Through A Glass Darkly
This scene is likely familiar to you. You’re standing in your best friend’s bathroom, probably the one in the basement because you’ve been told the sleepover is in the rec room, staring into the mirror. One of you has smuggled in a lighter and a single votive candle in front of the mirror illuminates the scene. The door is closed tight and you can hear your friends laughing just outside, calling out that you can’t leave the bathroom until you do it! If you refuse, you’ll be ridiculed, but if you call upon the demonic entity they wish for you to conjure, you’ll be terrified. You’re already terrified. You close your eyes and steady your breathing, summoning all of your courage to say the words. Three times. You have to say it three times or it doesn’t count. Eyes open. Into the mirror. Unblinking.
You jump back suddenly as the face in the mirror, the one you once knew as your own familiar visage, distorts into the face of a monster. Sunken eyes and teeth protruding from a black hole of a mouth. There’s a keening sound, a sound normally associated with frightened animals, filling the room and you realize…it’s coming from you.
Hello ODDPod listeners and welcome back to another episode. This week, I’d like to introduce you to Mary Worth, otherwise known as Bloody Mary (depending on who you ask) and the urban legends surrounding this common childhood experience. And speaking of blood…as I posted on social media, the 21st of February was my birthday and I took the weekend off to celebrate. My friend Patti made the most amazing cake; an (almost) anatomically correct heart with fondant superior vena cava and brachiocephalic trunk, blue fondant cardiac veins (visible when you cut into the cake,) and dripping in raspberry cake filling. It was delightful and truly memorable so this week’s shoutout goes to Patti Wolf and the best organ cake I’ve ever tasted. I’m hoping it won’t be the last!
And now…on with the show.
Email first became popular in the 1990s and apparently, people had nothing better to send than chain letters. The year is 1994 and chain letters are in abundance, but one, in particular, stands out. It’s the story of Bloody Mary or Mary Worth. You likely received it yourself.
“When I was about nine years old, I went to a friend’s place for a birthday/slumber party. There were about 10 other girls there. At about midnight, we decided to play Mary Worth. Some of us had never heard of this, so one of the girls told the story.
Mary Worth lived a long time ago. She was a very beautiful young girl. One day she had a terrible accident that left her face so disfigured that nobody would look at her. She had not been allowed to see her own reflection after this accident for fear that she would lose her mind. Before this, she had spent long hours admiring her beauty in her bedroom mirror.
One night, after everyone had gone to bed, unable to fight the curiosity any longer, she crept into a room that had a mirror. As soon as she saw her face, she broke down into terrible screams and sobs. It was at this moment that she was so heartbroken and wanted her old reflection back, she walked into the mirror to find it, vowing to disfigure anybody that came looking for her in the mirror.
After hearing this story, which was told very scarily, we decided to turn out all of the lights and try it. We all huddled around the mirror and started repeating ‘Mary Worth, Mary Worth, I believe in Mary Worth.’
About the seventh time, we said it, one of the girls that were in front of the mirror started screaming and trying to push her way back away from the mirror. She was screaming so loud that my friend’s mom came running into the room. She quickly turned on the lights and found this girl huddled in the corner screaming. She turned her around to see what the problem was and saw these long fingernail scratches running down her right cheek. I will never forget her face as long as I live!”
You’ve likely received a chain letter or two in your time, either a physical copy or an email, but I bet you’ve never really thought about the origin story of the annoyance. Have you? Chain letters have a pretty interesting history. Apparently, 55 years after Jesus had been resurrected and ascended to heaven, he authored a chain letter. Yeah, apparently Jesus was kind of a douche. A young boy retrieved the letter from under a rock that he was mysteriously able to lift (read: he put it there in the first place) and the letter was copied and circulated from there. It read, “He that copieth this letter shall be blessed of me. He that does not shall be cursed.”. I’m not a believer in this story and it’s likely that neither are you, because the origins of chain letters are often muddy and can serve a multitude of purposes, everything from sending good vibes to manipulation. When you think about it, it’s actually not a terrible way to get someone’s attention. Chain letters are a great way to pique someone’s curiosity or agitate their superstitious streak. I’ve written a couple myself, just to get the water bubbling, but chain letters aren’t always about manipulation. Sometimes they mean well.
