Bloody Mary is a very popular ghost legend from the English folklore. She appears in the mirror (sometimes on Halloween) when her name is called three times in a dark room, often as a test of bravery among young people. There are many variations to this: she may appear when her name is chanted one or three times, when the participant spins around, when they rub their eyes, or chanting her name while holding a lit candle. In other versions the person who wants to summon her must say “Bloody Mary, I killed your baby”. Apparently, if she appears she kills the people who called her, often in violent ways, or she just haunts them for the rest of their life. Other versions of the legend include a ritual where people are able to talk to deceased persons, see their future life or their future spouses.
She is believed to be the spirit of a mother whose baby was stolen from her, making her mad and leading to her suicide. The history behind this legend is difficult to figure out as it is mostly a mix of other legends and tales. Another tale regarding Bloody Mary refers to a witch who lived over 100 years ago and was practicing black magic. She was executed and she haunts whoever calls her name. There is even a gruesome variation of the legend involving a woman who had a fatal accident and was horrible mutilated.
Other sources point out that it refers to Queen Mary I herself or involve a child murderer. There are a few speculations regarding Queen Mary’s miscarriages and some say they were induced while others believe she went mad because she lost so many pregnancies. She also had the nickname Bloody Mary due to the fact that she executed so many people for religious reasons. Other legends seem to point to Elizabeth Bathory, a queen who supposedly bathed in virgin’s blood to make herself look younger.
Some historians believe that the Bloody Mary ritual is similar to other rituals used in different cultures that mark the beginning of puberty in females. This is also supported by the fact that this is a game played by girls during sleepovers. There was an article written about this by Alan Dundes who believes that the ritual serves an important purpose of providing young women with an outlet for the fear and anxiety they feel related to body changes during pubescence. Such a ritual would develop as a method for children to cope with the scary changes in their lives.
There are different elements to this legend that point out to early myths and superstitions.
Mirrors are one of the most common objects used in divination and there are a lot of rituals involving girls using a candle in front of a mirror in order to see their future. There are also traditions that involve people covering the mirrors when a person dies to avoid the spirit from being trapped in the house. Other extremely common magic rituals include turning in circles and repeated incantations.
Whether the legend is true or not, there’s only one way to know.