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10 Feb 2010

: Haunted Mirrors :

What is it about a reflective bit of glass that freaks us out?

There is an old belief, some would say, a superstition, that when someone dies mirrors should be covered. Otherwise, the dead person's soul can become trapped inside the mirror. Some older members of my family do this.
The connection between the soul and mirrors is an enduring one that, I believe, has influenced related associations.

Mirrors, and occasionally other reflective surfaces, are a popular tool in horror flicks and thrillers.

They are used to show worlds we can't usually see, or an image of ourselves we wouldn't normally detect. Sometimes the room as it was at a particular point in the past.

The Haunted Mirror, 1960

Somehow, seeing a killer or ghost suddenly appear in a mirror is more disturbing than simply seeing it face on. Perhaps having something appear behind us touches a vulnerable nerve?

They are also spooky in what they don't show, such as a vampire. Again the soul connection, as vampires are not supposed to have one.

The earliest mirrors in film and written story usually had powers, to see the truth, the future, or to answer questions.
Mirror, mirror on the wall..

Or were enchanted in some way.

Some are tools for sorcery.


In classic films mirrors are often ornate, sometimes feeling part of a fantastical reality. Whereas in modern films, it's usually the unassuming bathroom mirror. Something about that room. There we are vulnerable, being half-awake, partially dressed, unwell, or simply feeling secure in our most intimate domestic area.

While this seems to reflect the contemporary aesthetics, it also seems to work with how mirrors were perceived. Classic film mirrors are usually the haunted sort, or held a certain power. Whilst in modern film it's what we see that is of uppermost importance.

link Part of a horror anthology, only 20mins short.

What I enjoy, is when what is seen in the mirror disappears when the person turns. It's as if mirrors were portals, or psychic eyes. And, after turning, not seeing what you thought you just saw is a push into insanity. I love that psychological edginess. Such as when a character sees a different face, doesn't this 'reflect' our concept of the shadow self, or the dark half?

It's such a cliched yet effective scare tool that it's even used in reverse. Such as when a character stands in front of a mirror and adjusts it...... we hold our breath. And exhale when nothing shows up.


Do you remember? Did you dare to say Candyman three times? Or Bloody Mary?

More theme thursday participants.

15 comments:

  1. Great Post.. I love this .. Doing Theme Thursday is like being back in school.

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  2. Very cool! I've always loved the cinematic trope of the spooky mirror, so this was a lot of fun to read.

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  3. Cool post. When I lived alone I avoided looking in mirrors because I was always scared what I might see - the funny thing being that I often saw ghosts around me, and never minded it, but somehow seeing them *in the mirror* was a much scarier proposition! ;-)

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  4. Ooh yeah. I like this post too.
    I've seen "something" in a mirror before, years ago. Not a pleasant feeling.
    And I've just finished reading Mirror, Mirror (Gregory Maguire - retelling of Snow White) so I have mirrors on the brain right now.

    And it also puts me in mind of that Salvador Dali painting of him painting a little girl and he's standing behind her and he's looking up, startled as she's sitting in front of the mirror; and in the mirror is her face as an old woman. You probably know the one. It used to scare me as a child.

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  5. Great post. We share the same belief that mirrors and magic are very close bedfellows.

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  6. Nettles - yes definitely know the one! Mirrors are depicted tons in art works. I think a thesis could be written about mirrors in art/film.

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  7. someof the scariest shots involve the mirror...mirrors and magic....i like that. happy tt!

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  8. I'm covering my mirrors today.

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  9. Magic and mirrors...the allure of both...wow!

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  10. Amazing how many horror movies have used that old mirror scare tactic...

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  11. I've never seen that old 60's movie....sounds like a good movie night pick!

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  12. OR, when the person opens the medicine cabinet and another person is inside it!

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  13. Hah! I'm always doing the Candyman/Bloody Mary thing. I'm not sure if it's because my breath stinks or what, but neither ever seems to show up.

    :(

    ;)

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  14. I'm a pragmatist a skeptic but I am NOT saying Bloody Mary three times in front of a mirror. You know I think all these legends and myths are actually a backlash against vanity. My gran used to say that if I looked into the mirror for too long, my 'face would stay that way' . . I was about 10 at the time and rather wish that it was true! Great post.

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