For example, I remember one of my friend’s grandma’s sending out a bunch of little cards that said, “Send .10 cents and receive 1 prayer.” I’m sure that grandma thought she was very forward-thinking in trying to pad the collection plate at her church, but it wasn’t a new idea. From Mental Floss,
“In 1888, a Methodist women’s missionary group was having serious cash flow problems. Additions to their facilities had added up to an astounding $16,000. While the group leaders prayed for assistance, they also acknowledged they might need to take the initiative.
Just when all hope seemed lost, a woman who had heard of their troubles said that she had a possible solution: Someone had told her that arranging for a chain letter could be a possible avenue to financial reward. Around the same time, the church received a chain letter requesting funds for another now forgotten object, sent to them by someone who thought it would work for this group as well. The head of the congregation, Lucy Rider Meyer, took the suggestions seriously and drafted a letter that contained both a solicitation to send her one dime and to send a copy of the letter to three friends, who would (hopefully) repeat the process.
Meyer dashed off 1500 copies and waited. The responses came pouring in. The missionaries eventually raised $6000, with many people sending more than a dime and others even using the letter as the inspiration to join their flock. In spirit and cold cash, the chain letter had been a success. Mostly.
While most recipients were happy to either contribute or disregard the letter, a few took the time to write back and complain about being targeted multiple times. One irritated addressee wrote:
“To tell the plain truth, I am exasperated with this plan. I am a very busy woman, and this is the third benevolence I have been asked to help in this way.”
Others took a more direct way of holding on to their cash:
“I have figured up, and you must already have an abundance of money for the house. So I won’t send any.”
The missionaries dubbed the chain letter a “peripatetic contribution box,” a kind of postal hat-passing that immediately began growing in popularity. Newspapers like the New York World printed forms to raise money for a memorial for Spanish-American war soldiers; in 1898, a 17-year-old volunteer for the Red Cross devised a chain that solicited money for ice to send to troops stationed in Cuba. So many thousands of letters poured in that they choked her Babylon, New York post office, prompting her mother to issue an open plea to stop people from sending any more.
While potentially annoying to some, many of these letters were altruistic in nature—an attempt to drum up financial support for what was considered to be a worthy cause. But it didn’t take long for the template to be adapted to a less noble pursuit: conning people out of money.” (mentalfloss.com)
As was the case with the missionaries, grandma received many a nasty note back admonishing her for wasting people’s time and demanding money outside of normal collections. You see, grandma wasn’t the first person to think of asking for money in this way and people were just kinda over it. By the time she got to it, the idea was out like stirrup pants, but to be fair stirrup pants were actually a fantastic idea, though unflattering on most people.
The sending of a dime was also a popular money-making scam during the depression era. People were asked to aid the Send-a-Dime effort and were given a list with a bunch of names on it. Their name was on the list, too. So, when their turn came around, they would also receive money. Unfortunately, many people fell for this scam and lost what little money they had banking on the concept that because they had been good, good would come their way soon enough. The postal service even threatened to sue Western Union for over 27 million dollars for helping to execute such a fraud. You’d think that people would have learned that chain letters don’t pay by the 1970s, but no. The Circle of Gold scam involved a letter being purchased for a hundred bucks, $50 of which would go to the seller and the other $50 mailed to a name at the top of a random list of people. Sound familiar? Then, the name at the top of the sheet would be removed and the next name would move up a space. If you think these attempts at scamming people out of their hard-earned cash have fallen by the wayside, you’d be wrong. Ever hear of the Holiday Wine Exchange? It seems to make the rounds every year. The message reads,
Let’s be clear here. You’re not going to get “an insane amount of wine.” You’re going to get scammed, which will make you very sad indeed. Someone else will get an insane amount of wine and you’ll be forced to buy your own…which will obviously make you even sadder. Just don’t do it, okay? Okay. Besides, you might get nicked for mail fraud because USPS (that’s the United States Postal Service for my pals abroad) has some very strict rules about gambling and pyramid schemes. The bottom line is, it’s illegal. Sending vino via the post is also illegal. Also, you have to consider the fact that the people you’re mailing wine to are not of drinking age. It’s just bad all around.
