Helen Lyle

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Helen Lyle
First appearanceLiterature:
The Forbidden (1985)
Candyman (1992)
Last appearanceCandyman (2020)
Created byClive Barker
Portrayed byVirginia Madsen (1992 film)
Caroline Barclay (1995 film)
Cassie Kramer (2020 film)
Full nameHelen Buchanan
Helen Lyle
Caroline Sullivan
(film; reincarnation)
OccupationGraduate researcher
SpouseTrevor Lyle / Trevor Buchanan
OriginLiverpool, England
Chicago, USA
EducationGraduate student in post-structuralism, University of Illinois at Chicago[2]

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Helen Lyle is the protagonist of the short story The Forbidden (1985) by author Clive Barker and the film Candyman from 1992, in which she is portrayed by actress Virginia Madsen. Caroline Barclay portrays the character from whom Lyle is a reincarnation, Caroline Sullivan, in Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, while the character is also returning in the 2020 Candyman sequel, portrayed by Cassie Kramer.[3][4]



In the short story, Helen is named Helen Buchanan and is married to Trevor just like in the film.[5]


In Candyman (1992), Helen and her friend and colleague Bernadeth 'Bernie' Walsh are investigating urban legends and is currently documenting one such legend known as the "Candyman", who supposedly kills anyone who says his name five times in front of a mirror and turns off the lights. She finds old newspaper articles about a string of murders in which an unknown, brutal serial killer had murdered at least 26 persons - all within one year - without leaving traces and lacking any apparent motive or connections, including one Ruthie Jean in Cabrini-Green, who was split open "from groin to gullet" by a large metal hook. Helen repeats 'Candyman' five times in front of a mirror, but nothing happens. Her investigations remains inconclusive, and when a local gangster assaults her, carrying a large hook and having adopted the moniker of Candyman to intimidate others, she dismisses the stories as sheer fairytales. This draws the actual Candyman out: he reveals himself to her in a parking garage, sporting the hook and mutilated hand and the bees that are connected to his being. The apparation tells Helen that since she doubted him, he must resume killing to keep the urban legend alive.

From then on, he purposes to ruin Helen's life to the point where she will have nothing and nobody left to live for and become content to surrender herself to him and become part of his legend, goading her to "Be my victim" by his own words. During the confrontation, Candyman hypnotizes Helen, who wakes up in a home in a puddle of blood, discovering that it comes from the mutilated dog of local resident Anne-Marie McCoy, and what's worse, Anne-Marie's baby boy Anthony is missing as well. Believing Helen to be responsible, Anne-Marie attacks her, but police men arrives and arrests Helen. She is interrogated by the police, who believes her to be responsible for the abduction and possible murder. She is released on bail, but is stalked once more by Candyman in her home, where he presents her the ultimatum to either become his victim or he will kill the child he abducted. When Bernadeth arrives to visit her, Candyman brutally murders her and makes it look like Helen is responsible. This leads to her being institutionalized for about a month, but she once again calls Candyman's name in front of a mirror, leading to the psychiatrist being ripped open by him and allowing Helen to escape. After heading back home, she discovers that her husband Trevor has moved on with another of his students, Tracey. After leaving, Helen heads back to Cabrini-Green. She encounters Candyman again, and he explains that she bears the likeness of his past love in life, telling her that "it was always you, Helen". She rejects him and escapes, finally finding the lost baby crying in a bonfire. The locals, having spotted Candyman in the bonfire, lights it to kill him, and though Helen is badly burned, she manage to save Anthony for Anne-Marie at the cost of her own life. At the funeral, a procession of Cabrini-Green residents including Anne-Marie shows up, throwing a hook like Candyman's into her grave. Later Trevor, reflecting in sorrow over all the good memories he have of his deceased wife, attempts to "summon" Helen by calling her name five times in front of a mirror; this leads to her ghost actually appearing and butchering him with a hook, leaving his mutilated cadaver for Tracey to find.[6]

Helen is mentioned and shown post-mortem through a newspaper article in the sequel Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995), where it is suggested that many believed that Helen herself did the killings she investigated, although the newspaper questions if she was truly a killer, or a victim.[7]



