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.