In the early 1900s, in a small rural county in Texas, a missing child was finally found — in a ditch, eyes gouged out with a fork, pockets stuffed with sweets. An unsolved mystery at the time, locals today believe the perpetrator was none other than the mysterious ‘Candy Lady’…
Over the course of a ten-year period near the turn of the 20th century, a number of children went missing. The story spread that the Candy Lady was responsible, luring children to her home with sweets and murdering them.
It was revealed that several children in the area were waking up to find sweets on their window sills. Fearing that their parents might try and stop whoever—or whatever—was leaving the candy, they initially told no one.
After a child had been receiving candy for a while, notes would start appearing, tucked into the sweet wrappers. These notes enticed the children to come and play, and were signed “The Candy Lady”.
As children started going missing, those who’d received and eaten sweets from the Candy Lady finally confessed it to their parents.
Then a farmer found a sweet wrapper at the edge of one of his fields. Opening the wrapper he found a child’s teeth, black, rotten and bloody. The police investigated and that’s when they found the missing boy with the candy-filled pockets and gouged-out eyes.
To this day locals say that if a child goes missing, it’s because the Candy Lady got them. They say she lures them away with sweets and punishes them by pulling out their teeth and stabbing them with forks.
But who is the Candy Lady?
Nobody knows for sure, but some have identified the Candy Lady as Clara Crane, born in Texas in 1871. She married a man called Leonard and they had a daughter, Marcella. In 1893, Marcella was killed in a farming accident. Leonard was supervising, but had been drinking. Devastated, Clara became withdrawn and despondent and blamed her husband for Marcella’s tragic death.
Two years later, Clara murdered Leonard with poisoned caramels. She was tried and convicted of murder, but found to be suffering from “mania” and committed to North Texas Lunatic Asylum.
There Clara made a doll out of torn bed sheets which she would talk and sing to at night. Some have speculated that Clara believed the doll to be her daughter Marcella. She certainly came to believe that Marcella was still alive, as evidenced by a letter Clara wrote to her sister Aggie:
I am elated! I have been informed by Doctor Matthews that Marcy and I will be returning home in less than three weeks!
As you can imagine, Marcy can barely contain her excitement. Every night she asks “Is tomorrow the day when we go home, Mother?” Very soon I will be able to tell her “Yes”.
Our stay here has been somewhat of a trial, though I have been grateful to the good Doctor and his staff in their dedication to our treatment and recovery. Leonard’s death had put us in such a severe state of melancholy that I feared we would never escape it.
These past few years have been more difficult than any in my life. And my dear Marcella, after all that she has had to endure, has become my strength, my flame of hope….
As mentioned in the letter, Clara was released from the hospital in 1899. This was due to overcrowding. Even though she’d committed murder, the fact that she was charming and softly spoken made her a good candidate for release in those days. And because there was no aftercare or supervision back then, nobody really knows where Clara ended up.
Since it was literally a couple of years later that children near Clara’s home town started going missing, Clara has been named prime suspect for being the Candy Lady.
What to make of this urban legend?
First let’s take a look at what an urban legend actually is. Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes it as “an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true”. Collins Dictionary says “urban legends are usually untrue or unverifiable”. And Wikipedia describes them as “a form of modern folklore consisting of usually fictional stories”.
Okay, so “usually” fictional and untrue doesn’t mean “always” fictional and untrue. At the same time, it’s possible that if any children really did going missing in Texas, then someone thought up the Candy Lady story to explain their disappearances. And it’s quite probable that they were influenced by the case of the teeth in the sweet wrapper/child found dead in a ditch with candy-filled pockets, and by Clara Crane poisoning her husband with toffees.
Having said that, I’m not 100% that Clara Crane was real. Most websites with information on her are websites about the Candy Lady legend. And it’s impossible to prove that the newspaper article above is legit just from this single hazy image (it doesn’t even say what newspaper it was printed in). I also can’t trace the source of that alleged letter to ‘Aggie’ — that could be made up as well. There’s even less proof out there for the story of the teeth in the sweet wrapper and the kid in the ditch. This kid and Clara Crane could easily be as fictional as the Candy Lady herself.
Granted, this creepy story has to have come from somewhere. Perhaps straight out of someone’s imagination during ghost stories round a campfire, or cobbled together from bits and pieces of real events and crimes.
What those real crimes were, we may never know.
Next week: a bunch of funny/weird ways of solving writers’ block + story updates