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What inspired the horror genre's most terrifying hook-handed killer? See the urban legends and true crime stories that created the iconic 'Candyman' movies.

Were the ‘Candyman’ movies inspired by urban legends?

There’s no weapon worse than a rusty hook and no place worse to find the culprit than your own mirror. The tale of Candyman spans several movies, all based on the short story, “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker. As the story of Candyman evolves throughout the years, let’s step back and see the urban legends that brought the terror to the screen.

Instead of a single origin, the hook-handed killer is actually based on an amalgamation of urban legends & true events. From Bloody Mary to the murder of Ruth Mae McCoy, learn what makes Candyman so nightmare-inducing.

Candyman based on two different urban legends

The method of summoning Candyman is most evidently derived from the legend of Bloody Mary, a tale whose origin spans an unknown number of eras. The ghostly figure herself is the basis of several horror films & TV shows. 

Although the urban legend does shift with each retelling, the most common way she’s called is when someone attempts to speak her name repeatedly into a mirror in a pitch-black room. Clearly, this aspect of Bloody Mary was the inspiration for calling Candyman by saying his name five times in front of a mirror.

The Hookman, or The Hook, is the second urban legend that inspired the tale of Candyman. Like most urban legends, there’s never one single story but instead countless adaptations of a singular character. Essentially, this story follows a young couple romancing in a parked car in the middle of a secluded area. That’s until they hear a radio announcement about an escaped mental patient with a hook for a hand.

There are various endings to this horrid tale. One is that the couple decides to leave immediately but later finds a hook stabbed into their car. They escaped The Hookman with only moments to spare. 

In another version, the boyfriend hears a scratching sound on the car. After he leaves to investigate, the girlfriend hears another strange & twisted sound. Once she exits the car, she sees the mutilated corpse of her boyfriend. Whether she survives or not is up to the storyteller. This urban legend evidently inspired the Candyman’s horrid weapon which is a rusted hook thrust into the flesh of where his hand once was.

Candyman’s tragic origin

However, there’s no denying the reference to racial violence & hate crimes which are clearly detailed in Candyman’s personal past. The hook-handed & bee-swarmed killer is described as the ghost of an artist who was murdered by a racist mob in the late 19th century. The basis for his cruel death? His relationship with the daughter of a wealthy white man. 

Harrowing stories such as this one are in no shortage in actual American history. The torture of Candyman and the subsequent torture he commits to others, make his story eternally complicated & haunting.

The murder of Ruth Mae McCoy

Luiz H. C. from Bloody Disgusting detailed a true crime case that unquestionably found its way into the Candyman movies. The crime took place in Chicago’s Grace Abbott Homes back in the late 1980s. The eerie murder was unveiled by journalist Steve Bogira in the article “They Came in Through the Bathroom Mirror”. He recounts the infamous murder of Ruth Mae McCoy which conveys the neglect of poor Black communities.

Grace Abbot Homes were housing projects known for its dangerous crime & drug addiction crises. The layout of the apartments was designed with a series of narrow service hallways in between apartments. This was meant to provide technicians with easy access to plumbing & wiring without invading the privacy of residents. 

However, these corridors created an entrance to each apartment through its bathroom medicine cabinets. Anyone could move throughout the complex and enter any occupant’s home. This would become commonplace for criminals. Helen uses an identical pathway in the 1992 Candyman film.

Home invasions through bathroom cabinets soon became terrifyingly common and residents began to block their bathrooms at night due to a complete lack of repairs & interest in protecting the Grace Abbot Homes’ residents.

Late one night, Ruth Mae McCoy was brutally murdered by thieves who entered the bathroom. Thus, the case launched a horror story within this neglected community. A community that was stricken with unending fear and no assistance from the police due to racial injustice. Although this case was never confirmed as influencing the film, the stark similarities between the building layout & murder make it an assumed reference.

What are your favorite movies based on urban legends? Should movies utilize urban legends more often? Let us know in the comments below!

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