Residence: San Diego, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/24/20
Primary Language: English
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.