Where Did We Get Bloody Mary? | Bloody Mary Origins

(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

Even been to a sleepover as a kid and had someone dare you to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and say “Bloody Mary” like 3 times? If you haven’t, the idea is that a ghost is supposed to look back at you. But… who is Bloody Mary anyway? Yes, we know a Bloody Mary is a cocktail. Feel free to drink one as you read this post. Also, props if you did this as a kid. Even if ghosts logically shouldn’t be real we don’t really want to mess with them on the off chance they are real. We’re not superstitious. But we are a little stitious. 

Mary I of England

Historically, Bloody Mary has been both a malevolent and benevolent spirit. Not that that really matters, because the Bloody Mary of folklore is based on Queen Mary I of England (Mary Tudor). She was born in 1516 and died in 1558; with her reign going from the years 1553-1558. Mary I was born to King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII is probably best remembered for being married to like 6 people; but also how incredibly petty over his marriages he was. Catherine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s first wife, and Henry VIII really wanted to marry other people or something–because he tried to get his marriage with Catherine annulled. This was mostly because Henry VIII wanted a male heir to the throne. 

The Pope didn’t much agree, and Henry VIII disagreed so hard he started the English Reformation, where the Church was separated from the authority of the Pope. 

Anyway, English royalty is weird. Back to Mary I. When she took the throne she was the first queen of both England and Ireland, and Queen Mary really wanted everyone to be Catholic. Her father, Henry VIII, was known for using accusations of heresy (maybe a little ironic) or treason to quell dissent against his rule. Most of the accused were executed. 

Mary I was almost not queen, since Henry VIII really didn’t want a woman to be heir to his throne. After annulling his marriage with Catherine, Henry VIII married her maid of honor Boleyn. Henry VIII and Boleyn had Elizabeth–which Henry VIII still wasn’t a fan of. But Boleyn pushed for Mary to be declared illegitimate, which ended up working. 

The Name Bloody Mary

Remember when we said Henry VIII really liked executing people who didn’t conform to his rule? Well like father like daughter, because when we said Mary I really wanted England to return to the Catholic Church we meant it. She ordered around 300 Protestants to be burned at the stake. This was quite the theatrical move, and is what gave her the nickname “Bloody Mary.”

Why did she want to persecute all the Protestants? Well Henry VIII married a lot of people, and eventually Mary’s younger half-brother Edward VI took the throne from 1547-1553. He was crowned king at like 9 years old, and was raised Protestant. He tried to deny Mary the throne, as she was Catholic, but Mary ended up rallying support and took the throne. So to say she had an axe to grind is kind of an understatement. 

The Bloody Mary Ghost

Mary was also a profoundly depressed person. Part of it probably had to do with how her father really didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t a boy. For most of her life Mary I was incredibly insecure and frustrated with her own femininity; not a surprise when her stepmom had her declared an illegitimate child because she was born a woman. You probably won’t be surprised to read that Mary I suffered from infamously painful menstrual cramps, something that would have been used against her already burgeoning insecurity about her sex. 

Mary I wanted to impress her father, and part of that was having a child to serve as heir to the throne. Eventually, she married a guy named Philip from Spain and became pregnant. Except she never had a kid, despite being recorded to have the symptoms of pregnancy. This is why part of the Bloody Mary legend also has babies involved. Either the ghost is going to come for your firstborn, or the ghost is carrying a baby in the mirror. 

As far as seeing a ghost in the mirror is concerned, hallucinating faces when looking into a mirror in the dark is actually fairly well-documented. Funnily enough, it appears that having depression makes it less likely to hallucinate faces in mirrors. Probably not the best way to self-diagnose, though. .


Speaking of Bloody Mary, see if you know what actually goes in one here.

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About Kyler 584 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and has just finished his undergraduate at the University of Washington. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019 and has accumulated so much random, general knowledge he'd rather not think about it. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.