The history of Bloody mary legend
Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody…even joking about the mirrored specter gives me
chills. Some say you have to mention her name 3 times and others say 7 times, but the truth is 13 times .
One of the most popular urban legends is that of Bloody Mary, the spirit of a woman who can be summoned by repeating her name thirteen times into a dimly lit mirror. For whatever reason, this practice has persisted across generations with research on the topic beginning in 1978 when Jane Langlois wrote about the “game” as she came to call it and the origins. In 2014, Italian researchers explored the science and psychology behind Bloody Mary, ultimately adding a bit of credibility to the legend. If this story is true then it essentially proves witchcraft,
ghosts, and an afterlife; a truly extraordinary claim.
A surprising number of adults will admit to at least hearing about the infamous “Bloody Mary” (or any of her variations) and the ritual to summon her at least once in their lives. If any of ese individuals are like me, the story was told at a sleepover or campfire by a friend or older peer. As with most legend the story started with “A friend of a friend” or “My cousin’s friend”, to d validity and personality to the story, attempting the ritual. Alan Dundes writes in his article.
“Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety” that most participants
are young girls at sleepovers who decide to try and summon Bloody Mary, or her alias ‘Mary
Worth as she is commonly believed to be a witch who was burned for practicing magic
(Snopes). Some modern iterations believe she is a young woman who died in a car accident, in
some stories specific lines need to be uttered, and in different regions a different image is said
to appear. Whatever the name or story the process remains the same regardless of region or
era, somebody walks into a room with a mirror and utters a phrase until an image appears
It is important to understand how legends spread, according to a Washington Post piece
it is due in part to word-of-mouth and the practicality of a concept. The word-of-mouth is
precisely what I spoke of previously, sitting around a campfire and sharing stories. In the same
way the stories of the “murderer in the backseat” or the “phone call from inside of the house”
persist in our culture we latch to stories that are told to us in an appropriate setting. The other
essential part is that the story must make sense to us or at the very least seem fun or
We discount alien abductions and flat earth because it inherently sounds ridiculous,
which whether or not we should is a different post entirely, but when we hear “a girl had a killer
in her backseat” it seems just real enough for us to go along with. A post on The Conversation
elaborates that urban legends play on our social fears and insecurities, people are afraid of
being kidnapped, murdered, and ultimately stalked by a witch’s spirit (apparently).
In concept the whole summoning ritual of Bloody Mary should result in nothing of
significance occurring. Giovanni Caputo and his colleagues found however that there is
something happening that could be responsible for the urban legend. In the article “Visual
Perception during Mirror-Gazing at One’s Own Face in Patients with Depression”,
researchers found that staring into a mirror in low light does result in seeing apparitions and distorted faces.
According to findings within neuroscience (BBC) humans have a fascination with faces, being
capable of finding a face within food, machinery, and household appliances. It therefore makes
sense that when faced with little to no stimulation the brain attempts to find a face within a dimly
lit mirror. There is actual science behind Bloody Mary, which is not what many expect and that
makes the allure of the urban legend even stronger.
If kids today are anything like me they will go into the bathroom, spin and say “Bloody
Mary” thirteen times, and then run out of the bathroom. Odds are, most will never see the
tortured woman due to their own cowardice but if someone stares into the mirror, according to
the research, a face or distortion will most likely occur. So, while nothing extraordinary seems to
have been proven from the research into the topic, neuroscience uncovered a chilling
phenomenon. Ghosts, witchcraft, and urban legends are still unproven but why not go and stare
into a mirror now that you know your brain will attempt to scare itself!
Bloody Mary Ghost Story 1
Bloody Mary Ghost Story 2
Bloody Mary Ghost Story 3
Bloody Mary Ghost Story 4
Historian SARAH GRISTWOOD describes the ascension of Mary I as a “staggeringly bold” course of action undertaken with little chance of success. Still, she rode into London on August 3, 1553, to widespread acclaim. In the words of one contemporary chronicler, “It was said that no one could remember there ever having been public rejoicing such as this.”
Centuries later, however, the Tudor queen is remembered as one of the most reviled figures in English history: “BLOODY MARY.” This is a story of how a heroic underdog became a monarch who was then mythologized as a violent despot—despite being no bloodier than her father, Henry VIII, or other English monarchs. It’s a tale of sexism, shifting national identity and good old-fashioned propaganda, all of which coalesced to create the image of an unchecked tyrant that endures today.
