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The Legend Of Bloody Mary

Updated on October 2, 2013
Bloody Mary.  She looks pleasant. I'd hang with her.
Bloody Mary. She looks pleasant. I'd hang with her.

Unless you've never been on a camping trip or had a sleepover with a bunch of friends, you have probably heard an urban legend, and probably several of them. An urban legend (also known as an urban myth) is a story told in modern times, the origins of which are mysterious or unknown to most. A characteristic trait of an urban legend is that actual evidence to support the tale is often scarce or nonexistent. These tales become urban legends via the way they are spread from person to person, generation to generation. Often, an urban myth will start with "a friend of a friend told me," and as the tales spread, they often become embellished or develop slight variations in the details, while the overall story remains the same.

Like all stories, urban legends can have a myriad of topics, some humorous and lighthearted, some that are simply hoaxes that many initially believe to be true (such as fake reports of celebrity deaths,) and some that are downright creepy or frightening. And with Halloween just around the corner, why not focus on one of my spooky favorites: The Legend Of Bloody Mary (cue really scary orchestral music.)

This is a tale that involves a ritual that is so creepy, that to complete it now would still give me a case of the chills. Okay I'll admit, I may never have fully completed the ritual. I'm talking about Bloody Mary, who, legend has it, will appear if you speak her name a number of times in front of a mirror in a darkened room. Once she appears (as if someone named Bloody Mary suddenly appearing where she previously wasn't isn't enough to scare the crap out of you,) some variations have her screaming curses at you, strangling you, pulling you into the mirror, clawing your eyes out, or even stealing your soul or driving you insane. Her appearance has varied from that of a corpse or ghost, or as a witch covered in blood. Spooky!

The actual ritual of saying "Bloody Mary" into a mirror was quite different historically. Origins of the legend involved having young women walk backwards up a flight of stairs in a darkened house, holding only a candle and a hand-mirror. While looking into the mirror, they hoped to get a glimpse of their future husband's face. But there was also the possibility that they may see a skull or the Grim Reaper. If that happened, bad news - they were destined to die before getting married (oh, the horror!)

The present-day ritual of speaking into a mirror has several minor variations as well, including how many times to say "Bloody Mary," (thirteen is very popular - for obvious reasons,) spinning after each time the name is said, and adding the words "I've got your baby." The latter twist is because some believe that Bloody Mary refers to Queen Mary I, whose life was marred by several miscarriages, and who was also called "Bloody Mary" in her time.

In modern times, the bathroom has become a common place to perform the ritual, probably because it's a room in the house that has both a large mirror to gaze into, and is also easily darkened completely. I think the fact that legend has come to take place in the bathroom adds a certain level of creepiness to the mix, in that bathrooms are generally smaller and more confined (and hence, claustrophobic if you're already scared out of your wits) than other rooms. Also, I think the bathroom locale adds to the creepiness on a psychological level as well. This is because I think the bathroom can be associated with a sense of vulnerability (and we can certainly thank Alfred Hitchcock for that.) Lastly the bathroom is often seen as a place of privacy and refuge, and I think having a blood-spattered witch barge in on me, while I'm staring into the mirror in the dark, would definitely be an invasion of privacy of the worst kind.


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