many were named Mary.
Mary Worth is thought to be a witch who lived more than a hundred years ago and ‘dabbled in the black arts’. It’s believed that Mary Worth lived in the forest in ‘an extremely small cabin’ and was ‘known around the local village for selling tinctures and herbal remedies’.
“She lived deep in the forest in a tiny cottage and sold herbal remedies for a living. Folks living in the town nearby called her Bloody Mary, and said she was a witch. None dared cross the old crone for fear that their cows would go dry, their food-stores rot away before winter, their children take sick of fever, or any number of terrible things that an angry witch could do to her neighbours.”http://www.ghost-story.co.uk/index.php/ghosts/169-bloody-mary-the-legend (Ghost-Story.co.uk, 2020)
Reportedly ‘small girls started to go missing’ and the people in the village ‘looked everywhere that they could think of for them, but they just could not think of where she could be’. Some local villagers went to Bloody Mary’s cabin to ‘search for the girls there, and although the witch denied all knowledge of the girls’ disappearances, the families were suspicious’. Reportedly Mary Worth’s ‘usually elderly and haggard appearance had drastically changed and she was starting to appear more feminine and youthful’.
The villagers were ‘suspicious’ but felt ‘there was little they could do’. One night the miller’s daughter was ‘captivated by a mysterious noise that only she could hear’. The story goes that while her mother was ‘sitting up in bed treating a very bad toothache using – as luck would have it – with a herbal tincture that she’d bought from Mary’ the miller’s wife was ‘very frightened and shouted for her husband to come and help and follow her daughter’.
The miller and his wife were ‘shouting at her daughter for her to come back but to no avail, as it was almost as though she was following an unspoken and unseeing force’ before getting the help of ‘a few townsfolk’. The ‘town farmer’ reportedly noticed that ‘there was a light at the edge of the woods’ and when they got closer ‘they noticed again that Mary Worth was standing in a clearing, next to a huge oak tree’.
Mary Worth was reportedly ‘holding a wand, pointing it towards the miller’s home, and was almost glowing with an unnatural light’ and the miller’s daughter was ‘headed straight toward that light’.
The story tells that Mary wasn’t ‘quick enough for the farmer’ and he quickly loaded his gun with ‘silver bullets’ and ‘fired a shot and caught her in the hip’. She was then ‘caught, kicking, thrashing and screaming and tied to a stake and a bonfire was promptly built’. Reportedly as she was burning she ‘set a curse upon the villagers and told them that if they ever dared to utter her name in a mirror, she would be back for them’ and her spirit would ‘return to wherever they summoned her from to exact her revenge’.
“As she burned, Bloody Mary screamed a curse at the villagers. If anyone mentioned her name aloud before a mirror, she would send her spirit to revenge herself upon them for her terrible death. When she was dead, the villagers went to the house in the wood and found the unmarked graves of the little girls the evil witch had murdered. She had used their blood to make herself young again. From that day to this, anyone foolish enough to chant Bloody Mary’s name three times before a darkened mirror will summon the vengeful spirit of the witch. It is said that she will tear their bodies to pieces and rip their souls from their mutilated bodies. The souls of these unfortunate ones will burn in torment as Bloody Mary once was burned, and they will be trapped forever in the mirror.”http://www.ghost-story.co.uk/index.php/ghosts/169-bloody-mary-the-legend (Ghost-Story.co.uk, 2020)
At the end of the story, the villagers went back to Mary Worth’s cottage to look for the other missing children. Reportedly they found ‘rows and rows of unmarked graves’ and discovered that the witch had been ‘using the blood of their children to make herself more youthful’.
In another version of the origin of the legend Mary Worth was ‘a beautiful young girl’ from ‘long ago’ who had a ‘tragic accident that horribly disfigured her face’. Her parents ‘didn’t think she’d be able to stand the sight of her own reflection’ so they hid all the mirrors they had in their house. The story goes that ‘one day Mary gets curious’ and she finds a mirror that was hidden in the attic and ‘sees her reflection for the first time since the accident’.
Mary is ‘so horrified by what she sees that she goes into the realm of the mirror and vows to seek revenge on anyone who summons her’ by playing Bloody Mary.
In the story of Mary Whales, another name often given to Bloody Mary, she is a ‘sweet girl’ hated by her father after her mother died while giving birth to her. ‘Old Man Whales’ was reportedly an ‘evil man who loved money more than anything in the world, except his wife’. He neglected Mary, dressed her in ‘rags’, ‘half-starved’ her and made her do ‘all the farm chores’. Despite this Mary ‘grew into a sweet girl who loved her wicked father’.
According to the story, as Mary ‘reached adulthood’ her ‘resemblance to her dead mother was striking’ and her father ‘saw his dead wife every time he looked at the daughter who had caused her death’. One night ‘after a hefty bout of drinking’ he ‘lumbered into Mary’s bedroom and stabbed her repeatedly’. Mary reportedly ‘woke screaming and thrashed around in agony, trying to fight off her demonic father as blood spurted everywhere and bits of torn flesh littered the bedclothes and fell to the floor’.
When she was dead Old Man Whales ‘carried her down to the basement, dug an indifferent grave and tossed her body into it’. Then, two nights later, when he was coming back from doing his ‘nightly chores’, he found Mary ‘standing in the kitchen, her nearly severed head lolling against one shoulder as she stirred an empty kettle’ and a ‘pool of steaming blood lay beneath her feet, and bits of skin from her knife-slashed face were breaking off and falling into the kettle’.
