Mary: The Summoning


By Hillary Monahan

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There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.

Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them-Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna-must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.

A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: “Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY.” A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.

Once is not enough, though-at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary’s wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered.

A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary-and Jess-before it’s too late?


This one's for the horror guy. Enjoy, David.

September 2, 1863

Dearest Constance,

I regret to inform you that you are an abysmal sister. You snatched the only handsome Boston lawyer to ever grace Solomon's Folly, thus relegating me to a life of wedded torment with a sheep farmer or some other dullard. I will forgive this grievous insult, but please remember my graciousness come the holidays.

I wonder how long it will be before Mother suggests you take me to the city so I may seek my own gentleman. Am I terrible to confess that I would enjoy the sights more than romance? She may have married at seventeen, but I do not feel so compelled. It is likely my impatience speaking. An endless parade of soft words, flowers, and idiocy sounds quite grating.

Upon reconsideration, the flowers would be nice. I would be content so long as my ardent gentleman gifted me with flowers and had the good sense to leave immediately afterward.

You asked about my wellness, and though I do not like to complain, I must indulge this one time. Your departure was the first in a series of disappointments. Last month, our beloved Pastor Renault moved to a congregation in the Berkshires. I wish him the best, but miss him already. He had such a kind, loving manner.

The new pastor is as pleasant to me as Cain is to Abel. I'm convinced Philip Starkcrowe was sent to test my faith. He is tall and bird-boned with pitch-colored hair and eyes like night. He is young for his station, too—perhaps a few years beyond twenty. It is strange to see him donning the robes. He looks as though he wears the clothes of a man much larger than himself. He is a boy tromping about in his father's boots.

His voice is good, and his sermons are certainly impassioned, but there is darkness to his words. Where Pastor Renault spoke of God's love, Pastor Starkcrowe talks of God as an angry shepherd. We are sinful sheep bound for everlasting torment. I'm surprised he doesn't make us sing our psalms with mournful baa's in lieu of honorifics.

There's also the matter of his hypocrisy. You once jested that Mother is a princess torn from a storybook, but the pastor looks upon her like he has never seen a fair-haired woman. I may be innocent, but I am not ignorant, and there is an earthiness to his gaze that unsettles me. It unsettles Mother, too, though she'd never say as much. She is far too kind.

I, however, lack such grace. After Sunday's sermon, the pastor came to thank us for our devotion. While speaking to Mother, he stared too long at her—pardon my crassness, Constance—but he stared too long upon her necklace. It was so bold! I tried to hide my disapproval, but I must have failed because he turned a furious eye upon me. He drew me before the congregation then, and with that loud, fire-and-brimstone voice, proclaimed that "while Mrs. Worth has a pleasing disposition, I cannot say the same for her youngest daughter."

I may lack your sweetness and Mother's etiquette, but I never thought myself so monstrous. It was mortifying. Everyone in the church heard him. Elizabeth Hawthorne had the nerve to smile at my embarrassment! You would think being schoolmates for years would garner me some affection, but she will not forgive me for that Thomas Adderly nonsense. It is not as if I welcomed his advances. He has onion breath and warts on his hands, yet Elizabeth still believes that I lured him away from her affections.

The rejection must devastate her Hawthorne pride. They do not breathe the same air as the rest of us commoners, don't you know.

I loathe the privilege money affords some people. I rest well knowing that you will never struggle, but if you become an inflated harpy like Elizabeth, I will strangle you in your sleep, Constance. On this I swear.

Since the pastor's histrionics, showing my face around town has become a nuisance. Just yesterday, Mrs. Chamberlain clutched her cross when I was in her presence like I could afflict her with a fiendish curse. I was tempted to hiss at her to see if she would hide beneath her bread counter. Mother would have murdered me, but I daresay it might have been worth it.

I apologize so much of this letter is ill news, my sister. Mother does say I spit vitriol when I am riled. Perhaps next time I will be a more uplifting correspondent. For that matter, perhaps I'll find a suitable sheep farmer in the meanwhile and will write of my impending nuptials!

I love you and miss you,


"Bloody Mary.

"Bloody Mary.


Jess's voice echoed like we were in a cave. Darkness has a way of making everything seem bigger and more claustrophobic at the same time. Four bodies crammed inside Anna Sasaki's basement bathroom meant we were each nudged up against something cold and hard. Jess got the vanity, I got the toilet, Kitty was at the tub, and Anna had the linen closet door.

"Bloody Mary.

"Bloody Mary.


