May 2nd, 2012 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Blah |

The Bloody Mary Illusion

by Ghastly McNasty

Not the after affect of a heavy night on the pop, the Bloody Mary Illusion is an old urban legend and fun-time party game played at sleepovers around the world. There are many variations of the story but the general gist involves staring in to a mirror and repeating the name “Bloody Mary” somewhere between 3 and 14 times. (Think of it as an old school version of The Candy Man.) Other methods include chanting more than three times, chanting at midnight, spinning around, rubbing one’s eyes, running the water, or chanting her name thirteen times with a lit candle. In some versions of the legend, the summoner must say, “Bloody Mary, I killed your baby.”

It is said that if Bloody Mary is summoned, she would proceed to kill the summoner in an extremely violent way, such as ripping the face off, scratching the eyes out, cutting the head off, driving them insane, dragging them into the mirror with her or causing serious injury or death. Alternatively, if she doesn’t kill the one who summoned her then she will haunt them for the rest of their life.

While this urban myth is just a bit of fun, and ideal for proving how brave you are in front of college girls wearing nothing but tight t-shirts and knickers, there lurks a small element of truth in the story! Stare in to a mirror, and after a short time, you will begin to see an unfamilar face staring back. Go on try it. I dare you!

A recent report from the Department of Psychology at the University of Urbino has just published a paper on this optical illusion. Giovanni B Caputo’s Strange-face-in-the-mirror illusion study asked 50 unsuspecting volunteers to stare in to a mirror for 10 minutes. When questioned after many of the test subjects reported seeing…

huge deformations of one’s own face (reported by 66% of the fifty participants); a parent’s face with traits changed (18%), of whom 8% were still alive and 10% were deceased; an unknown person (28%); an archetypal face, such as that of an old woman, a child, or a portrait of an ancestor (28%); an animal face such as that of a cat, pig, or lion (18%); fantastical and monstrous beings (48%).

However, the paper also found:

…the frequent apparition of fantastical and monstrous beings, and of animal faces cannot, in our opinion, be explained by any actual theory of face processing. Neither constructive approaches nor top down accounts seem to provide adequate explanations.

it continues…

The participants reported that apparition of new faces in the mirror caused sensations of otherness when the new face appeared to be that of another, unknown person or strange `other’ looking at him/her from within or beyond the mirror. All fifty participants experienced some form of this dissociative identity effect.

Spooky, huh?

Did you try it yourself? If you did, you will likely have experienced one of the strange visions listed above. This, sadly, has nothing to do with the supernatural. Caputo attributes these visions as a variation on something known as the Troxler Effect. Discovered by Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler, back in 1804, it is part of the general principle in sensory systems that an unvarying stimulus soon disappears from our awareness. In otherwords, if you stare at something for long enough, your brain gets bored and begins to fill in the information for you. Have a look at the image below or visit Moillusions for more optical illusions.

Regardless of the cause, these illusions can be pretty creepy. If you want to give yourself a scare this Halloween, you can try it out and see for yourself. The best method is to use a 25 watt incandescent light, placed behind you so that you can’t see the light directly or it’s reflection, and five to ten minutes of staring at yourself in the mirror (from about 1.5 – 2 feet away). The low-level lighting that makes colour perception difficult and should increase the likelyhood of a trippy visual.

Bloody Mary Recipe
A quick recipe to mix one up and try it for yourself. Add dashes of Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper into highball glass, then pour all ingredients into highball with ice cubes. Stir gently. Garnish with celery stalk and lemon wedge (optional). Served On the rocks; poured over ice.


  • 45ml (3 parts) Vodka
  • 90ml (6 parts) Tomato juice
  • 15ml (1 part) Lemon juice

Drink 13 of these and we guarantee you’ll be seeing all sorts of weird!

by Ghastly McNasty

Theatre of Terror

Get a Trackback link


  • c.c, September 4, 2012:

    dat shi cra

Leave a comment

Top 20 Gespenster Geschichten Covers Lovecraft’s Adventures of Tintin

Now Showing Hallowscream Horror Comic Anthology
Horror Comic Covers
Horror Art

  • Recent Comments

  • Your Horrible Hosts on The Theatre of Terror
    Ghastly McNasty

    Do you want to join the Scream team? We're looking for enthusiastic people to contribute articles on horror or comics here on The Theatre of Terror. Contact me for more info.

    Horror News Network

    Courtesy of the
    Horror News Network

    The Horrors Of It All

    The Horrors Of It All is an award winning website which has been delivering top class pre-code horror comic scans for over 10 years.

    Courtesy of the The Horrors Of It All

  • Backstage