Mary hissed ‘Faaaaaather….’ and Old Man Whales ‘screamed and leapt out the kitchen door’ and when he ‘glanced over his shoulder, the apparition was gone’. A week later, while he was reading the newspaper’, he reportedly looked up and saw ‘bloody’ Mary sitting in the chair opposite him. Her ‘knife-slashed dress’ was ‘covered in blood’ and her ‘tattered hands were busy knitting him a shirt’.
“Blood fell from her body like rain as she flew across the room toward him, knitting needles held like knives. Old Man Whales fled from the house in panic with two deep cuts scored across his back.”https://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2012/10/bloody_mary_whales.html (S.E. Schlosser, 2020)
Reportedly Mary’s father ‘cowered in the barn for several days, afraid to go near his house’ and ‘after nearly a week of sleeping in the hay and eating raw food from the garden, he decided it was safe to return to his house’.
When he returned to the kitchen ‘eager for a wash and a shave after sleeping so many nights in the barn’. He took some water over to his ‘little shaving mirror’ and when he looked into the mirror he saw ‘the glowing red eyes and knife-scored face of Bloody Mary’.
“Her once-fair lips were split down the center and blood dripped from them as she smiled evilly. “Faaaaaather….” she hissed, raising blood-stained fingers. Her nails were long and sharpened like the claws of a beast. She reached out of the mirror and slapped her father twice across the face. Old Man Whales screamed, blood streaming from four slashes on his cheeks. He ran from the house and leapt into the safety of the barn, his heart pounding so hard his chest ached with it.”https://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2012/10/bloody_mary_whales.html (S.E. Schlosser, 2020)
Old Man Whales ‘screamed and whirled around’, Blood Mary ‘stood smiling at him through her blood-stained, razor-sharp teeth’. Mary’s ‘tattered tongue was bleeding from several places as if it had been scored by a butcher’s knife’. According to the story she ‘pointed above her head, and Old Man Whales saw a noose hanging from the rafters beside the ladder to the loft’ and he ‘obediently placed his hands on the rung of the ladder and started to climb’.
‘BLOODY’ QUEEN MARY
Some sources do suggest however that this Bloody Mary (Queen Mary I) is the Mary behind the Bloody Mary legend and game. Queen Mary was ‘born unwanted’ as the only living child of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
“While loved by her parents, and by all accounts remarkably intelligent, the fact that she was born female meant she was openly and constantly regarded as a disappointment — not merely to her royal family, but all of England.”https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2016/10/128131/bloody-mary-queen-ghost-story-pregnancy-murder (Kelsey Miller, 2016)
At fourteen Mary was ‘permanently separated from her mother’, forbidden even to visit her mother’s deathbed. Reportedly, throughout her life, depending on who was her queen and stepmother, Mary was ‘alternatively banned from court as a bastard or ordered to come make appearances, suddenly a princess again’. From puberty, she also suffered ‘crippling menstrual pain and irregular cycles’ as well as ‘periods of very deep melancholy.
“Though the firstborn, Mary was pushed down in rank, first by her younger half-sister, Elizabeth, and then their half-brother, Edward. While these much younger siblings suffered trauma of their own, it was Mary who witnessed the whole of her father’s tyranny. She would survive, but by no means unscathed.”https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2016/10/128131/bloody-mary-queen-ghost-story-pregnancy-murder (Kelsey Miller, 2016)
In 1553 ‘despite all odds’ Mary took the throne, becoming England’s first queen to rule on her own, ‘six tumultuous years since Henry’s death’ she ‘ascended on a new wave of popularity and hope from the English people’. Mary then married Philip of Spain, two days after meeting him, and ‘like all royal marriages’ theirs ‘had been preceded by a long negotiation process’. During this time Mary had fallen in love with Philip, who was ten years older than her, however, he reportedly ‘almost certainly did not return her feelings’.
Historian Alison Weir wrote in The Children of Henry VIII:
“Starved of affection from her childhood, deprived of the fulfilment of sexual love and children during her adult years, she was ready to lavish all her frustrated emotions on the husband she had acquired so late in life – For the first time since she was 10, when her father’s eye had first lighted on Anne Boleyn, she was truly happy”https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2016/10/128131/bloody-mary-queen-ghost-story-pregnancy-murder (Kelsey Miller, 2016)
Two months after the marriage she believed she was pregnant. Records state that she had many symptoms of pregnancy including, weight gain, her menstruation had stopped, her breasts were swollen and she was ‘nauseated in the morning’. Her abdomen even ‘grew round and larger by the month’ and ‘she felt the baby move’. However, at the time there were no ‘true forms of pregnancy testing’ and doctors were forbidden by ‘propriety’ from ‘thoroughly examining a monarch’.
Mary also appeared in public three months along in her pregnancy and ‘her newly thickened midsection drew cheers from her subjects, though rumours began to spread that she wasn’t pregnant at all’ some even said that she was ‘plotting to take some other woman’s baby for her own’.
