5 Popular Legends Inspired By Real-Life Horror Stories

Published November 15, 2017
Updated March 12, 2024

Bloody Mary

Mary Tudor

Antonio Mors/Wikimedia CommonsMary Tudor of England

According to legend, if one stands in a darkened room before a mirror and says the phrase “Bloody Mary” three times, a ghost will appear. What happens next varies from teller to teller. Sometimes the ghost scratches out your eyes or drinks your blood. Other times, she simply curses you or chases you from the room with horrific shrieks.

In some versions of the story, someone who wants to summon the spirit needs to taunt her by asking where her dead baby went. And that version of the story could provide an important clue about where the origins of the legend lie.

Bloody Mary
History Uncovered Podcast
Episode 49: The Real Stories Behind The Legend Of Bloody Mary
From the tyrannical ruler who had hundreds burned at the stake to the "Blood Countess" who may have tortured and murdered 600 girls, these are the real stories that inspired the "Bloody Mary" legend.

The most likely explanation for where the legend comes from is the reign of Mary Tudor of England. Mary was a Catholic monarch¬†who presided over the often-violent persecution of her Protestant subjects, which earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Mary was also famous for a series of false pregnancies and miscarriages, which could explain the idea of the ghost having a dead child.

However, the idea that you may see something if you stare into a dark mirror actually seems to predate the Bloody Mary legend. Long before people believed you could summon a ghost through a mirror in a dark room, they believed that you could see the face of your future lover inside of it.

Researchers have determined that subjects who stare at their reflection in a dark room often begin to hallucinate strange faces in the mirror. It could be that the different mirror legends grew out of this fact and were eventually combined with the legend of “Bloody Mary” to give us the version we have today.

Wyatt Redd
A graduate of Belmont University with a Bachelor's in History and American University with a Master's in journalism, Wyatt Redd is a writer from Nashville, Tennessee who has worked with VOA and global news agency AFP.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.