Are mirrors haunted, and can they capture souls or reveal ghosts?
There are many famous haunted mirrors. One of the best known is the mirror at the entry hall of The Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana. According to one story, hand prints appear in the reflection — from the back of the mirror — no matter how often the mirror is resurfaced or replaced.
A set of 19th century mirrors at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas are rumored to have a supernatural connection. It may not be a happy connection.
According to the legends, the mirrors are backed with diamond dust. They were intended as a gift from the Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, to his wife, Carlota.
In 1867, the mirrors were in crates on their way to Maximilian when he was executed after his government collapsed.
His wife, Carlota, was in Europe at the time and she collapsed when she heard of his death. She never saw the mirrors, and they remained in storage for many years until an antiques store acquired them. However, few people wanted to buy the mirrors in case they were bad luck.
The Driskill Hotel bought them and now display them along facing walls in one of their meeting rooms. The mirrors reflect each other, so it’s like hundreds of ever-shrinking images as you see yourself in them. According to some stories, if you stare into those reflections for long enough, you’ll see the ghost of Carlota walk in back of you.
Mirrors are connected with many beliefs and legends.
Mirrors and bad luck
Most people know the superstition that breaking a mirror causes seven years’ bad luck. If this happens, the only “cure” is to take every piece of the mirror, including any dust from it, and bury it deep in the ground. (In some versions, it must be buried at the foot of a tree.)
If most (but not all) of the mirror is buried, some folklore says the person will have seven days of bad luck, instead.
The number seven is prominent in many superstitions, and may be based in the Bible, “And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land.” (Gen. 41:30)
Reflective surfaces of all kinds have been linked to the supernatural world. In ancient Greek legends, the gods observed mortals in a pool of water.
Through the 19th century, the link between water and a “haunted mirror” continued. The July 1855 issue of Putnam’s Monthly featured a story, The Plant-Mummies. In it, water was portrayed as something terrifying.
Here and there fierce gusts of wind, or strange powers from below, have torn the gloomy shroud asunder, and the dark, black waters stare at you, like the despairing eye of the dying sinner. Even the bright sun of heaven cannot light up the haunted mirror — its golden face looks pale and leaden. No fish swims in the inhospitable water; no boat passes swiftly from shore to shore. Whatever has life and dreads death, flees the treacherous moor.
It’s poetic and well-written, but hardly ghostly.
Mirrors, astral travel and Feng Shui
Do mirrors reflect the spirit as it travels in the dream state? Some people who practice Feng Shui (the ancient art of placement) believe so.
If someone isn’t sleeping well, the remedy is to cover or remove all mirrors and reflective surfaces from the bedroom. The spirit body of the person — traveling in the dream state or astral travel — sees its reflection (or lack of one) and is so startled, it disrupts the person’s sleep.
Mirrors and death
Here’s another broken-mirror legend: If a mirror falls and breaks without anyone touching it, it predicts the death of someone in the house.
Some people insist on covering a mirror in a room where someone has recently died, to prevent the Devil from stealing the person’s soul. Legends say that he created mirrors so he can grab the soul through the person’s reflection.
Others cover all mirrors in a bereaved house. In some folklore, that’s so people won’t see the wraith of the recently departed, reflected in a mirror.
Bloody Mary mirror legends
Since at least the early 1970s, the “Bloody Mary” legend has been popular, especially among teens. The tale suggests that if you say “Bloody Mary” (or Mary’s actual name, such as Mary Worth, Mary Worthington or Mary Buckley) a certain number of times (usually three, five or thirteen times) at midnight, she will appear in your mirror and she may attack you.
A related tale says that you must say, “Bloody Mary, I killed your baby” three times at midnight, and she’ll appear in the mirror you hold. This may relate to the original “Bloody Mary,” Queen Mary I of England. After Mary had several miscarriages and died at age 42, the throne passed to her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I.
Regional variations of that story appear across the United States. Nighttime visitors to the street near one New Hampshire cemetery claim to summon a ghost by saying three times, “Betty Gilson, I have your baby.” However, there’s no mention of a mirror in that tale.
Haunted mirrors in horror movies and TV shows
- In the 1992 movie, Candyman, the one-armed angry ghost is summoned by saying his name five times in front of a mirror.
- In the 1996 X-Files episode, Syzygy, a Bloody Mary mirror legend is part of the story.
- In the 1998 movie, Urban Legend, college students summon a demon by saying “Bloody Mary” repeatedly in front of a mirror.
If you believe in coincidence, the RMS Queen Mary — a retired ocean liner docked in California — is supposed to be one of the world’s most haunted ships.
(In 1972, her sister ship, the RMS Queen Elizabeth, mysteriously caught fire while being refurbished in Hong Kong. The water that put out the fire also capsized the ship, and she was scrapped where she lay.)
The legend of Bloody Mary is a continuing cultural reference, including the 2011 song Bloody Mary by Lady Gaga, with lyrics including, “When you’re gone (Gaga), I’ll still be Bloody Mary (Gaga).”
Mirrors and fortune telling
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, mirrors became even more linked to the supernatural world. Her court magician, John Dee, used a scrying mirror to predict the future.
Since the 17th century — and perhaps earlier — mirrors have been used for fortune-telling. Special scrying mirrors — sometimes black mirrors — are often used.
In Snow White, the evil queen is famous for chanting, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Of course, the mirror showed her the correct answer.
In the Harry Potter books, gazing into the Mirror of Erised didn’t necessarily reveal the future. It showed what the person most desired to see.
Today, stores selling fortune telling supplies often carry a wide range of scrying mirrors.
Several rituals involve looking in a mirror, perhaps at Halloween or at midnight, and you’ll see the face of your future husband. However, if you’ll die before marriage, you’ll see the face of Death or the cowl of the “grim reaper”… or so the story claims.
Mirrors – a connection to the supernatural world?
From earliest times, people have instinctively associated reflections and mirrors with the supernatural world. There’s no simple explanation for that, and that belief crosses all cultures. There are no “lucky mirror” stories.
Are mirrors more likely to be haunted, compared with other objects? Maybe. If the price tag on a secondhand mirror seems a little too low, ask its history before taking it home.
If the seller looks nervous when you ask, it’s best to leave that mirror at the store or yard sale.
- Wikipedia – Bloody Mary (legend)
- SupernaturalWiki.com – Bloody Mary (urban legend)
- Haunted Mirrors – Haunted America Tours
- Center for Skeptical Inquiry: Superstition Bash/Mirrors
- The Crossbones, by Patrick Carman
- Wikipedia – Maximilian I of Mexico
- Wikipedia – RMS Queen Mary
- Bloody Mary Tudor legends
- Snopes.com: More Bloody Mary legends
- Supernatural episode (Season 1, Ep. 5): Bloody Mary
- Putnam’s Monthly, July 1855 – The Plant-Mummies
If you’re amused by the idea of a haunted mirror, you can make a pretend version. Click here for instructions. (Webpage opens in a new window.)