The lights were off in the windowless room. According to Jess, Bloody Mary had to be summoned by the light of a single candle. Ours flickered on the edge of the sink below the mirror. Though no one moved, and I barely breathed, the flame danced a jig on its wick as if held by invisible hands.

The whole thing felt eerie, despite my logical reasoning that the summoning was ridiculous. I'd played Bloody Mary at slumber parties with these same girls when we were twelve. Trying again in high school seemed a waste of time—but there was a strange exhilaration to it, too. The lure of the unknown. It was a good scare, the kind you got walking through a haunted house. The anticipation was far worse than the reality.

I bit my lip and stared at the mirror. Jess claimed there was a right way and a wrong way to summon Bloody Mary. This time we were doing it the right way. Positioning mattered. Salt mattered, too, because it purified against evil. Water mattered. Hand-holding mattered. Even the number of girls mattered. Before, the idea was to scream Mary's name in the dark and scare yourself pretending to see a ghost. This was more deliberate. More believable. This time, it felt like we knew what we were doing.

The mirror stayed vacant for at least thirty seconds. I didn't need to look at the shadowed faces beside me to know they were staring as intently as I was. It was so quiet. Seconds ticked by. The longer we waited for something to appear in the mirror, the less convinced I became it would. The thrill of calling Bloody Mary dwindled. There'd been goose bumps on the backs of my arms when Jess first said the name, but now they were gone. A sinking feeling of disappointment rippled around our summoning circle.

I was about to ask Are we done yet? when I saw a flash in the mirror. I blinked, sure that it must have been one of our reflections. Then it happened again. A light streaked behind the mirror—a star across a night sky. Kitty's hand flexed inside of mine. She'd seen it, too.

The mirror filled with fog, like condensation after a hot, steamy shower. But the fog was on the other side. The wrong side. Droplets of water streamed down the glass, cutting black rivulets through the gray.

Kitty twitched again and I clamped my fingers down on hers so she couldn't jerk away. Jess had warned us about breaking the circle. We had to hold position or we'd be putting ourselves in danger. Bloody Mary hadn't gotten her name because she liked hanging out with teenage girls. To keep her at arm's length, we needed protective wards. The first and most important ward was the handhold.

Behind the mirror, the fog changed from a thick paste to a swirling mass of charcoal smoke. My goose bumps returned and my heart beat so hard, I thought it would pound through my lungs and splatter on the floor.

This couldn't be happening. I tried to think of ways Jess could have manipulated the glass, but I'd checked the mirror before we started. The frame was solid bronze, the mirror far too heavy for a single person to lift. There wasn't space for a movie projector in the room, and Jess didn't have the tech skills anyway.

No, this was legitimate ghost activity, and there I stood, witnessing it with my three best friends. Anna murmuring under her breath. Kitty wheezing louder and louder. Jess saying, "Come on—come on," over and over again.

"Look, Shauna. Look," Jess said. I looked. A black silhouette emerged through the fog, walking toward us down a tunnel that ought not exist. No, not walking—shuddering. There was no fluidity to the movements. It was one jolting, shambling step into the next, like a zombie movie monster.

Blood rushed to my face. My toes curled inside my sneakers. Bloody Mary was real and she was walking toward the glass! I didn't know what to do; I wanted to run away, but I desperately wanted to stay, too. It was horrifying and exhilarating, like that first big whoosh on an upside-down roller coaster.

Then she rushed us. An unnaturally fast blur of madness barreled our way from inside the glass. Her hand struck the mirror on the other side, though there was no sound to punctuate the strike. I yelped, the desire to crouch and hide warring with my mind's insistence to absorb every last detail.

Most of Mary was masked by the fog, but her hand was as clear as my own. Her fingers were long and twiglike, with twisted, swollen joints. A sheaf of gray, shriveled skin hugged each appendage, peeling away from the tips. A deep gouge bisected her palm from pinkie to thumb, revealing her rotten, ragged flesh. Tarry blood seeped from Mary's wound, smearing the glass in streaks of blackish maroon.


And it got grosser when Mary curled her fingers over to rake them down the glass, her nails in a state of decay. Some were broken off at the nail bed, others had snapped into sharp, serrated razor tips. I expected to hear a shrill squeal from the mirror, but there was nothing. My mind filled in the audio track with nails on a chalkboard, the imagined sound sending another ripple of fear through my body.