“By the time of her pregnancy, Mary’s reputation was almost entirely unearned. Her age, devout Catholicism, notorious menstrual problems, and intermittent depression all painted a nasty caricature. Amplified by constant comparison to the youthful Elizabeth, this may be how she came to be seen as the kind of woman who might fake a pregnancy and steal a child.”https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2016/10/128131/bloody-mary-queen-ghost-story-pregnancy-murder (Kelsey Miller, 2016)
As Queen Mary ‘entered her second trimester’ she ‘took action that would cement her legacy as bloody’. Shortly before Christmas in 1554 Mary ‘signed an act which would incite a legendary series of executions known as the Marian Persecutions’. These began in February 1555 and ‘an estimated 240 men and 60 women were condemned as Protestant heretics and burned at the stake’.
Weir also wrote of this that most executed were ‘popular preachers, artisans, farm labourers, or poor, ignorant folk who could not recite the Lord’s Prayer or did not know what the Sacraments were’ and that some were even ‘blind or disabled’. Reportedly one woman named Perotine Massey of Guernsey was pregnant and ‘her baby was born as she was burning, and cast back into the flames by the executioner’.
Mary’s pregnancy, however, was most likely a ‘false pregnancy’ as, after continuing to ‘exhibit signs of pregnancy’ until July 1555, her ‘abdomen receded’ and it became clear she was not actually pregnant. This phantom pregnancy may is thought to have been induced by ‘Mary’s overwhelming desire to have a child’. Mary herself reportedly considered it to be ‘God’s punishment’ for ‘her having tolerated heretics in her realm’.
This may be where the variations of the game which mention a child or baby originates.
OTHER POSSIBLE ORIGINS
Others also link the Bloody Mary of urban legend to Mary Queen of Scots who was beheaded by order of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, half-sister to ‘Bloody’ Queen Mary I of England. Elizabeth I ascended to the thrones after the death of her sister Mary.
Another ‘addition’ to the legend of Bloody Mary is reportedly ‘derived from the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, who it was rumoured bathed in blood and took part in other atrocities to save her youthful beauty’.
Another version of Bloody Mary’s origin story tells of a young woman living in Jackson, Michigan, who ‘went into a coma’. At that time doctors didn’t know what a coma was so they determined that she was dead and buried her alive. Reportedly ‘every night Mary’s mother thought that she heard a scream coming from Mary’s grave, but no one believed her’ until one day her mother ‘convinced them to dig up her grave’. The story tells that when they did they found ‘scratches on the top of the coffin and Mary’s fingernails were all bloody’.
Another ‘more modern update’ to the origin story tells of ‘a very vain woman who spent a long time staring into the mirror’ who died in a ‘violent, bloody accident’ which is reportedly often an ‘automobile-related’ accident. The story of ‘a vain woman dying violently and becoming an angry spirit’ also ’has some parallels’ to a Japanese urban legend called Kuchisake-onna, or ‘ripped-mouth woman’.
The ripped-mouth woman was a ‘beautiful, vain woman who died, usually during a botched plastic surgery attempt, and now walks around Japan with a veil covering her mouth, asking people if they think she’s beautiful’. Reportedly ‘no matter what you say, she pulls down the veil, shows her mouth is cut from ear-to-ear and kills you’.
Another Japanese urban legend that seems to mirror the legend of Bloody Mary is that of Hanako-san or Hanako of the Toilet. Hanako is said to be a ‘young girl’ who was killed either ‘during WWII air raids or by a parent or stranger’ and she ‘appears in the mirrors of school bathrooms when you shout her name’.
There are also theories that Bloody Mary may be related to Resurrection Mary.
Reportedly the divining ritual of ‘spinning and chanting has evolved from quite a long time ago when young girls participated regularly in rituals such as this to find who they would marry and when they would marry’. A variation of this ritual involved ’chanting a rhyme in a darkened room on a special night and then quickly looking in the mirror to catch a glimpse of the bridegroom-to-be’.
In other versions of this ritual young women were ‘encouraged’ to ‘walk up a flight of stairs backwards holding a candle and a hand mirror, in a darkened house’ and supposed to be able to see their future husband’s face in the mirror. A twist to this version, however, is that there is a ‘chance’ that they would see ‘a skull (or the face of the Grim Reaper) instead, indicating that they were going to die before they would have the chance to marry’.
Some have also at times, particularly in Victorian England, believed that mirrors were ‘portals to another world’. Old ‘spiritual beliefs’ also include ‘covering mirrors while in the presence of a dead person or at a funeral’ to keep their spirits from becoming trapped in the mirrors.
“The concept of mirrors as portals between this world and the realm of spirits shows up in other beliefs, namely those surrounding funerals. It was common practice to cover mirrors in a house where a death had occurred until the body was taken for burial. It was believed if the dear departed caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror, his ghost would remain in the house because the mirror would trap his spirit.”https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/bloody-mary-story/ (David Mikkelson, 2001)
In Ancient Greece people who were sick would ‘visit temples where they would look into a mirror’ and ‘if a healthy-looking apparition stared back at them, they were expected to recover; if the apparition was terrifying, their days were numbered’.
The actual game, or ritual, of Bloody Mary, involves standing in a darkened room, usually a bathroom although sometimes in a group, usually with a lit candle, and saying ‘Bloody Mary’ in front of the mirror three times. Reportedly, Bloody Mary will usually appear as a ‘corpse, witch or ghost, can be friendly or evil’ and is sometimes ‘covered in blood’.
