You walk into the bathroom at the urging of your friends.  The mirror is lit by a single candle.  You face the mirror and stare deep into the reflection.  You chant her name thirteen times.  As the last repetition fades, an crone appears behind you and hands you a drink—

Whoops. Wrong Bloody Mary.

The legend of Bloody Mary, or Mary Worth, or Mary Whales, or any of a half dozen names is familiar to any girl who has gone to a sleepover.  Depending on the version of the story, Mary Worth was a witch executed for practicing black magic.  Or she was a local woman who was in a car accident, leaving her face horribly scarred before she died.  To summon her, you take a candle into an unlit bathroom and chant her name three or thirteen times either staring into the mirror or spinning around.  Your fate for summoning her is to have your eyes ripped from their sockets and your face scarred, to be found dead in a pool of your own blood, or to end up trapped in the mirror with Bloody Mary for all eternity.

The original Mary can’t be traced to one person.  There is a belief that she was based on a victim of the Salem Witch Trials.  Others believe she was conglomeration of Queen Mary I of England and Elizabeth Bathory.  The variants of the tale that draw from Queen Mary I also invoke her baby, since she had numerous miscarriages. These, crossed over with catoptromancy , or staring into a mirror to divine the future, may have been the source of the legend.

Skeptics dismiss the visions as the result of optical illusions or self-hynopsis. Spirit or hallucination, I wouldn’t want to meet the entity known as Bloody Mary, even if she only offered me a drink.