Grab a lit candle, find a mirror, and chant her name 3x! This week, we summon our guest from all the way the across the pond - the legendary phantom-in-the-reflection herself, BLOODY MARY (Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary)! She is voiced by the equally legendary Ash Millman, video presenter and content producer for Playstation Access & formerly WhatCulture Horror. Follow Ash Millman on Instagram and Twitter @ashmillman.
Take what you know about this centuries-enduring ghost story and toss it out like yesterday's fish & chips, as we discuss three contributing real-life histories that created this campfire cocktail: Queen Mary I, Mary, Queen of Scots, and the blood-bathing Countess Elizabeth Báthory. We also touch on Hanako-San, the Japanese Yokai in the form of a young school girl who haunts the lavatories, as well as several psychological explanations for many of the horrific testimonies akin to Bloody Mary over the years.
You can check us out on Spotify, Apple, Listen Notes, Deezer, Podchaser, Audible, iHeart Radio, and other podcast directories as well as right here on our very own website. We encourage you to share our podcast with others, leave reviews on Apple Podcast, and catch up with any episodes you missed! It would really mean a lot.
Give us a follow on Instagram @thetalegatepodcast. Tell us stories of your own encounters & any local legends you would like us to explore, or reach out if you would fancy a guest spot on our show or would like to feature us on yours by shooting an email to TheTalegatePodcast@gmail.com!
See you later, Talegaters!
"Bloody Mary" played by Ash Millman
“Cheese Head” played by Aaron Sherry
“Florida Man” played by Harrison Foreman
"Talegate Theme" by Mat Jones
Written & Edited by Harrison Foreman
THE TALEGATE: BLOODY MARY (ft Ash Millman)
FLORIDA MAN: Howdy folks, and welcome to The Talegate!
CHEESEHEAD: For those of you just joining us, we’re on a roadtrip across America to uncover the mysteries behind tall tales, fairy tales, folktales, fishtales, & urban legends, one interview at a time.
FM: We inherited a truck from our late Granny May and discovered that the crystal hanging off the rearview mirror was more than decorative. It’s a Dowsing Pendulum leading us to the good folks behind the tales we all grew up with.
CH: We accidentally stole a canopic jar belonging to the mummy of Pharaoh Ay, who placed a death curse on us. But fret not, Talegaters, because all we have to do is reunite the jar with the other by the next blood moon to break the Mummy’s Curse.
FM: We’ll ship that sonabitch right back to the museum ‘fore ya know it and avoid having our souls forfeited to Anubis. Ain’t no thang. With that, I’m Harrison, the Florida Man.
CH: And I’m Aaron the Cheesehead. And tonight we are in [Dallas Hotel?].
FM: But before we get down to business, what drink you, ah, mixin’ there, Cheesehead?
CH: Oh you mean this buttload of tomato juice and vodka? I’m making Bloody Marys! Obviously.
FM: Why? What’s wrong with beer? Yanno, if it ain’t broke. Plus, I think there’s more to Bloody Mary’s then just straight up tomato juice and vodka.
CH: Like what?
FM: Uh, think there’s tabasco, pepper, lime, horseradish, celery… it’s a cocktail, man.
CH: Baaah, I got the essentials, we’ll be fine.
FM: You at least grab some top shelf vodka? Or hell, I’d settle for mid.
CH: Ah, let’s see here… Smirnoff?
FM: So that’s a hard “no.” What’s else it got on the label there?
CH: The label? ...Oh, it appears to be a granny smith apple. That’s a weird label for a corn-based beverage.
FM: Ain’t a weird label it’s Green Apple Vodka! Ew, man, I ain’t drinkin’ that shit. We got anything else?
FM: Alright, then I’m reluctantly drinking that shit. Pass it over.
CH: Here yah go, buddy. Cheers.
FM: Hate to tell you this, man, but this shit’s awful. And why on earth you mixin’ a third one there?
CH: For today’s guest!
FM: Damn, you must really hate today’s guest. Who’d you book, Mike Zimmer? Paul Logan?
CH: A little more on the nose. Hey Florida Man, be a pal and light that candle for me real quick.
FM: Thissun here? No prob.
CH: Now switch off the lights for me, will yah?
FM: Can do. Mind explainin’ what all this is about?
CH: Sure. but first, just gaze into that mirror real quick and say “Bloody Mary” three times with me.
CH/FM: Bloody Mary--
FM: Wait, whoa whoa whoa. We’re summoning Bloody Mary?
CH: Yah. That’s kind of why I made Bloody Marys and chanted her name three times into a mirror.
