Tag Archives: Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

Informant: “So you go into the bathroom, turn off all the lights, look into the mirror and say, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” three times and by the third time, you turn on the light and there will be like a scratch on your face…and you’re haunted.”

Collector: “Cool. Is it only in the bathroom?”

Informant: “It needs, uh…. I’m pretty sure. I mean all I ever heard was the bathroom one, like going into the bathroom and it needs to be pitch black.” 

Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from friends while attending Catholic elementary school in San Diego, CA. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings as well as horror films. 

Context: The piece was collected during a casual at-home interview. I asked the informant to share this piece because I have multiple childhood memories of her performing the ritual.

Analysis: This game/ritual is fairly common among young women and was very popular at our Catholic elementary school among both genders. While many folklore scholars have posited that this game is entrenched with female puberty and menstruation, I believe this piece was also integrated with our conceptions of the “Virgin Mary” as a human and yet divinely endowed, liminal character. Other variations and meta folklore suggest multiple different interpretations as to who “Bloody Mary” refers to. To both me and my sister in Catholic school, the only Mary we could conceive of was the Virgin Mary and the story became a sinister way to expose the contrast between the benevolence and kindness expressed within Catholicism with the strict, harsh realities of the institution we were a part of. My sister later added that the game never worked for her because she never completed it in total darkness, suggesting that although the ritual may not manifest in a supernatural encounter for everyone that participates, people still believe. 

Bloody Mary

Informant: Do you know Bloody Mary?

Me: We have Bloody Mary, but I don’t really know the backstory or anything. What was your version?

Informant: I don’t know the backstory either. It was basically just – you go to the mirror, and you say “Bloody Mary” three times and then she’ll appear. I don’t really know what happens after that, but I know it’s scary, and her eyes and face are all bloody. But also just looking in mirrors can be creepy if you’re there long enough without moving, so that can be enough sometimes. Especially at night. Oh! It has to be at night, I forgot. 

Me: Is it just any old mirror? At any point in the day? Because my Bloody Mary – we had to go into the bathroom, and turn the lights off, spin around three times, and you had to be by yourself… and spin around while saying her name, so every time you spun, you’d say her name, and you’d stumble around in the dark and find the sink, and once you were holding onto the sink, you’d try to find the lightswitch on the wall while still holding on, and once you turned on the lights again she’d appear in the mirror.

Informant: Haha! We never had that. We didn’t have a spinning thing. I also heard it from my sister, not at school or anything, so she may have toned it down for me so she didn’t want to scare me. It was supposed to be dark though, supposed to be at night. I don’t think it’s real, but like… why risk it?  

My informant is a 19-year-old college student at USC, who grew up in a small town in Arizona. She is the youngest of three sisters, who she thinks may have toned down the story elements of various legends or myths to avoid scaring her. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this piece was collected via an interview that took place over FaceTime. 

I think everyone has their own version of Bloody Mary, which is why I really wanted to ask my informant about this. I grew up in Washington state, and she grew up in Arizona; I wanted to know what the differences were between my experiences with Bloody Mary and hers. For some reason, my experience with it growing up was a lot more specific, with a lot more rules to follow to make it work. Hers was really general. I wonder if that’s a reflection of the environments we grew up in: I attended an academically rigorous high school, and the elementary school systems were prepping us for that level of intense education since kindergarten. Her school systems functioned quite differently, were a lot looser, and put more value on effort than following all the rules to a letter. I wonder if that’s why my school’s version of Bloody Mary was so much stricter than hers.

Bloody Mary

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: Have you heard about the legend of Bloody Mary?

Informant: Yeah man, that shit used to scare the hell outta me when we were kids. 

Interviewer: what exactly did you have to do to make her appear?

Informant: Well at my elementary school, I know there was only one bathroom that everyone said it would work in, which was the girls bathroom funnily enough. We’d have to get in there, turn off the lights, and stare at the mirror while saying Bloody Mary 3 times, I honestly never did it myself though because I was scared enough of the dark on its own hahaha.


My informant was born and raised in Southern California. He went through the public education system and has extremely liberal views. He now lives in Arizona for college. 


I spoke to my informant over a zoom facetime call during the 2020 Coronavirus Epidemic.


It’s interesting how such a massive legend can have so many little details that change from place to place. Also, I was amused that the kids at my informants elementary school thought it would only work in the girls bathroom… so everyone who knew the legend must have gone to that bathroom to do it? Legends are definitely more believable through a child’s eyes, and that’s probably why some legends have been able to last for so long. A child learns it in their young age, and it sticks with them so much that they end up passing it along to the next generation. 

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”).


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):

The True Story Of Bloody Mary, The Woman Behind The Mirror



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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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).

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.