What version of Bloody Mary were you told as a child? There’s Mary. There’s a mirror. There’s the risk of a bloody end. But, what words did you utter (and how many times)? What origin story were you told? Who was the real Bloody Mary? Mary Worth? Mary Weatherby? Mary Worthington? Mary Lou?
The ritual and biography of Bloody Mary has variations, and my favorite origin story begins at a farm in Lake County, Indiana with a young girl named Mary Whales.
Sometime during the 19th Century, there lived a belligerent farmer named Old Man Whales. Old Man Whales supplemented his farm income by catching and selling runaway slaves. An evil man, he only loved himself and his wife Virginia.
After the Civil War, Old Man Whales’ life crumbled around him. He lost income from his nefarious business and his wife died during childbirth.
But, Virginia left a beautiful gift on this earth: Mary.
Old Man Whales hated Mary. She represented the cause of Virginia’s death. Mary, in blond curls and dressed in dirty rags, was kind and hardworking. While her dad drank himself to sleep, she did most of the housekeeping and chores. The only thing that brought her happiness were books. Books allowed her to escape that small farm in Lake County.
One night, Old Man Whales came home especially drunk and angry. He marched into Mary’s room while she slept and stabbed her to death with the same knife he used to slaughter pigs. Her screams could not save her. He left her bloody body in the bed with her head nearly severed. He went to bed, proud of his work.
The next morning, Old Man Whales took her body and buried her in the basement. He thought it was the last he would see of his daughter. As these things go, it would not be.
Two nights later, Old Man Whales entered the house after doing his evening chores. Standing in the kitchen was Mary, smiling through a “knife-split mouth.” Her head dangled off her neck and pool of blood surrounded her feet. “Ffffaaaatttthhherrr…” she hissed, running towards him. He ran out of the house and spent the night in the barn.
The next day, Old Man Whales returned to the house and saw no signs of last night’s bloody incident. He blamed the alcohol and went about his life. A week later, as he read the newspaper next to the fire, Mary appeared again. She sat across the room from him, with her dress covered in blood and head moving about. She flew towards him, clutching knitting needles like knives. Old Man Whales ran out of the house and into the barn. He looked at his back and his shirt was bloody with knife-like gashes.
For days, Old Man Whales slept in the barn, but finally convinced himself that the image of his murdered daughter was just the whiskey. He decided to go back into the house one morning, clean up, and head into town.
When he looked into the mirror to start shaving, a face was peering back at him. Flesh fell from her pale face and through her sharp teeth Mary said, “Ffffaaaatttthhherrr.” Using her long nails she reached through the mirror and slapped Old Man Whales twice across the face. He fled again to the barn.
Old Man Whales thought he was safe in the barn, but heard a voice behind him: “”Ffffaaaatttthhherrr.” After he turned, she pointed to a noose hanging in the rafters. He began to climb up the ladder. The noose looked so welcoming…