Tag Archives: Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

Informant Information — GD

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 57
  • Occupation: Teacher
  • Residence: San Pedro, California
  • Date of Performance/Collection: March 20, 2022
  • Primary Language: English

This informant learned about Bloody Mary in elementary school in the late 1960s. Most of her friends from school also attended the same church and Bible study group, so they felt like they were a part of a very tightly-knit religious community. She shared this information with me in an in-person interview. 


Can you tell me the story of how you first experienced Bloody Mary?  


When I was in fourth or fifth grade, my group of girlfriends and I learned about the Bloody Mary game from some older girls. Our school bathrooms were really dark– they didn’t have any lights except for windows near the ceiling so they were really creepy. 

In the game, you had to lock yourself in the bathroom alone and stand in front of the mirror. You were supposed to close your eyes, say “Bloody Mary” three times, and then open your eyes. When you opened your eyes, you were supposed to be able to see a ghostly woman in a ballgown with black eyes and crying tears of blood. 

If you were a true Christian and believed in God, she wasn’t supposed to be able to touch you because you were too holy. If you only believed a little bit, she supposedly scratched you and left three bloody lines on your face. And if you didn’t believe in God at all or if you were evil, she was supposed to bring you into the mirror with her. 


Did you ever play the game? 


My friend went first, and she said that she saw Bloody Mary. I went after her but didn’t see anything in the mirror. I wasn’t sure what I did wrong so I lied about it and never admitted that I hadn’t actually seen her. 


This adaptation of Bloody Mary is very interesting to me as it reveals the large role of religious belief in the informant’s folk group. In this story, being exposed as a non-believer results in removal from the community as they are dragged into the mirror and disappear with Bloody Mary. Those of wavering faith are physically marked, seemingly teaching the person a lesson and informing others that the individual needs to be brought back into the community. 

The Ballerina/La Bailarina

Informant Information – SI

  • Nationality: American
  • Age: 20
  • Occupation: Student
  • Residence: Los Angeles, California
  • Date of Performance/Collection: April 20, 2022
  • Primary Language: English

The informant learned about this legend while attending an elementary school in Mexico. They first played the game in fourth or fifth grade, but the legend was well-known by students of all ages at their school. They shared this information with me in an in-person interview. 


So in my elementary school when I was younger, we had this story and game called The Ballerina that was kind of a myth about how our school was built I guess you could say. 

According to the story, before the school was built, there used to be train tracks, like for a passenger train that would go through the city where the school was eventually built. And this is actually not very believable now that I think of it, but according to the story, there was this little girl that was a dancer, a ballerina. And one day, she was dancing on her way home from her dance lessons near the train tracks. Apparently, she was either dancing on the tracks or just near them and fell onto the tracks, but basically, she was on the train tracks and got run over by the train. It was very sad.

So then, after her death, they closed the train tracks and my elementary school was built but the land was always haunted by the ballerina, who would apparently still dance in the halls at night. 

At school, we had a game based on this story that we called The Ballerina, well actually we said La Bailarina because we spoke Spanish. You would go in the bathroom alone and turn off the lights. Then you would look in the mirror and say “Ballerina” three times to summon her. You were supposed to hear music and see her face in the mirror with yours. 


In this piece of folklore, the Ballerina is very similar to Bloody Mary. However, rather than a witch, the Ballerina is the ghost of a child that was killed by an accident. This legend also lacks a religious association that I have seen in some versions of Bloody Mary. 

The informant noted that the premise of this legend is quite strange due to the rarity of passenger trains in Mexico. It seems that this legend could either have emerged as an explanation for the lack of trains or as the result of the disinclination for trains that makes them so uncommon. 

Bloody Mary

Context: The popular legend was spun off into an outdoors urban legend and corresponding children’s game in New York.

A.F.: For us, it [Bloody Mary] was like a, we had two ways. It was a sleepover game. We had a flashlight at someone’s house, but the main way that we would do it, so I went to elementary school in a relatively, even though it’s suburban, it’s still an isolated area, so there were like paths, that went to like houses or roads. So there was this path that led from like our, because we had like a vaguely biggish field, that went from the path to a house on my road. Which again, we thought it was like the Bloody Mary path, and if you wandered too far then Bloody Mary would come and get you.
P.Z. : Okay, so it was outdoors?
A.F.: Um, yeah, ours was actually outdoors. Yes.

Thoughts: This was a much different version than the one I am familiar with. I’m not sure if this was primarily an East-Coast variation or specific to the respondent’s school. But usually, there were not these specific, wooded, secluded paths that made this version possible.

Bloody Mary

Context: H.A. learned about this legend and the corresponding game in the early to mid 2000s while at elementary school.

H.A. : Alright, so, Bloody Mary was a little game that my friends and I would play when we were in like fourth, fifth grade? And um yeah so basically we would turn off, and because we didn’t have anywhere to go we would do it in the bathroom.
P.Z. : In your house? At school?
H.A. : At school. Okay, at school. And um we would turn off all the lights, there was, it’s actually kind of funny, there was still light from outdoors, so there was no way around that. So it wasn’t completely dark, but ideally you’re in a completely dark room and like you hold a candle in your hands. And um basically one person, a designated person, is supposed to say, is supposed to stand in front of the mirror and say “Bloody Mary” three times, and then when you open your eyes, Bloody Mary is supposed to appear, and she’s supposed to like pull you into the mirror. Or legend says. Never happened to us, good thing, but we’re, um, we’re, we’re safe, but a lot of girls at school were doing that a lot. And the principal got concerned and it’s basically banned at our school now.
P.Z. : Gotcha.

Thoughts: This was very similar to my own experience. The only difference in my own version is what happened after Bloody Mary appeared. However, this is a fairly popular story that I think is and will remain popular for years to come.

The Origin of Bloody Mary


Ms. Z is an elementary school Maths and Chinese teacher in Shenyang, China. We were having dinner together when I mentioned my folklore collection project. She then shared some of the interesting folklores she’s learned of from the kids in her class or from her colleagues.

The Main Piece:

Z: I recall this ghost story about Bloody Mary going around among my students. So, basically, this Bloody Mary used to be a prostitute. She hated the way men treated her, so she wanted to revenge. Since then, every time when she was hired by a man, she would kill him and then drink his blood. And after she dies she becomes a ghost.

Me: So how do we call her out. I know other versions of this story, and they had their own ways of calling her to appear.

Z: If a boy walks into a dark bathroom, turn off all the lights and then say “Bloody Mary” three times facing the mirror, the ghost’s disfigured face will appear in the mirror, and she’ll scare the boy to death.


The Bloody Mary story might be one of the most famous ghost stories, this time not around America, but around the world, since the elementary school Z works in is in China. It is interesting to see that there are so many different versions of the orginin of Bloody Mary, how to summon the ghost, and the consequences of summoning her. Through all the different versions, we can see how a piece of folklore can have different variations in difference places. I know of classic origin stories of Bloody Mary that is linked to European history, or linked to religion (Virgin Mary). I guess for the reason why the ghost’s origin becomes a prostitute in the Chinese elementary school is this: the kids in the elementary school has little or no knowledge about western religion or western history, because they aren’t taught about them in elementary school. So, their cultural backgrounds and knowledge doesn’t allow for such origin stories. Therefore, the origin of the ghost might then turn into a more relatable story, prostitutes, which exist in almost all cultures, unlike religious or historical figures that are known only to a specific group of people that share the same culture.

For another version of the story, see Bloody Mary by Austen Le

Bloody Mary