Sunday, October 24, 2010

Have You Ever Said Her Name?

Fear comes naturally to us when we're kids, don't you think?

After seeing "Jaws" at the tender age of six (what were my parents thinking?) I became convinced a shark was lurking under my bed, ready to grab my succulent little legs. Logic didn't matter. My fear overrode the knowledge that sharks not only couldn't fit under my twin bed, but needed water too. I spent many years vaulting onto my bed from what I presumed was a safe distance from the snapping jaws of a great white shark.

I had the same kind of fear of the ghost known as Bloody Mary.

You know the story. You stand in front of a mirror and with the lights off, maybe holding a candle, while you chant Bloody Mary and if you're lucky (or not) Mary would appear. What happens next varies. Some stories say the woman in the mirror simply stares balefully at the summoner --which some people believe will drive the viewer insane-- while others claim she will attack or even kill those brave (or stupid) enough to call her.

There are lots of ideas of where the story of Bloody Mary comes from. Most frequently she is claimed to have been a woman who was executed hundreds of years ago for being a witch-- though some stories give her a Lizzie Borden-type myth as a murderess. Some confuse the urban legend with the story of Queen Mary I of England, known as Bloody Mary during her reign thanks to the number of Protestants put to death in an attempt to establish Catholicism as the official religion; but as the challenge is usually passed kid-to-kid it seems unlikely Mary I comes up too often.

It's amazing how enduring the Bloody Mary tale is and the story doesn't really change. I heard a fairly mild version 30 years ago when my friends told me the bloody image of a woman would appear in the mirror if I chanted Bloody Mary's name three times. Recently my 10-year-old daughter came home asking me if I had ever heard the name Bloody Mary and related to me an almost identical version of the story I heard so long ago. She was no more interested in taking up the challenge than I was.

Popular entertainment has also featured the story of Bloody Mary as a staple of urban legends featured on shows like "Southpark," "Charmed" and "Supernatural," but the most memorable interpretation has to be Candyman-- the 1992 movie based on a short story by Clive Barker titled "The Forbidden"-- as it transfers a tantalizing childhood scare into a grown-up horror.

I never had the nerve as a kid to try to summon Bloody Mary. The idea of deliberately courting a ghostly visitor was far scarier than a Ouija Board or telling ghost stories. I mean-- as far as I was concerned it she could really show up! I think it's fair to say my fear of Bloody Mary has evaporated along with my worries that a shark may be hiding under my bed. But I can still remember the thrill of dread the idea of chanting Bloody Mary's name gave me all those years ago. I never heard any good Bloody Mary stories either-- maybe my friends were as scared as I was.

What about you? We're you the brave kind of soul that called out to the supernatural? And if so-- got any good stories?


Harry Markov said...

Candy man scared the crap out of me. It's bizarre and truly horrific. I can only shudder and shudder.

Sullivan McPig said...

Nope, we didn't have stories like that where I grew up. I must say Candyman is still one of my favourite horror movies though.

Yiota said...

I learned first time about Bloody Mary from Supernatural and i i was scared like hell! No way i will ever do that...I'm a chicken!

SQT said...

Harry-- I've never sat all the way through-- scares me too.

Sullivan-- Nothing similar? What kind of ghost stories/urban legends did you grow up with?

Yiota-- It's always scared me too much to try. So you're not alone!

logankstewart said...

It scared me to do it, but I did it, just to prove to myself that I wasn't scared. Funny how I still think about it if I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night...

As for good ghost stories, when I was young, I was out my grandmother's house. It was late in the evening. We were the only two there. I was sitting on her lap, blabbing or whatever a seven year old does. Next thing I know, I ask mamaw, "Who's that woman standing in the hall?" Mamaw says her hair stood up and she asked me what I was talking about, and then I described the lady. Turns out I was describing my mamaw's sister that had died the year I was born. It gives her chills to this day.

Budd said...

I did the Candyman thing when the movie came out. Nothing came of it.

Charles Gramlich said...

I have said "candy man" three times. I'm not sure about bloody mary.

M. McGriff said...

I was NEVER that brave kid to go into the bathroom, in the dark, and say Bloody Mary three times in the mirror (that was how you were supposed to do it when I was a kid). I always had the motto that I didn't want to be the one to prove a myth right!

I also grew up with Candyman and the Wigee board (don't know if I spelled that right). Didn't mess with those either!

SQT said...

Logan-- I thought about it-- I just always chickened out. Did anyone else ever see your Mamaw's sister? I always wonder if ghosts are more likely to be seen by kids... My sister-in-law has been seeing her husband's grandfather in her house and it has everyone totally freaked out. ((shudder))

Budd-- I never thought to try the "Candyman" thing. I guess I had a weird separation between the "real" story and the movie. Like they're any different...One of my strange quirks I guess.

Charles-- I'm not surprised you tried. You probably dared him to show up.

M. McGriff-- I hear ya. I was really literal as a kid. If someone told me a ghost could show up, I believed them. I never really bought into the Ouija Board though, so I never bothered with that one. (People always admitted they deliberately skewed the answers)

Sullivan McPig said...

@SQT: Actually the only ghost stories I heard as a kid were made up by my father, but he was really good at making up scary stuff.

My favourite is about a greedy farmer who sends away a beggar without giving him something to eat. The beggar then curses the farmer and the farmer and his farm sink into the ground. The ghost of the farmer then has to climb up out of the ground once a year to try find someone who will bestow on him the kindness he denied the beggar.

We lived in a small village and after that story I was scared for a long time that I might encounter the ghost of that farmer.

logankstewart said...

It seems like my brother, a year and change younger, saw something as well, but I can't remember. Now I just think it's a cool story to share.

Amanda Makepeace said...

I'm guilty! My friends and I did the whole Bloody Mary thing. To be honest it still gives me the creeps. :)

Michelle said...

I first heard about Bloody Mary when I was a kid at a slumber party. I was so scared, and refused to say her name at all. Mirrors in the dark creep me out, to this day I still keep the bathroom door closed, then sneak my hand thru when it's barely open to flip on the light without seeing the mirror in the dark. I am such a chicken!

I heard Bloody Mary won't come to houses with German Shepherd dogs since she's scared of them. Random, I know.

Off topic, have you seen the movie MIRRORS? So scary, especially when Amy Smart's reflection rips her jaw open in the mirror, then it happens in real life.