Dangerous Games to Play in the Dark

Lucia Peters

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Dangerous Games to Play in the Dark, by Lucia Peters. In this compendium, Peters assembles the scariest and riskiest supernatural games from history, around the world, and the deepest trenches of the internet, including Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather, and The Answer Man. But be careful when you play—because some of the entities you may contact won’t always play by the rules.

Game: Bloody Mary

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Risk Level: High

Additional Warnings: Fire

Objective: Summon Bloody Mary

Reward: Proof of your bravery

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The roots of the mirror game known as Bloody Mary stretch back to a folk tradition practiced by young people in the 19th century. It was said that if you walked backward up a staircase in a darkened house at night, passing a mirror as you went, you would see reflected in the mirror one of two things: the face of the person you were destined to marry, or a skull. If the skull appeared, it meant that you were destined to die before you got the chance to marry anyone.

Bloody Mary itself, meanwhile, appears to have come along somewhat later, although exactly when is a little hazy. We do know that the legend was firmly established in the United States by the 1970s: Folklorist Janet Langlois’s essay, “Mary Whales, I Believe in You,” published in Indiana Folklore: A Reader in 1976, features several versions of the legend which Langlois had gathered throughout the early ’70s.

And as for who Bloody Mary is? Well, that changes depending on who you’re talking to. To some, she’s Mary Worth, who may have been either a Puritan woman who was tried and executed for witchcraft, or a woman who was killed in a car crash more recently. To others, she’s Mary Whales, who might be the aforementioned car crash victim or a vanishing hitchhiker-type spirit. Some say she’s the vengeful spirit of a mother who lost her child. Still others say she’s Mary Tudor, the Queen of England who reigned from 1553 to 1558 and became known as “Bloody Mary” for the executions she carried out against Protestants in an effort to restore Catholicism to England.

For what it’s worth, some have suggested a scientific explanation for the spirit’s appearance: It’s said that staring into a mirror in low-light conditions for lengthy amounts of time causes our perception of what we’re seeing to distort and become monstrous. Perhaps the true monsters are simply reflections of ourselves.

No matter what you believe, though, one thing is absolutely clear: If you try to summon Bloody Mary, you do it purely for the challenge of surviving the encounter.

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  1. Choose your playing space. You may play this game in virtually any indoor setting; the only requirement is that your playing space be capable of total blackout conditions, with no light bleeding in from the outside. An interior room without windows, such as a bathroom, is ideal. If the only options available to you have windows, be sure to block them fully.
  2. Gather your supplies. You will need a candle, matches or a lighter, and a mirror.
  3. Wait until nightfall, then bring your supplies to the playing space and enter it alone. If you haven’t already, prepare the room: block the windows, set up the mirror if necessary, turn out the lights, light the candle, and place it in front of the mirror.
  4. Face the mirror. Make eye contact with yourself. Be brave; be fearless. Take a deep breath. And when you are ready, begin repeating the name “Bloody Mary.”

Say it aloud, beginning softly, but adding volume with each repetition. Repeat it once, twice, three times—all the way up to thirteen repetitions.

Thirteen is the magic number. Speak the thirteenth repetition with finality. Then, stop.

  1. Look in the mirror.

Look harder.

What do you see? Is it just yourself?

Are you sure?

Look again—but stand back.

Do not place yourself within arms’ reach of the mirror.

She might scream at you, but you can handle screaming.

If she’s able to grab you, though? There’s no coming back from that.

  1. If you survive the experience, extinguish the candle, turn on the lights, and leave the room.

Do not use the mirror again.


A flashlight may be substituted for the candle; however, the success of the summoning may be somewhat less predictable.

Should the method described here fail to achieve the desired result, several variations may be employed in subsequent attempts:

  • Begin the game precisely at midnight.
  • Chant the name “Bloody Mary” three times instead of thirteen.
  • Chant the name “Bloody Mary” seven times instead of thirteen.
  • Run the water in the sink while chanting Bloody Mary’s name.
  • Instead of gazing into the mirror while chanting Bloody Mary’s name, spin slowly in place. After the twelfth repetition, stop spinning, face the mirror, and chant the thirteenth repetition while looking into the mirror.
  • Replace the chant of “Bloody Mary” with the chant “Bloody Mary, I stole your baby.”
  • Replace the chant of “Bloody Mary” with the chant “I believe in Mary Worth.”
  • There are no guaranteed ways to dispel Bloody Mary once she has been summoned, although various methods have been proposed. Some sources recommend drawing a cross on the mirror with soap for the three nights following the completion of the ritual. Others recommend burning sage in the playing space or flicking vinegar in the four corners of the room. You may, of course, try these methods, but don’t count on them working.
  • Do not break the mirror.
  • You wouldn’t want to let her out, would you?


From Dangerous Games to Play in the Dark by Lucia Peters. Used with the permission of the publisher, Chronicle. Copyright © 2019 by Lucia Peters.

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