FM: What if she tries to kill us?
CH: We shove this nasty ass drink down her gullet and run.
FM: Damn, you actually thought this through. Let’s do this, then.
CH/FM: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, ...Bloody Mary.
FM: So, um… anything supposed to happen?
CH: She should be here any second now.
FM: And if not, what happens then?
CH: Guess we finish her drink for her. No sense in wasting perfectly good alcohol.
FM: I think we got very different definitions of “perfectly good.”
[glass/ice cracking sounds]
FM: You hear that?
CH: Hear what? Whoa, check out the mirror, it’s fracturing like a spider’s web.
[Cracking intensifies; screaming coming in from a far distance]
FM: Hear that, Cheesehead?
CH: Oh shoot. Arm yourself with that third cup!
FM: Got it.
[Cracking sound is piercing]
MARY: [Gasp] What the actual FUCK? [Licks lips] What even is this, rat poison? Lye? It’s truly dreadful, whichever the case.
CH: Oh, it’s a Bloody Mary.
MARY: A Bloody Mary? You having a laugh, or are all Bloody Marys in America made of spaghetti sauce and turpentine?
FM: Depends on the bar.
MARY: Well, whoever mixed this unholy backwash properly bodged it.
CH: Oh yah, that would be me. Care to have a drink with us and have a chat?
MARY: As near unforgivingly nasty as this your cocktail is, I could absolutely kill for a drink right
FM: Please don’t.
MARY: What are you going to do to stop me?
CH: Offer yah a fresh cocktail, dontcha know!
MARY: [mixes, sips] I’d say this drink is more a cock up more than a cocktail, but it’s been a day
so I’ll take what I can get.
FM: Mighty big thanks for sparin’ us from your ethereal wrath. How ‘bout we get things started then?
MARY: You have until I choke down this unholy concoction, so make it quick. [Sip & gag]
On second thought, this might actually be a while.
PART TWO: LEGEND OF BLOODY MARY
CH: So Bloody Mary, you are quite possibly the most household urban legend in the
western world, with an equally common urban legend in the East, being that of Hanako-san, or Hanako of the Toilet.
MARY: Yes, Hanako-San: that little nipper from Japan making a pastime of haunting girl’s lavatories. Classy, that one.
CH: Japanese spirits such as these, are known as yōkai, meaning “apparition.” Though not
all of them are murderers and mischief-makers. Some yōkai are actually believed to be quite helpful.
FM: Aw! I just looked up pictures Hanako-San and she’s pretty adorable with red
Suspenders like Dennis the Menace and that little bob haircut.
MARY: Hanako looks sweet as Cadbury, but I assure you, she is quite nasty-- you know, like
an American chocolate bar. Between she and I, I drew the long straw. I much prefer haunting mirrors than the loo.
CH: Wait, what do you have against American candy bars?
MARY: It’s waxy and dull. Hershey tastes more like you’re eating a chocolate-scented candle
than a proper chocolate bar. Though next to this sad drink you made me, I reckon anything is palatable.
CH: You’re welcome, Hershey.
FM: We’re gonna switch back to the topic of mirrors right quick. According to my recollections
and research, you are a product stemmin’ from a divination ritual known as Catoptromancy [keh-TOP-treh-mancy]. That being the summoning of soothsaying spirits through use of mirrors.
MARY: Wow, look who suddenly thinks they’re an expert because he discovered Encyclopedia
FM: Wait, what? Nah, Mary. Nobody uses Britanica no more, hardly even use real books at all.
Research usually starts with Wikipedia these days.
MARY: Wikipedia? Drat, I thought I was up-to-date on academic reference material.
CH: No worries! Wikipedia is like a digital, endless Encyclopedia Britannica; only it’s updated
and edited daily by a fleet of dedicated fact-checkers.
MARY: Dedicated fact-checkers? Scholars, you mean?
CH: Well, actually, no. Not “scholars” exactly. More like very passionate average people. You
definitely wouldn’t use Wikipedia on academic citations, is what I’m saying. That would flunk you real quick.
MARY: And yet you boys use it anyway? I guess that tells me all I need to know regarding the
merit of your little show here.
MARY: Well, I will save you a trip to your Wikipedia. My legend is pretty basic: venture into dark
quarters with a mirror. Call to me by voicing, “Bloody Mary” three times in a row, and Vwa-Lah. I shall appear before the summoner... and murder them 99.9 percent of the time.
CH: And the other .1 percent?
MARY: You, not to put too fine a point on it.
