Theroot of the Candyman urban legend can be traced to Ronald ClarkO’Bryan. O’Bryan came from Pasadena and was found guilty ofmurder and subsequently executed in 1984. He killed his son usingcandy that he had laced with cyanide in 1974. Moreover, O’Bryan wasfound guilty of distributing poisoned candy to unsuspecting childrento cover up for the crime. The story uses horrific rhetoric to createa mysterious character called Candyman. The urban legend story isabout a mystic character, an African American man, who sufferedtorture as a slave. Candyman wears a trench coat, a pair leathershoes, a cravat around his neck and carries a bloody hook, which heuses to kill his victims (Brunvand233).He is a revengeful character, who resurfaces from the dead to seekjustice for the suffering he went through as a slave. The legendasserts that if you call the name “Candyman” five times whilelooking into a mirror, he will appear from the dead and kill you(Brunvand231).Candyman does not have any skin covering his rib cage the only thingcovering his ribs is his heavy trench coat.
Thestory has a dual-reader appeal, i.e. it appeals to children andadults. For children, the story may be used to discourage them fromaccepting candy from strangers. For the adult population, the urbanlegend is used to address the need for racial reconciliation byhighlighting the injustices perpetrated during slavery. It providesan idea of slavery life in the 1800s (Foster23).Thestory’s message is that the Black American community sufferednumerous injustices during the time of slavery. Candyman’s vengefulspirit represents the racial tension that still exists today acrossthe globe (Foster35).Themysterious character is ruthless, angry, and extremely scary, with anopen ribcage infested by bees. Therefore, Candyman is very scary. Hisblood stained hook is a signature of many urban legend stories,therefore making the legend extremely popular (Brunvand232).Moreover, the story addresses a universal subject i.e. the history ofracial segregation and slavery. The reality of the two historicalevents makes the story appear as believable and therefore able totraverse across the population. Moreover, the story is common duringHalloween, a popular event in the American colander. Therefore, thepopularity of the story coincided with the popularity of Halloween.
Themost notable thing about Candymanis the fact that it appeals to almost everyone in the society.Despite the magnitude of horror that it conveys, it represents ahighly elaborate story that touches on a range of social issues andprovides a reflection of the fears of the urban society. The legendexplicitly ties different themes relating to historical racialinjustices together to create a successful horror story that isapplicable across generations. Candymancentresaround the lives of Helen Lyle and Bernadette as they work on theiracademic project on urban legends and among the stories they haveread is about Candyman, a killer who goes after someone when they sayhis name five times while staring into a mirror. The legend conveysthe absolute horror. The story is symbolic in the sense that itattempts to convey issues affecting the society, which are notlimited to the society depicted in the story (Blouin83).It touches on racial discrimination, a vice that has lived on untiltoday and ills in law enforcement, such as unlawful killings ofunarmed individuals, particularly from the African Americancommunity, and the subsequent protests by the public.
Candymanis a reflection of the impact of past racial turmoil in the modernsociety. The legend carries the legacy of slavery in America bothliterally and figuratively. Candyman’s life in the story changeswhen he fall in love with the daughter of an American man, whichmarks the beginning of his fateful end. Therefore, the story stresseson the deficiency of equality in the society, something that stillexists today. Racial segregation in modern cities is a major themereflected in the story. The Cabrini-Green housing project is labeledthe “scary” place that Helen dare to visit (Blouin87).The neighborhood is characterized by criminality as represented bygangs, poor law enforcement, and even snipers on building tops. Theracial tension in the story is real and of a high degree, which makesthe story to be relevant even today.
Candymansuccessfully transforms the behavior of the audience in the sensethat the character who is labeled a serial killer prevents peoplefrom chanting his name in front of a mirror. However, the characterrepresents elements that twist into the urban culture. For instance,the use of the word “candy” serves as a code for drugs and otheraspects of the society such as slavery. In the real world, the storysuccessfully teaches people against social ills such as slavery anddiscrimination based on racial orientation.
Blouin,Michael J. "Candyman and Neoliberal Racism." MagicalThinking, Fantastic Film, and the Illusions of Neoliberalism.Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016. 81-107.
Brunvand,Jan Harold. Encyclopediaof urban legends.Abc-clio, 2012.
Foster,Serena. SCARINGIT OUT OF US: HOW CANDYMAN AND PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES CAN BE USED TOVIEW THE DARKER SIDES OF OUR PERSONALITIES AND PERPETUATE THE SEARCHFOR SELF-COMPLETION THROUGH CONFRONTING THE ‘OTHER’.Diss. The University of Utah, 2011.