If you could only see in the mirror what I seeVulnerable – Secondhand Serenade
One of the first ghost stories I ever heard was of Mary Worth. As a child, my family would frequently visit my cousin’s house in Chicago. Our parents would shove all the kids in the basement to “play” while they enjoyed themselves upstairs. Of course, without proper adult supervision, we got into all kinds of high jinx. One of the most memorable party games we played was calling on Mary Worth.
Who is Mary Worth, you ask? Well, Mary Worth is what I would call the Chicago version of Bloody Mary. Legend has it that if you stand in the dark, in front of a mirror, and say, “I don’t believe in Mary Worth” over and over again, Mary will appear in the mirror before you. There were kids who disappeared across Chicagoland chanting this utterance all by themselves. Some people got lucky, and were only scratched. Then there were those who just ran out of the room screaming in terror (like me). I swear Mary blew out a lit candle and then reignited it again right in front of my eyes! If Mary Worth does appear to you or you begin to feel the effects of her powers, all you had to do was recite the counter-curse, “I believe in Mary Worth,” and she would disappear.
The real Mary Worth was supposedly a witch that lived in Lake County, Illinois, north of Chicago, in the city of Gurnee, in the 1860s. Most of the stories I came across described Mary as being a member of the reverse underground railroad. The reverse underground railroad would lure runaway slaves to “safety,” capture the slaves, and then return them South. According to legend, Mary Worth would torture and kill the slaves who sought her asylum. She would use their bodies for dark rituals and witchcraft. When locals discovered her devious ways, they burned Mary Worth at the stake for being a witch. While she was burning, she cursed the townspeople, telling them that she would return to those who persecuted her by appearing in their mirrors. Some say she was buried in St. Patrick’ Cemetery nearby. Others say that she was buried on her land since her body could not be laid to rest on consecrated grounds. Later, any house that was built upon her grave would burn to the ground.
Another version of the story, tells of a Mary Worth who lived on the outskirts of town. A conjure woman who would prepare tinctures and treatments for the townspeople. While the townspeople would come to her to treat their ailments, they were suspicious of the strange woman. Their suspicions grew when young girls began disappearing throughout the town. The people noticed Mary Worth, once an old woman, began to look more and more youthful after each disappearance. They soon discovered that Mary was enchanting these girls, killing them, and using their blood to restore her youth. A raging mob hunted down Mary Worth and burned her at the stake. Once again, she vowed her bloody return through the villagers’ mirrors.
Others claim that Mary Worth or Bloody Mary is really Queen Mary I of England. This cruel queen is known for her prosecution of Protestants. She burned hundreds of her dissenters at the stake. Rumor has it, she continues to torment those who oppose her by scratching out their eyes when she’s summoned in the mirror.
Who do you think Mary Worth was? And more importantly, do you believe in her?