I was so consumed by terror and fascination that I had forgotten about Jess, Kitty, and Anna. I should have been more careful. When Mary lifted her second hand to the mirror, this one just as desiccated as the first, Kitty jolted next to me like she'd been struck by lightning. She tried to wrench away, forcing me from my stupor. My fingers dug into Kitty's sweaty palm to keep her steady, but I felt her pulling. She'd become a hundred-and-seventy-pound eel at my side, and there was only so long I could keep control of someone so slippery.

"Kitty, stop," I whispered.

"No. Nooooo," she groaned, another violent twist nearly pulling my arm from the socket. I doubt her resistance was conscious on her part. Kitty knew the dangers of breaking the handhold as well as the rest of us, but she was panicking. I clutched her wrist to anchor her to the group.

"Jess," I hissed. "Do something."

"What? Oh…" Jess said, seeing Kitty struggling beside me in the dark, Anna manhandling her on one side, me on the other. Before Kitty could escape the circle, Jess's voice rang out strong and clear through the bathroom.

"I believe in you, Mary Worth!"

The hands and blood vanished immediately. The fog dissipated, as though a gust of wind had swept it away. We were left in a dark bathroom with an empty mirror and a flickering candle.

We never saw Mary's face.

It started with the letter.

Jess had gone to Solomon's Folly during April school vacation to stay at her grandparents' lake house. Solomon's Folly—or the Folly—is a sleepy old town without much going for it beyond its strategic access to other, more interesting places. Go south on the highway and you're on Cape Cod. Go north and you're in Boston. Farms, trees, and a lot of creepy graveyards constitute most of the town. Our hometown of Bridgewater isn't much more exciting, but at least fast food and a movie theater exist here.

I'd spent half the summer at the lake house last year, canoeing and grilling and getting bitten by mosquitoes with Jess, my best friend since before I could remember. We met in kindergarten and have been friends ever since. Even when she'd graduated from "the girl I was in Girl Scouts with" to "blond, blue-eyed beauty queen," we'd stuck together. I'm good-looking enough with my red hair and dark brown eyes, but Jess is a stunner. The all-American-girl-next-door flavor of stunner. The rest of us pale in comparison.

I declined the invitation to the Folly that April so I could perfect the art of laziness at home. I was working my butt off to make honor roll, and with four advanced placement classes, it wasn't easy. Junior year is college transcript year, and if I wanted to go somewhere that wasn't the University of Loser, I needed good grades for scholarship money. April vacation was the last chance I had to relax before finals came crashing down.

Jess had been positively industrious by comparison. Sometime during her vacation, she'd rediscovered the Bloody Mary legend. The letter from Mary Worth to her sister, Constance, was her sales pitch. The photocopy of the original was her way to get us on board with the summoning.

"There's a rumor that Mary Worth is Bloody Mary," Jess said, dropping a pile of papers into my lap as I devoured pizza in Kitty Almeida's downstairs media room. We were gathered around a glass-top coffee table, me on the center cushion of the couch, Kitty seated to my left, and Anna perched on the floor by Kitty's knees. Jess hovered behind us, looming over my shoulder like an oversize parrot.

"You mean that stupid game we played a million years ago?" Anna asked between bites of pizza. She had tomato sauce on her face. I threw a napkin at her so she could clean up. "Thanks," she murmured, wiping her chin, then tying back her hair. Anna's dad is Japanese, her mom is Irish. From Mom, she'd inherited a stocky build and freckles. From Dad, she'd gotten pretty brown eyes that she hid behind a pair of gold-framed glasses and perfect black hair that felt like water and hung to her waist.

"Yeah, the one where you nearly puked because I slapped the bathroom door when you were inside? Remember?" Jess asked with a snicker. It took me a minute to pluck that memory from the banks. It had been a slumber party at the McAllister house to celebrate Jess's twelfth birthday. Someone got the brilliant idea to play Bloody Mary. Every one of the ten girls there went into the bathroom individually, shut out the lights, and called for Mary. And every one of us insisted we saw something creepy in the mirror—except we hadn't.

Poor Anna was the last to go. By then, Jess had grown bored of the game and decided to up the ante by grabbing the doorknob and shaking it to make Anna think the ghost was there. Anna hadn't puked, but she had cried, and we'd all had to tell Jess what a jerk she was at her own birthday party. She'd always had a talent for being the biggest ass in the room. I loved her, but that love came with a great responsibility, like whacking Jess whenever she got out of line.

"Yes, that one. And thank you for reminding me!" Anna said. "This conversation is now a total waste of your time."