Born on February 18, 1516, Mary was not the long-awaited son her parents, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, had hoped for. But she survived infancy and grew up in the public eye as a beloved princess—at least until her teenage years, when her father’s infatuation with Anne Boleyn led him to divorce her mother and break with the Catholic Church. Declared illegitimate, downgraded from the title of “princess” to “lady,” and separated from her mother, Mary refused to acknowledge the validity of her parents’ divorce or her father’s status as head of the Church of England. It was only in 1536, after Anne’s execution and Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour, that Mary finally agreed to her mercurial father’s terms.
Welcomed back to court, she survived Henry—and three more stepmothers—only to see her younger half-brother, Edward VI, take the throne as a Protestant reformer, adopting a stance anathema to her fervent Catholicism. When Edward died six years later, he attempted to subvert his father’s wishes by leaving the crown to Protestant cousin Lady Jane Grey, excluding those next in line—Mary and her younger half-sister, Elizabeth—from the succession. Though Mary could have sought refuge with family members in Europe, she chose to remain in England and fight for what was rightfully hers. Eluding the armies of her antagonists, she rallied support from nobles across the country and marched on London. Mary and Elizabeth rode into England’s capital side-by-side, one as a queen and the other as a queen-in-waiting.
During her five-year reign, Mary navigated the manifold challenges associated with her status as the first English queen to wear the crown in her own right, rather than as the wife of a king. She prioritized religion above all else, implementing reforms and restrictions aimed at restoring the Catholic Church’s ascendancy in England. Most controversially, she ordered 280 Protestants burned at the stake as heretics—a fact that would later cement her reputation as “Bloody Mary.”
The queen also set precedents and laid the groundwork for initiatives—among others, financial reform, exploration and naval expansion—that would be built upon by her much-lauded successor, Elizabeth I. Mary failed, however, to fulfill arguably the most important duty of any monarch: producing an heir. When she died at age 42 in 1558 of an ailment identified alternatively as uterine cancer, ovarian cysts or influenza, Elizabeth claimed the throne.
Prior to England’s break from Rome in 1534, Catholicism had dominated the realm for centuries. Henry VIII’s decision to form the Church of England proved PREDICTABLY, as evidenced by the 1536 PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE UPRISING , which found some 30,000 northerners taking up arms in protest of the dissolution of the monasteries, banning of feasts and holy days, and bloody treatment of clergy who refused to accept the new order. Under Henry’s son, the English Reformation reached NEW EXTREMES, with legislation ending the practice of Latin Mass, allowing priests to marry, and discouraging the veneration of relics and religious artifacts.
According to Linda Porter, author of the myth of BLOODY MARY Edward VI “moved much faster and much further than the majority of the population wanted, … removing] a great deal that was familiar and depriving] the congregation of what many of them saw as the mystery and beauty of the experience of worship.” Protestantism, she says, was the “religion of an educated minority,” not a universally adopted doctrine. At its core, Porter and OTHER HISTORIAN have suggested, England was still a fundamentally Catholic country when Mary took the throne.
Herself still a Catholic, Mary’s initial attempts to restore the old Church were measured, but as historian Alison Weir writes in THE CHILDREN OF HENRY THE 8TH , HE WAS A BIPOLAR AND MENTALLY SICK KING due to sephyls , grew more controversial following her marriage to Philip of Spain, at which point they were “associated in the public mind with Spanish influence.” During the first year of her reign, many prominent Protestants fled abroad ,but those who stayed behind—and persisted in publicly proclaiming their beliefs—became targets of heresy laws that carried a brutal punishment: burning at the stake.
Such a death was an undoubtedly horrific sentence. But in Tudor England, bloody punishments were the norm, with execution methods ranging from beheading to boiling; burning at the stake; and being hung, drawn and quartered. Says Porter, “They lived in a brutal age, … and it took a lot to revolt your average 16th-century citizen.”
During the early modern period, Catholics and Protestants alike believed heresy warranted the heavy sentence it carried. Mary’s most famous victim, Archbishop thomas cranmer , was preparing to enact similar policies targeting Catholics before being sidelined by Edward VI’s death. According to Gristwood, game of queens ; the woman who made 16th century europe , “That obdurate heretics, who refused to recant, should die was an all but universal tenet.”
Mary and her advisors hoped the initial spate of burnings would act as a short sharp shock ” warning errant Protestants to return to the fold of the “true” faith. In a January 1555 memorandum, the queen explained that executions should be “so used that the people might well perceive them not to be condemned without just occasion, whereby they shall both understand the truth and beware to do the like.” But Mary had grossly underestimated Protestants’ tenacity—and their willingness to die for the cause.
“In mid-16th-century Europe,” writes Porter, “the idea of respecting another person’s beliefs would have provoked incredulity. Such certainties bred oppressors and those who were willing to be sacrificed.”
