Tag Archives: bathroom

Bomb Threats Written on School Bathroom Walls

Informant Context: The informant is a nineteen-year-old female undergraduate student at the University of Southern California (USC). She attended a public high school in Chicago, Illinois.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “What is something traditional you’ve seen written or drawn on high school bathroom walls?”

Informant: “Initials are pretty common. I’ve seen couples’ initials with a heart drawn around them. Penises are drawn a lot too.”

Collector: “You see them drawn in the girls’ bathrooms?”

Informant: “Not often. I have seen girls write polls on stall doors. This or that questions about general topics. Like coffee or tea. Mascara or blush, for example. Then girls would put tallies under each option to place their vote. Oh! At my high school, people would also leave bomb threats in the bathrooms.”

Collector: “Bomb threats?”

Informant: “Yeah. Kids would write threats on the walls like ‘I’m going to shoot up the school’ or ‘there will be a bomb explosion tomorrow’. Crazy stuff.”

Analysis: It was surprising to hear the informant’s examples escalate during our discussion. I was familiar with her first examples because I had seen similar drawings in bathrooms at my public high school. What shocked me was the informant’s experience seeing terrorist threats written on walls. While I never saw any at my high school, I could imagine this being a popular practice across the United States, as school terrorism has become an epidemic in the country’s recent decades.

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.

Bloody Mary in the School Bathroom


When she was in elementary school, T recalls going into the girl’s restroom with a group of female classmates. She remembers it being an eerily cold and cloudy day, so she and her friends believed it was the perfect opportunity to put the Legend of Bloody Mary to the test. Before they had to line up to return to the classroom, T stood in a huddle with her friends before the only mirror in the girl’s restroom. After chanting the name three times, each girl began to scream and sprint from the restroom in fear. Afterwards, each claimed to have seen an older woman, but each girl described the woman quite differently. T recalls seeing a ghostly phantom with bloody and dejected features, and says that, after that day, she and her friends never used that bathroom ever again.


The Legend of Bloody Mary claims that if you chant “Bloody Mary” at a mirror three times, a woman– believed to be the historical and genocidal British queen, Bloody Mary— appears before you.


The trend of challenging the Legend of Bloody Mary is extremely common among young, pre-pubescent children, especially girls. At this age in life, young girls look forward to the daunting prospect of adulthood, or womanhood. The Bloody Mary challenge can actually be viewed as a metaphor for how the uncertainty of puberty and receiving one’s first menstrual cycle can be a terrifying experience. Like in T’s story, young girls confront a mirror, which in return projects back an image of themselves. Once completing the challenge and chanting Bloody Mary, the girls are faced with another image: the image of an older, often bloodier woman. This can be taken as a literal reflection of puberty, menstruation and other foreign aspects of womanhood through the eyes of young girls.

Loira do Banheiro, The Brazilian Bloody Mary


Me: ok, we’re recording

M: Oh okay great. Let’s start with the Brazilian version of Bloody Mary. So we call her the blonde woman. It’s a legend, like of course, as every child would when I was in school and I was like elementary school, of course, the children were like ‘oh yeah! Its a legend, but it actually happened here in this school. Umm it’s basically a story that she was a girl she was blond she’s in school bullied. And she went to the bathroom to cry, and then she slipped, hit her head, and died

Me: oh my god

M: and there’s a specific stall that it happened in. In my school it was the bigger one for accessibility. after that I never went to that bathroom again by the way. Cause I was, I was like ‘i don’t believe in it’ but still like ‘Yeah I’m gonna use the other one.’ umm, and to summon her you had to like throw like a one piece of hair. And then..

Me: your hair?

M: yes

Me: Okay

M: on the toilet and then like flush three times, go to the mirror and say like. Uhh loira do banheiro, loira do banheiro, loira do banheiro. Which, loira do banheiro is blond from the bathroom. And then she would appear and kill you.

