Mirrors are commonplace objects in everyday life, yet there is something really dark and creepy about them. In fact, they’re so creepy that they’re a classic plot device in many horror movies. In a horror movie, nothing is quite so unsettling as seeing your reflection make an unexpected movement.
The eeriness surrounding mirrors actually goes way back, far predating their use in the film industry. The earliest story about the power of mirrors is an ancient Greek myth about a handsome young man named Narcissus.
He became infatuated with the reflection of his own face after catching a glimpse of it in the water and gazed upon himself for the remainder of his life.
Ancient Romans believed that mirrors could trap souls and that it took seven years for the soul to renew itself, hence the superstition about a broken mirror resulting in seven years of bad luck.
Over time, mirrors have taken on more magical abilities, such as fortune-telling. Some cultures associated mirrors with death, covering up the reflective glass after the passing of a loved one to ensure they made it to the afterlife.
The medieval period was when stories about deliberate summonings arose. People would use reflective surfaces to summon the face of their future husband or wife. It was a ritual referred to as “love magic.”
This idea persisted well past the Middle Ages. Halloween greeting cards from the early twentieth century depicted images of women staring into mirrors alongside rhymes about seeing the faces of their future husbands.
However, in more recent times, mirrors shifted from the idea of seeking love to something more sinister. And that’s when they became a now-familiar trope in horror films. Even Disney has dabbled with the concept of the looking glass, such as in the “Mirror, mirror” scene from Snow White.
They are also a staple in haunted houses and popular with fear-seekers. If you’ve ever encountered a distorted version of yourself in a mirror at a haunted house or played “Bloody Mary” at a slumber party, you know it can mess with your mind and bring chills running down your spine.