Bloody Mary and Other Childhood Games

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This week in my notebook, I returned to distant memories of when I would summon supernatural forces. A few sleepovers stuck out in my mind of innocent child play with dark consequences. At one sleepover, two older girls told me that they had summoned Bloody Mary in the mirror. Rolling up her sleeve to reveal their lower arm, one girl exclaimed, “And look, she reached her arm through the mirror and scratched my arm.” For a good six months, I refused to shower without the bathroom door open. I wouldn’t even think “Bloody Mary” three times in a row while peeing.

tumblr_ney778I1G51tjydheo3_500At another sleepover (which also involved a choreographed gymnastic routine to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill), we preformed the spells we saw in the movie The Craft. We were very unsuccessful at recreating the levitation scene. Maybe we didn’t say “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” with enough conviction.

While some of the actual details of these memories are blurry, I remember the feeling of walking without caution into the mysterious darkness of the paranormal. And that was more exciting than watching Now and Then for the 100th time (well maybe not).

Today, I wanted to explore 3 sleepover games and their histories (of what I could find): Blood Mary, Light as a Feather/Stiff as a Board, and Concentrate.

Bloody Mary

The legend of Bloody Mary has many variations and summoning methods. “Historically,” Wikipedia explains, “the ritual encouraged young women to walk up a flight of stairs backwards while holding a candle and a hand mirror, in a darkened house. As they gazed into the mirror, they were supposed to be able to catch a view of their future husband’s face.” Sometimes (and his is where it takes a rather dark turn), a skull or the Grim Reaper might appear instead, forecasting death before marriage.Halloween-card-mirror-2

In more modern times, this form of catoptromancy (divination using a mirror) has attached itself to the peculiar “Bloody Mary.” I was told you must chant her name 3 or 7 times in front of a mirror in a pitch black room (sometimes with lit candles).

We must ask: who is Bloody Mary? Some believe it is Queen Mary I. One version say Bloody Mary is a witch that was burned alive during the Salem Witch Trials. Another version says she was a hitchhiker that was murdered with a hook. These are just a few theories.

Although we cannot identify who the woman is behind the mirror, stories complied have one thing in common: it is scary as hell. Legend says that Mary screams, curses, tries to steal your soul, drinks your blood, or scratches your eyes out. While I have yet to find an actual death certificate stating “eyes scratched out by a vengeful mirror spirit,” I will not risk this chant in the mirror.

So what explanation might explain seeing Bloody Mary in the mirror? Some argue that staring at a mirror in a dimly lit room might cause hallucinations. Or it could be self hypnosis!  Or Troxler’s Fading! Still not convinced? Maybe it’s because you are a menstruating teen girl. Benjamin Radford at Discovery.com writes:

Folklorist Alan Dundes, writing in the journal “Western Folklore,” adopts a Freudian take. Noting that the action always occurs in a bathroom, sometimes involves a toilet, and often includes the sudden appearance of blood, Dundes argues that the Bloody Mary ritual is associated with the onset of menstruation and is a form of ritual initiation to womanhood for many teen girls.

Huh.

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board (LAAFSAAB)

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board required that one person lie down (arms crossed on chest, eyes closed) while others sat around the person and placed one or two finger tips of each hand under their body. Then, the participants doing the heavy lifting chanted “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” repeatedly until the person lying down levitated in the air. Other versions recommend having someone sit in a chair.

According to Wikipedia, this game could have started in 17th century London:

The game could be seen played in 17th century London during the plague outbreak. Samuel Pepys, a naval administrator noted this being performed as a sort of ward against the disease. In his conversation with his friend Mr. Brisband on July 31, 1665, Pepys reported, “He saw four little girls, very young ones, all kneeling, each of them, upon one knee; and one begun the first line, whispering in the ear of the next, and the second to the third, and the third to the fourth, and she to the first. Then the first begun the second line, and so round quite through, and putting each one finger only to a boy that lay flat upon his back on the ground, as if he was dead; at the end of the words, they did with their four fingers raise this boy high as they could reach, and he [Mr. Brisband] being there, and wondering at it, as also being afeared to see it, for they would have had him to have bore a part in saying the words, in the roome of one of the little girles that was so young that they could hardly make her learn to repeat the words, did, for feare there might be some sleight used in it by the boy, or that the boy might be light, call the cook of the house, a very lusty fellow, as Sir G. Carteret’s cook, who is very big, and they did raise him in just the same manner.” Pepys also spoke of the chant that accompanied this performance.

