The (True-ish) Stories Behind Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary

When you were growing up, it is likely that you dared (or dared a friend) to go into a locked bathroom and whisper "Bloody Mary" in the dark to the mirror 3-times. The legend was, if done correctly, Bloody Mary herself would appear in the mirror. But where did this strange legend come from in the first place?

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The origin of this strange legend are many, and musings like: it  was inspired by the initiation of a girl's period, a ghost that can show you your future husband (or your dead body, should you be destined to die before you marry), Elizabeth Bathory, and even a witch from the Salem trials. But, let's start with my favorite 'true story' behind the legend is that of the English Bloody Mary...Mary Tudor. 

Mary, sadly, for most of her life was starved for love. She began as the only daughter of Henry VIII and Queen Catherine - unwanted due to her status as female and her mother's inability to produce a male heir. Mary was often separated from her mother and any connection that would provide her with a sense of love and belonging. That mixed with her father's insatiable need for a son put her in direct competition with her future siblings. However, one day, she took the throne. She was married to her suitor of choice, a man 10 years her junior, who was not interested in her.

Her time as Queen and as a newly married woman should have been some of the best of her life. However, her devout Catholic beliefs, numerous fertility issues, depression, and sometimes nasty habits and reactions made her an evil-hag in the eyes of her own people. Oh, and not to mention her intense persecution habits.

That matched with a year-long of pregnancy rumors and mild proof continued Mary's intense depression and, likely, the ultimate feeling of failure to produce an heir and serve England effectively.

This is why some traditions of Bloody Mary have the sayer taunt the mirror to bring her to light by saying "I stole your baby" or, even more gruesome, "I killed your baby".

As a Refinery29 article says, "While her sister became the gilded legend, she became the myth, the witch in the mirror, her arms forever outstretched and empty."

Buuut, we're not even close to done. The thing about Mary's a super common name. And, because of this and the mirror's general sense of dread and tragedy, many 'real' marys can fit this horrifying tableau. 

Take Mary Worth, for example. Fast forward a few hundred years from Mary Tudor and switch to the USA and you'll find her story. She infamously lived on Old Wagon Road in Chicago during the Civil War, slightly outside of the main part of town. She kidnapped children, runaways, and escaped slaves and performed all sorts of rituals and harvested their bodies for her spells - you know, typical witch things. She was later burned at the stake by the townspeople and buried on unconsecrated ground.

As luck would have it her burial place became a farm many years later and no one thought to warn the buyers. A stone, meant to mark her burial, was dug up when creating an oat field. The farmer, thinking it would be a good front door step, unearthed the stone and put it on his front stoop. However, poltergeist-like activity began infiltrating the home and an apparition was seen by their young daughter in the mirror. It appeared as if Mary Worth, her resting place disturbed, had come back to seek revenge.

Although the new owner and his family tried to find the original place where the stone was unearthed, they never could put Mary back to rest and the house eventually burned down. So, Mary Worth is doomed to be called upon incessantly as she has no resting place.

Going back to the past, let's talk a little bit about Elizabeth Bathory, infamous Blood Countess, potential witch, and Hungarian noblewoman who lived in the late 15th and early 16th century. It was said she killed over 600 people - mainly for blood - to stay young and and beautiful forever. People think she is behind Bloody Mary as a way to continue getting young girl's blood to maintain her beauty...even in the afterlife.

All the above are fun explanations for an enduring myth that no one is quite sure its true origin. However, the focus on a mirror is a bit easier to track. Catoptromancy is the practice of divination through mirrors or crystal gazing and it has its origins in ancient Greece. Additionally, it is noted that staring too long at a reflective surface, like a mirror or a crystal, in a dimly lit room could lead to hallucination, visual distortion, and, in laymens terms, your eyes playing tricks on you.

Have you heard any other Bloody Mary origin stories? Share them below! 

The above image is from Flickr user John Brucato and is liscensed under  CC 2.0.