As with Candyman, Helen originated from the short story The Forbidden, alongside her husband Trevor; she is named Helen Buchanan in the story. She is still called Buchanan in the screenplay for the film; the script also states her to be in her mid-twenties.[2] Aside from this, most of the characterizations for Helen and Trevor are carried over to the film adaption. Some were invented for the film, such as her possibly being a reincarnation of, or just happening to look like, Candyman's past lover (named Caroline in the sequel). Helen Lyle was originally going to be named Helen Tate in the film, but this was changed to avoid associations with Sharon Tate and the Tate murders.[8] Bernard Rose originally wanted Helen to be in the sequel, or at least the woman she was possibly a reincarnation of; this would have been a prequel to the 1992 film showing Candyman's backstory before he was lynched.[9]


According to Virginia Madsen, she was originally cast to play the role of Bernadette 'Bernie' Walsh, Helen's friend and colleague, while the role of Helen was set to be played by director Bernard Rose's wife, actress Alexandra Pigg. After Bernadette was changed into an African-American character, the role had to be recast and Madsen was out. After Pigg discovered that she was pregnant, she pulled away from the project, leaving the door open for Madsen to play the role of Helen.[9] According to Bernard Rose, Madsen "got that feisty quality and I needed someone who could carry the movie and have that sense of being driven to doing the things that Helen was to do. I also needed someone was very brave, to do scenes with insects and fire."[10] Producer Alan Poul has stated that Sandra Bullock was a possible second choice behind Madsen had she been unable to star in the film.[11][12]


Helen has been contrasted with Annie, the female lead of Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, in that Annie comes to see Candyman as a person, while Helen is unsympathetic toward him, obsessing over him and sees him as a chance for a good story.[13] Bernard Rose had Virginia Madsen hypnotized for her scenes with Tony Todd in order to get the most believable performance from her, explaining:

"Since I felt the Candyman would hypnotize his prey, I wanted Helen to be on another level of experience when confronting him. During rehearsals, I'd get Virginia into a trance by having her relax and talking to her. Then once we were on the set, I could use key phrases to trigger her hypnosis."[1]

According to Rose, the hypnosis caused Madsen to fail to recall everything that's happened during a day, and Madsen became relucant to go under hypnosis again.[14]


Virginia Madsen claims that her role of Helen Lyle still remains the role she is most widely recognized for. Christine Caprilozzi at Horror News Network states about Helen that she "isn’t the stereotypical female horror victim. She’s very smart, empowered and in the end, becomes the one to fear".[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Schweiger, Daniel (November 1, 1992). "Everything's Coming Up Rose's". Fangoria. No. 118. Park Avenue South, New York City: Starlog Communications Inc. pp. 42–45, 68. ISSN 0164-2111.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rose, Bernard (October 21, 2014). "Candyman screenplay". Retrieved January 5, 2020 – via Horrorlair.com.
  3. https://bloody-disgusting.com/movie/3600941/helen-helen-helen-helen-helen-returns-candyman-exclusive/
  4. https://newsdio.com/helen-lyle-returns-to-restart-candyman/29072/
  5. Barker, Clive (1985). The Forbidden (Paperback). Books of Blood. 5. Gallery Books (published February 1, 2001). ISBN 074341733X. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  6. Bernard Rose (director/writer) (October 1, 1992). Candyman. United States: TriStar Pictures.
  7. Bill Condon (director) (March 17, 1995). Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. United States: Gramercy Pictures.
  8. Rose, Bernard (March 13, 1993). "INTERVIEW / The sweet smell of excess: Bernard Rose has an oral fixation: Kevin Jackson talked to him about the appetites behind his new horror film, Candyman". The Independent. Archived from the original on December 26, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Caprilozzi, Christine (December 14, 2012). "Twenty Year Retrospective of Candyman with Virginia Madsen". Horror News Network. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  10. Scapperotti, Dan (December 1992). "CANDYMAN - a sweet, scary return to classic horror form". Cinefantastique. Vol. 23 no. 4. pp. 18–19.
  11. DVD commentary, Alan Poul (producer), Bernard Rose (director) (September 9, 1998). Candyman (DVD). Sony Pictures. ISBN 0767817656.
  12. Wood, Jennifer M. (October 16, 2017). "15 Fascinating Facts About Candyman". Mental Floss. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  13. Turck, Blake (March 26, 2019). "Candyman 2 Farewell to the Flesh: Re-examining a forgotten sequel". 1428 Elm. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  14. "Hypno Virginia Madsen hypno'ed during CandyMan". September 18, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2020 – via YouTube.

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