Last modified on 16 April 2013, at 13:50

Bloody Mary (urban legend)

Bloody Mary

An urban legend that says that anyone who chants the words Bloody Mary three times in front of a mirror will summon a vengeful spirit. This spirit has been reported to do a variety of things to the person who summons her, including killing the person, scratching their eyes out, driving them mad or pulling them into the mirror with the spirit – generally referred to as the spirit of a woman or even a witch. This is an old legend, but in 1978 a folklorist named Janet Langlois published an essay on Bloody Mary, which led to the tale becoming a popular slumber party ritual done by girls as well as boys. No one knows the origins of the Bloody Mary legend; over the years, she has been rumored to be anything from a witch that was killed for practicing witchcraft to a modern-day woman killed in a car crash, depending on what part of the country you live in.

Pad of Definitions (1.05 Bloody Mary), Official Website

In folklore and children's street culture, "Bloody Mary" is a game in which a ghost of the same name (or sometimes other names, such as "Mary Worth") is said to appear in a mirror when summoned. One of the more common ways participants attempt to make her appear is to stand before a mirror in the dark (most commonly in a bathroom) and repeat her name three times, though there are many variations. Some include chanting a hundred times, chanting at midnight, spinning around, rubbing one's eyes, running the water, or chanting her name thirteen times with a lit candle. Most of these are meant to disorient people. In some versions of the legend, the summoner must say, "Bloody Mary, I killed your son!" or "I killed your baby." In these variants, Bloody Mary is often believed to be the spirit of a mother (often a widow) who murdered her children, or a young mother whose baby was stolen from her, which made her go mad in grief and she eventually committed suicide. In stories where Mary is supposed to have been wrongly accused of killing her children, the querent might say "I believe in Mary Worth." This is similar to another game involving the summoning of the Bell Witch in a mirror at midnight. The game is often a test of courage, as it is said that if Bloody Mary is summoned, she would proceed to kill the summoner in an extremely violent way, such as ripping his or her face off, scratching his or her eyes out, driving the person insane or bringing the person into the mirror with her. Other variations say that the querent must not look directly at her, but at her image in the mirror; she will then reveal the asker's future, particularly concerning marriage and children.

Bloody Mary Worth is typically described as a child-murderer who lived in the locality where the legend has taken root years ago. There is often a specific local graveyard or tombstone that becomes attached to the legend.

On the other hand, various people have surmised that the lore about taunting Bloody Mary about her baby may relate her tenuously to folklore about Queen Mary I, known in history by the sobriquet "Bloody Mary". The queen's life was marked by a number of miscarriages or false pregnancies. Had Mary I successfully borne a child, this would have established a Roman Catholic succession and threatened the continuance of her religious persecutions after her death. Speculation exists that the miscarriages were deliberately induced. As a result, some retellings of the tale make Bloody Mary the queen driven to madness by the loss of her children. It is likely, however, that Queen Mary I provided only her nickname to the Bloody Mary of folklore. She is also confused in some tellings of the story with Mary Queen of Scots.

The appearance of a ghostly figure in the mirror could be explained quite easily for the more complex rituals, for example spinning around whilst summoning Bloody Mary in front of a mirror lit by candles. The combination of dizziness, rapid movement and flickering lighting could easily fool the eye into seeing someone, especially when the idea has already been implanted. The participant may think that they have seen a spirit, it is, however, most likely a trick of the eye brought upon by the combination of darkness and fear.

Bloody Mary in Supernatural

  • In 1.05 Bloody Mary, the spirit of Mary Worthington was avenging her unsolved murder by killing people who were guilty about the deaths of other people. She manifested through mirrors, and was killed when Dean lured her into a mirror and smashed it.
  • In the Ghostfacers Web Series, Maggie compares the ghost they are facing to Bloody Mary. Another Ghostfacer calls her out on this by giving an alternate legend of Blood Mary. Maggie says she read the above version of the legend in "some cheesy Carver Edlund book."
  • Bloody Mary can also be the ghost of a pregnant woman murdered right after her wedding - she might be summoned when people tell her they killed her child. She appears and will either say something about the caller's future or kill them. BoM

See also