Thursday, October 23, 2014

HGB Podcast 6 - The Legend of Bloody Mary

Moment in Oddity - The Tale of the King and the Restaurant Owner

One day, King Umberto I, the King of Italy decided to have dinner at a restaurant that he had never been to before.  As the king ate, he caught a glimpse of the restaurant owner and asked for the owner to join him at his table.  The King was intrigued because the restaurant owner could have been the King's twin brother.  As the men talked with each other, they discovered that they both were born on the exact same date.  Not only that, but both men were married to women who shared the same name.  The restaurant was opened on the exact same day that the King took the throne as well.  The men parted ways later that day.  Some time later the restaurant owner was involved in a shooting accident that resulted in his death.  King Umberto received the news on the same day and as he listened, an assassin shot him and killed him, thus both men died on the same day.  What an odd coincidence.  Or was it?

This Day in History - John Dillinger's gang robbery

It was a cool October day.  Monday the 23rd of October to be exact.  And Indiana's most infamous outlaw was about to make his move in 1933.  A black Studebaker pulls up to a hill outside the Central National Bank in Greencastle, Indiana at 2:45pm.  Inside the vehicle are John Dillinger's gang, which included Russell Clark, Harry Pierpont, Harry Copeland, Charles Makley, Red Hamilton, and either Hilton Crouch or Leslie Homer.  This is going to be the gang's first major robbery.  Pierpont approached a teller window and asked for change for a $20 bill and when he was directed to another area, he pulled out the gangsters' weapon of choice: a tommy gun.  The rest of the gang pull out their tommy guns and the vaults are emptied in five minutes.  The total take was $75,000 and no shots were fired, which was a good thing since the police station was right across the street.

And since we are Disney nuts:  Walt Disney's Dumbo was released on this day in 1941.

The Legend of Bloody Mary

If you grew up in America, you are very familiar with urban legends.  Urban legends are the folklore for a young country like America.  These types of legends get their start mostly from true tales that get twisted, turned and added to over the years and change based on the storytellers flourish for hyperbole and dramatics.  These tales become legends because the origin is untraceable and are generally handed down from person to person and the use of urban is mainly meant to convey that these stories are more modern rather than something that has taken place in an urban setting.  Most of us have gone through the various sleepover rituals based on urban legends and told or heard various stories around the campfire.  These types of things are a rite of passage.  You may recall playing a game called, "Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board," "Truth or Dare," or perhaps you even dug out the Ouija Board.  There were the stories of "The Hook" or the woman in white hitchhiking who disappears once she is dropped off at a cemetery and who can forget the story of the babysitter who gets the call from a creepy man asking about the children in the house and a trace on the call reveals that he is actually in the house.  And then there was a game played in the bathroom with a mirror based on the legend of Bloody Mary.

The story behind Bloody Mary has various versions just like all urban legends and there are two main women that the tale could be based upon.  The first is a woman who was really called "Bloody Mary" and that is Mary I, the Queen of England from 1553 to 1558.  The moniker was based upon the fact that she had Protestants executed.  In just five years, she had 280 people burned at the stake.  Her parentage did not help either since Henry VIII was her father.  The tragedy of Queen Mary I is that she never was able to carry a child to full term.  It is said that asking Bloody Mary about her children gets a nasty response.

The second woman that the tale is based upon is the one that is most likely the true origin and has various versions as well.  One such version is about a woman who lived during the Civil War named Mary Worth.  She was believed to be a witch and committed heinous acts during her lifetime.  A favorite pastime for her was to kidnap runaway slaves and torture them in her barn.  She used the slaves in black magic rituals as well.  Eventually the townspeople burned her at the stake.  Another version of the tale comes from across the pond in England during the 13th Century.  Apparently, a witch there calling herself Mary was abducting and killing young girls and the townspeople there burned her at the stake as she hurled curses at them.  And then there is the Mary Worth who was a woman disfigured at a young age who became a witch.  Irregardless of which of these tales is the origin, the name Mary has stuck as well as the accusation of being a witch.

In all stories, Mary is buried in a cemetery local to where the urban legend is being told.  In one such city, a red tombstone with no name has been reported to be the grave of Mary Worth and people leave trinkets and sometimes practice witchcraft at the gravesite.

