The legend of Bloody Mary

[Episode 15 | 1868 : Minna]

Minna and some of her friends play the game 'Bloody Mary' and scare each other with stories about what she is like. After Minna breaks their mirror, she decides to give the neighbourhood boys a fright by crawling under their house and making strange noises.


The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [2]

Activity 1: Scaredy cat
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Subtheme(s): Beliefs; Customs and traditions; Entertainment and games
  • After watching the clip The legend of Bloody Mary, ask students to list the main events in this part of the story, thinking about what happened, why it happened and to whom. Have students share their responses and discuss, listing the main ideas for further reference. 
  • Ask students to indicate by standing on a physical 'opinion continuum' whether they think it is unfair for Minna to frighten the boys. To do this, create an imaginary line across the classroom floor, or use a piece of wool or string to create a line, and then ask students to stand along the line to show whether they agree or disagree with the statement, 'It was unfair for Minna to frighten the boys'. 
  • Each student can stand at any point along the line to show the strength of his or her opinion. When asked, each student must be prepared to explain the point of view indicated by their position on the line. Students can change position while listening to each other.

  • Ask the students to use Student Activity Sheet E15.1: Scaredy cat to help them conduct research about the legend. They could use the first two columns before they begin their research and fill in the last column after completing the research.
  • As a class, research and discuss:
  1. What were the children doing at the start of the clip?
  2. Had you heard of the legend of Bloody Mary before watching this clip?
  3. What is a ha'penny and why was the boy holding it out?
  4. What do you need to do to summon Bloody Mary?
  5. What sort of mirror was Minna holding that was dropped and broken? Who do you think owned the mirror?
  6. Why do you think the boy call Minna a scaredy cat?
  7. Why do you think Minna decided to frighten the boys?
  • Ask students to invent their own superstition and create a legend around it to justify its existence. The legend could be set in the student's own neighbourhood.


Activity 2: Spooky stories
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Subtheme(s): Beliefs; Entertainment and games; Fashion
  • After watching the clip, ask students to outline the story it tells. What does that story suggest about the beliefs of the children?
  • Replay the clip, this time directing students' attention to the way the filmmaker uses costume, props, setting, camera angles and the soundtrack (including silence) to help tell the story. Then pause the clip to ask questions such as:
  1. Why do you think a small, ornate hand mirror was selected as a prop for this clip?
  2. Why do you think the boys are wearing suits and the girls are wearing long dresses and hats?
  3. Why do you think the soundtrack changes from dramatic music to silence as the boy hands the mirror to Minna? What effect does this have on the viewer?
  4. What effect do you think the close-up shot of Minna's eye has when she is under the floorboards?
  5. Why might the filmmaker have included a shadowy shot looking up at the boys from beneath the floorboards?
  6. How does the dark shot looking past the tree trunk make you feel?
  • Organise the class into five groups and ask each group to view the clip several times to closely examine one of the following elements:
  1. costume
  2. props
  3. setting
  4. camera angles
  5. soundtrack (including silence).
  • Ask each group to record their findings on Student Activity Sheet E15.2: Spooky stories and then report them to the class.

  • Ask each student to find out more about the legend of Bloody Mary. Suggest aspects they might investigate such as reasons why and how Mary became an evil spirit, the number of times you need to chant her name, the possible effects of chanting her name, and when and where the tale was and is usually told. Ask them to discover if there are any similar legends.
  • Challenge each student to find another spooky story and to practice telling it, ready to share with the class. Seat students in a circle to share their findings about the legend of Bloody Mary and ask them to share any other spooky stories they have discovered. Encourage the students to find a mixture of stories from Australian and international sources.
  • Ask each student to write a summary in their own words of the legend or story they have researched. These could be compiled into a book of spooky stories made up of contributions from the entire class.
  • Alternatively, students could model an image of their spook/ghost or legend out of clay or plasticine. The model could be displayed with the story in the school library.


Student Activity Sheet E15.2: Spooky stories

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