Have you ever wondered what could have inspired ghost stories about mirrors? I remember a game while I was growing up called Bloody Mary. In this game you would have to go into a bathroom, flush the toilet 3 times, flick the lights on and off 3 times, then turn off all of the lights except for a small, dim light, look into the mirror, and say “Bloody Mary” 3 three times. Then, it is said that the face of Bloody Mary, the ghost of a girl who was accidently buried alive and had her ghost caught in a mirror a long time ago, would appear and scratch your eyes out.
Another ghost story about mirrors that I heard about while reading an article in Scientific American is a Spanish legend that says that anyone can see the Devil’s face. All you do is stare at your own face in the mirror at the stroke of midnight, call the Devil’s name, and the Prince of Darkness will look back at you.
I never tried the Devil’s face game as a kid, but some of my friends and I had tried Bloody Mary at summer camp one year. Nothing happened even though we still ran out of the bathroom scared. I believed that these games and stories were just make believe after that. Recently, however, I read about a study done by, psychologist, Giovanni B. Caputo. In this study participants were asked to look at their own faces in the mirror for 10 minutes. After doing so, participants seemed to experience a dissociative identity effect. They felt a sense of “otherness” and noticed that their faces would look distorted. Some of them said that they saw animals, ancestors, fantastical beings, or deformations. I have never had this happen when I look in the mirror, but Caputo recommends that, in order to see the faces the lighting should be dimmed so that we can experience attenuated color perception. I imagine that doing so would make it easier to trick your mind into seeing illusions as it tries to automatically fill in the gaps created by the muted colors.
How amazing it is that the mind can creates such images without us even knowing about it. I think that this trick can help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, even if it does seem a little scary. I believe that it could help us discover some of the archetypal images that we have in our mind.