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