CH: Wowzers, we’re the first summoners you haven’t killed?
MARY: For now.
FM: Yikes. I’ve heard alternative spins on your summoning ritual over the years, some with
candles, some in pitch darkness, some where the summoners spin three times in tandem with chantin’ your name. Your name even changes, pendin’ who you ask. Mary Worth or Hell Mary, for example.
MARY: I reckon you could twirl if you fancy it, but that’s far from necessary. Apropos to my
name, Bloody Mary, Hell Mary, Mary Worth... it’s all just semantics.
And, while I can be summoned in total darkness, bloody hell, throw me a bone! Candles, nightlights, bloody glow worms for all I care. Some light--ANY light is appreciated. It is just common courtesy.
FM: One thing that does seem to run consistently throughout your legend is saying your name
three times, also known the “Rule of Three.” A trope to anyone who knows a lick about the horror genre.
MARY: You mean there are other characters out there who stole my ritual?
FM: More or less, yea. South Park used this ritual to summon Biggie Smalls. CandyMan is
summoned by saying his name repeatedly, only five times instead of three.
CH: And you can’t forget the Ghost with the Most!
MARY: Ghost with the Most? Takes a real pair to claim that title.
CH: Beetlejuice is a movie from 1988 starring Michael Keaton as the titular ghost.
MARY: Ah, of course, you boys refer to works of fiction, meanwhile, you have an actual real
fucking ghost staring your in the face.
FM: Is there something about the number three that’s important? Like, it is evil or somethin’?
MARY: Mathematicians qualify an “Evil Number” as any non-negative number that has an even
number of 1s in its binary expansion.
FM: I’ll pretend to know what the hell that means.
MARY: But the number three is both a divisor and digit-length of 666, which is probably the most
iconically evil number. “Mark of the Beast,” they call it.
CH: But why is Candy Man summoned after a five-count? Five doesn’t sound so evil.
MARY: Have you ever heard of a pentagram?
PART THREE: HISTORY BEHIND THE MYTH
FM: Movin’ on, I’d love to hear more about the historical context behind your enduring ghost
story. Care to share, Miss Mary?
CH: Yah, what happened to you in the past to make you haunt mirrors over multiple centuries?
MARY: A lot.
CH: Ah, okay. Guess we’re done here then.
FM: Yep, pack it up. That’s all, folks!
MARY: God blind me. As it happens, there are many points in history attributed to my story.
Three stand out the most, some you are even likely familiar with. I’ll order them chronologically for the sake of clarity.
FM: Sounds like the plan. Guessin’ first on the list were Queen Mary?
MARY: Ah, but which Queen Mary?
FM: You mean, there’s two Queen Marys?
FM: Uh… maybe, then, the second one?
CH: I’m guessing the first one!
MARY: “Mary the First One.” Close enough. It was a trick question because they are both tied to
my legend. Queen Mary I was coronated in 1553 but only reigned until 1558 when she died of what’s now known as ovarian or uterine cancer. Tragic, really.
CH: Was she a good queen at least?
MARY: Matter of opinion. She re-established Roman Catholicism in Britain, to replace the
Church of England, which is lovely if Roman Catholicism is your thing.
FM: Not particularly.
MARY: Naturally, a good many protestants were rather unamused. This on top of the fact that
England was riddled with flood and famine at the time.
CH: Floods, eh?
MARY: Floods which drowned out crops. Forced peasants to live in their own stagnant, waist-deep filth. It was bad times for sure.
FM: But you can’t fault the girl for the weather.
MARY: Sure you can, if you’re protestant.
CH: Yah, but at least her religious over-turn was a big win for Catholics.
MARY: That was her defining achievement, for sure. However her sister Elizabeth reversed this as soon as Mary died, which was only five years after she received the crown.
FM: Damn, that’s sad. She ain’t got a successor or nothin’? A child to take her place?
MARY: She sure thought she did. Her husband, Philip of Spain, visited her where she was thought to have become impregnated.
CH: “Thought to have?”
MARY: Correct. Turns out that she was never actually pregnant. Alas, it was a false pregnancy. She bore no child. Just blood. Lots and lots of blood.
CH: Jesus, Mary, Joseph. How does all of this tragedy tie into the legend of Bloody Mary?
MARY: Remember how I said Mary turned the tables on The Church of England? This made her rather unpopular and garnished deep resentment from a majority of commoners.
FM: Got anything to do with the fact that Tudor England burned folks at the stake for heresy?
MARY: Absolutely. But despite the gratuitous liters of protestant-blood being shed under her short reign, execution for heresy was about as common in England as public hanging in the American West.