Anyway…now that we know a little bit about the origin of chain letters in general, let’s talk about the practice of gazing into a mirror and calling upon a power greater than yourself. “The art of scrying is rooted in antiquity. The practice is to use a shiny device like a darkened mirror, or reflecting water surface and gaze towards it to see visions of the future. It’s a bit like how you alter your gaze when looking at one of those 3D images that suddenly pop out when your focus is adjusted. Not only is it little-known, scrying is one of the more difficult divination techniques.” (psychic-junkie.com)
Apparently, the practice of scrying is pretty old and was first described in the Bible. I’d like to pause a moment here and let you know that this has not suddenly become a religious podcast. I respect everyone’s religious beliefs and their right to believe whatever they want. It just seems like this particular topic has some religious roots. Foretelling the future by “see[ing] through a glass, darkly” is described in 1 Corinthians 13. There’s also mention of the use of a mirror for divination in Chaucer’s “The Squire’s Tale,” written in 1390 and in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” written in 1606. In all honesty, if you’ve ever read any sort of fantasy novel, you’ve likely been exposed to fortune-telling or divination of this type. I remember being terrified of the Disney movie Snow White because of Maleficent, but I also remember that the evil queen had an affinity for gazing upon herself in her magic mirror. The original story was written by the Brother’s Grimm and, as is the case with many a Disney adaption, the Disney movie is decidedly lacking in dark underbelly. The original is horrifying. Of course, I recommend you read it. 😊 Even Sir John Tenniel, creator of the illustrations in Alice in Wonderland touched upon the looking glass in his work. In Tenniel’s The Haunted Lady, a woman in finery looks with horror upon the woman who created her dress and observes the true cost of her finery. The woman on the other side of the mirror appears to have met death after a hard life of working for starvation wages under inhumane conditions. Now, I’m not sure how difficult scrying is, I suppose you have to believe in the practice to get the most out of it, but I wonder if something else might be the cause of a successful scrying session. The Troxler Effect.
Maclen Stanley, a staff writer at Psychology Today writes, “In a study conducted by Dr. Caputo of the University of Urbino, participants were asked to stare into a mirror in dim lighting for ten minutes. Results demonstrated that 66% of participants experienced huge deformations of their own face, 28% saw an unknown person, and 48% saw fantastical and monstrous beings.
These surprising results beg the question: How can staring into a mirror possibly cause our faces to shapeshift into unknown and potentially terrifying deformations? The answer lies in our brain’s penchant for selective processing. In simple terms, our brains can only handle so much information at a time. Right now, as you’re reading this article, you probably aren’t noticing the feeling of your clothes against your skin, the pattern of your breath, or any of the delicate sounds around you. Your brain simply turns a blind eye to these various stimuli to better focus on what it deems most important (right now, these words). Our sense of sight works no differently. When faced with an abundance of visual stimulation, only some of which are considered relevant, our brains will tune out the non-relevant parts.
This phenomenon is termed the Troxler Effect, discovered long ago in 1804 by a physician and philosopher named Ignaz Troxler. It is this effect that underlies many of the optical illusions you can find on the Internet. Stare at a red dot in the middle of a circle for long enough and suddenly the outside circle fades away and disappears. This is because your brain has deemed the outer edges irrelevant and it has lessened its processing burden by simply fading it out of our perceptual domain.
