Mirrors & the Paranormal

Mirrors have played a major part in folklore and, more recently, the horror movie genre for decades. But why are mirrors, and reflections, so central in our folklore of fear? There are hundreds of tales of haunted mirrors, from ancient mythology like Narcissus to the sleepover urban legend of Bloody Mary and all even movies like Oculus (2014).

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Many believe that ever since human beings became aware of reflections, both their own and the world, there has been a fascination and folklore, and even myths about mirror worlds, in the cultural consciousness. As we know them today mirrors haven't been around that long. In fact, according to LiveScience, “In 1835, German chemist Justus von Liebig developed a process for applying a thin layer of metallic silver to one side of a pane of clear glass. This technique was soon adapted and improved upon, allowing for the mass production of mirrors.” But, even before the 1830s we still could see reflections in things like glass, metal, and, of course, water.

But why are we so frightened and intrigued by mirrors?

It seems that we see more in mirrors than our own reflections. One of our favorite astonishing beings often makes appearances in mirrors: Shadow People. Shadow People are often seen standing near or close by mirrors or, even worse, appearing in the mirror’s reflection but being nowhere in actual sight.

Perhaps even worse than Shadow People, Exemplore writes that strange, unknown, and grotesque faces are the most common. “This is by far the most frequent manifestation reported by people in association with haunted mirrors. The faces are, most of the time, human - and sometimes known to the witnesses. But there are a number of accounts where people have reported other entities/demonic faces appearing.”

Even today, mirrors still terrify us. In a dynamic experiment, Giovanni Caputo at the University of Urbino in Italy conducted a study of mirrors in 2010. In the analyzing the results article, published in Perceptions, describes a terrifying experience. In total, 50 participants were asked to stare into a mirror for 10 minutes in a dimly lit space. An astonishing 66% witnessed huge deformations of their own face, 18% percent saw an animal such as a pig or cat in the mirror, 28% observed a completely unknown person, and a shocking 48%  beheld monstrous or fantastical beings. So, it seems, there is something to the legends.

Thanks to Kellie Dawn O for the suggestion!

This image is unrelated to the above story and is entitled, “Marsden J. Perry home, Providence, Rhode Island. Interior scene, detail of piano, crystal chandelier, mirror, and door Abstract/medium: 1 photographic print.” by Frances B Johnson