Tag Archives: bathroom ghost

Bloody Mary in the Bathroom – Legend


J is a screenwriting second-year at USC, raised in Canada but moved to American when J was 10 years old. The below text is a story told among the female students at J’s elementary school.


When J was in elementary school, there was a bathroom where people said that a girl had died in while she was a student in school who continued to haunt the bathroom because of how gruesome her death was without finding peace. Her spirit believed to be lingering there resulted in the creation of their own version of Bloody Mary. Students would say that “Bloody Mary lives in that bathroom.” They could tell because it was the very last stall and one of the pipes on the toilet had a splash of red paint on it, which students thought was blood. J themselves would go to the stall at the end of the day, and never got haunted by Bloody Mary. But, J was always on edge in the bathroom, where every little noise or motion may “summon” Bloody Mary, so J never did the “summoning” (saying Bloody Mary) to not chance the possibility of the ghost.


This narrative takes advantage of two legend themes: ghosts and Bloody Mary. Ghosts are an entity that lives on liminal boundaries: the line between life and death, human and non-human, and science and will power. The legend of a ghost forces the audience to question if one’s will truly is strong enough to overrule death, if a death with regret strong enough truly can provide haunting, or if there really is a line between life and death that is invisible to the living. Death itself is enigmatic and frightening for the living, so ghosts are a way people cope with it. For an audience as young as elementary students, ghosts not only become a way to deal with the permanence of death, but also a way to refuse grieving or accepting death, tying ghost narrative back to anti-hegemonic childhood folklore. So, the ghost itself as a literary object in a story subtly questions much of the real world’s ideas of death, maybe even denying them outright. Furthermore, because the legend is also about Bloody Mary, the story also becomes a coming-of-age for young girls. Bloody Mary serves the mark women’s menstrual cycle, a point at which blood comes out of the body, the girl is no longer chained to childhood and has to face harsh reality. Avoiding the bathroom stall avoids Bloody Mary, avoiding growing up as a young woman. An acknowledgement that Bloody Mary is not real (this childhood rumor is not real) marks a turning point in the young female world, that they have “risen above” childhood, gotten their period (marked by blood..Bloody Mary) and became women.


Context: The following is an account from the informant, my younger sister. She told me this after I asked if she had heard any interesting stories lately, as many happen to pop up at schools. When I asked for more of the conversation or more detail, she said her memory was fuzzy and she was unable to recall.

Background: The informant was relating to me something interesting she had heard from her Japanese friend in high school recently. She had never heard of such a story before, so she thought it was interesting.

Main piece: Once, I mentioned to my friend that I always changed my clothes in the third bathroom stall. She said, “Oh, did you know that in the third stall of every girls bathroom is a Japanese ghost?” 

Analysis: After doing some research, the friend appears to be referring to the Japanese urban legend of Hanako-san, the spirit of a young girl who haunts school bathrooms. In order to summon the ghost, individuals are required to go to the girls’ bathroom, usually on the third floor, and knock on the door of the third stall, asking for her presence.

I think it is interesting to hear about such a tale, which is popular in Japan, in the United States, where it is relatively unknown. Also, this ritual of calling upon a ghost in the bathroom bears stark similarities to the commonly known Bloody Mary ritual. It’s also interesting to note the frequent occurrence of female ghosts or spirits haunting school bathrooms, which would normally be a rather odd place to haunt, since people don’t spend too much time in the bathroom, such as Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter series.



The informant is a 23 year old Japanese male. He was born in Nagoya, Japan where he spent the first half of his life. When he was 13, he came to the United States to attend high school and has been living in California ever since. The informant currently resides in Inglewood, CA and works in animation.

Toshi means city and densetsu means legends. These are very specific to cities. Basically there are scary stories that people pass on. There are a few famous ones. There is Toire no Hanako which is Hanako of the bathroom. This is a ghost that lives in the bathroom. There was a popular myth or something where it’s either from the left or the right, the third bathroom stall over is where she lives. These are just stories to obviously scare people a bit when they go to the bathroom. There has been a lot of interesting Japanese folklore that is attached to bathrooms. I believe Hanako is a ghost, and I could be wrong, but she asked for either red paper or blue paper, and if you answer red paper, your body is drained from all it’s blood and if you ask for blue paper, you are suffocated and your body turns blue. 

Analysis:This is an example of urban folklore. It has a more recognizable terminus post quem, meaning that this piece of folklore could only have originated after public bathroom stalls became widespread in Japan, so likely no more than one or two centuries ago. It is an interesting location to place such a piece of folklore in, possibly because when we are using a bathroom, we are quite vulnerable, and expect it to be a place of privacy – even if it is a public toilet, the stalls give the illusion of privacy. It is therefore that much more terrifying when we fear that a ghost may appear while we are using the restroom intending to cause us great harm.

La Llorona: A Hispanic Woman in White Tale

The Folklore:

E: What is the story that you wanted to tell me about?

A: What I’m about to tell you is the story of how a popular ghost phenomenon came to be.  So there was once this woman who had gotten so distraught at her husband’s infidelity that she drowned her children. Realizing what she had done, she began to be consumed by regret. Eventually the woman took her own life in the same manner in which she took her children’s.

E: There are a plethora of woman in white ghost stories worldwide, are there any qualities specific to La Llorona?

A: This is a woman in a white who hunts children. Children as seen as having a more keen sense for the supernatural. Also, if she’s got you as her target and you hear her sound far away that means she’s close. The same is applicable in the reversed case.

E: Typically in what context does the story get brought up?

A: Usually it’s brought up by children and family events or just in any social situation.

E: How did you first hear about this?

A: My cousins were actually the first people to tell me about this woman in white. Two of my cousins said as they were driving down a dark road one night when they were children out of the window they saw a woman very vividly, she was in a white dress standing on the side of the road. They asked their parents if they saw what the children had seen but they said that no idea what the children were even talking about.


This is the transcribed conversation I had with a friend of mine as we shared ghost stories from our cultures. My friend is of Latino origin. He grew up in Texas and was still very close to Mexican culture. 


This is an interesting twist on the woman in white story. Though her origin story has been seen before I don’t think I’ve heard of an instance in which the woman only hunted children. In addition I think the auditory component to the story adds symbolic meaning in the sense that danger can be anywhere. It’s a precautionary tale to instill within kids that yeah going out at night alone is maybe not the best idea.


Bloody Mary

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.