Is Bloody Mary real? A ghost story about her still inspires young women to try to learn who their husbands will be. Bloody Mary is said to be a specter imprisoned in another dimension, a spirit who can be called up to appear in a mirror on Halloween.
The modern urban legend of Bloody Mary grew out of earlier superstitions. Before women could work outside the home, a husband was a matter of pivotal importance. Young girls performed frightening rituals to try to learn who they would marry, or if they would marry at all.
The dumb supper
The dumb supper was a ritual meal an unmarried girl might prepare on Halloween. She cooked a dinner in complete silence. Then she laid a table with a black cloth and red candles in an otherwise darkened room. Knives, forks and spoons were placed back to front. The meal was served backwards, too, beginning with dessert and ending with a glass of red wine.
If prepared in complete silence and served at midnight, the dumb supper was said to compel the presence of a girl's future groom. A young woman, eating alone, would hear footsteps on the porch, then scratching at the door, which she had left unlatched for her visitor. At last, the likeness of her groom would appear before her. However, if anyone in the house made a sound or a passerby whistled, the spell was broken.
Two queens are sometimes conflated with the Bloody Mary of legend. One was called Bloody Mary by her political opponents. The other was executed by order of Queen Elizabeth I.
Mary I of England was the eldest daughter of Henry VIII, who made England a Protestant country. When Mary came to rule, she tried to return England to her Catholic faith, executing many who refused to change their religion. Therefore, many of her subjects called her Bloody Mary. Queen Mary suffered at least one false pregnancy but was unable to produce an heir to the throne. Her half-sister, Elizabeth I, succeeded her.
Beautiful Mary Queen of Scots was the mother of King James I of England. After the King of France left her a widow, she possibly had a hand in her second husband's death. At least, soon after his assassination she married the man accused of his murder. The outraged Scottish nobility imprisoned her, but she escaped to England seeking asylum. There, her cousin Queen Elizabeth had her imprisoned again. Eighteen years later, she was beheaded for treason.
Summoning Bloody Mary
Many different rituals summon Bloody Mary. In one variation, Bloody Mary will only appear at midnight on Halloween or the Eve of St. Agnes. The questioner must walk up a flight of stairs backwards, holding a lit candle in one hand. Then she must stand before a mirror, still holding the candle.
"Bloody Mary," she begins, very softly. "Bloody Mary," she repeats. In some versions, she says, "Bloody Mary, I have your baby." She must call Mary 13 times. Each time, the call becomes louder, until at the last she is screaming.
What will appear to her? If she sees a skull, she will die before she weds. On the other hand, she might briefly glimpse the man she will marry. If it is a true vision, the candle will go out.
Legend says some girls run screaming from the room and will not tell what they saw. Some girls report that a witch appeared and tried to draw them into the mirror. Some, says folklore, are driven mad forever.
Bloody Mary is not real. Yet young girls still summon her sometimes in a dangerous Halloween game.