FM: So she weren’t so bad as she was made out to be, is what you’re saying?
MARY: Many influential people started painting the image of her of a great tyrannical evil with an unquenchable thirst for blood. While this isn’t fully accurate, it did lead to the charming little nickname, Bloody Mary.
CH: That’s actually kind of depressing. So what about Mary II then? Was she just guilty by association?
MARY: The second Queen Mary was known as Mary, Queen of Scots, as she ruled Scotland from 1542 to 1567.
FM: What I remember about Mary of Scots is that she were Catholic herself and weren’t exactly taken in open arms by the people of England. And according to Wikipedia--
MARY: Here we go…
FM: England was protestant again after the passing of Mary I, having been reinstated by her sister and acting queen, Elizabeth.
MARY: Which I have already stated.
FM: While Mary of Scots had a legitimate claim to the throne, the King of England revoked her family from ever laying claim.
CH: And it says here, according to Wikipedia...
MARY: Good lord.
CH: ...That France backed up Mary of Scot’s claim but could only do so much. After years of controversy, Queen Elizabeth I had Mary confined to various castles. After nearly two decades and an alleged assassination attempt on Elizabeth, Mary of Scots was eventually executed.
FM: Yikes. So that’s where the “bloody” part comes in, I reckon?
CH: Oh man, yah. Apparently the executioner completely botched her beheading, first striking the back of her skull with his axe, then not following through her neck with the second strike.
MARY: Not to mention, the oaf grabbed her by her red mane and cried, “God Save the Queen,” only to watch in horror as her head slipped out from the wig he was holding to the collective gasps of the now-scarred-for-life audience.
FM: Holy shit. So the first Mary died without an heir and her legacy disgraced, while Mary of Scots held the legitimate claim but was beheaded ‘cause the folks of England thought it was fake news? That’s super sad. Not sure I wanna hear whatever torture the third Mary was bound to endure.
MARY: So the third contributing part to the Bloody Mary legend isn’t from a girl named Mary, but Elizabeth.
CH: So two Marys and two Elizabeths? England must have had a terribly small name pool in the
MARY: Titles and names held a lot of sway back then. It was a powerful statement to carry the name of former rulers and Biblical heroines. But, Elizabeth Bathory, as you’ll soon find, was not half so innocent as the previous entries.
CH: Wait… Bathory...Bathory. Wasn’t she the Queen who murdered virgins and bathed in their blood to stay young?
MARY: Correct, and all that without consulting Wikipedia. Look at you.
CH: I know that your compliment is facetious, but I’ll take it.
MARY: Elizabeth was not a Queen of England, but Hungarian nobility whose infamous deeds lend her the nickname, “Blood Countess.”
FM: Fitting for a lady out there drainin’ virgins like faucets for blood baths.
MARY: Oh you sad simple fool. She did far more than bathe in blood. In fact, her captives would have probably cut their own throats to fill the tub for her if they knew what she had in mind for them.
CH: Fuck me! It says right here on...
MARY: Don’t to say it.
MARY: You’re embarrassing yourself.
CH: ...that, after her husband died, “The Bloody Countess” started taking peasant virgins and torturing them for the sake of staying youthful and carried on completely unchecked for six years! Once her small town ran dry of virgin girls, she invited the daughters of lower nobles to her castle to “study.” Only to relentlessly torture and murder them with the aid of a few other lady accomplices.
FM: According to historycollection.com, the tortures included being “scalded with white-hot tongs before being dunked in freezing water. Being drenched in honey and slowly devoured by ants. Some would be burned, mutilated, and even cannibalized.”
MARY: She was a real nasty one. And good on you for finding a legitimate source for once.
CH: It was only a matter of time before the King of Hungry caught wind of these horrors and promptly arrested her and her accomplices. Her cronies were tortured and burned alive. Elizabeth Bathory was enclosed within a windowless stone room, where she remained for the following four years before finally dying herself.
FM: Well then, the question remains: which one of these ladies are you?
MARY: In a way, all of them. These women all contributed to ghost stories which evolved into my own. If enough people believe that a bad bitch is going to pop out of their mirror when they deliberately try to summon her, she probably will.
PART FOUR: OTHER CULPRITS
FM: With all the scary shit out of the way, a lot of folk see things in the mirror which they attribute to you. However, they live to tell the tale. I’d like to talk about the culprits behind this case of mistaken identity, since, if that had actually seen the real you, they’d be dead as doornails.
MARY: I’m all for it.
