Modern myths still pervade North American societies. Many of these modern myths were the products of Indian folklore or pre-modern American society. Although many claimed that such myths were a form of religious fanaticism or fervor, it can be argued that they were the result of historical speculation of early North American societies of their immediate environment. These modern myths are nonetheless powerful and to some extent influenced the behavior of many noted American personalities. Here is an example of a modern North American myth.
Urban Legend: Bloody Mary (Schlosser, 2006)
There was a young woman who sleeps deep in the forest. Her livelihood was selling herbal medicines in a nearby village. The townspeople though regarded her as a witch; hence no one dared to approach her, even the hardest criminal in the area. Many believed that whoever talk or approach her would be cursed or sold to the devil. She was feared indeed. Then, little girls in the town began to disappear. No traces of the girls were found. Families of the disappeared girls began to search; in the farms, barnyards, and even the forest. Some of the men went to the house of Bloody Mary, but altogether she denied all allegations.
The men noted that Bloody Mary looked younger and more attractive. They became suspicious of Bloody Mary, although no proof cold be found. Then one night, the daughter of the miller rose from her sleep and began to walk outside as if following an incantation. The wife of the miller saw the incident and reported it immediately to her husband. The two restrained the girl indiscriminately in order to prevent her from breaking away. Many people were awakened by the cries of the couple. Then, a farmer shouted that the cause of the incident is coming from the woods.
Then, some people saw Bloody Mary holding a magic wand pointed to the house of the miller. When Bloody Mary saw the angry townspeople, she fled to the woods. A keen shooter farmer loaded his gun with silver bullets and shot the witch in the hip. Bloody Mary was carried by the townspeople to the field, where a large bonfire was awaiting her death. As Bloody Mary burned, she screamed a curse. If anyone mentioned her name before a darkened mirror, she would send her spirit to revenge upon them for her death. Unmarked graves of the little girls were found by the townspeople. They learned that Bloody Mary used to drink the blood of her victims to make her young again. It was passed on from generations to generations that whoever chants Bloody Mary three times on a darkened mirror, this would summon the vengeful spirit and rips the body and soul of the person.
Social Significance of the Myth (Bloody Mary)
The social significance of the myth discussed above can be seen in the various movies and accreditation the myth received from the movie industry. The myth is a powerful tool of revenue creation as with this specific industry. In the past 30 years, there were about 500 versions of this myth, all focusing on the “horror” part of the film, that is, the darkened mirror and the chanting of the words “Bloody Mary.” It is of no doubt that because Bloody Mary films became successful ventures, it is right to assume that its basis, the original myth, still exerts considerable influence on the part of the audience.
According to the Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature, urban legends and myths are usually defined as “apocryphal contemporary stories, told as true and usually attributed to as friend of a friend.” In most instances, the myth of Bloody Mary is perceived to be true by virtue of the fact that the story is assumed to be true by the storyteller. Although the story is non-existential or in short not real, the audience may find it true because of the way the “channel.” Because the channel presents the story as “true”, the receiver nonetheless assumes it to be also true.
The channel here maybe defined as “the means of acquiring the information about the particular myth or urban legend (as in this case).” Movies and bonfire storytelling are the most efficient and effective means of transmitting the myth from one person to the other, without losing the track of credibility. It is no wonder that most Bloody Mary films are inconclusive, that is, they left the audience wondering whether the myth was true or not (to make a room for affirmation of the myth). Now it is safe to assume that even in North American societies, particularly in the United States, the myth of Bloody Mary pervades in some aspects of life.
Children, particularly girls, are told of the story of Bloody Mary by their parents as a means for exacting obedience (negative reinforcement). For those in their teenage years, the story of Bloody Mary serves as a background check for their behavior. They prevent themselves from going to forests without the guide of adult individuals. They also stay away from dark places with mirrors for fear that the myth may prove to be true. Although for them, the story of Bloody Mary is factual since there were individuals who reported that they saw Bloody Mary ripping the body of their friends.
Going back to the definition of a myth or urban legend, the storyteller assumes that his/her story is true in order for the audience to feel its negative effect (affirmation of the story). There were reported cases when robbers were scared to their “pants” when they entered a house (without electricity) with a darkened mirror in the entertainment room. There were also reported cases when a man brushing her teeth in a nightclub and jokingly uttered Bloody Mary three times.
A face appeared before him. He ran outside the club shouting that Bloody Mary did exist. He promised that he would never visit the nightclub. The woman who appeared to him was a prostitute, not Bloody Mary. This proves that even though the myth is not real, people usually perceives it as real. The primary cause of such behavior is the channel that make the story real or “seem real.” The myth is as powerful as before. Although it can be assumed that its effects on the values of an individual may be accidental and in many cases derived from the characters of Bloody Mary films.
Schlosser, S.E. 2006. Bloody Mary. URL http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2009/10/bloody_mary.html. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
1800 Myths, Legends, and Folklore Links. URL http://www.mysteries-megasite.com/. Retrieved September 19, 2007.