Me: obvi

M: yes. And then I remember I had a friend who like, my friends would go to the bathroom to try it, but that’s like– it would only work in the girls’ bathroom and there were two boys. So I don’t know how they were doing it!? Cause I never went with them cause I was like I’m not doing that. But yeah. Dunno what they were doin’, but yeah whatever we were kids so it’s umm

Me: what’s your take on what that means? Like what’s the meaning, what’s the story?

M: ummm I don’t know. I think it’s, probably for either just– it’s just a scary story the children told each other or maybe to make them behave when like between going to the bathroom and going back to class. But yeah, I think that it’s just a scary story that kids created.

Me: alright


The informant, M, is a 19-year-old USC international student from Brazil. She delivered this piece in the workroom of a campus center before class alongside other pieces in order to share some personal and Brazilian folklore. She learned about this legend growing up in Brazil.

The informant suggests that the legend is either “just a scary story the children told each other” or something adults said to make kids behave in bathrooms.


M says that this is a Brazilian version of Bloody Mary. Indeed the two figures share much: They each appear in girls’ bathrooms. they both are summoned by some action and three repetitions of their name. both kill their summoner. And both fall into that space of legend where people will say they don’t believe, but then avoid the thing/action/place anyway.

Because of this association with Bloody Mary, this legend may also be related to the fear of menstruation (as other scholars have drawn the connection with Bloody Mary). This seems believable because both stories are set in bathrooms and are most popular among young girls, but I hesitate because of the Loira do Banheiro lack of blood references. Instead, there is the focus on hair: you put a piece of hair in the toilet to summon her, and her name-worthy trait is her blond hair.

There is also the moral included that you should not bully someone because they might die and haunt a bathroom killing children.

Bloody Mary

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AH).

CB: “Can you tell me about Bloody Mary?”

AH: “Yes! So I learned about Bloody Mary when I was pretty little. I think that it was one of my friends in elementary school that taught me about it, but I don’t really remember honestly. But, uhhh…. The superstition was that if you went into the bathroom at night, traditionally you’re supposed to do it at midnight. But you go in and you flick the lights on and off again three times, and you say ‘Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary’ and she’s supposed to appear to you and kill you. 

CB: “So what does Bloody Mary mean to you?”

AH: “Bloody Mary was the very first folklore that I remember. I used to be scared shitless of Mary, whoever the fuck she was…. Oh! No! She wouldn’t kill you right away, her bloody severed head would appear in the mirror, and there would be blood in the sink, and then she would kill one of your family members the next night. That’s what it was!!”

CB: “But why do you think that piece of folklore is important?”

AH: “I just always thought it was kinda a way to keep kids out of the bathroom at night. I don’t know.”


Bloody Mary is a very popular tale or game that many of my friends and I have heard growing up. My informant and I discussed how the game seems to only ever be played by girls, and is very heavily associated with elementary school bathrooms. We compared versions of the story that we grew up with, and laughed at our fears. I had heard that the ghost was based on Mary Queen of Scots, and that she would haunt young girls because she was killed at a young age.


My informant called me with stories prepared after hearing that I had been interviewing other members of our family for folklore. We had a fun and casual conversation, exchanging versions of stories that we had heard growing up.


Bloody Mary is a really common childhood game because it reflects young girls’ universal apprehension about blood and bathrooms. The fears associated with the game also reflect modern social portrayals of bathrooms as a dangerous space. Girls are taught from a very young age not to go to the bathroom alone. I grew up hearing stories about men hiding in women’s bathrooms to kidnap, rape, or murder the women who go in their. Because of this, girls begin to internalize this fear of bathrooms, particularly public bathrooms, at a very young age. This game reveals is a way for girls to channel and address their fears associated with a public school bathroom, often with the protection of their friends.

For another interpretation of Bloody Mary see “The Psychology of Extraordinary Beliefs” published by The Ohio State University. https://u.osu.edu/vanzandt/2019/04/17/bloody-mary-from-the-bathroom-to-the-laboratory/