Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ghost Myth: Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary is a popular children's game in the United States. School children use this ghost legend to “conjure” i.e., cast a spell to bring forth Bloody Mary while staring into a mirror. 

This is accomplished by stating her name three, thirteen, and in some cases as many as twenty times.

Some of the elementary schools I taught at had a real problem with this children’s game. It was always a group of girls in the restrooms during recess. They would dare each other to conjure Bloody Mary. 

The child who accepted this dare would enviably cower by the second time they spoke her name into the mirror and run screaming from the restroom with everyone following just as scared. 

The youngest girls would be so frightened that parents would hear about it and the principals would then ban this game from being played at school.

It is interesting that this age group plays this game for it reflects a natural maturation stage that all children experience as they grow up. 

Jean Piaget a developmental psychologist describes this stage as “nominal realism” which means young children confuse objects with their names which results in the belief that words and thoughts can influence real life events. 

Therefore the game of Bloody Mary is much more real to children and by the way a lot more scary and fun.

Just a thought—if we allow children to be scared-- in ways they choose when they are young-- they grow up to be less fearful adults.

More often than not this game is played with just the belief that if you state Bloody Mary’s name, the prescribed amount of times, you will conjure a ghost in the mirror. This is probably for the best because the story behind Blood Mary is based upon a gruesome tale.

In a nutshell this original tale recounts the story of a young girl who loved to admire her beauty in mirrors. 

She experiences a terrible accident that disfigures her face and when she finally sees herself in a mirror she is so devastated she walks into the mirror looking for her old reflection. 

At the end she tells everyone not to follow her, because if they do, she will disfigure them as well. This is a traditional cautionary tale that warns youth not to be too vain.

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