‘Candyman’ Horror Movie’s Chilling Parallels to a 1987 Murder in the Projects

The film Candyman helped redefine the horror genre and inspire legions of imitators (and sequels) that could never live up to the original. But what makes it even more terrifying is the fact that it was inspired by a true story. Here’s the story of the film, the series it inspired, and the horrible tragedy that served as the basis for the movie. 

The original ‘Candyman’ was a horror classic

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According to IMDb, the original Candyman starred Virginia Madsen as a Chicago-area student named Helen Lyle as well as Tony Todd as the titular character. Helen is a young student looking to explore local urban legends for her thesis.

One myth she comes across is that of the Candyman, a horrific one-armed man with a hook for a hand who will appear if you repeat his name five times in front of a mirror. While Helen is doubtful, the town’s residents take the existence of Candyman as gospel. She eventually goes forward trying to discover the Candyman, and people start getting killed around town. 

The film has gone down in history as an absolute classic of a horror movie. Based on a short story written by the legendary Clive Barker, to this day it’s hailed as a game-changer for the genre. 

‘Candyman’ was intended to be the Black community’s Dracula

As they tend to do, the subsequent sequels failed to capture the magic of the original. According to Ranker, the first sequel attempted to explain the mythos of the character a bit more, which isn’t always a good thing.

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh was viewed as a more stereotypical slasher film with a second, even less successful sequel following it. According to Madsen, the original’s approach was much more effective, and she wanted nothing to do with the sequels: 

“Bernie [Rose] wanted to make him like an African American Dracula, which I think it was so appealing to the African American community because they had finally their own Dracula. Candyman was a poet and smart, wasn’t really a monster, sort of that classical figure.”

A new version of the character will appear on the big screen later this year. Directed by Nia DaCosta and written by Jordan Peele, 2021’s Candyman stars WandaVision’s Teyonah Parris and Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen, according to IMDb. If Peele’s other efforts are any indication (Get Out, Us), this will be a vast improvement over the sequels. 

The chilling parallels between ‘Candyman’ and a real-life 1987 murder

‘Candyman’ | TriStar/Getty Images

What makes the Candyman film and legend so scary is that it was based on a real-life murder. One recent TikTok video displayed some echoes of the horrific real-world event that led to the grisly killing. 

The New York Post reported that a woman posted a TikTok video in which she found that her bathroom mirror connected to a dark, empty room. When she posted the video, investigating the room in a facemask and armed with a hammer, someone pointed out the murder that inspired Candyman

According to the Chicago Reader, in 1987 Ruthie Mae McCoy was a 52-year-old woman living in a Chicago project. McCoy often experienced paranoia, but in one case her claims were justified. McCoy called 9-1-1 to report someone coming in through her medicine cabinet at home. The police sent someone to investigate, but unfortunately couldn’t gain access to the apartment, so they left. Tragically, they later came back to find McCoy murdered. 

The most terrifying aspects of horror movies are the ones that could actually come to life. In the case of the Candyman mythos, it was based on an all-too-real murder.