Mirrors are often thought of as haunted, disturbing, and makes the gazer uneasy.
Why are mirrors surrounded by superstition and haunted tales, and what is the history behind the looking glass unease?
The ancient Romans believed that mirrors or any reflective surface was a reflection of the human soul, and they must not be misused or something terrible could happen and the soul could be lost. Many cultures all around the world feel that mirrors are portals to other worlds, predictors for the future, and windows to the afterlife. Some cultures believe that mirrors can watch you as you watch them, a sort of two-way viewing screen to other dimensions.
There is a centuries old practice of covering the mirrors in a house where a loved one is dying, and as the superstition goes, it is due to the fact you might see Death or the Devil himself in the reflection, coming to gather the soul of the departed, and also in that same vein, some say the dead get confused and pass into the mirror instead of the realm they were intended to go into after death.
Covering the mirror helps them pass with ease.
The Victorians used heavy black cloth on all mirrors in the homes of the newly deceased, as their fear and belief in spiritualism was strong and their belief in the afterlife and the protection of their relatives even stronger.
Victorians were very obsessed with the spiritual movement, an investigation into spirits and seances and communicating with the dead.
From their interest came parlour and mirror games that exist even today, like chanting “Bloody Mary” into a mirror three times to see if she will show, or lighting a candle and watching for your future husband to show his face behind you.
Mirrors provided endless amusement and still do at Halloween and children’s slumber parties.
Mirrors were made in early conception with silver as a backing to them, which made them turn black over time as the silver oxidized.
Due to this process, the mirrors took on an otherworldly appearance, allowing the human eye to matrix shapes in the oxidation patterns that would form in the glass.
Mirrors also fog and blotch as steam creates a layer of condensation on the surface, further propelling the myth of haunted worlds within worlds.
Many experts say that mirrors are the portal in which ghosts and spirits can access our world, stepping in and out of the mirror to come in and out of our world from their own.
One of the most famous mirrors in the world is the large mirror that hangs in the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana, said to be the most haunted place in America. Many guests report seeing apparitions and ghostly faces within the mirror.
The story is that a plantation worker murdered a family in the house, trapping their reflections in the mirror at the time of the murders. Some say they hear cries for help coming from the mirror itself.
Another famous mirror, reported to be haunted, was owned by Bela Lugosi, the actor best known for playing the original Dracula in 1930s black and white movies.
It was rumored that he was into the occult, and would use a mirror to try to contact and scry, or see into the mirror, to communicate with spirits.
Some say because he did this, it has become a portal and is haunted.
The mirror was later in a room, after Lugosi’s death, and in this room a murder took place. Some people say this mirror picked up all the energy of this murder.
There were rumors about it for years, that one could see things in it and feel terrible after gazing into it. It is now in a haunted objects museum in Las Vegas.
Many psychologists say that mirrors work on our psychological roots and disturb us because it is hard to see and interpret our own image, our sense of self. Matrixing, (or identifying shapes that aren’t there so the brain has some tangible form to view from nothingness), shapes by candlelight or low light also causes the human eye to create forms or shapes that are not there, the product of a brain desperate to make order out of chaos.
Whatever the reason, mirrors disturb and fascinate us, as we try to navigate supestition, children’s games, and the occasional flicker of shadow, a play on light behind us, in front of us, in a dark room with a candle, like the Victorians and their parlor games.
(Editor’s note: DeeDee Wood is the owner of Black Cat Curiosities Art and Antiques in Easton, Md., located at 24B Harrison St.)