A family was getting ready to move houses when the young daughter’s beloved doll, Mary, was accidentally thrown away. The girl was extremely sad and wept to her parents.
“It’s okay, we’ll buy you a new doll,” they said, and the girl unwillingly accepted.
As she got used to her life in a new place, the girl eventually forgot about Mary-san. Then one night she got a call at home. Her parents hadn’t returned yet, so she answered.
“Hello? Who is this?”
“It’s Mary-san. I’m in the rubbish.”
The phone hung up.
Mary? That was the name of the doll she lost. She put it down to a prank call, but it still bothered her.
Then the phone rang again. Although she thought it might be the same prank caller, it might also have been her parents, so she picked up the phone.
“It’s Mary-san. I’m at OO Station now.”
The phone hung up again. That station, it was near her house. For a prank call, something sure was strange, the girl began to think.
Then the phone rang again.
‘It’s gotta be Mary-san again,’ the girl thought, but she convinced herself it might be her mother and picked up the receiver.
“Hello, mum? Is that you? Come home, quick!”
“This is Mary-san. I’m in front of OO.”
The phone hung up.
OO was the shop near the girl’s house. It was then the girl realised that the perpetrator of the prank calls was gradually getting closer. An indescribable fear began to gnaw away at her heart.
‘I’m in danger,’ she thought. She picked up the phone to call her mother’s cell, but at the same time the phone rang, causing her to answer it accidentally.
“This is Mary-san. I’m in front of your house now, OO-chan.”
The phone hung up.
The girl trembled with fear. Not only did the person on the other end of the line know her name, they were standing in front of her house. She pulled the phone line out of the wall and peered outside.
There was nobody there. There was just a dim light cast over the road from the streetlights.
Unable to stand it any longer, the girl checked the front door was locked, then went to run upstairs to lock herself in her room.
But then the phone rang. The same phone she’d pulled out of the wall.
There was no way it could ring. No idea what was going on, and her fear and anger laid bare, the girl picked up the phone.
“Who is this?! Stop it right now!”
“This is Mary-san. I’m right behind you now.”
Mary-san (or Merry-san, but I’m going to go with the most popular romanisation) is a popular Japanese urban legend that ends with the line “I’m right behind you now.” This, along with the building dread of Mary-san getting closer and closer, made it extremely popular, as it’s left to the imagination what happened after the ending. This also led to several variations of the story, however, where people tried to fill in the gaps. Some of these variations include:
- The girl being murdered once she turns around
- The girl getting stabbed although her death is left up in the air
- The setting changed to an apartment building where the calls get closer to her floor each time
- The taxi driver of a hit-and-run receives calls from the person he hit, someone named Mary
- The caller is a Rika-chan doll and not Mary-san
- If you don’t tell 5 people of this story after hearing it, Mary-san will call you next
- Compositions of any of the above
There are also several comical variations on the ending where Mary-san didn’t quite get her way:
- The girl ignores the fact that Mary-san is behind her, and witnesses can see the doll following her, half-crying
- The girl lives on the 147th floor of a skyscraper. Rather than taking the elevator, Mary-san takes the stairs, stopping to call and catch her breath on each floor. By the time she reaches the 147th floor, she passes out.
- Mary-san accidentally goes right past the girl. A few years later she gets a call from Mary saying she’s in Russia now.
- Mary-san is unable to open the door, so calls once again to plead for the girl to open it. Being an automated lock system, however, she’s unable to.
- In the case of someone getting on the train right as Mary-san calls, she’s left behind on the platform, chasing after the train and shouting “I’ll find you, no matter what!” like an old-fashioned romance tale.
- If someone is leaning against the wall or sitting in a chair against the wall when she calls, she’ll plead to be let out or otherwise be crushed.
- There’s a version where Mary-san takes the Osaka railway, changing trains as she gets closer. However, due to the complex nature of the network she gets lost and can’t find her way out. There are also versions of this for the Tokyo Shinjuku subway.
- Mary-san gets the wrong house, letting the girl know she’s in front of her apartment when the girl lives in a single-story house.
- On her way to see the girl, Mary forgets what she was doing and goes sightseeing instead.
There is of course a movie called “Mary-san’s phone call” that was released in 2011, and you can find an incredible amount of artwork and fanfic on the internet today. She’s one of the more popular urban legends in Japan at present.
One of the first things you might be thinking after hearing this story is “Why Mary?” Mary isn’t a Japanese name, so why is there an urban legend featuring a doll with that name when Japan already has a wealth of famous homemade dolls itself? There are even variations of the story where it is indeed a Rika-chan doll and not Mary-san.
Who created the story of Mary-san’s phone call is to this date unknown, but over the years people have surmised that perhaps she was based on a real person. That person was Yokohama Mary.
After the second world war, Japan faced great hardships, and many people found it difficult to feed themselves. A lot of women turned to prostitution, and one of them was Yokohama Mary. She was an elderly lady who painted her face entirely white and wore frilly dresses, just like a doll. Mary was often seen standing on a particular street corner in Yokohama, like a part of the local scenery. She drew widespread attention in the 80s when the media did several reports of the ‘strange’ people you could find living in Tokyo. She then disappeared in the 90s although it later came to light that she had moved into a senior citizen’s home and then passed away in 2005.
A woman named Mary who wore frilly dresses and painted her make-up to resemble a doll. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s not impossible to think that someone created a scary story about this woman back in the day, which spread through word of mouth and morphed into the legend of Mary-san’s phone call today.
HOW TO DEAL WITH MARY-SAN
So, supposing Mary-san actually calls you, how are you supposed to deal with her? This is actually pretty simple.
- Don’t answer the phone.
- Place your back to the wall.
- Make sure the house is locked.
- Even if she does appear behind you, don’t turn around.
- Before she gets behind you, get behind her.
The Mary-san legend is very similar to two more legends we’ll be looking at in the upcoming weeks: Satoru-kun and Kaijin Answer. Stay tuned to find out more about those soon!