Clara Crane- The Candy Lady
Updated: Mar 21
All of the best stories have a dash of truth mixed into them and some take on a life of their own. Some stories find life as an urban legend- which are some of our favorites!
In Terrell, Texas, one such story has a kernel of history behind it. At the turn of the 20th century, a young woman named Clara lived on a farm in rural Texas with her husband, Leonard, and their 5 year old daughter, Marcella.
Born in 1871, Clara married Leonard Gilbert Crane, an older man who owned a farm. The two were only married for a short time before Clara became pregnant and gave birth to Marcella- affectionately nicknamed "Marcy".
The little girl was adored by her mother and quickly became the whole of her world. Then, tragedy struck.
In 1893, at only 5 years old, Marcella was killed in a farming accident. Her father, Leonard, had been tasked with watching over her at the time, and the reports later found that he had been drinking at the time of the accident. Understandably, Clara was- to say the least- devastated.
Clara blamed Leonard for the death of their daughter and became withdrawn and despondent. Investigators found both Clara and Leonard innocent of any foul play in the death of Marcella, but the grief became all consuming for the bereft mother. Two years of grieving passed and Clara became more and more convinced that her husband was to blame, until one day in 1895, Clara took revenge.
Lacing some caramels with poison, Clara offered them to Leonard. The day after Leonard passed, a nearby neighbor stopped by to check in on the widow and found Clara in a "shaken and frenzied state" and building a large fire next to the home. Sheriff Fred Springer arrived and Clara became violently aggressive towards the officer and was taken into custody.
Facing murder of the first degree, Clara stood trial. Life in prison was the best she could hope for, though she plead that she was suffering from mania at the time of the murder. With this, she could possibly find leniency in her sentencing and be sent to an asylum instead of prison.
Clara was tried and convicted for murder of the first degree, but due to pleading insanity and grief, she was incarcerated in the North Texas Lunatic Asylum- now known as the Terrell State Hospital.
A year into her sentence, in 1896, doctors noted that Clara had torn bedsheets and tied them roughly into the shape of a doll. Staff heard her speaking and singing to it, calling it Marcy.
In 1899, due to overcrowding at the hospital, Clara was released. She was viewed as charming and soft spoken by the asylum staff, qualities that made her an ideal candidate for release in those days. Since her crime had been deemed a crime of passion, she was ruled as unlikely to re-offend, and as there was little record keeping or follow care at the time, there are no records of what happened to Clara after this. Below is a portion of a letter that Clara supposedly wrote to her sister shortly before being released.
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 recover. 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..."
But, the story isn't done quite yet. The urban legend of the Candy Lady begins...
A few years went by until in 1903, some children went missing near the old Crane homestead.
Children reported finding candy on their windowsills in the morning. Sometimes there would be notes around the candy wrappers. It wasn't until the first child went missing that people began to wonder what had happened to Clara Crane.
Some nights, candy would appear and on others, there would be nothing. Two siblings from a local farm went missing. People assumed that they had been abducted by a vagabond, as the community was small and presumed to be safe by most who lived there. Over the years, nearly ten children disappeared, and finally, out of fear, the children began to tell their parents about the candy that had been left on their sills by someone signed "The Candy Lady."
Then, a farmer found rotten teeth that appeared to belong to children out in his fields, wrapped in candy wrappers.
The local Sheriff went missing and was later found in a ditch, deceased, with forks stabbed into his eyes. His pockets were stuffed with candy.
Was Clara Crane really behind all of this? A grieving mother driven to madness at the death of her daughter, or something darker...While we don't know for sure what parts of the story are real and what are legend- there truly isn't much to find beyond this- the story makes for a great cautionary tale. Just remember, if you find yourself in small town Texas with candy on your windowsill one morning, you may not be as safe as you think...
Anastasia & Loren
Wait To Panic Podcast
Wait To Panic is a true crime and paranormal podcast where two friends take turns telling stories that just might make your skin crawl. New episodes are released every Sunday at 2 PM.
Berry. 2017. “Did the ‘Candy Lady’ Abduct and Murder Children in Texas?” C.R. Berry. C.R. Berry. July 6, 2017. https://crberryauthor.com/2017/07/06/did-the-candy-lady-abduct-and-murder-children-in-texas/.
Davis, Dusty. 2018. “The Candy Lady.” Haunt Jaunts. June 15, 2018. https://www.hauntjaunts.net/the-candy-lady/.
Stryker. 2018. “Creepiest Texas Urban Legend Is Tale of Kid-Stealing Candy Lady.” 106.3 the Buzz. January 17, 2018. https://1063thebuzz.com/terrifying-candy-lady-lures-kids-to-horrific-death-in-creepiest-texas-urban-legend-ever/.