Previously: The Black God Ritual.
Note: Please don’t copy/paste or republish the text of this post on other websites without permission.
There is virtually no information about the mirror ritual game called Black Helen available online. The only definitive sources are a pair of identical Reddit posts published to two different subreddits (probably by the same user) three days apart: One on the r/urbanlegends subreddit on May 30, 2018, and the other on r/threekings on June 2 that same year. I tried searching for just about every combination of key terms you can imagine drawn from these posts… and I still came up empty.
To me, though, it seems likely that Black Helen is a regional variation on a ritual many likely know quite well: Bloody Mary.
According to a comment further down the r/urbanlegends thread from the original poster, they’re from the UK and went to school in Yorkshire; indeed, school is where they recalled playing it. So, if it’s regional, this at least gives us a location — although it’s possible that the legend is even more hyperspecific than that. In the original post, the Redditor noted that “it feels like we’re the only school who did it,” suggesting that Black Helen isn’t just a regional game, but that it’s a game particular to one specific school within that region. If that’s the case, it is, as the Redditor observed, odd that it didn’t spread beyond this single school; urban legends do have a tendency to take on a life of their own, after all.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Unfortunately, I can’t reach out to the Redditor who posted it to find out more about their experience with the game (such as precisely when they played it); they’ve seemingly deleted their account. I don’t even know what their username was. But one other Redditor drew an interesting parallel between Black Helen and another game — one they’d grown up playing in Sweden. It’s called Svarta Madam or Svarta Madame, which translates to something like Black Lady or Black Madame.
Like Bloody Mary, there are numerous variations on exactly how Svarta Madam should be played; they range from simply standing before a mirror and chanting “Svarta Madame, I don’t believe in you” 12 times to repeating something a little more complicated — “Svarta Madame, Svarta Madame, daughter of the devil, show yourself,” for instance — and performing some other ritualistic action, such as splashing water on the mirror, as you do so.
There are a couple of things I find notable about this game in relation to the others: The fact that one of the chants is specifically about stating that you don’t believe in Svarta Madame, and the connections between the names of the entity in question.
The first point struck a chord with me due to it essentially being a reversal of one of the chants associated with the Bloody Mary legend. According to one version collected by Janet Langlois in her landmark 1978 work on the legend, the chant is “I do believe in Mary Whales.” Yet here, the point is not to coax Svarta Madame out by telling her you believe in her, but to challenge her to appear by telling her you don’t believe in her.
And then there’s the name itself. Black Helen and Black Madame obviously share some DNA. Several sources also note that variations like Black Molly, Black Mary, and Bloody Black Madame have also been played in Sweden at various points — particularly in the 1970s (around the time that Langlois was working on “Mary Whales, I Believe In You,” interestingly) — but that Svarta Madame eventually came out on top. Clearly there’s been some cross-pollination between these legends over the years, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Black Helen could have been a result of such cross-pollination.
For what it’s worth, there’s also a piece on the Creepypasta Wikia published in April of 2018 called “Red Helen.” Besides being another mirror ritual, however, there isn’t much in common between it and Black Helen; it also reads more like a piece of fiction than something that’s actually meant to be performed. Because of this, I believe it to be unrelated to the Black Helen game and legend.
Either way, though… play at your own risk.
- At least two principals: One Scribe, and one or more Speaker(s).
- A mirror. This mirror should be large enough for you to be able to see your entire face reflected back at you when you look into it. (See: Additional Notes.)
- A room in which you are not likely to be disturbed. This room must have at least one lamp, overhead light, or other source of light within it. It may include as one of its features a mirror already present. (See: Additional Notes.)
- Black paint. (See: Additional Notes.)
- A sterilized pin.
- A lighter.
- A candle (optional; to be used in conjunction with the lighter).
- A cloth or small hand towel.
- Begin at any time.
- Gather together the required supplies. Choose a room in which to play.
- Gather together the players and determine which player is to be the Scribe and which player or players are to be the Speaker(s). Also determine which of the Speaker(s) will operate the playing space’s light switch, if more than one Speaker is playing.
- Bring all supplies and players to your chosen playing space. Keep the lights on within the playing space for now.
- Set up the mirror, if necessary: Hang it on the wall; stand it up on a table or counter top; whatever you need to do in order to ensure that it will stand on its own.
- Gather the players and supplies and stand before the mirror.
- Close the door.
- Once the door has been closed, have all players — both Scribe and Speaker(s) — chant aloud, together, the name “Black Helen.” Chant this name a total of three times in unison.
- Next, the Speaker(s) must speak aloud the first question, in unison: “Where is she?”
- After the Speaker(s) have asked the first question, the Scribe must dip their finger in the black paint and use it to draw a stick figure on the mirror. The stick figure may be painted anywhere on the mirror, and need not be an elaborate illustration; indeed, the simpler, the better. However, the stick figure should be no taller than the length of your index finger.
- Next, the Speaker(s) must speak aloud the second question, in unison: “Where are her eyes?”
