Residence: California, United States
Date of Performance/Collection: 4 April 2018
Primary Language: English
Transcription: “We played Bloody Mary at sleepovers. I was told to go into the bathroom, close the door, turn off the lights, close my eyes, and say her Bloody Mary three times. When you opened your eyes, you were supposed to see her. If she liked you, you were safe. If she she didn’t like you, she would claw your eyes out. When I was younger, I would always open the door and then turn off the lights before leaving the bathroom because I was scared of being in the dark bathroom for even a second. I also would be careful not to even think the name Bloody Mary when I was in the bathroom because I didn’t want to accidentally summon her.”
For another version of this folklore, see “Bloody Mary.” Supernatural. The CW. 11 Oct. 2005. Television.
Bloody Mary is both a game and a ritual. Like all games, Blood Mary has rules. Participants must close themselves in a dark bathroom and say her name three times. If the rules are not followed correctly, Bloody Mary will not appear. By repeating the game at sleepovers, it becomes ritualistic. Blood Mary is a ritual since it has a specific time and space. This version of the ritual takes place in the space of a bathroom and at night time. The rules can also be read as ritualistic. For example, the repetition of Mary’s name can be considered a chant used to summon the supernatural.
My informant was a child when she learned about Bloody Mary. She heard about the game from other young girls and played the game at a sleepover. A sleepover, as a coming together of girls, provides an opportunity to share values. The premise of a vengeful spirit heightens fear to reinforce behavior. By spreading both the legend and acting out the game/ritual, the girls become their own cultural reinforcement of good behavior. In order to survive Bloody Mary, you had to be good, which creates a distinction between being a good girl versus a bad girl.
I would argue that one of the reasons Bloody Mary takes place in the bathroom is because it is a place in which we are vulnerable and exposed. The ritual is performed in the dark to inhibit a reliance on our most important sense. Overall, the game is designed to unsettle the participant by placing them in an ambiguous space.