“I believe in Bloody Mary, I believe in Bloody Mary, I believe in Bloody Mary, I believe…”
Did you ever get all the way through? Did you ever repeat that conjuring phrase the full seven times in order to see Bloody Mary in the mirror? I remember my sister and friends spooking themselves out during sleepovers. One time she tried it while gazing out the kitchen window. Now that was scary. With the dark night beyond our fear grew with every repeated chant. We scared ourselves silly anticipating the gory countenance of Bloody Mary gliding up from the gloom, a ghostly apparition.
I don’t think she got to number seven.
While researching Bloody Mary I found one reference that the legend has a connection to Pennsylvania, though in that telling there is no specific mention of a PA locale or family name. The story has simply made its way around our culture through spooky stories shared by children and teens at school, sleepovers and parties. But what are it’s real origins?
The repeated chant to conjure Bloody Mary is just a remnant of a story with various incarnations. The main idea is that a wicked old woman, thought to be a witch, lives in the woods surrounding a remote town.
Young girls from the town begin disappearing and townsfolk assume that the suspected witch is up to no good, killing the girls and using their blood to restore her youth. The witch is apparently caught red-handed, or red- whatever, when a young girl falls under her spell and walks from her parents home into the woods. A posse is formed and they venture into the woods to save the girl and burn the witch at the stake.
They all live happily ever after, but apparently the spirit of the witch lives on in everybody’s mirror from here to Shanghai, and if her name is repeated seven times (or whatever the number may be in your particular version), the bloody visage of Mary will appear, rise up or somehow materialize to kill you and steal your soul.
The tale of the witch in the woods, and similar fables, can be found in many cultures throughout history and may have served as a deterrent to prevent children from wandering off into the woods, where, indeed, real harm could befall them. Fantastic tales of werewolves and witches would normally do the trick, unless the kid was like me and would want to go venturing off to find the thing anyway!
The witch is a fable, but Bloody Mary was real, and the legend finds its roots in England though the real origin has no connection with a bloody fountain of youth.
Instead, the name Bloody Mary refers to Mary I of England, so-called in the wake of executions of Protestant religious reformers carried out under during the Marian Persecutions. Those convicted of heresy, opposing the Roman Catholic faith, were drawn and quartered, hanged or burned. Hundreds, at least 300 according to Wikipedia, were martyred from 1554 to 1559.
The connection with Bloody Mary and rejuvenation through drinking or bathing in blood of young women, or virgins, probably originated with the atrocity that was Countess Elizabeth Báthory of Hungary.
Truly the original “royal pain,” Countess Elizabeth, the Blood Countess, is considered one of the worst female serial killer in history, as far as body count is concerned. She and four collaborators are responsible for the deaths of possibly more than 600 young women and girls, all tortured and murderded at the hands of Elizabeth or her associates.
There are also rumors that the Blood Countess bathed in the blood of the slain girls in order to restore a youthful appearance.
Actual testimony by defendants indicates about 50 murders, but the unofficial number of killings, alleged by one witness, is upwards of 650.
Elizabeth was not convicted, instead being imprisoned in Čachtice Castle by her family, bricked up to spend her last years in a private suite, with only small openings to allow for the passage of air and meals.
As Vlad The Impaler is surely the true inspiration for Dracula, so Countess Elizabeth Báthory is most likely the origin of the blood-loving witch of the Bloody Mary Legend. It is possible that the stories of bloody Elizabeth and bloody Mary I of England were blended a bit on their way through folklore history.