As many of us have probably experienced as kids going to slumber parties, summer camps, afterschool programs, or having older siblings trying to scare you; have more than likely have heard and maybe even brave enough to play Bloody Mary. I can recall playing the game in the 1st grade while attending an afterschool program a.k.a. daycare. Some older kids told us about the story of Bloody Mary and then dared us to play the game in the bathroom. You had to turn the water faucets on and chant “Bloody Mary” three times in the dark. Nothing happened really, except one of the older boys thought it would be funny to put a pack of red Kool Aid in his mouth. When the light switch was flicked back on it looked like he had blood flowing out of his mouth and his arms were flailing in the air like he was possessed. But enough with one of my early childhood traumas, There are many true stories behind the legend of Bloody Mary.
Mary I, Queen of England a.k.a Mary Tudor
The English Catholic Queen reigned from 1553 until her death in 1558. During her reign, she ordered the execution of hundreds of Protestants and had them burned at the stake for committing heresy. Her religious campaign towards making England a Catholic nation is what earned Mary I the nickname Bloody Mary. Mary was afraid that if she didn’t produce a male heir to the throne of England that her religious efforts would have been undone. Mary experienced several false pregnancies and eventually died in London, on November 17, 1558. The variation to the Bloody Mary ritual involving a part of the chant saying “I got your baby” is suspected to be mocking Mary Tudor and her failure of giving birth to a successor.
There are many other true stories that have been linked to this legend, but I decided to start with the earliest story because it makes sense how Mary Tudor could have been the first inspiration to the creation of the Bloody Mary legend. There are many other stories that were credited to the legend. Some of them make sense and have some aspects to them that has some to little correlation to the rituals that partake in the game.
Mary Worth was assumed to be a witch who lived in Chicago during the Civil War. She supposedly captured runaway slaves and locked them up in her barn to use them for her rituals. Once the locals of the area caught wind of Mary’s dirty little secret, they took the law into their own hands and burned Ms. Worth at the stake.
Sometime in the 1960s, Mary Worthington was a beautiful girl who spent countless hours looking at herself in the mirror. One day Mary was involved in a car accident and her face was horribly disfigured. No one could stand to look at her. Then one day she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and she committed suicide.
There have been other stories that have been tied to this notorious legend. There are also other variations to the Bloody Mary legend throughout the world.
Sweden: Svarta Madam (Black Madame)
Russia: Dama Pika (Queen of Spades)
Japan: Kuchisake-onna (The Slit-Mouth Woman)
In 1978, Janet Langlois’ study found that the Bloody Mary ritual/game served the purposes of providing thrill of excitement to children and was considered to be a form of entertainment. However, many scholars have stated that the elements of the rituals can be traced back to earlier superstitions and myths.
Mirrors: considered to be a “looking glass” into the spirit world. The story of Snow White, written by the Brothers Grimm in 1857, was based off of a ritual throughout the British Isles in the 1700s. Young Girls would stand in front of a mirror with a candle while combing their hair and then eat an apple. The young woman would see in the mirror her future spouse appearing behind herself. Through the 1800s there was a superstition that claimed that if one is to admire themselves for too long before a mirror it would cause the devil to appear. Another belief that is present to this day, is if one dies in a room with mirrors, the mirrors should be covered with clothes to prevent the spirit from being trapped in the house.
Magic Rituals: The rituals vary when playing Bloody Mary. The most common rituals either involve turning in circles, the use of candles, and repeating incantations, or all of the above, are typical magic rituals that can be found in many cultures.
“Mary Tudor.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.biography.com/people/mary-tudor-9401296>.
“Bloody Mary Legend.” Scary Website. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://www.scaryforkids.com/bloody-mary-legend/>.
“The Mythical and Paranormal Realm.” Mary Worth and the Origin of Bloody Mary. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2016. <http://mythical-and-paranormal-blog.blogspot.com/2012/05/mary-worth-and-origin-of-bloody-mary.html>.
Bloody Mary Legend. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2016, from http://paranormal.lovetoknow.com/Bloody_Mary_Legend