As with most urban legends, there is no one origin story for the legend of Bloody Mary. Many believe that the name is in reference to Queen Mary I of England, eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, who was nicknamed “Bloody Mary” due to her deadly prejudice against the Protestants of England. Many others believe that the legend is based on a witch named Mary Worth, who lived and died in Illinois. A fair few also believe that Mary Worth was a witch persecuted in the Salem Witch Trials, even though no one by that name was known to be involved. Regardless of its origin, Bloody Mary has become a terrifying game played by young people across the country.
The game that I learned as a child is played as follows:
- Shut yourself in a bathroom or other small room with a mirror
- Turn out the lights and light a single candle
- Look into the mirror and chant “Bloody Mary” three times
There are, of course, different variations of this game. Many say “Bloody Mary” more than three times. The most popular chant is “Bloody Mary,” but other variations include “I believe in Mary Worth,” “Bloody Mary, I stole your baby, Bloody Mary” and “I killed your baby, Mary Worth.” Some may spin around between each chant and others flush the toilet or blow out the candle.
The game itself contains many ritualistic aspects that date back to the Victorian era. The use of the mirror, for example, is due to the idea that mirrors were once believed to be portals into another world. Back in the days of Queen Victoria, mirrors were covered for a set period of time immediately following the death of a loved one in the hopes that it would prevent the spirit from being trapped inside. Mirrors, candles and chants were also used in Victorian Era séances, popular rituals used to contact and summon spirits from beyond the grave.
Depending on who you talk to, it is believed that Bloody Mary herself appears in the mirror in front of you, reaches out and scratches your eyes out. Another story says that the mere sight of the woman causes you to die of fright. Others stipulate that you only see your own face, but blood starts to ooze from the mirror and the ghost of Bloody Mary haunts you for the rest of your life.
Based on my research and what I know about ghosts, I speculate that Bloody Mary was once a real woman who died with unfinished business. I think she was a mother who went mad after the deaths of her babies. She probably either committed suicide or was murdered. These are pretty major factors in creating a vengeful spirit. Whether she was Mary Tudor or Mary Worth, however, I cannot say.
The only thing that is known for sure about this “game” is that it has been played for decades. When we played it during our middle school sleepovers, I could never get passed the second chant of “Bloody Mary” before I chickened out and ran from the bathroom.
Do you have the courage to give it a try?