- After the Speaker(s) have asked the second question, the Scribe must give the stick figure eyes. To do so, the Scribe should use the sterilized pin to prick their finger until they draw blood, then press their bloody finger to the mirror and dot the stick figure’s eyes.
- Next, the Speaker(s) must speak aloud the third question, in unison: “Where are her friends?”
- After the Speaker(s) have asked the third question, the Scribe must either light the lighter, or use the lighter to the candle (if using). The Scribe must then hold the flame to the stick figure and speak their own name aloud.
- The Scribe should then pass the lighter or candle to a Speaker. This Speaker, too, must hold the flame to the stick figure and speak their own name aloud.
- One by one, all players must take their turn: They must take possession of the lighter or candle, hold the flame to the stick figure, and speak their own name aloud.
- Do NOT let the flame go out at ANY POINT.
- When all players have taken their turn, return the lighter or candle to the Scribe. Do NOT extinguish it; keep the flame burning as you hand it off.
- Next, the Speaker(s) must speak aloud the final question: “Where is she now?”
- Turn out the playing space’s lights — but do NOT extinguish the lighter or candle’s flame.
- Gather all players around the mirror. Position the Scribe in front, still holding the lit flame.
- Together, gaze into the mirror.
- Together, chant aloud the name “Black Helen.” Chant it a total of six times. Chant it in unison.
- After the sixth chant, speak aloud, together, “You can come out now.”
- Look into the mirror.
- Look closely.
- Listen, too. Open up your ears and pay attention. Do not make any additional noise.
- You may feel a chill in the air.
- You may see a shadow lurking in the darkness behind you.
- You may hear a voice whispering over your shoulder into your ear.
- Should you experience anything… unusual, you will know: She has arrived.
- When you are ready to bid her farewell, have the Scribe hand the lighter or candle off to a Speaker. The Scribe, you see, must be the one to contain her.
- Once the Scribe has freed up their hands, they must take up the black paint once more, dip their finger into it, and use it to draw, on the mirror, a box — a cage, if you will — around the stick figure.
- Then, the Scribe must speak the following words aloud: “Black Helen, I bid you farewell.”
- Next, a Speaker must speak those words aloud: “Black Helen, I bid you farewell.”
- One by one, all players must bid her farewell.
- Once the final farewell has been made, the Scribe must take the cloth or hand towel and wipe the mirror clean. Remove every trace of paint and every drop of blood. Leave nothing behind.
- Then, wait.
- Wait until the chill lifts.
- Wait until you look in the mirror and see nothing but your own reflection.
- Wait until you listen to the darkness and hear nothing but your own breathing.
- Then — when you are certain she is gone — you may turn the lights back on and extinguish the lighter or candle.
- And should you find yourself in a darkened room with a mirror before in the future…
- …Be careful.
Concerning the Players:
- Any number of players may participate; the only limit is imposed by the number of bodies that may fit comfortably within your playing space. However, there are no bystanders: Players are either the Scribe or a Speaker. There is no observing; there is only participating.
- There may be any number of Speakers. However, there may be only one Scribe. Choose your Scribe wisely.
Concerning the Requirements:
- The mirror may be hung on a wall, or it may be freestanding; do not use a mirror that requires human intervention to stand upright. The requirements for both the playing space and the mirror may be satisfied by choosing to play in a bathroom equipped with a vanity mirror hung within it.
- The candle is optional, but recommended. You may find it easier to pass a candle from player to player without danger of it going out than you might a lighter.
- Suggested options for the black paint include poster paint, DIY washable window paint, or similar. It is possible that a dry erase marker may suffice; however, given that using this kind of tool will alter how the scribe marks the mirror (that is, they will no longer be using their finger to do so), choosing this option may have unintended consequences on the rest of the game.
- It is recommended that, in addition to sterilizing the pin before beginning, the players also wipe the mirror where they intend the Scribe to draw the stick figure with isopropyl alcohol (or to otherwise sterilize this section of the mirror).
Concerning the Farewell:
- If you do NOT sense that she has gone, do NOT turn on the lights or extinguish the flame. Bid her farewell as many times as necessary. Only then may you turn the lights back on and allow the flame to go out.
Some Words Of Advice:
Do not position yourself too close to the mirror.
Do not place yourself within easy reach for her.
Do not insult or antagonize her.
Do not allow her to stay for too long.
And above all:
Do not assume that once she has gone… she has gone for good.
Please don’t copy or republish this post on other sites. Linking to it or sharing the URL is fine (and encouraged!), as is writing your own unique version of the game, but copying/pasting, republishing, or otherwise reproducing the text of this piece in its entirety or near-entirety on other websites without permission isn’t.
Support The Ghost In My Machine on Patreon for behind-the-scenes access and other bonus content.You can also follow on Twitter @GhostMachine13 and on Facebook @TheGhostInMyMachine. And for more games, don’t forget to check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available now from Chronicle Books!
[Photo via clairegelas/Pixabay]