"Wait. No, hold on. Read the letter." Jess reached down to grab the papers from my lap, waving them under my chin. My choice was either to accept them or suffer the torment of a thousand paper cuts. The script on the pages was small but legible despite the cursive flourishes. Someone had taken great care to make it as neat as possible, and glancing at the signature on the last page, it was evident that someone was Mary Worth. Little black ink spots dappled the corners of the paper, and there were shadowy rings in places that indicated the original letter had some water damage.

When Kitty swooped in to read over my shoulder, the motion a little too "starving seagull on popcorn" for my taste, I shooed her away and read it aloud. The language was stiff, but the September 1863 date explained the tone. This was Civil War–era stuff, all "Four score and seven years ago," and somewhere, my U.S. history teacher totally appreciated that I'd immediately linked the year to the Gettysburg Address.

"Whoa, this is over a hundred and fifty years old? Where'd you get it?" Kitty asked.

"Solomon's Folly," Jess said. "The town claims to be the source of a lot of urban legends. At least, that's what my grandfather says. He's a little weird, but sometimes he says cool stuff."

Jess was failing to mention that they suspected Grandpa Gus was in the early stages of dementia, but I wouldn't bring that up in front of the other girls. Jess loved her grandfather, even if he sometimes forgot his pants and wore a kitchen colander as a helmet for fun.

"That's neat," Kitty said, taking the letter to skim it. When she was done, she slid it onto the coffee table between two pizza boxes, narrowly avoiding a run-in with a puddle of grease. "It'd be cool if it's really Blood Mary's letter."

Anna shrugged. "There's nothing in that letter that screams 'scary ghost chick.' Husbands and pastors and mean girls? So what?"

Anna was being harsh, but that edge was part of her personality. She was blunt to a fault.

"Well, it could be Bloody Mary," I said. "I mean, yeah, there's the possibility it's not, but if everyone in town says it is, why is it so ridiculous to consider it?"

"Seriously," Jess said. "Have a little imagination, Anna. Grandpa had me talk to my great-aunt Dell. She's as weird as he is, by the way, Shauna. Like, seriously creepy old lady. Anyway, she filled me in on the summoning details. She says there's a real way to do it. I think she was trying to scare me, but I want to try it anyway."

"So do it. Why do you need us?" Anna pressed.

"The summoning has to be four girls, that's why. Otherwise I'd ask Marc and Bron—" Jess cut herself off with a muttered curse. She wasn't supposed to mention Bronx. He'd dumped Kitty three weeks ago, and Kitty had spent every day since weeping and listening to their song while one of the three of us stroked her hair and told her it was okay.

The problem was that Bronx was best friends with Jess's boyfriend, Marc. Jess couldn't exactly ditch Bronx in a show of solidarity, and so there was static. It wasn't like Jess talked about Bronx a lot, but saying his name was enough to make Kitty go slouchy and cast her eyes to the floor.

I had to swallow a groan. After three weeks, Kitty's kicked-dog routine was getting old, but my irritation was tempered by the knowledge that her melancholy wasn't a manipulation tactic. She had zero self-esteem. Kitty was a solid forty pounds heavier than the rest of us and she seemed to think it made her disgusting. Bronx had certainly liked her curves, but Kitty saw herself as the ugly duckling no matter how many times I pointed out her stunning green eyes and gorgeous caramel-colored hair.

Jess didn't have the same kind of patience. She'd done her best to overlook Kitty's moroseness, but lately, Jess rolled her eyes to the ceiling and gritted her teeth. "It makes me feel like a bad friend," she'd told me in confidence, "like she thinks I'm trying to hurt her, and I'm not." I understood Jess's perspective. Intentionally or not, Kitty was laying a major guilt trip on Jess's shoulders. If she could stop being passive-aggressive, they'd probably be fine, but that wasn't Kitty's way.

Looking between the two of them, I knew we'd skated onto thin ice. Kitty was shriveled in the chair next to the television while Jess's mouth pinched into a grimace, her eyes narrowed to feline slits. Kitty was about to get a massive blast of Jess fury to the face. I really didn't want to have to pick up those pieces, so I grabbed the pages of the Mary Worth letter and waved them over my head, a red flag before the bull. I knew it'd at least distract Jess from the imminent danger of a meltdown.

"This. We should do this," I said. "The Bloody Mary thing. It'd be cool."

Anna caught on to my great distraction plan and hauled herself up from the floor to reach for the letter. "Sure, why not? It's not like anything will happen. But if it'll shut Jess up, I am totally down for it."

