Tag Archives: girls

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.

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board — Memorate


“My mom told me this story of when she was playing ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ during a high school slumber party. Right as they began to lift a girl, she had a seizure. It was the first time she ever had one, and she was later diagnosed with epilepsy. 

“Since they all went to a Catholic high school and their parents were devout Catholics, the sleepover was immediately disbanded, perhaps out of fear they had conjured some sort of demonic spirit or something. Ever since hearing this story as a kid, I have never participated in those sorts of activities at sleepovers.”


SR is a 20 year-old college student from Thousand Oaks, CA. Her family is Catholic and has Italian roots.

‘Light as a feather, stiff as a board’ is a levitation game played at girls’ slumber parties. It is a sort of ritual that embodies the liminal space between life and death as one girl is chosen to ‘die’ and the others must lift her up. There are certain things to be recited that supposedly make the girl’s body light enough to be lifted or rise on its own, depending on versions of the game.

SR’s mother told her this story to warn her against playing the game. Since the ritual attempts to draw upon some dark magic or power, a Catholic family would not want their kids engaging in such practices.


This story is an example of a memorate, a personal experience that gets interpreted into an existing legendary structure. SR noted the Catholic upbringings of all the girls at the sleepover, meaning they all had a degree of belief in the devil and demonic forces; perhaps they had been told stories of possessions and exorcisms as this is something commonly done in Catholic teaching against the devil.

Thus, when something scary happened to their friend, this belief system offered a framework through which to understand the experience. 

This game being performed in the context of a sleepover highlights how belief is a social process. SR’s mother played the game in high school, a liminal time when a child is beginning the transition into adulthood and thus experimenting with belief. Legend questing/tripping is something done within peer groups at this time in an attempt to see if a legend is true.

Many beliefs are acquired from social sources in narrative form. Thus, SR hearing this story from her own mother makes it especially memorable and believable. Regardless of the truth value of the story, the legend is strong enough to discourage SR from doing any ‘legend tripping’ of her own, as she said she never participated in these activities after hearing her mom’s story.

Saying: We’re All Girls Here


“We’re all girls here”


The informant recounts that her old synchronized swim teacher would say this saying in response to young girls being afraid to change or be naked in the locker room. The intention as the informant remembers was to create a sense of solidarity and safety among the girls and to tell them that it was safe and not taboo to be naked in this space.

The informant also notes that she has brought this saying up with her boyfriend who has played football (and therefore, presumably been in many a men’s locker room). He was unfamiliar with the saying and did not recount a male equivalent to the phrase.


To me, this saying is an example of teaching or imposing gender on children. This phrase indicates a need to remind children of the gender systems around them. When children are young they are generally unaware of gender. when they go to school and exit their homes later in life they are introduced to gender and what that means for their lives. This saying informs young girls that around other girls and women it is safe and acceptable to be naked and show taboo body parts like genitals and secondary sexual characteristics. It also subtly indicates that it is unsafe or unacceptable to be naked around boys and men.

The fact that there was not a clear or memorable male equivalent saying indicates to me that boys and men are not held to the same standard of concealing their bodies. Nor are they taught of exposure being something dangerous.

Making and wearing “mums”: Texan high schoolers’ expression of school spirit


AC: “In Texas, there’s this tradition where, it usually happens around Prom or Homecoming or a major dance, and it’s usually a thing with girls who get together and they make this “mum.” It’s kind of similar to a corsage except it’s like a giant ribbon, and you can put anything on it. Like a tiny sequin to a giant teddy bear or stuffed animal. It’s usually made with the colors of the school and has letters and motifs and stuff like that. People go really crazy for it. You can make it for yourself, but sometimes you can make it for your friends and give it to them the day of the game or something like that.”


The informant is a 20-year-old college student from Texas. AC said that the tradition of making and wearing mums was very popular among mostly girls at her high school and around Texas in general. She described the process of making mums as an ornate crafting project which girls would often do in groups for fun. Because their creation from scratch is so time consuming, some people also buy their mums. AC said that many girls made their own mums, but some girls made them for their friends as a platonic gesture of friendship. Most girls pinned them to their clothes, but if the mum was particularly big or if a girl received multiple, some people would pin them to their backpacks or just carry them around. She said that it is traditional for girls to carry their mums around with them all day on the days of big sports matches or school dances, and interprets them as an expression of school spirit.


I think that the tradition of making and wearing mums is a way to show school spirit, like wearing school colors or making posters cheering on athletes at sports games. For some people, the amount of care which goes into the creation of these items shows that they take pride in their school and see it as part of who they are. The accessories are a vehicle for expressing one’s taste and personality, where the items people choose to decorate them speak to the person’s identity. People can use symbols to signify their belonging to groups such as sports teams, but also to convey things such as their religious beliefs (with symbols like the cross), or to show their social status. Merely wearing one shows a sense of connectedness with the community, both with individual’s peers and with the previous generations who attended the school and partook in the tradition. I imagine that some people participate just to be a part of the social ritual and fit in. Wearing a mum can identify someone as a member of the in-group, whereas not wearing one can indicate that a person is in the out-group. Regardless of people’s motivations for participating, wearing and making a mum identifies individuals as members of a group, creating a common experience and tradition which people from a certain school, or Texans generally, can bond over.

It’s interesting that girls make mums for one another as expressions of platonic endearments. I think that this kind of homosocial celebration is rare in co-ed schools, where often extravagant practices like “promposals” can demonstrate a culture of heteronormativity. I imagine that the practice of giving a friend a mum is normalized because it is traditional. Still, social tension could erupt from this practice. I would expect that girls compete over whose mum is the best. Moreover, it can reinforce or reflect social hierarchies, since a girl receiving many mums indicates her popularity.