Published: 9 November 1974 – 12 April 1975 (20 episodes)
Artist: Carlos Freixas
Translations/ reprints: De spiegel met de slangen [The Snakes Mirror] (in Tina 1976); translated into Greek in Manina.
In Cornwall, Mia Blake’s sister Janet has bought a run-down old 18th century house built by one Captain Scully and transformed part of it into a boarding house, “Scully House Private Hotel” (other parts are still shut up). There is a portrait of Scully on the wall, and he does not look very nice. Oh dear, could Mia and Janet be asking for trouble there?
Mia is expected to help out, but she is discontented and disgruntled at doing so. She feels Janet treats her like a dogsbody and does not even pay her, though she has the grace to understand that Janet would not mean it. She does not appreciate that the guesthouse is understaffed and Janet can’t afford more help until business takes off. Too bad Mia has those feelings, because they could have made her susceptible to what follows.
When Janet sends Mia up to the attic on an errand, she makes a discovery that proves fateful – an old mirror. The face that appears in it is not Mia’s reflection but the face of a young, beautiful woman. The woman’s identity and origins are as yet unknown, but she soon makes it clear she has powers to hypnotise Mia into playing dirty tricks that are aimed at driving off guests and giving the hotel a bad name. And the mirror also forces Mia to do things that are far worse than that, such as attempting to drown a dog in a well, drown a couple by scuttling their boat, stealing money from a guest, and ruining the Major’s reputation by forging a letter from him saying he cheated in a boat race. There are times when Mia does break free of the mirror’s control. For example, she stops herself killing the dog in time. The same goes for stealing the money, but Mia gets caught anyway, and so it’s another angry guest and another black mark on Scully Hotel. Mia scuttles the boat, but rescues the couple later.
Or perhaps it is because the mirror may have relented sometimes? There is a surprise when Mia realises what she did to the Major and confronts the mirror over it. The face in the mirror starts crying and helps her find a way to clear the Major. Could it be that the spirit is not as evil as it seemed? Whatever brought on the crying, though, it does not last. Soon the mirror is back to its usual tricks.
As only Mia can see the face in the mirror, she cannot convince Janet of what’s going on. Janet thinks her sister is turning delinquent or going crazy or something. Trying to dispose of the mirror or destroying it does not work either – the mirror always comes back. Janet’s losing guests and money because of all the trouble, and she is coming to the end of her tether with Mia. In the end, Mia is put in hospital because of her odd behaviour. Strangely, while Mia is in hospital two men spot her and they say she has what it takes to become a model. Afterwards they have her enter a beauty contest.
Mia’s on the verge of winning the contest when Janet comes up in a huff and yanks her out: “how dare you flaunt yourself in public like this!” Is Janet a prude or something? As Mia says, what’s the harm in a beauty contest? Janet won’t hear of Mia becoming a model either, saying she’s needed at the hotel. This time, Mia has more justification for feeling resentment towards Janet and slogging at the hotel for nothing in return – and that’s bound to increase the mirror’s hold over her.
Sure enough, Mia’s rage has her stealing money from another guest to enrol at modelling school because Janet won’t allow her the money for it. Fortunately she gets a free enrolment as a consolation prize from the contest, which means she can quietly return the money.
The mirror seems to be feeding and amplifying Mia’s own feelings of resentment. She perceives everybody being against her and Janet still treating her like a servant. Mia feels the mirror is sympathising with her there. Now Mia calls upon the mirror to help her with her own revenge against all the people she resents. She grows more violent and starts lashing out. When this happens in her modelling class, Mia is told that if it happens again she will be expelled.
Mia goes home still under the influence, which puts her in a black rage. This culminates in her slashing the portrait of Scully and screaming how much she hates him “you slave driver!” Hmm, could there be a clue there?
Meanwhile, Janet has hired a Spanish student named Inez to help with the guesthouse and take some of the pressure off Mia. Perhaps she thinks Mia has snapped under too much pressure and that’s why she’s acting out of character.
As it turns out, Inez is just the person to help Mia. Inez notices Mia’s odd behaviour when she stares into the mirror and begins to suspect the truth. Inez checks out the mirror with an antique dealer and they discover a note hidden inside it. It reveals that the mirror belonged to Isabella, an ancestress of Inez. In 1770 Isabella worked as a servant for Captain Scully. Sure enough, Scully was a horrible man. He treated Isabella very badly and when she fell ill, she was left to die of fever and neglect in her attic room. Before Isabella died, she wrote the note describing her treatment, how full of hate she is for the house and everyone who lives there, and made an oath to return from beyond the grave to have her revenge.
Now Mia knows the truth, she sympathises with Isabella and tries to tell Janet what’s been going on. But of course Janet doesn’t believe it. She sends Mia to her room. Instead, Mia goes to the attic where Isabella died, and the mirror and note are on her lap. Mia falls asleep where she starts reliving how Isabella suffered at the hands of Scully and was left to die from his neglect. She is full of rage and pity for Isabella. It is small wonder that when Mia wakes up, Isabella’s power is so strong that she has Mia set fire to the attic!