FM: Aight, first bit of mirror-trickery on the list comes from Giovanni Caputo of the University of Urbino. He talks about a visual phenomenon called the "strange-face illusion.”
MARY: Are you saying I have a strange face?
FM: His words, not mine! Anyway Strange-face Illusion is some sort of brain misfire called a "dissociative identity effect,” which is an out-of-body experience or sometimes the feeling of being in a different body all together. Folk see themselves both in and out of body, which could give the illusion of seeing a different-bodied being reflected back at them.
He also says, in the article, “Visual Perception during Mirror-Gazing at One’s Own Face in Patients with Depression,” it also happens with people afflicted with depression or low self-esteem
MARY: That’s fucking pretty wild.
CH: There is also the more commonly known Troxler’s Fading.
MARY: Commonly known? I’ve been around for centuries and never heard of it.
FM: I’m with the lady on this one.
CH: It’s a popular optical illusion where, when you focus on a small point for long enough, other surrounding images or colors disappear or reappear. And, for those of you listening, we’ll be posting some examples of this on our Instagram @thetalegatepodcast, so you can try it at home.
MARY: I think part of the reason why people believe to have seen me, or at least some form or me in their mirror is due to the human’s fascination with faces. I believe it’s called Pareidolia [pair-aye-DOE-lee-uh].
CH: Like how plug outlets look like OMG emojis?
FM: There is actually a pretty active subreddit on this phenomenon. People seeing Jesus in their toast, volcanic rocks looking like Cookie Monster. The kinds of images you can’t really unsee.
[straw slurping bottom of cup]
MARY: Can’t believe I actually finished this dreadful drink.
PART FIVE: BLOODY MARY IN POP CULTURE
CH: Well, before you faze back into the mirror -- Oh wait, you actually shattered the mirror when you burst through it earlier so I’m not even sure how you’d get back in…
MARY: I casually meander around until I find a new mirror. Burst back through it. Scare the living shit out of the poor souls around to witness it. Pretty standard practice.
FM: If you say so. Anyway, I'd like to talk right quick about your influence on pop-culture, cause it’s pretty extensive.
CH: Oh yah, between 2000 and 2010, you were the focus of four horror films, plus in 2018 you were featured in the brazilian horror comedy, Ghost Killers VS Bloody Mary.
MARY: Ghost Killers? Is that Brazilian version of Ghostbusters?
CH: I have no clue.
FM: That don’t scratch the surface, because you’ve been seen in countless television programs as well. X-Files, Charmed, and Supernatural to name a few.
MARY: High praise.
CH: My favorite portrayal of you came in 2008, when Bloody Mary was the Icon of Halloween Horror Nights, an event at Universal Studios housing numerous haunted mazes and shows. Your house itself was pretty weak, but the website they created was the best they’ve ever done. It was immersive, creepy, and added new depth to your legend.
MARY: I love the idea of a haunted house based on Bloody Mary! The agents at Universal should have hired me.
CH: Yah, but then you’d kill the park-goers.
MARY: Precisely. Give the fans the full experience!
FM: Not sure that would bode well for Universal’s future profit margins.
PART SIX: FAREWELL
MARY: Their loss. Anyway, as I said, I’ve somehow managed to guzzle down the entirety of your god-awful beverage, and props to you. You managed to create a Bloody Mary a great deal scarier than the real thing.
CH: Why, thank you.
FM: Pretty sure that was an insult, Cheesehead.
CH: Again, I’ll Take what I can get. Anyway folks, like what you heard? Be sure to subscribe to The Talegate Podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or any other podcast directory, and give us a rating while you’re at it. It would really help us out.
FM: And for any questions, corrections, or personal stories you’d like us to share, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow us on Instagram for photos, cast info, updates, and more.
MARY: And for those of you at home who would like to meet me, give me a call by entering a dimly lit room and saying my name three times into the mirror. Go ahead. I dare you.
CH: What could go wrong?
FM: See You Later, Talegaters!
MARY: Thank you all for joining us on the latest episode of The Talegate Podcast! Bloody Mary is played by Ash Millman. You can follow her on Instagram & Twitter @ashmillman and subscribe to Playstation Access on Youtube to view her horror video game-related content. [Add any other plugs you wish]
Aaron the Cheesehead is played by Aaron Sherry, you can check him out on his Youtube channel, So Can You and on Instagram @aaronunabridged. Harrison the Florida Man is played by Harrison Foreman. Theme Song is performed by Mat Jones. This episode is written and edited by Harrison Foreman. Their. Loss.