USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Bloody Mary’
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Game
Legends

Bloody Mary

Background: This informant is a young-adult college student who grew up in Northern California. The informant discusses a scary ritual that calls forth a vengeful ghost. This is a transcription of our conversation (The informant is “C”, another friend is “Friend” and I am labeled as “me”).

Piece:

Me: Did you ever do any like ghost ritual kind of things when you were a kid?

C: I mean at sleepovers we used to do Bloody Mary

Me: I feel like everyone has done Bloody Mary. How did you do it?

C: Go in a bathroom, turn lights off and say bloody mary three times.

Me: Where does she come from?

C: I think she comes out of the mirror.

Me: Did you ever try it?

C: No I was always too scared.

Context: This conversation occurred one evening while sitting in my dorm room with my two closest friends. We were discussing my folklore collection project and I told them that folklore included rituals and traditions and the like. When brainstorming rituals, the informant brought up Bloody Mary, a common supernatural legend mainly believed by young children.

Thoughts: Bloody Mary is such a common folk legend and I can honestly say that I have never heard of anyone actually conjuring Bloody Mary. When I “played” Bloody Mary growing up, a candle was required for the ritual and in the dark bathroom with only a small flame flickering, it felt incredibly eerie. I had always thought of Blood Mary to be the antithesis of the Virgin Mary, but upon researching it further I found that Bloody Mary is actually based on Queen Mary of England. Bloody Mary is associated with children and childbirth in particular as its based on Queen Mary’s mysterious phantom pregnancy- she appeared to be pregnant but never gave birth to a child.

For more information on Bloody Mary and her origins, see this 2016 article by Krissy Howard entitled “The True Story of Bloody Mary, The Woman Behind The Mirror” (All That’s Interesting):

https://allthatsinteresting.com/bloody-mary

 

 

Initiations
Legends
Life cycle
Narrative

Bloody Mary

“In fourth grade, everyone knew about Bloody Mary showing up in bathrooms, and there were these creepy bathrooms down a super long hallway. The area was really shaded so they were pretty dark. We always were scared to go alone because they were so creepy. One day we were playing with the lights and turned them off and yelled “Bloody Mary” four times and then turned the lights back on. We saw a shadow staring behind us in the mirror. It was so, so scary. So we all ran out screaming and never went back in those bathrooms again. We always used the bathroom on the other side of campus.”

Context: The informant went to school in St. Helena, California, twenty minutes from Napa. She is female, and grew up in a small, close-knit community.

Interpretation: The Bloody Mary ghost story has been interpreted as a symbol of womanhood and menstruation, and this is an excellent example of how Bloody Mary is utilized as such. While the informant did not see the correlation, her story was exclusively prepubescent girls in a female bathroom. By facing the terrifying bathroom and summoning Bloody Mary, the informant and her friends symbolically opened the portal to female adulthood. Perhaps their avoidance of the aforementioned bathroom could further be seen as the fruitless attempt to avoid womanhood once the process of puberty has started. After seeing Bloody Mary, the participants are uncomfortable and scared, but also more knowledgable. The same can be said when a woman receives her first period. Furthermore, there is an obvious tie between the ‘bloody’ part of Bloody Mary and the blood tied to menstruation. For another interpretation of Bloody Mary, see the 2006 horror film directed by Richard Valentine.

 

Game
general
Legends

Bloody Mary

The following informant is an 8th grader. In this account she is explaining what Bloody Mary game is. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as SA and I am identified as K:

SA: So it’s this girl, she was from like a large ship, and she got married there and then something happened to her and she died there… and she haunts the ship… and she can come into your house. So the game goes: If you go into your bathroom and then you close the door, you turn off the lights and you flush the toilet three times and you say Bloody Mary three times and she comes through the mirror and takes you

K: She just takes you, what happens?

SA: Well she takes you so I don’t know.

K: Have you ever played the game?

SA: No, I never tried it, some of my friends did, but when they screamed it freaked me out to much. This was a long time ago thought like 4 years, and I heard the story on YouTube.

K: Can I ask if you believed she would actually come through the mirror and take you.

SA: I think I did when I was younger, but now not so much, but I still don’t want to try it

Context: She told me this while at my house one weekend.

Thoughts:

This was the first time I had heard of a origin story for the Bloody Mary, so I was very interested. Adding the origin story to the scary game made me almost feel bad for the Blood Mary, which felt strange. But what was also interesting is that when I grew up, I heard about this game from my friends who heard it from their friends. But this informant heard about it on YouTube, it’s a different generation with a very different way of exchanging information. She did not need to be in the same place as the person telling her about the game to still experience it.