Other mentions of it occur throughout history, as described on Urban Outfitter’s blog:
1862: In the book The Magician’s Own Book, or the Whole Art of Conjuring by Arnold George and Frank Cahill, a game of LAAFSAAB is described as having been played successfully at a large party in Venice using the heaviest man at the party. No confirmation on whether or not this was a rad slumber party.
1940: Boarding school girls were keeping the magical LAAFSAAB alive during the ’40s. An English boarding school teacher who saw the game being played was recorded as saying, “Whether by self hypnosis or not I do not know…it was more like real magic than anything I have ever seen.” Dude, get with the program. It IS real magic! Duh! *insert major eyeroll here*

So…is this real magic or is there a reasonable explanation? Some argue weight is equally distributed, but I still need to figure out how to do it before I can support such a claim.

Concentrate

Another game I remembered this week was Concentrate: a game that results in you finding out how you die. Much more morbid than I remember. The game works as such (Source):

Two people play.  One person sits behind the other.  The person seated has their eyes closed and is silent. The second person sitting behind them says:

(Every time they say this, they pound lightly on the person’s back with both fists)
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.
People are dying. Children are crying.
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.
(Verse 1: Tap the person on the top of their head with your fist and run your hands down both sides of their head)
Crack an egg on your head.
Let the yolk run down. Let the yolk run down.
Crack an egg on your head.
Let the yolk run down. Let the yolk run down.
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.
People are dying. Children are crying.
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.

Then it gets creepier…

(Poke the person, then mimic running hands down both sides of their back)
Stick ten needles in your sides.
Let the blood drip down. Let the blood drip down.
Stick ten needles in your sides.
Let the blood drip down. Let the blood drip down.
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.
People are dying. Children are crying.
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.
(Tap them on the back with their fist, then run their hands down their back)
Stab a knife in your back.
Let the blood drip down. Let the blood drip down.
Stab a knife in your back.
Let the blood drip down. Let the blood drip down.
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.
People are dying. Children are crying.
Concentrate. Concentrate.
Concentrate on what I’m saying.
(Mimic wrapping a rope around their neck and then pull the imaginary rope. The person’s head should move back as if they are being hung.)
Wrap a rope around your neck.
Wrap it till it’s tight.
Wrap a rope around your neck.
And… PULL!

As if this is creepy enough, now you tell them that they’re on the top of a building and someone pushes them off- The person narrating this entire thing pushes them and quickly asks “What color did you see?”… and THAT determines how they die:

Red means they are going to be stabbed.
Blue means they will drown in water.
Yellow means they will be poisoned.
Orange means they will burn to death in a fire.
Green means they will fall from a height and die on grass.
Purple means they will suffocate.
Brown means they will be buried alive.
Grey means they will die of a disease in hospital.
White means they will die of old age and go to Heaven.
Black means they will die of old age and go to hell.

I am still searching for the origins of this creepy sing-song poem. So for now: hey, do you remember doing this? Let’s talk.

Please (please!) share any spooky games you remember playing at sleepovers in the comments below!

I have also talked about the Ouija Board and its history in a past post, which I know was another popular sleepover game.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Bloody Mary and Other Childhood Games

  1. Wow hadn’t thought about that last one in so long…. Cray. I can’t even THINK about Bloody Mary or look in a mirror I’m the dark. Still think about that one. Is the craft on Netflix????….. Checking…

    Like

    1. Thanks for the visit!

      Bloody Mary still scares me and I would never do it, because I’m a big baby. The Craft was on Netflix at some point!

      Like

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