Into the Mirror: Exploring the Legend of Bloody Mary

By Sarah Norman | October 31, 2023

Origins of the Myth

From urban legend to horror movie trope, the Legend of Bloody Mary has been terrifying teenagers for years. But is any of it real? With most legends, there is at least some element of truth, some historical account which was twisted in the retelling. However, there are so many variations of the Bloody Mary legend that the element of truth may be buried too deeply to uncover.

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Many believe the legend to be connected to various rituals, one of which was mentioned in a footnote to Robert Burns’s 1786 poem Halloween, performed by unmarried girls in order to see the face of their future husbands. These rituals varied somewhat, with some requiring the girls to eat an apple or comb their hair in front of a mirror while others required them to stare in a mirror as they walk backward up the stairs. If the face in the mirror was a skull or the grim reaper, it meant that the girl would die before getting married. However, like the Bloody Mary legend, the origin of these mirror rituals is difficult to pin down.

Don't Look In The Mirror

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Mirrors have long been connected with superstition, with many believing them to be portals between worlds. Before funeral homes, the recently deceased would be kept in the parlor of their home until burial, which could be several days. During this time, the mirrors would be covered because it was believed that if the dead person saw his reflection then his spirit would become trapped in the house.