Game
Legends
Narrative

Mirror Man

After I told a friend that I was collecting folklore for one of my classes, he was intrigued so I asked him if he had any folklore he’d like to contribute. I briefly explained the different kinds of folklore he could tell me. He said he wanted to think of something that is specific to his hometown, and the following came to mind, though he prefaced his account to mention that he wasn’t sure or not if this practice was just specific to his hometown.

“I’m not sure how local it is, but I’ve heard many people tell it, it’s called ‘Mirror Man.’ So, what Mirror Man is, it’s similar to Bloody Mary and in…at a sleepover or something one of the kids would go into a bathroom or something, alone, at midnight or 3am or something, lock the door, and look in the mirror in the dark and think of something you want, and you have to stand still and stare at your reflection for long enough to see your reflection move, and that means your wish has been granted and then you have to move. But, if you continue to stare after it’s [the reflection] moved, something bad will happen to you, like being sucked into another dimension by your reflection or something. But, then, some people will try to stay as long as possible after the reflection has moved to see what happens so it’s not just a wish granting thing but a bravery, dare thing.”

Afterward, he told me that he often did this at sleepovers when he was younger, and told me a few personal anecdotes surrounding his experiences, but requested I did not include them.

Childhood
Game
general
Legends
Life cycle
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bloody Mary (All-Boys School in the Philippines)

Informant: Enrique is a 19-year-old boy, born and raised in Manila, Philippines who now attends college in California. South Ridge (the school in his story) is a Catholic all-boys school in Manila which he attended from kindergarten through until 7th grade.

 

Original script:

Informant: So when I went to South Ridge, [all boys school in Manila, Philippines] there was a super scary bathroom on the top floor of the school. No one ever used this bathroom because there was a rumor that someone had died inside the bathroom years ago. On special occasions, our classes would have sleep overs at school and during one of these sleep overs, one of the older batches went up to that bathroom in the middle of the night. The rumor goes that if you say Bloody Mary in front of the mirror in that bathroom four times, Bloody Mary actually shows up. So when one of the guys that decided to go into that bathroom did the ritual, she actually appeared and when he left the bathroom, he was covered in cuts and scratches.

 

Interviewer: Do you know what Bloody Mary has to do with the guy that had died in the bathroom?

 

Informant: She was apparently the one who killed him.

 

Thoughts about the piece: It is extremely interesting that the Bloody Mary ritual would occur at a local all-boys school in the Philippines. Especially considering the context that we discussed it in during class wherein we saw that the ritual is most popular among pre-pubescent girls usually in Western countries. We took this to be part of girls growing up as womanhood is bloody, thus, girls are basically looking into their future (by spinning and looking into the mirror) and trying to understand it by performing the ritual. I too attended school in the Philippines however it was an international school with many American and European students- here too I noticed that only girls would take part in the Bloody Mary ritual. Thus, it is intriguing that this would be such a big sensation (seeing as how no one wanted to use the bathroom because they all know what had happened there) at a local, Catholic all-boys school.

Something else that it interesting about this version of the story is that Bloody Mary actually physically harms the people that perform the ritual whereas usually, you are said to simply see an image of her in the mirror.

Folk Beliefs
Game
Legends
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody…Mary?