Inez finds Mia in her hypnotic state, which Mia snaps out of. Janet does not believe Mia’s story about being hypnotised and throws her out of the house. While Janet and Inez tackle the fire, Inez draws Janet’s attention to the mirror. Previously only Mia could see Isabella’s face in the mirror – but now both Inez and Janet can see it! And Isabella is crying. It seems Isabella has now repented to the point where she is showing herself to clear Mia’s name.
Meanwhile, Mia is guided towards Isabella’s grave. It just says “Isabella 1752–1770”. Inez follows Mia to the grave and suggests they pray for Isabella. Their prayers include pleas for Isabella to leave Mia alone and find peace. A ray of sun breaks through pouring rain and shines on Isabella’s grave. They take it as a sign that Isabella is happy now she has people who care for her at last.
Mia and Inez return to the house, where Janet says she now understands and asks Mia’s forgiveness. The face of Isabella in the mirror gives a loving smile, and then disappears from the mirror forever.
After the haunting stops, life becomes so good for everyone. Mia’s modelling career is now in full swing. She still works at the hotel, but now finds it enjoyable and works very happily with Inez and Janet. Isabella’s grave gets regular fresh flowers. The mirror is still around, but Mia is so happy that the only face she sees in it now is her own. The hotel is still called Scully House though – shouldn’t they change the name in light of what happened?
This serial has drawn comments that the acts Mia commits under the mirror’s influence are veiled excuses for delinquent behaviour. Still, the same could be said for any protagonist who falls under the power of an evil (or angry) force and is forced to do nasty things. One such victim, in Suzy’s “The Curse of Carmina” is actually sent away to a home for problem children because of the terrible things the evil object (in this case a puppet) is forcing her to do. Janet does not go this far, fortunately; the nearest is putting Mia in hospital.
There are strong similarities between this story and another malignant mirror story that appeared in Jinty several years later, “The Venetian Looking Glass”. It could well be the same writer. The protagonist, Lucy Craven finds a mirror that is haunted by an angry, vengeful spirit also named Lucy Craven, and Lucy Craven Snr hypnotises her into unleashing that revenge. Both stories climax with the protagonist being hypnotised into nearly burning the place down.
However, there are differences between how the two mirrors carry out their mayhem. The key one is that the Lucy Craven spirit can talk through her mirror but Isabella can’t speak through hers at all. As the Lucy Craven mirror can speak, it rapidly becomes established what the spirit wants and why. Lucy keeps trying to plead with her that she is hurting innocent people who have nothing to do with the ancient wrong. By contrast, Isabella can’t talk to Mia at all, so her identity and motives remain a mystery until near the end of the story. Furthermore, Mia can’t reason with Isabella that the people she is hurting have nothing to do with what Captain Scully did. All she can do is try to plead with the spirit not to force her to do things against her will. But most of the time they fall on deaf ears until near the end. Perhaps part of it was Janet bringing out the portrait of Captain Scully and calling the hotel Scully House. In Isabella’s eyes, this must have looked like a tribute to the very man who treated her so badly.
When the motives of the two respective spirits are established, one emerges as a far more sympathetic character than the other. Lucy Craven Snr brought the trouble on herself by being – to put it very bluntly – a bad-tempered bitch. By contrast, Isabella arouses sympathy because she was treated so badly by Captain Scully and her desire for revenge was understandable. Anyone decent would feel sorry for Isabella there. It is this sympathy that finally has Isabella resting in peace. Once she sees there are now people who care for her, something finally gets through to her.
Once Isabella’s motives are revealed it is also easier to understand the odd fluctuations of the spirit looking evil most times and then looking like it is having second thoughts now and then. The same thing has been seen over and over in “revenge” serials. In these serials there are moments when things go too far and innocents get hurt. These moments have the protagonist stop and think and maybe feel some remorse. Sometimes this is what turns her around. Other times the pause doesn’t last because the thirst for revenge resurfaces. Often the desire for revenge clouds their judgement and they do thoughtless, reckless and even dangerous things in the name of revenge. They do not stop think about the damage they are doing or the rights and wrongs of it all. Eventually, though, they learn their lesson.
Mia undergoes a whole new appreciation of life after the ordeal ends. In the beginning she’s completely negative in her outlook, discontented at working at the hotel and feels she’s being used as a servant. These negative attitudes could be why the mirror opened up to her in the first place and why she succumbed to its power. No doubt it is one reason why the mirror’s influence gets so powerful. It amplifies Mia’s bad feelings to the point of insanity; it has similar feelings, so it would empathise with Mia. At the end Mia has a positive attitude and really enjoys working in the hotel with Inez to help out. Being a successful model almost seems redundant. Even without the modelling job we feel Mia would be much happier at the hotel after the haunting ceases. After all, now she’s seen a real dogsbody at the hotel who was treated like a real slave, she would appreciate how lucky she is. She also comes away looking far smarter and more beautiful now that she is a full-fledged model.