Here is where the Urban Legend and sleepover rituals come into the picture.  Summoning Bloody Mary in a bathroom mirror is considered a test of courage.  The ritual dates back to the 1960s and the superstition about mirrors dates back to ancient times.  It is believed that spirits can be trapped in mirrors because their reflection confuses them and the boundary of the mirror frame locks them inside the mirror.  This is why superstitious folks will not buy antique mirrors and possibly why breaking a mirror is bad luck because a spirit has been freed.  Folklorist Janet Langlois wrote an essay about Bloody Mary in 1978.  The more recent movie "Candyman" was clearly inspired by the Bloody Mary ritual.

The actual ritual goes something like this and is mostly done by girls:  a young woman goes into a bathroom with no windows and no lights.  She carries either a flashlight or a candle with her.  She faces the mirror and calls out the name "Bloody Mary" three times or thirteen times based on the ritual being followed and then either turns on the flashlight or holds up the candle and it is said that she will see Bloody Mary in the mirror.  If she doesn't look into Bloody Mary's eyes, Mary will tell her the future.  If she does look Mary in the eye, Bloody Mary will scratch out her eyes or disfigure her or even kill her.  At least, that is how the story goes.  In actuality, most girls run screaming from the bathroom because their own reflection in the mirror has caused their eyes to either hallucinate or play tricks on them.  Sometimes the girls go into a bathroom as a group and hold hands in a circle while they chant together.

What should give people pause about this type of ritual is the actual act of conjuring or divination that is being represented by the ritual.  It is as if the mirror is being used as a portal and the girls are conjuring the spirit of Mary.  This type of game could prove to be as dangerous as the use of a Ouija Board.  This is probably why so many terrifying real life stories are told about experiences involving Bloody Mary:
"I was 9 when me and my friends tried doing Bloody Mary at my house one weekend. As well as I remember there were five of us and we carried my Mom's candles in the upstairs bathroom and all five of us were chanting Bloody Mary. We saw an old woman with cuts on her face and chains around her neck and shoulders looking out of the mirror out at us. Then the shower curtain went up in flames and we ran out of the bathroom. An older boy ran into the bathroom and luckily for us got the fire put out. We all got in big trouble for it and the parents thought we caught the shower curtain on fire with the candles but we had the candles at least six feet from the shower curtain when it suddenly went up in flames. I know for a fact that we did not touch that shower curtain with a candle. I've always thought about it and I know that we saw Bloody Mary but I've never been tempted to do it ever again. I was 25 this year and I remember it like it was yesterday. There were five of us girls there that night when we did Bloody Mary and had the fire in the bathroom and two of those girls who were my childhood friends died at different times in fire related accidents. I've been scared of fire all my life and I've never been tempted to do Bloody Mary again. I've always been afraid that we some how caused the death of my two friends that night and I've been afraid of fire all my life."
"Some of my friends, five of us, cramped ourselves into a small bathroom in my friend Cathryn's House. We ended up saying Bloody Mary (more like chanting it) about 20 times or so for anything to appear. When we did finally see something it started out as a green glow then the darkened portrait of a face became more visible, by that time half of us were screaming so we knocked each other down trying to get out of the bathroom and then I flipped on the light. It was a welcome relief."
"I was only seven at the time, a few friends and I went to a bowling ally. Now our parents belonged to a bowling groups so we just chilled at the arcade part. One of the other kids told us a story about Bloody Mary. My friends and I didn't believe them.  So me and two of my friends went to the mens' restroom. All we had was a flashlight. We turned off all the lights and chanted 'Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary'. My one friend then flashed the flashlight on and quickly off. I looked at the mirror and there was a girl. She looked like she was in her early twenties. She was looking the other way, yet started to turn towards us. My friends and I bolted out of there before she attacked us like the legend says. After this experience, I feel like someones always watching me. I haven't tried contacting any other spirits after this.  A few months after my friends did this, my dad died. Could she have driven him crazy enough to kill himself? Could this spirit be so full of rage it drives people to shoot themselves?  Now, ever since this happened my moods are different. I'm 15 and some days I'll just suddenly go into depression. Some days I just want to curl up and die. Could this be revenge for summoning her all those years ago?  My friends who did this with me all stopped talking to me. I met one recently and she seems okay. Could I have been the only one who seen Bloody Mary? Could she only be after me? If she is, then why? This may have happened seven or eight years ago, but I still feel the effects."
As for us, we've never seen Bloody Mary in the mirror and have never heard from anyone we know that they have.  So is the legend of Bloody Mary real?  Does she really appear in the mirror to exact revenge?  Is she just the figment of active imaginations?  That is for you to decide!


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