In the 1992 film by Clive Barker “Candyman,” a supernatural entity goes around murdering people to propagate his legend and spread word of his exploits through his victims through urban legend. But when the film first came out it soon was accompanied by several people claiming the story was based on a real urban legend and others who claimed the urban legend was based on a very real series of murders. So the question is, were they really?
The Candyman story was in itself written by legendary horror writer Clive Barker. The fact that the themes involved in the story so closely mirrored the other urban legends popular at the time and itself set up a convincing narrative for the existence of such a legend eventually made many viewers believe there may be something more to the story than just good writing coupled with special effects.
The purely fictional version of the legend suggests that an ex slave had been murdered cruelly after falling in love with a woman intended to marry a rich landowner. His hand was cut off and replaced by a hook and he was eventually stung to death by bees in a most painful way. It was said that if you look into a mirror and say the name “Candyman” three times he would appear suddenly and try to kill you. In the classic way Clive Barker so often does in his stories the protagonist then unleashes the supernatural horror on the world and has to deal with the mind bending consequences that follow. But if it isn’t real, why did so many people believe it to be so?
The answer lies in the symbols used in the legend itself. Looking into a mirror and saying the name of a prospective supernatural killer is not entirely made up for the story. The tale of Bloody Mary has been told several times, suggesting that a look in the mirror followed by saying Bloody Mary a variable number of times could bring about a similar result with Bloody Mary coming out and attacking any who dare defy her legend. The story points to the easy access of the paranormal if only one would dare open the Pandora’s Box and unleash it onto the world, but warning against the consequence of doing so.
Additionally, the hooked hand draws from another urban legend. As lovers left their favorite romantic getaway to get home they suddenly heard a mysterious sound as they were leaving. As they arrived at their destination, as the legend goes, a bloody hook was left imbedded in the side of their vehicle. They were left then realizing that the escaped lunatic that had been reportedly stalking the area with a hooked hand had been mere seconds from killing them both.
But what of the bees? This may be a bit of a stretch, but the killer bees reported in the mid to late nineties spreading across the United States, while not in itself an urban legend, certainly pointed to an anxiety in the US about the stinging flying insects. Of course this isn’t incredibly likely as Clive Barker wrote the short story “Forbidden” on which the movie was based in 1985, five years before the killer bees began invading the United States.