It’s believed that consequences for taking part in this game include seeing the ‘horrifying image of the witch’ appearing in the mirror, eyes being ‘ripped out’ by Bloody Mary, ‘claw marks all over’ participants bodies or over their faces, disappearing ‘mysteriously from the bathroom and end up in the mirror with the witch for eternity’ and being ‘driven insane or dropping dead on the spot or otherwise injuring you’.
Other reported possible consequences include Bloody Mary haunting your house if you see her, seeing your own ‘bloodied face’ in the mirror, seeing ‘a headless female in a white gown with a bloody knife’, and, ‘If you’ve sinned or done anything evil in your life then you will have three scratches of blood on your cheek’.
Some sources state that Bloody Mary might place a ‘curse’ upon you if summoned, ‘frighten you with the sudden appearance of a corpse’ or ‘cause a sudden surge of blood’ in the person summoning her. Reportedly she may also show you in the mirror ‘your own dead self’ or a woman ‘holding her own bloody head’. This is reportedly why some also link Bloody Mary to the beheaded Mary Queen of Scots.
In some versions of the ritual, flushing the toilet will banish Bloody Mary after she has been summoned.
One reported ‘caveat of the myth’ however is that ‘it won’t work if you don’t believe’.
Some variations on the game or ritual reportedly include calling ‘Hell Mary’, ‘Mary Worth’ or ‘Bloody Bones, Mary Worthington, Mary Whales, Mary Johnson, Mary Lou, Mary Jane, Sally, Kathy, Agnes, Black Agnes, Aggie’ or ‘Svarte Madame’ instead of Bloody Mary. Another difference is repeating the name thirteen times or ‘some other specified number of times’, or even 47 times, instead of the usual three.
Reportedly some versions of the ritual also include ‘incorporating blood or water’ such as ‘running hot water to produce a steam’. This is thought to ‘go back to an ancient practice of scrying. Some versions even involve pricking your finger ‘a number of times’ and rubbing the blood ‘together in their hands while chanting’ or ‘rubbing it across the mirror while chanting’.
Other variations include are thought to include saying ‘I stole your baby Bloody Mary’, ‘I killed your baby Mary Worth’, ‘I killed your baby Bloody Mary’, ‘I believe in Bloody Mary’, ‘I believe in you Bloody Mary’, ‘I don’t believe in Bloody Mary’, ‘I believe in Mary Worth’, ‘I don’t believe in Mary Worth’, ‘I believe in Mary Wales’ or ‘Kathy come out’ into the mirror instead of ‘Bloody Mary’. Some versions of the game also involve ‘turning around between one to one hundred times in front of the mirror’ and/or ‘blowing the candle out and calling out to summon the witch in the dark’. Reportedly, in some versions of the game, Bloody Mary will sometimes only appear after a toilet has been flushed or a candle has been blown out.
There are reportedly also ‘regional variants’ to the Bloody Mary legend and game as well. For example, in Tennessee players of the game say ‘Bell Witch’ or ‘I hate the Bell Witch’ instead of ‘Bloody Mary’. Near the Mexican border ‘you can find versions of the story starring La Llorona — the weeping woman searching for her lost child’.
Other sources specify that the number of candles needed for the game varies from one candle or one on each side, or that one candle should be held. In some versions of the game, the ‘message to Mary’ is repeated by ‘just one girl who is either a volunteer or one selected by the others to summon up the mirror-witch’ and in some versions of the game multiple people participate.
In another version of the legend, the ritual requires going to the bathroom at midnight, locking the door, spinning around three times and saying Bloody Mary three times and then when she appears she will ask you three questions. Reportedly if you get one wrong she’ll scratch you leaving ‘long marks that’d go across your back’. If you get all three of the questions wrong you die.
In Alan Dundes’ Bloody Mary In The Mirror, some variations reported include playing the game in a school bathroom, needing to flush all the toilets in the bathroom stalls, the candles used needing to be red and placed ‘in front of you in a triangle, two on a side and one in the front’, chanting while flushing the toilet, chanting ‘Bloody Mary, show your fright, show your fright this starry night’, chanting ‘slowly’ so that ‘she has time to come from the spirit world’, needing to run out of the bathroom as soon as you see her, turning five times while chanting and using a ‘flashlight’ instead of candles.
In one version the ritual described requires going to a bathroom mirror every night for three nights and saying Bloody Mary three times. Supposedly, the first night a spot of blood appears and the second night the spot of blood will be a ‘little bigger’, on the third night ‘it’s supposed to be a womans face’.
One version submitted involves looking at the water in a toilet while chanting and supposedly seeing Bloody Mary’s face in the water. Reportedly you might ‘have a weird reaction or something’ or she might pull you ‘down into the toilet’. In a similar version the water in the toilet is supposed to ‘turn red, or bloody, and then you had to flush the toilet in order to come out’, or ‘after the chant you flush the toilet and as the toilet is flushing the water turns red’.
In one encounter, a girl who reportedly ‘ended her incantation with a spiteful “I don’t believe in Mary Worth”’ then ‘tripped over the doorjamb while exiting the bathroom and broke her hip’.