Original Script: “Okay so I was around thirteen when this happened. I never really believed in this Bloody Mary legend but I was like, ‘what the hell?’ I was at a sleep over and everyone wanted to do it and I was like whatever about it. I have heard so many things on what you are suppose to do but I just let my friends take the lead. Basically, we went into my friend’s, Becca, basement bathroom. It was me, Becca, and Kaylin doing this. Anyways, we lit a candle, apparently the person holding the candle had to say the chant and the other two were suppose to touch the person’s shoulders. Then, whoever was closest to the light switch had to flicker the lights off and every time Bloody Mary was said—which you had to say three times, then blow our the candle. Anyways, I was volunteered to hold the candle, we walked into the bathroom and Kaylin was the one designated to flicker on and off the lights. So we went, ‘Bloody Mary’ lights off, lights on ‘Bloody Mary’ lights off, lights on, and for the last one I started to get a little freaked out for the last one. I had no idea what was going to happen, I have never done this before! So I held my breath and was like, ‘Bloody Mary,’ and blew out the candle. And the lights shut off. I waited a couple of seconds for Kaylin to turn the lights back on, finally Becca was like, ‘Okay Kaylin, turn on the lights,’ and Kaylin was like, ‘I never turned off the light!’ At that point we all started freaking out and fumbling for the light switch, which was not working. Then I heard a, ‘what the hell, oh you have got to be kidding me, girls get up here!’ Which was Becca’s mom, so we opened the bathroom door and it was still pitch black. Like none of the light switches were working, so we fumbled all the way from the bathroom, to the stairs then up the stairs, and, because of the windows, you could see the moonlight outside and Becca’s mom pacing. Apparently, there was a whole blackout on the street! We were worried for nothing! But safe enough to say, I will not be doing that again, still haven’t till this day! That was crazy scary!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jenna grew up in Chandler, Arizona with her family. About two years ago, she moved across country with her mother and now lives in Milford, Pennsylvania. When she did this Bloody Mary ritual, albeit the legend, she was in junior high school, in eighth grade to be exact. She is now a senior in high school and eighteen years old and plans to go to California in the fall.

Context of the Performance: Bloody Mary Ritual

Thoughts about the piece: The Bloody Mary ritual/ legend quest, is a very fascinating item, foremost, because it falls under the category of both a ritual and legend quest. Bloody Mary is a common legend among, typically, young adolescents, and does fit the category of a legend quest. However, it also fits the category of a ritual, for example, the lights flickering on and off, saying Bloody Mary three times, holding a candle—however, the ritual does vary and it would be interesting to see if it varies by regions. It is noteworthy to also mention, in my folklore class, we had discussed that Bloody Mary was almost a coming to woman hood, type legend quest. Which aligns perfectly with the age Jenna was at, at the time she did the ritual.

Furthermore, it is also important to note the candle in the ritual. The candle almost represents a form of enlightenment, as well as the lights turning on and off. Thus, blowing out the candle could represents the finishing of coming to womanhood, that you know all you need to know, and hence blowing out the candle.

Additionally, though Jenna did not believe in the legend of Bloody Mary, she still got scared toward the end of the ritual—scared of the unknown. This theme—being afraid of the unknown—seems to be precedent in today’s society: people afraid of ghosts, people afraid of things they cannot control. It also seems as if groups add to this inherent anxiety, it seems as if because there was a group all participating in the ritual, they all mimicked the anxiety/ fear of the unknown. (This is also precedent in another interview I conducted with Jenna about a Ghost in her high school, please see the interview for reference).

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Bloody Mary Bathroom

Bloody Mary Bathroom

Informant: So in my elementary school, in the old building, there is the little kid’s bathroom. So it was really old and gross and the windows are all scratched up and everyone would say, “that’s where Bloody Mary is and if you’re going to do Bloody Mary, you gotta do it in there, she hangs out in there”. So it’s all beat up, and on the last wall, there is a board. Just a board nailed to the wall, this big (hold out hands 1 ft by 1 ft apart). And it’s painted over, okay, just a board painted over, but they would always say, “ You know why there’s a board there? BECAUSE THERE’S A FINGER UNDER IT!” I don’t remember who told me, I assume its is one of the older girls.

interviewer: Who did you tell this story to?

informant: The new kids, or the younger kids and then they redid it . . .

interviewer: So then did it stop being Bloody Mary Bathroom?

Informant: No, it was still Bloody Mary Bathroom to us, but then I think the tradition died.

Interviewer’s notes:

It is interesting to note the evolution of the variation of the legend. Originally, the old, strange, scary bathroom was dubbed “Bloody Mary Bathroom” because it was strange and scary like Bloody Mary herself. The young students assimilated the story of the board in the bathroom into the legend by correlating the two together. The severed-finger board is now part of the Bloody Mary legend due to their unification in the bathroom and the story has a new variation in this community.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Legends

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

Personal Background:

Heidi is a freshman at the University of Southern California and is studying psychology. She has grown up in Los Angeles with a lot of Mexican/American influence. She really enjoyed being able to have part of the two different cultures come together.

Legend:

Heidi heard a lot of the legendary people who tend to haunt a lot of Mexican culture, but the one about Bloody Mary is the one she liked the most.

“When you are looking in the bathroom mirror, you say her name three times and she appears. The room has to be dark, and it has to be at night. She then comes out and kills you.”