All that said, inextricable from Mary’s legacy are the 280 Protestants she consigned to the flames. These executions—the main reason for her unfortunate nickname—are cited as justification for labeling her one of the most evil humans of all time is this evil queen and all her family. and even depicting her as a flesh eating zombie .” They are where we get the image of a monarch whose “raging madness” and “open tyranny,” as described by 16th-century writer Bartholomew traheron, led her to “swimmeth in the holy blood of most innocent, virtuous, and excellent personages.”
Consider, however, the following: Even though Henry VIII, Mary’s father, only had 81 people burned at the stake over the course of his 38-year reign, heresy was far from the sole charge that warranted execution in Tudor England. Estimates suggest Henry ordered the deaths of as many as 72,000 of his subjects , he was an evil man, crazy ,mentally ill, criminal and murderer thug. including two of his wives—though it’s worth noting these figures are probably exaggerated. Edward VI had two radical Protestant Anabaptists burned at the stake during his six-year reign; in 1549, he sanctioned the suppression of the prayer book rebellion , resulting in the deaths of up to 5,500 Catholics. Mary’s successor, Elizabeth I, burned five Anabaptists at the stake during her 45-year reign; ordered the executions of around 1000 catholic rebels implicated in the Northern earls’ revolt of 1569; and had 200 catholics ,the majority of whom were Jesuit missionaries, hung, drawn and quartered as traitors.
If numbers are the main reasoning behind such sobriquets as “Bloody Mary,” then why aren’t Mary’s family members dubbed “Bloody Henry,” “Bloody Edward” and “Bloody Bess”? Why has the myth of “Bloody Mary” persisted in Great Britain’s collective imagination for so long? And what did Mary do that was so different from not only other Tudor monarchs, but kings and queens across early modern Europe?
These questions are complex and predictably fraught. But several recurring themes persist. As England’s first queen regnant, Mary faced the same challenge experienced by female rulers across the continent—namely, her councillors’ and subjects’ lack of faith in women’s ability to govern, a dilemma best summarized by contemporary Mary of Hungary : “A woman is never feared or respected as a man is, whatever is his rank. … All she can do is shoulder the responsibility for the mistakes committed by others.”
While Mary’s gender played a pivotal role in the formation of her image—especially during her own lifetime, according to Porter—arguably the most important factor in the “Bloody Mary” moniker’s staying power was the rise of a national identity built on the rejection of Catholicism. A 1563 book by John Foxe known popularly as FOXE’S BOOK OF MARTYRS played a pivotal role in the creation of this Protestant identity, detailing the torments suffered by men and women burned at the stake under Mary through word-of-mouth accounts, in her book The book was very popular during the Elizabethan era, with copies even placed in local churches alongside the Bible.
The myth of “Bloody Mary” is one mired in misconception. England’s first queen regnant was not a vindictive, violent woman, nor a pathetic, lovestruck wife who would have been better off as a nun. She was stubborn, inflexible and undoubtedly flawed, but she was also the product of her time, as incomprehensible to modern minds as our world would be to hers. She paved the way for her sister’s reign, setting precedents Elizabeth never acknowledged stemmed from her predecessor, and accomplished much in such arenas as fiscal policy, religious education and the arts.
A 1554 portrait of Mary by Antonis Mor , credit to wikimedia commons.
If she had lived longer, says Gristwood, Mary might have been able to institute the religious reforms she so strongly believed in, from a renewed emphasis on preaching, education and charity to a full reunion with Rome. But because Mary died just five years after her accession, Elizabeth inherited the throne and set England on a Protestant path. Over the centuries, most significantly in the aftermath of the glorious revolution of 1688, Protestantism became a core component of British identity.
Mary’s reputation, says Wooding, was “very painstakingly constructed after her death [and] had extraordinary longevity because of the fundamental place that Protestant identity came to take in British identity.” Her enduring unpopularity, then, reflects a failure to properly contextualize her reign: Writes historian thomas S. freeman , “Mary has continually been judged by the standards of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and not surprisingly, has been found wanting.”
For all her faults, and regardless of whether one falls into the competing camps of rehabilitation or vilification, Mary The first to prove women could rule England with the same authority as men—holds a singular place in British history.
“She was an intelligent, politically adept, and resolute monarch who proved to be very much her own woman,” argues Whitelock. “Mary was the Tudor trailblazer, a political pioneer whose reign redefined the English monarchy.”
As the Bishop of Winchester observed during Mary’s December 1558 funeral sermon, “She was a King’s daughter, she was a King’s sister, she was a King’s wife. She was a Queen, and by the same title a King also.”