In one story of a Bloody Mary encounter two friends who were ‘in an experimental mood’, decided to play the version that they ‘heard most often’. They reportedly ‘stopped at a gas station that had an outdoor restroom’ and asked if they could use it. The friends went into the bathroom, turned off the lights, ‘splashed water onto the mirror’, spun around and said Bloody Mary three times. Then one of the pair ‘turned and flushed the toilet’ while the other, named ‘Lauren’, stared into the mirror. Lauren claimed that from what she could see of her ‘reflection in the dark’ it ‘started turning into a bright red blob’. Reportedly, she ‘kept staring’ in ‘amazement’ until her friend started screaming and they ‘ran out the door’. When Lauren could see her friends face ‘it was all bloody’ like how she had seen her own face in the mirror. She also claimed that when they ‘cleaned her off’ her friend had ‘ small fingernail-type scratches all over her face’.
In another report, a witness claimed that, after being dared by her cousin to play Bloody Mary, she remembers seeing ‘a woman with blonde hair, covered in blood’.
Another account tells of a group of friends who went into the bathroom and turned off the lights, started running the water, spun around three times while saying, Bloody Mary then closed their eyes and held hands until they ‘heard anything’. Reportedly they heard ‘a low thump’ and opened their eyes. The group claimed to have seen a ‘bloody dark-haired girl covered in blood’ but also said that ‘it was very very dark, so very hard to tell’.
“All she did was look at us, like an image painted on the mirror. Then we got scared and turned on the light. Whatever it was, it was gone.”https://www.halloween-website.com/bloody_mary_stories.htm (Halloween Web, 2020)
In another story, ‘Kelsie’ claimed that, at a slumber party, one of her friends was dared to ‘do Bloody Mary’. She claims that for ‘about 15 minutes’ nothing happened and then they heard her ‘scream and she tried to get out of the bathroom’. Reportedly the door was ‘stuck but it didn’t have a lock’ and when they got her out she was ‘crying and whimpering like a madman’. They asked her what had happened and she showed then her arms and ‘there were scars there that had never been there before, tons of them, like 20 scars’.
Reportedly, a few days later, the scars disappeared and the friend wouldn’t tell them what had happened or what she had seen and would just look at them ‘in a hateful way’. She reportedly said later that the friend who had dared her to play bloody Mary was the one who had played instead.
In another reported encounter, ‘Trent’ and his friends ‘Michael’ and ‘Rudy’ decided to ‘summon Bloody Mary in an old, abandoned shed’. They ‘went in and sat in the centre of the floor’ in a circle, closed their eyes and held hands while they ‘summoned Bloody Mary’. After ‘a minute or two’ they could ‘hear things’ and when they stopped they ‘saw the walls start spinning and the sounds got louder’. The friends reportedly ‘got up, ran away and never returned there’.
In another account ‘Marisa’ and her friend had just finished an ‘eerie episode of Ghost Whisperer’ and Marisa wanted to scare her friend. She ‘looked into her living room mirror, spun three times’ while saying Bloody Mary’ but nothing happened. Marisa went to the bathroom instead to try again and ‘against the warning of her friend’ she ‘shut off the lights, closed the door, and repeated the chant’.
When she looked into the mirror there was nothing there again and, disappointed, she was about to turn the light back on when she ‘caught a glimpse of something’. Marisa claims that she ‘looked closer’ and saw ‘a black and white woman with her mouth open wide’. Marisa ‘expected a scream from the apparition, but found only dead, terrifying silence’. Reportedly ‘the woman in the mirror lifted her arms, and Marisa saw that her hands were bright red: not with polish, but with blood’. Her fingernails had been ‘torn off’ and her hands ‘reached out from behind Marisa and grabbed her shoulders’. Marisa ‘screamed, turned on the light, and ran from the bathroom’.
‘Katie’ reported an encounter that she experienced at nine years when she and her four friends decided to play Bloody Mary at Katie’s house one weekend. They ‘carefully carry candles to the bathroom and began chanting Bloody Mary’.
“As they chanted, an old woman with cuts across her face and chains around her neck and shoulders appeared in the mirror. Suddenly, the shower curtain went up in flames, and the girls fled the bathroom. An older boy ran in and put out the fire. Although the girls were blamed for the curtain catching fire, they (and their candles) were much too far away to have caused it….”https://the-line-up.com/9-chilling-bloody-mary-stories (Audrey Webster, 2018)
In another encounter friends ‘Sara’, ‘Gail’ and ‘Missy’ were hanging out on Friday the 13th when ‘they got to talking about Bloody Mary’. Reportedly ‘the girls had been reading about her on the Internet’ and wanted to ‘try the ritual for themselves’. The three friends got ‘several candles’ and set them up in Gail’s bathroom and waited until 2:55 AM. Then they went into the bathroom and chanted Bloody Mary thirteen times. Reportedly ‘as soon as she had been called thirteen times’ Bloody Mary appeared ‘in swirling smoke in the mirror’. All three girls screamed and turned on the light, only for Bloody Mary to ‘vanish immediately’.
In a camping story of a Bloody Mary encounter, a group of three girls were ‘spending the summer at a camp in the Pacific Northwest on an island called Anacortes’. Reportedly they were ‘sick of exploring the woods, they decided to collectively fake food poisoning’ so they ‘ran to a bathroom and shut themselves up in it, hoping to make the fakery convincing’. One of the girls, named ‘Jessica’, had the idea to play Bloody Mary and the rest of the group agreed. They turned off the lights, said Bloody Mary ‘into the mirror’ three times and waited for something to happen. Reportedly nothing happened at first then the mirror ‘cracked’. The three of them ‘ran off screaming except for one’ who was ‘paralyzed with fear’ and ‘stared and saw a flash of movement behind the mirror as if someone was standing right behind her’. She then turned and ran from the bathroom.