Having tried this experiment myself, I can attest that the effect is real. While I did not see or experience anything particularly traumatizing, I was nevertheless greeted with noticeable deformations in both shape and color along the outer edges of my face and eyes. My eye sockets, already deep-set by nature, appeared to sink further and further into my face, looking like two lunar craters. For those venturing to experiment with this effect, I admonish that the experience, while intriguing, can also be immensely uncomfortable.”
It’s also important to consider the myths and legends surrounding mirrors that we still take to heart, for example covering mirrors when a loved one passes. Some believe this is done out of respect for the dead while others think that an exposed mirror is an invitation for spirits to enter the home or for the spirit of the deceased to become trapped there on its journey out of the earthly realm. I still worry that I’ll incur 10 years of bad luck for breaking a mirror. I personally try to avoid looking into the mirror late at night when I’m on the way to the lavatory or the refrigerator. There’s something about gazing into a mirror at a face that you know is your own and seeing it shift in unfamiliar ways that cause my insides to buckle. I’ll even stand to the left of the medicine cabinet and open it to get out whatever I need and then leave it ajar while I take whatever med I’ve squirreled out of there, just to avoid looking at myself in the dim light. As Stanley said, it’s uncomfortable.
I’m not alone. Clearly, there are many, many other people who have experienced seeing their visage in a mirror in a dimly lit room and been frightened by what they saw. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Bloody Mary.
The legend itself is many-sided and many variations of it exist. For example, sometimes Bloody Mary appears after 3 chants of her name. Sometimes it’s 7. Sometimes it’s 13. Older versions of Mary Worth involved walking backward up a darkened staircase while holding a candle and a hand mirror, something I don’t think I’d be able to pull off so I’m glad that Bloody Mary evolved into a game played in front of a bathroom mirror. Or am I? In Japan, Hanako San haunts the bathroom and sometimes protects those who use it from other toilet ghosts. Just when you thought it was safe to go to the bathroom… Doesn’t Moaning Myrtle haunt the bathroom at Hogwarts? Also, isn’t it interesting that Japanese folklore contains stories about haunted bathrooms while most of the North American tales of haunted places revolve around basements or attics? That’s a tangent for another day.
I don’t think there’s anything scarier than dying in a toilet stall, except maybe having to ask the person in the can next to you for TP.
From an article by David Emery titled Explaining the Legend of Bloody Mary in the Mirror, “As best anyone can tell, the legend of Bloody Mary and its comparably gory variants emerged in the early 1960s as an adolescent party game. In most versions, there’s no connection drawn between the Bloody Mary whose ghost haunts bathroom mirrors and the British queen of the same name. Likewise, there is no apparent connection between the Mary Worth of the legend and the Mary Worth of comic strip fame.
Folklorist Alan Dunes has suggested that Bloody Mary is a metaphor for the onset of puberty in girls, describing both the fear of one’s body changing and the excitement of the taboo nature of sex. Others argue that the story is just the product of overactive childhood imagination. Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget describes this as “nominal realism,” the belief that words and thoughts can influence real-world events.”
Emery goes on to discuss the film Urban Legend (1998) and Candyman (1992,) two films I know I’ve spoken about on this podcast before. Can you say Candyman 5 times in front of a mirror in a dimly lit room and NOT think that Tony Todd, 6 feet 5 inches of him, is going to magically appear and rip you to shreds with his hook? I know I can’t. Snopes.com states that the folklore/legend of Bloody Mary/Mary Worth/Hell Mary only extends back to around 1978 when folklorist Janet Langlois published her essay on the topic, “Mary Whales, I Believe in You: Myth and Ritual Subdued”. At this time, belief in the legend was widespread. Generally, if there’s a sleepover and a bathroom with a large mirror, someone is going to suggest calling upon Bloody Mary. Why bathrooms? Langlois explains that most suburban bathrooms have large mirrors and generally have smaller windows making them darker. I think it’s likely because having to walk backwards up the stairs caused too many house fires and fatalities. I could be wrong.
