Have You Ever Said Her Name? —Theresa Lucas

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.

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 .

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 even 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 Charmed and Supernatural, but the most memorable modern 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 adult 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 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 — got any good stories?

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