In a Friday the 13th account, from April of 2007, ‘Ezzie’ and her friends decided to try ‘summoning Bloody Mary’. The friends ‘sat in a circle and called for the spirit, with a coin nearby to communicate’. They asked Bloody Mary to ‘show a sign that she was there’ then ‘flipped a coin for an answer’. The first answer they received was reportedly ‘no’ followed by two ‘yes’ answers. Then the ‘brand new’ CD ‘with no marks on it’ that they were playing at the time ‘got scratchy’ and the girls began feeling ‘dizzy and faint’. They felt ‘long fingernails brushing against their backs and faces’ and the blinds ‘started shaking although the window wasn’t open’. Ezzie ‘jumped up and closed the circle between the girls and Bloody Mary’. Reportedly, to this day, Ezzie ‘still has the feeling that she is never truly alone’.
In another reported encounter from ‘Amanda’, she was twelve when ’believes’ that her ‘summoning of the spirit opened a portal that allowed demons and witchcraft into her soul’.
“All of these years later, she has become addicted to drugs, had postpartum psychosis, was institutionalized for a month, and has suffered from extreme mental issues constantly. Amanda has even resorted to exorcisms without success, firmly believing that her young foolhardiness is responsible for her current problems. Let Amanda’s story remind you that summoning ghosts is no laughing business. She has spent her life warning others of the danger of even seemingly-innocent childhood games.”https://the-line-up.com/9-chilling-bloody-mary-stories (Audrey Webster, 2018)
A SCARY COINCIDENCE?
Reportedly, in another Bloody Mary experience a witness who calls themselves ‘Nicole’, claimed that one night while her parents were away her older brother dared her to play Bloody Mary and ‘summon her spirit’. Nicole claimes that she didn’t ‘believe that it was true so’ so she accepted ‘thinking it would be a good laugh afterwards’.
Nicole ‘went into the bathroom, turned off all the lights, turned around seven times’ while saying Bloody Mary ‘on each turn’. She then ‘stopped turning and faced the mirror’ and then ‘waited in silence for something to happen’. Reportedly she was about to leave when she heard ‘a woman singing’ and ‘turned slowly back to the mirror’ when she ‘saw her’. Nicole described the woman in the mirror as having ‘long, dark brown hair that was soaked in blood’ and a neck that ‘looked like someone had just slit her throat’.
She screamed and her brother ‘started banging on the door and turning the lock’ which seemed to anger the woman in the mirror. The woman was ‘smiling but then she frowned and reached out through the mirror with one bloody arm’ and ‘slapped/scratched’ Nicole on the right side of her face. She claimed to have ‘felt her nails strike so hard’ that she was ‘knocked to the floor’ where her head ‘slammed against the side of the bathtub’ and she was ‘knocked unconscious’.
When Nicole woke up she was in the hospital ‘with bandages across the right side of [her] face’ and her brother was ‘whispering apologies’ to her that she ‘could barely understand’. She reportedly later discovered that her brother had told her parents that ‘one of [her] many cats’ had scratched her and she had fallen.
Reportedly, on the same night of this experience they ‘got a call’ from her aunt who told them that her uncle ‘had died in the same hour that [she] was attacked’.
“I know it could have been a horrible coincidence but I believe that B-Mary killed my uncle that I loved. Every story I have ever read has said that she will attack only you and not your loved ones. I don’t care what the stories say. I think she killed my uncle! The attack was a year ago and to this day, I still cannot see out of my right eye and that side of my face is stuck in a permanent scream.”https://www.halloween-website.com/bloody_mary_stories.htm (Halloween Web, 2020)
A MYSTERIOUS DEATH
In one paranormal experience with Bloody Mary from 1999, Newport, Michigan, ‘just north of Monroe’ two young friends, named ‘Mark’ and ‘Matty’, decided to try playing the game. At around ten or eleven pm, when the moon was ‘covered by trees’ and there was ‘very little light’, Mike went into the bathroom alone.
Reportedly, following the rules to the legend they knew, they lit six candles and wrote 666 on the bathroom mirror with red lipstick and said Bloody Mary six times. Matty heard Mike say Bloody Mary three times but ‘nothing happened for ten minutes’ and Mike ‘didn’t make any noise’. Matty claimed to be able to ‘still see the lights from the candles under the bathroom door’.
Matty decided to go ‘downstairs to get something to drink’ and when he came back he ‘was a little worried because I could see no candlelight and the bathroom door was locked’. He reportedly ‘pounded on the door’ until Mike’s dad asked what he was doing.
His dad believed that they ‘accidentally locked the door, so he got his lock-pick set’ but when the door was unlocked it was ‘stuck when [they] pushed on it’. When they finally got the door open they found Mike dead.
“After about fifteen minutes of pushing, there was a thump and when the door opened, my friend was kneeling on the ground and his head was in the sink. My friend died doing this stupid legend. Please, don’t any of you make the same mistake.”https://www.halloween-website.com/bloody_mary_stories.htm (Halloween Web, 2020)
ENCOUNTERS FROM REDDIT
In one account shared on Reddit by user u/ZayZay1436, they claimed to have been fourteen when they ‘already had two encounters with Bloody Mary’. The first time was reportedly when she had ‘just turned nine’ and was in fourth grade at school. ZayZay1436 and her friends believed that the ‘girls bathroom in our hallway’ was haunted. Reportedly they would ‘always hear random flushes in the stalls and then the sinks would turn on’ when there was never anybody ‘actually using the bathroom or anyone close enough to the sink so that the water would turn on’.
