Bloody Mary Legend

Bloody Mary is a famous folklore legend which many of us have heard during our childhood. The legend is basically about the ghost of a woman named Mary, who would come in the mirror after being repeatedly called by the name ‘Bloody Mary’. The story is all about the performance of a ritual which involves revealing what the future holds and conjuring a spirit.

There used to be a ritual practiced by young girls in historic times that involved standing in front of a mirror holding a candle with the hope to find their future husband’s face in the mirror. Instead of finding that, they used to see a grim reaper’s face or a skull, the meaning of which was that the girl would die before getting married.

As per the ritual it is believed that the ghost of Mary would appear in the mirror when you call her with the name ‘Bloody Mary’ 13 times while standing in a dark place in front of the mirror. It is perceived that the ghost only comes to those people who call out to her and involve themselves in catoptromancy (divination by a mirror or by crystal gazing). As per the legend, when you see the ghost she’s covered in blood, she screams and strangles her victims and drinks their blood. The ghost is also called by the name ‘Mary Worth’ and ‘Hell Mary’.

The explanation behind this concept is that when you are standing in front of the mirror and staring at it for quite some time, you’ll find yourself hallucinating. Even if your facial features look similar to you, there might be some variations. This is a result of the dissociative identity effect caused when the brain can’t identify the facial features and turns recognition into something that is not entirely true. This phenomenon is also known as Troxler’s fading or self-hypnosis. In modern times this legend has now turned into an inspiration for directors and producers who have used it as content for their movies and shows.

Additionally, it was believed by many people that spirits and ghosts travel through mirrors so they used to place them facing the wall or completely cover them with a cloth to be safe. They thought that an open or uncovered mirror would be an indication that you’re inviting the ghosts or spirits into the room. 

Some people believe that the story of Bloody Mary is only a result of an overactive imagination in childhood. The very popular psychologist ‘Jean Piaget’ explains this story as ‘nominal realism’ which is a belief that thoughts and words have a direct impact on reality. Additionally, it is stated that there’s a whole body of superstition and folklore ascribing magical properties to mirrors dating back to the historic times. One of the very common superstition that is also believed by some people even now is that breaking of a mirror will bring bad luck. 

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Wendy Saunders - Author

I am a romantic suspense author based in Hampshire in the UK

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