Bloody Mary: Malevolent Ghost Behind The Mirror(Explained)

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By: Alex Postrado

Malevolent Mirror Ghost or Reflection of Teenage Anxiety?

Go ahead. Look up “scary ritual games” on Google, and I kid you not, you will stumble upon the name “Bloody Mary” almost immediately.

You can find it sitting on the first page of the search results for various reasons.

For one, a number of people genuinely enjoy and crave the horror experience. There is a science behind that. But, simply put, some of us would likely chase the thrill — be it through movies, stories, or games — if there ever is a chance to do so.

Another reason could be because it is popular and not as complicated as other ritual games out there.

All you need is a chant, some candles, a pitch-dark room, and a mirror, and you and your friends are all set for a typical teenage good time — or not.

It could also end up in crying and nightmares, and all kinds of mess you could think of.

But the thing is, several of us would still play it anyway.

The game, Bloody Mary, has been ingrained so deep in some cultures that it is practically a rite of passage during our younger years. A way to see who among our friends are brave enough to face the evil and ghastly figure in the mirror, and who among us would chicken out.

But who is Bloody Mary? And what led her to become the epitome of coming-of-age nightmares?

Bloody Mary: The Blood-Drenched Woman Behind The Mirror

As the legend says, Bloody Mary is a ghost or spirit who has the ability to foretell the future.

She can be conjured through a distinct — yet mostly familiar — ritual, involving a mirror. However, to those of you who are curious to try it, let me warn you that there is a catch.

While some accounts claim that her apparition could sometimes be benign, it could also be straight-up malevolent. Ranging from simple frights and goosebumps to supposed physical harm, trips to madness, and worse, death.

Why? You may ask.

The lore has it that Bloody Mary is an evil spirita mirror-witch if you must — drenched in blood and is capable of inflicting harm or even forcefully dragging people through the mirror to take with her.

Obviously, that, in general, is one great reason not to seek her. But if you truly are dead set on meeting Bloody Mary, here’s what you need to know.

A Quick Guide to the Feared Ritual

The 19th century. That is how far back the roots of the Bloody Mary ritual game actually stretch.

Over time, however — as to how most things go — it developed. And that pretty much sums up why we now have plenty of variations as to how it could be performed.

One of the oldest versions you could find out there is the one where you need to walk backward up a staircase with all the lights in your house turned off and go past a mirror to see either “the face of the person you were destined to marry, or a skull”.

You better hope it’s not a skull, though. Because according to the belief, that is a sign that you are gonna die before you even get the chance to marry.

Another way to make contact with the ghost in the mirror is to get inside a pitch dark room — such as a bathroom — with all the supplies needed — namely, a candle, matches, and a mirror — and wait until nightfall to recite the incantation.

“Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary.”

You need to chant her name at a slow, but steady pace thirteen times — with each repetition louder than the last.

If this proves successful, Bloody Mary will appear in the mirror. Reputedly screaming, cursing, threatening to harm or steal the souls of her summoners, or even to drink their blood.

If you were on the scene, however, just stay outside arms’ reach of the mirror and take all of it as if your life depends on it — because, if you’re at that point, it actually does.

Should you survive, extinguish the candle, switch the lights back on, and leave the room.

And oh — do not use that mirror again!

These are only two of the ways you can conjure Bloody Mary. You can perform either of these alone or with your friends, but you must keep in mind that during the entire ritual, the mirror must stay intact.

Or else, Bloody Mary could break free and enter our world.

That is, of course, if she’s real. But is she?

bloody mary candle and mirror
Are you afraid of your reflection?

Does Bloody Mary Exist?

Depending on who you’d ask, Bloody Mary could either be real or fictional.

To some folklore experts — like Alan Dundes — Bloody Mary, in its core, is but a maturation ritual originally meant for young girls. Pointing out that the blood and bathroom factors represent the womanhood that is just around the corner.

To science, the manifestation of Bloody Mary can be explained by hallucinations caused by prolonged staring into a mirror in the dark.

It basically happens when the brain’s facial recognition system misfires due to unchanging stimuli and the neurons start canceling information out — a phenomenon called the Troxler effect.

However, if we’ll get to the bottom of where the legend of Bloody Mary started, history will take us back to centuries ago.

Introducing us to real women who possibly breathed life into the malefic spirit trapped in the mirror.

Bloody Mary and the Many Names She Took Across History

Among the multitude of women in history Bloody Mary was said to be inspired from, the one that is arguably the most known is Mary I — also called Mary Tudor — the first queen to rule England in her own right.

Mary is the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Despite being the only surviving child of the two, Mary — due to her mother’s eventual banishment, her father’s marriage to a number of other women, as well as the birth of her brother Edward VI and the appointment of Lady Jane Grey — only ascended to the throne at the age of 37.

At that time, however, she was already riddled with anger and trauma, stemming from a lot of things.

Her mother’s death, being declared illegitimate by her own father, being compared to her sister and successor, Elizabeth I, constantly being in pain due to her severe menstrual troubles — now assumed to be an undiagnosed case of endometriosis and ovarian cysts — and finally — the thing that got to her most — her country’s separation from Roman Catholicism, causing the rise of the Protestant Church of England.

You see, Mary was devoutly religious and the split was as if a test of her faith. So when she had her chance as the queen of England in the 16th century, she did what she thought was best to reinstate Catholicism.

Which, unfortunately, was to burn hundreds of Protestants at the stake — earning her the nickname, Bloody Mary.

Other contenders for possibly inspiring the lore of Bloody Mary are Mary, Queen of Scots, who was gruesomely beheaded in front of the masses; Mary Worth, an accused witch in the Salem Witch Trials; and even Elizabeth Báthory, the Hungarian countess and serial killer — once named by Guinness World Records as “the most prolific murderer of the western world” — who is believed to have drunk — and even bathed in — the blood of the around 600 girls she had killed.

Bloody Mary ghost in a mirror
Bloody Mary invades our nightmares.

Bloody Mary in the Modern World

While Bloody Mary seems to only have entered the world of literature when folklorist Janet Langlois first published an essay about her in 1978, and while the ritual game meant to summon her had existed years prior to that, Bloody Mary has been present and scaring the wits out of us for longer than we can probably determine.

For what it’s worth, regardless of her origin, Bloody Mary truly has immortalized her place in the world we live in today.

Taking shape in films like Dead Mary, The Legend of Bloody Mary, and surprisingly, even in Bernard Rose’s Candyman, as well as in TV shows, books, video games, and music — as referenced in a track from Lady Gaga’s second studio album Born This Way.

Bloody Mary is so much more than a run-of-the-mill urban story.

More than a plain incantation to conjure the vengeful, prophecy-carrying spirit in the mirror.

She is a living tradition, firmly rooted in various cultures. Continuously adapting from historical figures to children’s folklore.

And now, as a mirror game for us to play.

The only question is: are you dying to meet her?

References:

Dangerous Games to Play in the Dark
Bloody Mary, and Why We Think We See Things in Mirrors
The Myth of 'Bloody Mary'
The Origin of the Bloody Mary Legend: Who Is This Spirit?
Candyman: The Real Urban Legends That Inspired Tony Todd's Villain
Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Comparative Examination of a Living Tradition
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