ZayZay1436 and her friends were talking about the haunted bathroom, when one of her friends suggested that they play the ‘creepy version’ of truth or dare. Reportedly one of the girls dared her to do the ‘Bloody Mary ritual’ which she was ‘hesitant’ to do but did it anyway.
“So To make this clear the bathroom is huge with a total of ten stalls, two of which are bigger than the others because they are for handicapped children. There are no windows and only the one door, which when it shuts it locks on the outside. So you can imagine that the bathroom is really dark when the lights are off and the door is shut. Also the door is a three inch thick wooden door with no window in the door. There is also a wall type of thing right in front of the door and only enough room for two people walking side by side to fit between the wall and the side of the bathroom.”https://www.reddit.com/user/ZayZay1436/comments/bxn2uf/bloody_mary_encountercompletely_true/ (Reddit, 2019)
ZayZay1436, alone in the bathroom, ran the water on all six sinks, turned off the lights and then shut the door. She plugged the sinks so that they weren’t ‘draining like they should’ and went over to the mirror in front of the first sink, so that she could ‘get to the door faster’, and started to say Bloody Mary thirteen times but only got to ‘about five to seven times’.
“I had my eyes on the mirror the entire time. I had said Bloody Mary five to seven times when the mirror (I swear it) lit up and a girl appeared. I can’t say exactly what she looked like but from what I remember, her skin was paper white, she was wearing a white nightgown, and her hair was jet black and it fell in front of her face. Her right arm was reaching towards me, with her neck pointing down.”https://www.reddit.com/user/ZayZay1436/comments/bxn2uf/bloody_mary_encountercompletely_true/ (Reddit, 2019)
Reportedly ZayZay1436 only stayed still for about three seconds, then screamed, her friends opened the door and she ‘ran’.
“I didn’t tell them anything except that I saw her. I guess that they believed me because my face was white, I was extremely pale and also I don’t lie. I didn’t get a scratch on me that day but I admit I have not gone into a school bathroom by myself since then.”https://www.reddit.com/user/ZayZay1436/comments/bxn2uf/bloody_mary_encountercompletely_true/ (Reddit, 2019)
In the same post, u/ZayZay1436 described another encounter which ‘wasn’t as scary as the first one’ and took place ‘about four months’ before she made the Reddit post. She had to go to the bathroom and because she was at school, she begged their friend ‘Sally’ to come with her. Sally reportedly asked why she needed her to go with her and she told her ‘what happened in fourth grade’. Sally said that she would come as long as ZayZay1436 told Bloody Mary to leave them alone and she agreed.
“This restroom is almost the exact opposite of the bathroom from fourth grade. This bathroom is really small with only two small stalls and one sink. There were two doors in this bathroom, one right by the sink and one on the other side of the room. The one closest to the sink was locked on the other side. There still weren’t any windows.”https://www.reddit.com/user/ZayZay1436/comments/bxn2uf/bloody_mary_encountercompletely_true/ (Reddit, 2019)
Reportedly, this time she didn’t summon Bloody Mary ‘necessarily’ and ‘just stood in front of the mirror and said ‘Bloody Mary, leave me alone’. When nothing happened they said ‘That’s right, stupid little b***h’. Again, nothing happened at first and she and Sally ‘really had to use the restroom’ so they ‘each took a stall’ with ZayZay1436 taking the stall ‘farthest from the sink’.
ZayZay1436 claimed that when she sat down on the toilet she ‘felt a sharp pain’ from her pointer finger to her elbow.
“I glanced at my arm and freaked out…I had a long scratch on my arm from my finger to my elbow! I didn’t even scrape my arm against anything though. Anyways, Sally and I finished, washed our hands and left. When we were back in the gym, I showed Sally the scratch. Nothing has happened to me since then.”https://www.reddit.com/user/ZayZay1436/comments/bxn2uf/bloody_mary_encountercompletely_true/ (Reddit, 2019)
THEORIES AND EXPLANATIONS
One ‘sociological’ theory, from Alan Dundes in his essay Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety, about the experiences and psychology of the Bloody Mary legend and game, is that it is related to anxiety young girls have surrounding menstruation and starting menstruation. Reportedly ‘most girls who report playing Bloody Mary’ are aged seven to twelve and, statistically, ‘the average American girl first experiences [menstruation] at age 12 and ½’.
“The interpretation here proposed would certainly explain why the ritual invariably takes place in a bathroom and why there is such an explicit and repeated emphasis on the sudden appearance of blood.”http://home.iscte-iul.pt/~fgvs/Dundes%20bloody.pdf (Alan Dundes, 2008)
Some other sources also theorise that, as Bloody Mary is ‘mostly the domain of girls’ and ‘is deeply associated with slumber parties’, the legend is ‘related to fears of ageing and physical appearance’ and is therefore influenced by ‘puberty and, specifically, menstruation’.