Alan Dundes work Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety was published in Western Folklore, volume 57 in the 1990s. He disagrees with Langlois’ interpretation of the Bloody Mary legend. He also disagrees with Jan Harold Brunvand’s interpretation, a reaction to Brunvand’s work that’s a little odd given that Brunvand is the authority on many urban myths and legends (recommended reading: Encyclopedia of Urban Legends.) I certainly hang my hat on his work/research. Dundes admonishes Brunvand and Langlois for not investigating the legend more fully stating that, “if folklorists themselves are unwilling or unable to interpret folklore, they can scarcely blame others for holding the discipline in such low intellectual repute.” Yikes.
“What exactly does the reflection of Bloody Mary mean? Or is it essentially meaningless? And why does the ritual almost invariably take place in a bathroom? What is the significance, if any, of the names: Mary Worth, Mary Whales, Bloody Mary? No analysis of an item of folklore can be deemed complete unless it can explain all of the traits or details of that item. There are important clues in the texts reported by Langlois, clues which have thus far not been adequately explored by folklorists. For example, more than half of the texts she elicited herself (as opposed to those on file in the Indiana University folklore archives) were combined with the ‘Vanishing Hitchhiker”. So one additional question to be asked is why is the “Bloody Mary” ritual attached to this particular legend? Let us consider the first text presented by Langlois.
It was collected from twelve-year-old Anna L. in February of 1973:
- Have you heard about a dead girl called Mary Whales or Mary Worth?
- Yes, I’ve heard about Mary Whales. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t know much about her. All I know is that she stood on [the] corner when it rained and she had a long white dress on. and when someone stopped to give her a ride she would disappear in the back seat and just leave a wet spot with blood on the seat, and she wouldn’t be in [the] car anymore (1978:13).
What is noteworthy about this abbreviated legend is the reference to a “wet spot with blood” in the backseat of the car. There are numerous recorded versions of this popular legend (Motif E 3184.108.40.206, The Vanishing Hitchhiker; for more than one hundred references, see Bennett and Smith 1993:338). But in those versions where an object is left behind as “proof’ of the truth value of the legend, that object can be “a purse, a suitcase, a blanket, a sweater, a scarf or some other item of clothing, or simply footprints or water spots in the car” (Brunvand 1981:27). There is no mention of blood at all. Wet spots or footprints in the car are “often mentioned in connection with American vanishing hitchhikers,” notes Brunvand, the acknowledged authority on this and other modern legends, but “Why, or how, a spirit would get wet feet is not explained, though” (Brunvand 1993:251). The wetness motif is explained by neither the folk nor folklorist Brunvand. By now the astute reader may already suspect what the possible significance of the “Bloody Mary” ritual might be. But for those who may still be in the dark, let me present a small but representative sampling of 10 texts from more than seventy-five reports, collected in 1996 unless otherwise noted, from my undergraduate folklore students at the University of California, Berkeley.