Jess ignored the jab. She was too busy erupting into excited, ear-piercing squeals, like we'd crowned her prom queen for the second time this year. She vaulted the couch to throw herself into the seat beside me, her arms snaking out to jerk me into a spine-crushing hug. She may have been a skinny chick, but she could give hugs that'd make a grizzly bear squirm.

"Awesome! Kitty, you in?" she asked. Kitty was nodding her head before Jess even got the question out. Depression or not, Kitty fell into line with the rest of us because that's just what Kitty did.

If I had known that days later we'd be watching Bloody Mary scratch at Anna's bathroom mirror, I might have thought twice.

"That shouldn't have worked," Anna said, slumping on the floor between the toilet and the wall. Her hands kept raking through the hair at her temples like it needed to be patted into place. "There is no way that should have worked. How? How did it work?"

Kitty nodded her agreement from inside the tub. After we'd broken the handhold and turned on the light, Kitty jumped inside the bath to lie down, her head tilted back like she wanted the shower to rain a better reality over her. She was stiff with fear. Her eyes bulged, a flush stained her cheeks. Her right hand was white-knuckled on the side of the tub, like she needed something solid to hold on to while she reconciled the impossible thing that had just happened.

"But it did happen," Jess said gleefully. She pulled a red notebook from her backpack and perched on the bathroom vanity, her butt in the sink, her back to the salted mirror like it hadn't just had clawed ghost hands menacing it. She recorded every detail of the summoning, including the time and which cardinal points people stood on when Mary appeared. There were papers glued to the first few pages of the notebook, presumably the letter she'd shown us. Jess was keeping everything in one tidy place for all her Bloody Mary needs.

"How are you not even a little bit bothered by this?" I asked. I didn't look as rattled as Anna, and I wasn't catatonic like Kitty, but I had my own issues. My head pounded like a one-man band was doing laps across my forehead.

"I am freaked out a little, too, but it was so cool. Wasn't it? It was awesome!" Jess insisted. She grinned at me and rubbed her shoulders like she was cold. Maybe she was a little more bugged out than I gave her credit for, though it still took massive stones to sit on the sink with her back to the mirror like that. "Bloody Mary. We did it. Like, really for real. How awesome is that?"

"Awesome in the broadest sense of the word, maybe," Anna returned. "I'm not so sure what we just did was smart. Some stuff is better left to books and movies. The reality is too…I don't know. It's too something. And that something isn't necessarily good."

"No way," Jess said, hopping down and turning around to scoop the salt off the vanity. I wished she wouldn't do that. It made me feel safer to have it around, but she'd brushed it aside before I could make my mouth form the request to keep it there. The headache was wreaking havoc on me. "We've done something only a handful of other people have ever done. We've done something historic. Yes, it was scary, but she's a ghost! Ghosts are supposed to be scary."

I started to see Jess's point. It had been exciting until it turned terrifying, and even then the terror was pure adrenaline. I'd only felt uncomfortable when Kitty began her freak-out dance beside me. "I guess," I said. "I just got…I feel a little sick. I got scared it'd go bad at the end. We never really talked about what would happen if we screwed up."

"There's no point discussing it if we're not going to screw it up. Which reminds me. You," Jess said, whirling on Kitty. Jess leaned over the tub so far, her profile was hidden behind a veil of blond hair. The only thing I could see from my position on the floor was Kitty's bewildered, slightly gassy expression.

I swallowed a groan. Why had I brought it up? I knew Jess would go after Kitty sooner or later. I didn't have to make it sooner. I braced, ready to intervene if Jess got bitchy. For all that she was my best friend, she had a mean streak, and Kitty was the poorest equipped of our group to handle Jess when she was riled.

"What'd I say about the handhold?" Jess demanded.

"I'm sorry. I got scared," Kitty replied. I watched her sink farther into the tub, shrinking away like Jess was going to unhinge her jaw and swallow her whole.

"I said there were three things we had to do. One, line the mirror. Two, light the candle. Three, and most importantly…" Jess let the thought linger.

"Hold hands, I know," Kitty said. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry won't cut it if you screw it up next time. Hold it together, or if you can't, I'll have to get someone else." Jess's hand reached down to pat Kitty's shoulder. It was supposed to be a reassuring gesture, but Kitty flinched like Jess was going to beat her to death.


On Sale
Aug 11, 2015
Page Count
272 pages

Hillary Monahan

About the Author

Hillary Monahan ( lives outside Boston. She is author of Mary: The Summoning and Mary: Unleashed.

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