The Dark History Of Daniel Robitaille, AKA Candyman

When Candyman premiered in 1992, it was a breath of fresh air for both slashers and the horror genre. The titular killer, played by Tony Todd, is no mutilated nightmare monster or silent masked maniac, but a dignified, poetic, and even sympathetic mirror-dwelling phantom.

The plot covers intriguing topics like the source of urban legends, issues of social class and race, and the truly terrifying question of whether belief has the ability to manifest the corporeal. These themes were interesting enough to spawn three more installments spanning from the '90s to the 2020s, and every new film added to Candyman's lore.

But that lore can get rather convoluted along the way, especially the parts that aren't chronological. So here is the history of Candyman, from his birth to his latest (but probably not last) resurrection.


  • Circa 1865, Daniel Robitaille Is Born The Son Of A Slave

    Circa 1865, Daniel Robitaille Is Born The Son Of A Slave
    Photo: Day of the Dead / HBO

    Far before the events of any of the films, and before the Candyman legend even existed, there was man of flesh and blood who was born in the 1800s. The first film does not name him, but it does explain that at the end of the Civil War, his father, formerly enslaved, was newly wealthy from his invention of a shoe-making machine. With this money, he was able to send his son to the best schools in the country and give him the chance to grow up in polite society, among the socialites of the day. 

    Surprisingly, not until the second film, Farewell to the Flesh, did he get a name: Daniel Robitaille. The sequel fills in other details, as well: He was born at Esplanade Plantation in New Orleans shortly after the end of the Civil War, meaning he was born either during or very shortly after 1865.

  • In 1890, Robitaille Is Commissioned To Paint The Daughter Of A Prominent Landowner

    In 1890, Robitaille Is Commissioned To Paint The Daughter Of A Prominent Landowner
    Photo: Day of the Dead / HBO

    Through his extensive education and travels, Daniel Robitaille not only became a charismatic and well-educated young man, but also discovered that he possessed a great talent for art, gaining him renown amongst the upper class. They would seek him out and commission him to paint their portraits, which they'd hang in their homes as status symbols. This was how he met Caroline Sullivan, the daughter of a wealthy landowner in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago. This man's name is never mentioned in any of the films, but the credits of Farewell to the Flesh identify him as Heyward Sullivan.

    The man had hired Robitaille to capture Caroline's "virginal beauty" in his art, but little did he realize that during those long hours of portrait-sitting, the two would bond and fall deeply in love. Eventually, Caroline became pregnant with Robitaille's child.

  • Shortly After, He Is Lynched For Forming A Relationship With A White Woman

    Shortly After, He Is Lynched For Forming A Relationship With A White Woman
    Photo: Farewell to the Flesh / Gramercy Pictures

    Once Heyward realized his white daughter had formed a relationship with a Black man, his hatred and racism boiled over. He hired a group of men to finish the painter, and some neighbors joined the crowd to witness his doom. After a chase, Robitaille's attackers cornered him, sawed off his hand with a rusty blade, slathered him in honey from the local apiary, and watched as angry bees stung him relentlessly. One boy watching took a taste of the leftover honey and called Robitaille "Candyman" for the first time. The crowd followed, chanting the name repeatedly to mock him.

    Just before Robitaille succumbed to the bees' venom, Heyward joined in the taunting, holding a mirror up to Robitaille's mutilated face as the crowd held back Caroline, who was screaming through her tears. In this moment of agony, Robitaille's spirit was transferred into the mirror, leaving his cold body behind.

    Caroline then broke free and made off with the mirror, never to be seen by the people of Cabrini-Green again. Robitaille, meanwhile, was burned on a pyre and his ashes were spread across the area, and over time, his story faded into legend.

  • Caroline Lives On Through The Early 1900s, Carrying Daniel Robitaille's Legacy In Secret

    Caroline Lives On Through The Early 1900s, Carrying Daniel Robitaille's Legacy In Secret
    Photo: Farewell to the Flesh / Gramercy Pictures

    While many of her neighbors believed she had taken her own life or simply vanished out of shame, in reality, Caroline ran away to the South. She ended up at Esplanade Plantation in New Orleans, the birthplace of her lost lover. Here, she hid the last piece of him, the soul contained in the mirror.

    She also stayed and gave birth to their daughter Isabel, whom she raised as white. With her fair skin, the little girl easily passed, and the family line continued with no outsiders knowing their true lineage - in fact, the family itself eventually lost this knowledge. Within a few generations, Annie Tarrant, the protagonist of Farewell to the Flesh was born and raised in this same house, with no clue that Isabel was her grandmother or that Candyman her great-grandfather. When she later moved out, the house fell to ruin and vandals.

  • In 1992, Helen Lyle Comes To The Cabrini-Green Housing Project To Investigate The Candyman Legend

    In 1992, Helen Lyle Comes To The Cabrini-Green Housing Project To Investigate The Candyman Legend
    Photo: Candyman / Tri Star Pictures

    As the story of Daniel Robitaille became the story of Candyman, his bloody stump gained a hook, the bees became an omen of his ghost's arrival, and chanting his name into a mirror - like the taunts of the crowd - became his summoning spell. The third film, Day of the Dead, even specified that the crowd chanted his name five times before he succumbed to his stings. Over the years, his place of passing, Cabrini-Green, became a ghetto, and residents blamed their misfortunes on his vengeful ghost.

    Then, in 1992, after a particularly harsh year of 26 killings in the area, his legend started to leak out to the rest of the world. Newspapers reported the killing of one Ruthie Jean in great detail, noting how she called 911 to report a stranger coming through her bathroom mirror. Her case caught the attention of Helen Lyle, a graduate student writing her thesis on urban legends. This is the start of the first film.

    With a new focus on Candyman specifically, Lyle's actions during her research actually discredited his existence. Her thesis claimed that his myth was nothing more than a coping device for the stresses of living in the ghetto, and when she was bombarded by a gang member while looking around the housing project, police apprehended him and assumed he was responsible for the Candyman killings, "disproving" the myth. But, just as Lyle began to feel safe in her conviction that none of this was real, her hubris ended up summoning the real Candyman.

  • Lyle Appears To Defeat Candyman, But She Sacrifices Herself To Save Anthony McCoy

    Lyle Appears To Defeat Candyman, But She Sacrifices Herself To Save Anthony McCoy
    Photo: Candyman / Tri Star Pictures

    Candyman explains that he appeared to Lyle because she discredited his legend, and now innocent blood must be shed to rebuild it. This manifests in his framing her for multiple killings over the course of the movie before she tries to take her own life in the film's final showdown back at the housing project.

    Having kidnapped young Cabrini-Green resident Anthony McCoy (the infant son of Ruthie Jean's neighbor, Anne-Marie), Candyman trapped the child and Helen in a pyre. He intended to take both of them out in a fiery blaze that would once again instill fear of him into the community's heart. However, she managed to fight him off, and as he seemingly succumbed to the heat, she was able to carry Anthony out of the pyre. She used her body to shield him from the flames, sacrificing her life to save his. Unfortunately, in the wake of her passing, she received the blame for the Candyman killings and seemingly became a vengeful, murderous spirit herself, gaining her own place in the local mythos.