This was all Heidi was able to remember. She did say she heard something about Bloody Mary being related to the Queen Mary. She thinks Mary might have been killed in a dark room while looking in a mirror, which is why she comes out of mirrors. She said she heard about this when she was watching TV when she was younger, and it just happened that everyone knew what she was while she was at school. It scared her terribly when she was younger, and still scares her today. She has never tried it, and says she will never try because she thinks it might be the one time Bloody Mary will appear.

Analysis:

This legend has been a big part of a lot of children horror. Bloody Mary could have been someone who existed at one time, but she has become a legend. She is a story told to young children as a way to scare them.

To me, this story has been told so many times I do not believe it anymore. My older brother used to try to scare me with in when I was younger by trying it. It did not work, so there was no need to believe it. Even if I think of if that way, it is something that keeps getting revised, and will keep changing for the new generations.

There are more versions at “Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary.” VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever. Ed. Jim Craddock. 2012 ed. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 602. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 May 2014.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Game
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bloody Mary (or Candyman)

Information about my Informant

My informant grew up in Hacienda Heights where he went to high school, and received his bachelor’s degree from USC. He is a game designer and is currently working for a social mobile gaming company based in Westwood.

Transcript

“If you, like, look into a mirror, and you say…something three times, usually like ‘Bloody Mary’ or ‘Candyman.’ Those are like two. Um, you like summon them. And it’s very bad. Uh…”

Collector: “Why is it bad? Do they…”

“I don’t know. It’s one of those like you don’t wanna do it, and it’s kind of scary and then you never never do it, I guess? ‘Cause you’re too scared.”

Collector: “So you don’t know what happens when they appear?”

“No, like, there could be presents. I don’t know. They could hurt you horribly; I don’t know.”

Analysis

The Bloody Mary legend is famous among children of many cultures, although it is mostly associated with young prepubescent girls and not boys. The reason being, it is conjectured, is that the Bloody Mary legend in its traditional form is a representation of the onset of menstruation that is in the future for these girls (with the constant concept of blood and with the ritual being performed in front of a mirror that reflects the girls’ own images, meaning that when Bloody Mary does appear in the mirror, she is replacing the image of the girl herself). It is unusual then that in this version that my informant provided me with, it is not only a boy who learned about this but that his version included the possible substitute of a figure called the Candyman. I myself had heard of Bloody Mary but never this male figure. The ritual is very similar, with a candle being lit and the name of Candyman being chanted  a number of times while looking into a mirror. The classic version of Candyman though, as far as I can tell, before the movie called Candyman came out in 1992, was that the Candyman when summoned would either glare at the summoner through the mirror with  his glowing red eyes before vanishing or would kill the summoner with a rusted hook. There is also now a version, which I’m not sure existed before the movie came out, where the Candyman would romantically pursue a female summoner and kill her if she spurned him. It’s interesting that the classic versions of Candyman seems to involve more malevolence (staring, killing) than the classic versions of Bloody Mary (staring, scratching perhaps), but it’s difficult to tell as both figures have been prominently featured in mass media now and their portrayals there have filtered back into the folklore.

For more information about the Bloody Mary and Candyman legends, see:

Dundes, Alan. “Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety.” Western Folklore 57.2/3 (1998): 119-135. JSTOR. Web. 1 May. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1500216>.

Tucker, Elizabeth. “Ghosts in Mirrors: Reflections of the Self.” The Journal of American Folklore, 118.468: 186-203. JSTOR. Web. 1 May. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4137701>.

general

Bloody Mary and family nights

Stories such as the bloody Mary was a way to interact with the whole family by simply getting together enjoying snacks and having the adults tell scary stories that would terrify the children as we gathered together it was one of those moments where the whole family was content disregarding all the problems that were going on among each other it was a way of enjoying the time we had together. It affects me by knowing the importance of family bonding and wanting to be a part of it.  So when I get older I can continue it by doing it to my children or nephews and nieces I know that my family has been doing this for quite a while I think my great-great grandparents started this, but I am not 100% sure. Although I do know the reason why they started this family tradition for my great-great-grandparents used to live in a house next to the cemetery, so they would claim to see or hear things then tell their children in a more suspenseful way the house was literally five feet away from the cemetery. Almost every family member lived in that house except for my generation, however a way they shared theses stories with such little details made it seem as it though we were there at that very moment.

Family nights are a very common event for many Latin American families, and therefore although they might be seen as scary, they provide a way for the family to interact and a common folklore ideal to bond over, and many times food is cooked together which makes them bond over culture even more.

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