Text 1: Bloody Mary During recess at school, you go into the girls’ bathroom. Your friends wait outside because only [one] person is allowed in at a time. One girl stands at the door to turn out the lights once you’re positioned in front of the mirror. Once the lights are out, you close your eyes and turn around three times. Then you open them and stare straight into the mirror and chant, “Bloody Mary, show your fright. Show your fright this starry night.” You have to chant slowly so she has time to come from the spirit world. Then you wait to see her face. Once you see her, you have to run out of the bathroom where your friends are waiting. If you’ve sinned or done anything evil in your life then you will have three scratches of blood on your cheek. (Learned in the third grade in 1983 at Apollo Elementary School in Bossier City, Louisiana by the female collector, age 20)
Text 2: A bunch of us young girls went into the bathroom to call Bloody Mary. We turned off the lights, turned around 5 times chanting “Bloody Mary” over and over; then stopped quickly and looked in the mirror We were supposed to look for a headless female in a white gown with a bloody knife in one hand and her head in the other. (Learned in California by a female, age 20, when she was between the ages of ten and twelve)
Text 3: A group of girls usually go into a dark room where a mirror is present. Then everyone starts chanting “Bloody Mary” until it appears. A woman’s bloody face will appear in the mirror. (Learned by a nineteen-year-old Mexican-American female in Riverbank, California, when she was in the sixth grade [circa 1989])
Text 4: Okay, you go into the bathroom and you turn out the lights and you turn around three times and you say “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” and then Bloody Mary’s head is supposed to appear on the mirror. (Learned by a sixteen-year-old Chinese-American female as a sixth-grader when she attended slumber parties in Palos Verdes in Southern California)
Text 5: If you go into a bathroom mirror every night for three nights, and you say “Bloody Mary” three times, then the first night a spot of blood appears and the second night, it’s a little bigger, and the third night, it’s supposed to be a woman’s face. (Collected in 1994 from a 22-year-old Irish-American female who learned it at a slumber party in Los Altos, California, in 1979, when she was a second-grader)
Text 6: To make Bloody Mary appear, you look into a mirror at midnight and chant “Bloody Mary” three times. You are then supposed to see your own bloodied face in the reflection. (Collected from a 23-year-old female who learned it in sixth grade in Fairfield, California)
Text 7: When I was in grade school (about fifth grade), I would go into the girls’ bathroom at St. Thomas Aquinas school [in Monterey Park, California] with two or three of my friends to see Bloody Mary. We turned off the lights, approached the four-foot-wide mirror, and sprinkled water on the mirror. After the sprinkling, we chanted, “Bloody Mary” three times in hopes of seeing her in the mirror. Then we flushed all of the toilets in the stalls and ran out of the bathroom. Bloody Mary’s mark would appear later on in the day through bleeding. For example, after I had completed the Bloody Mary ritual, I went to play frisbee during recess. In trying to catch the frisbee, I jammed my index finger, causing it to bleed. All of the girls who had done the Bloody Mary ritual with me attributed the bleeding to Bloody Mary. (Collected from a female, age 20)
Text 8: It can be any time of day, but you usually do it at night. You go into the bathroom, the hot water has to be on, you turn on the hot water full blast, and the bathroom has to have a mirror. Then you flush the toilet and as you’re flushing the toilet, you say, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary”-three times you say “Bloody 124 BLOODY MARY IN THE MIRROR Mary” and you turn three times while you’re saying it. and then you look in the mirror and some people say you see Bloody Mary. If you see her, she haunts your house. (Collected in 1995 from a 9-year-old female who learned the custom in the second grade at the Hamlin School for Girls in San Francisco)
Text 9: “Bloody Mary” You go into the bathroom at school, turn out the lights, and close the door. You can go by yourself or with two or three friends. I’m not positive, but I think boys can do it too if they want to. You light some red candles, like about three, and you put them in front of you in a triangle, two on a side and one in the front. Then you keep on chanting “Bloody Mary” like about three times or something. You’re sitting there and looking at the water in the toilet and chanting. And they say she will appear, her face in the water. Then you have a weird reaction or something and she pulls you down into the toilet and flushes your head down the toilet. And you never come back or something. (Collected from an 11-year-old Vietnamese-American female who learned it in third grade, in 1992, at Hellyer Elementary School in San Jose, California)
Text 10: When I was in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, many of the girls celebrated their birthdays (turning age 9, 10, 11) with a slumber party. I remember the game being played a few different ways. The idea was that you go into the bathroom alone and the light would be off, or there would be a candle or flashlight so that it would be barely visible in the bathroom. Then you were supposed to chant “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” as you look in the mirror After you say “Bloody Mary” three times, there were a couple of things that could happen: 1) An image of a woman covered with blood would appear in the mirror 2) You see your own reflection in the mirror but the mirror would soon be covered with blood so that it looked like you were covered in blood. At this point, the girls would either run out of the bathroom screaming or at some parties I remember the girls had to flush the toilet before they could come out. I think the toilet flushing was supposed to make the image go away, but no one ever stayed in the bathroom long enough to see anything disappear. As soon as they pushed the toilet lever, they would run out scared and screaming. The other version of Bloody Mary I remember goes like this: You say “Bloody Mary” three times, in a dark bathroom, but this time instead of looking at a mirror, you look at the toilet. After you finish the chant, the toilet water was supposed to turn red, or bloody, and then you had to flush the toilet in order to come out. Or, after the chant, you flush the toilet and as the toilet is flushing, the water turns red. (Collected from a 21-year-old Korean-American female who learned it in Downey, California, in 1978)
These ten texts should suffice to demonstrate both the traditionality and the gamut of variation of the Bloody Mary ritual. Moreover, it should be abundantly clear that this girls’ ritual has something to do with the onset of the first menses. The dramatic change from girlhood to womanhood is signaled physiologically by this catamenial condition.”
[Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety Author(s): Alan Dundes Source: Western Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 2/3 (Spring – Summer, 1998), pp. 119-135 Published by: Western States Folklore Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1500216 Accessed: 29/2/2020 3:12:37 PM CST]
Bloody Mary in the Mirror is available for free online through JSTOR. I’ll pop the link into the show notes for anyone who’d like to peruse the work further.
So, let’s talk a little about Mary Worth (Tudor). I know David Emery says there’s no connection between Bloody Mary and Mary Worth (Tudor), but I think it’s important to address the fact that Mary (if this is indeed the same Mary we’re talking about) earned her nickname. The monarch, daughter of Henry the 8th and Catherine of Aragon, was determined to make England a Catholic country (again with the religion, I know. Bear with me.) and burned an estimated 300 people at the stake for being Protestants. Mary was keen on conceiving a child to validate her marriage to Prince Philip of Spain once she took the throne in 1553. If you’ve never watched The Tudors, I heartily recommend it as all of the above is outlined in the show. Unfortunately for Mary, Philip was 10 years her junior and didn’t exactly have the same sexual desire or amorous feelings (he basically did what he had to do, punched the time clock as it were and went back to being all monarch-y) so when she did become pregnant, she was overjoyed. 6 weeks prior to the baby’s arrival, Mary sequestered herself with a handful of servants and excitedly awaited the arrival of (what she hoped would be) a male heir, but after her delivery date had been pushed back several times it appeared that no heir was on the horizon. It is thought that Mary, so desperate for a baby, had invented the pregnancy in her mind and her body had responded with the ceasing of her menstrual cycle and the bloating of her belly. It’s also speculated that Mary suffered from uterine or ovarian cancer, illnesses which, at the time, could only be treated with bloodletting. Mary believed that God was punishing her for her inability to conceive. She would never produce an heir and passed away at the age of 42.
In my opinion, there is some evidence that the story of Mary Tudor survives to this day in the form of the Bloody Mary urban legend. Bloody Mary often appears to those who chant her name holding a baby, the one she was not able to conceive in life. The burning of so many for their religious beliefs adds to the darkness of the tale. Perhaps those who relay the legend now are largely unaware of who Mary Worth actually was, but I think it’s entirely possible that way back when people believed the benevolent spirit of the English monarch appeared to them in the looking glass.
That’s it for this week, dear listeners. Thanks so much for tuning in and special thanks to those who shared their experiences with me for this episode. I’ll be back again next week with more tales of the creepy, weird, and paranormal.
Until next time, Stay Spooky!
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Dundes Article http://home.iscte-iul.pt/~fgvs/Dundes%20bloody.pdf
[Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety Author(s): Alan Dundes Source: Western Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 2/3 (Spring – Summer, 1998), pp. 119-135 Published by: Western States Folklore Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1500216 Accessed: 29/2/2020 3:12:37 PM CST]