“Try as we might, we still haven’t broken the social stigma that women’s worth is judged by their beauty. This stress is especially high on young girls, because middle school and high school are a Thunderdome of social pressure. While Bloody Mary herself isn’t meant to be a representation of how they’ll look when they’re older, there’s still a lot of fear surrounding unexpected things in the mirror – Yes, the “Bloody” part is pretty on-the-nose, but even on a more subtle level, girls are preparing to become adults and that’s pretty scary. Summoning an angry spirit with a violent past is a simple way to confront some of the horrors adulthood might one day throw at them.”https://www.grunge.com/212016/the-legend-of-bloody-mary-explained/ (Asher Cantrell, 2020)
The reported experiences might also be a result of hallucination and that ‘by forcing our eyes to see in the dark we start to hallucinate’. It could also be the result of ‘self-hypnosis’ in which ‘we expect to see something’ and will ‘talk [ourselves] into seeing it’.
A more paranormal and spiritual theory is that the bloody Mary ritual is similar to the practice of scrying, a type of divination, some use Black Mirrors for this. In 1978 Janet Langlois theorised in Mary Wales I Believe In You, that when people play the game ‘Mary Wales I believe in you’ it’s about ‘seeing strange faces as a distortion of ones own self’.
Another possible explanation is that encounters with Bloody Mary can be explained by the effect that staring into a mirror in a darkened room for extended periods of time has been known to have.
One study, which was published in Perceptions in 2010, was conducted by Dr Caputo of the University of Urbino on the effects of subjects staring into a mirror in a dark room for an extended period of time. Participants in the study were asked to stare into a mirror in dimly lit room for ten minutes and 66% reportedly experienced ‘huge deformations of their own face’, 28% saw ‘an unknown person’ and 48% saw ‘fantastical and monstrous beings’.
“Staring into a mirror in a dimly-lit room for a prolonged period can cause one to hallucinate. Facial features may appear to ‘melt’, distort, disappear, and rotate, while other hallucinatory elements, such as animal or strange faces, may appear.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Mary_(folklore) (Wikipedia, 2020)
Giovanni Caputo of the University of Urbino reportedly wrote that this phenomenon, which he calls the ‘strange-face illusion’, is believed to be ‘a consequence of a dissociative identity effect’. This is thought to cause ‘the brain’s facial-recognition system to misfire in a currently unidentified way’. Other suggested possible explanations for include ‘illusions attributed, at least partially, to the perceptual effects of Troxler’s fading, and possibly self-hypnosis’.
If you want to trigger this effect by looking into a mirror and try to see these sorts of illusions, you should sit in a dimly lit room and stare into a mirror for several. Different people may need to stare for less or more time to experience these effects, and different people will see different distortions and illusions. A bulb of 25w is recommended as a dim light source for this experiment and should be placed behind you as you are facing the mirror, which is recommended to be about 40 cm in front of you. Some may see distortions in their reflection after only a minute of staring in these conditions.
Following an experiment, involving fifty subjects, into this phenomena, the following was described in the published article in scientific journals:
“At the end of a 10 min session of mirror gazing, the participant was asked to write what he or she saw in the mirror. The descriptions differed greatly across individuals and included: (a) huge deformations of one’s own face (reported by 66% of the fifty participants); (b) a parent’s face with traits changed (18%), of whom 8% were still alive and 10% were deceased; (c) an unknown person (28%); (d) an archetypal face, such as that of an old woman, a child, or a portrait of an ancestor (28%); (e) an animal face such as that of a cat, pig, or lion (18%); (f ) fantastical and monstrous beings (48%).”https://mindhacks.com/2010/09/18/the-strange-face-in-the-mirror-illusion/ (Mind Hacks, 2010)
This also suggested that the distortions people saw were caused by ‘a combination of basic visual distortions affecting the face-specific interpretation system’ and explained that the ‘visual system’ beings to adapt after receiving the same information for an extended period of time. We also have a system which ‘interprets faces very easily’ which is why people often perceive faces and facial features in clouds or random markings and stains. The study pointed out that have a ‘specialised face detection system to allow us to recognise individuals’ and suggested that the distortions may be caused by ‘low-level fluctuations in the stability of edges, shading and outlines affecting the perceived definition of the face, which gets over-interpreted as someone else by the face recognition system’.
“The participants reported that apparition of new faces in the mirror caused sensations of otherness when the new face appeared to be that of another, unknown person or strange `other’ looking at him/her from within or beyond the mirror. All fifty participants experienced some form of this dissociative identity effect, at least for some apparition of strange faces and often reported strong emotional responses in these instances. For example, some observers felt that the `other’ watched them with an enigmatic expression – situation that they found astonishing. Some participants saw a malign expression on the ‘other’ face and became anxious. Other participants felt that the `other’ was smiling or cheerful, and experienced positive emotions in response. The apparition of deceased parents or of archetypal portraits produced feelings of silent query. Apparition of monstrous beings produced fear or disturbance. Dynamic deformations of new faces (like pulsations or shrinking, smiling or grinding) produced an overall sense of inquietude for things out of control.”https://mindhacks.com/2010/09/18/the-strange-face-in-the-mirror-illusion/ (Mind Hacks, 2010)
ALSO KNOWN AS
- Mary Worth
- Mary Wales
- Mary Whales
- Hell Mary
- Bloody Mary Worth
- Mary Worthington
- Mary Johnson
- Black Agnes
- Two Girls One Ghost Episode 5 – Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary
- This Podcast is Haunted Episode 58 – Bloody Mary
- New England Legends Podcast – Summoning Bloody Mary