A photo shows the unthinkable horrors of serial killer Dean Corll, the man responsible for the Houston Mass Murders. Warning: Graphic.
Warning: Graphic content.
Say his name five times into a mirror and the Candyman – a ghost with a hook for a hand – will come and kill you.
That’s the urban legend at the heart of the new Candyman film released on August 26 – but a real life serial killer with the same nickname was even more terrifying.
Dean Corll raped, tortured and murdered at least 28 boys and young men in Texas between 1970 and 1973.
Now known as the Houston Mass Murders, his killing spree was considered the worst in US history at the time.
What made Corll’s crimes all the more shocking was the fact that he was helped by two teenage accomplices – one of whom would eventually shoot Corll dead.
While there’s no link between the serial killer and the Candyman urban legend, Corll was nicknamed the “candy man” because his family owned a sweet company, and he was known to give the confectionary to local children.
Corll even ended up killing former employees of his candy factory – along with dozens of others.
Cash for boy victims
Corll’s twisted crimes began when he befriended a 12-year-old boy, David Owen Brooks, by giving him free sweets.
Brooks would spend time at the candy factory and he saw Corll as a father figure.
But by 1969, just two years after meeting, Corll began paying Brooks in order to perform sex acts on the boy.
And the following year, Corll killed his first known victim: 18-year-old Jeffrey Konen.
Konen was hitchhiking when Corll picked him up – his body was discovered bound and violated three years later, buried at High Island Beach in Texas.
Around the time of Konen’s death, Brooks interrupted Corll as he was raping two other teenage boys in one of his apartments.
Corll promised to buy Brooks a car in exchange for his silence – Brooks agreed.
The killer also told Brooks that he murdered the boys he’d been raping, and made the teen a grim offer: $200 for every boy he could lure to Corll’s home.
Brooks agreed to the sick offer – and quickly got to work.
In December 1970, he lured James Glass and Danny Yates, both 14, to Corll’s address.
There, they were tied to a plywood “torture board” before being raped, strangled, and buried in a boat shed.
It would become the typical modus operandi of the candy man.
Corll and Brooks carried on abducting children, sometimes offering lifts or the promise of a party, before Corll strangled or shot the victims.
Brooks said at least one victim was kept alive and restrained for four days before finally being killed.
Sadistic teen accomplice
One intended victim managed to escape with his life – and eventually decided to join the killers.
Brooks lured Elmer Wayne Henley to Corll’s address in 1971, where the killer decided Henley would make a better accomplice than a victim.
Corll offered Henley the same $200 per boy deal he’d made Brooks.
And while Henley initially ignored the grim proposal, he decided to accept in 1972 as his family struggled financially.
Henley was told the boys would be sold to a sexual slavery ring rather than murdered.
But even once he discovered what Corll was really doing, he went along with the crimes all the same, convincing his friends and acquaintances to go to Corll’s house where they’d be restrained, raped and killed.
Brooks would later say Henley grew “especially sadistic”, shooting and strangling victims himself after their rape and torture.
And for a time in 1973, Henley became Corll’s sole procurer of boys.
One of the victims during that time was 15-year-old Michael Baulch – Henley had previously murdered his brother, Billy, who’d worked at the Corll Candy Company.
Corll’s final victim was a 13-year-old boy, James Stanton Dreymala, abducted in Houston.
Dreymala was tied to the torture board, raped, and strangled to death with a cord.
‘I’m gonna kill you all!’
Corll’s killing spree ended in a hail of bullets on the night of August 8, 1973.
Henley had lured his friend Timothy Cordell Kerley, 19, to Corll’s house as an intended victim, but had also brought 15-year-old Rhonda Louise Williams too after she’d been beaten by her father earlier in the evening.
Corll was initially furious with Henley for bringing a girl to his home, but he seemed to calm down and offered the group alcohol and cannabis.
The trio smoked and drank until they passed out.
Later in the evening, Henley woke to find himself bound and gagged alongside Kerley and Williams who were also restrained.
Corll told Henley he was mad about bringing a girl to the house, adding: “I’m gonna kill you all! But first I’m gonna have my fun!”
Henley managed to convince Corll to untie him, saying he’d help with the torture and murders.
Kerley and Williams were then strapped to the torture board, with Corll ordering Henley to cut off Williams’ clothes and rape her.
But while Corll started to torture Kerley, Henley grabbed Corll’s gun and shouted: “I can’t go on any longer! I can’t have you kill all my friends!”
He shot Corll several times before the killer collapsed and died in the hallway outside the torture room.
The teenagers then collectively decided to call the police.
Before cops arrived, Henley told Kerley: “If you wasn’t my friend, I could have gotten $200 for you.”
Chilling photo of victim
Henley quickly confessed to his role in the murders and led cops to mass graves – detectives were shocked by the horror of what they found.
All the bodies showed signs of being sodomised while others had been sexually tortured.
More grim details came out during Brooks’ and Henley’s trials.
In one instance, Henley confessed two victims strapped to the torture board had been partially untied on the promise that whichever beat the other to death would be allowed to live.
After several hours of savagely fighting for their lives, both were raped, tortured and murdered.
Henley was ultimately convicted of six murders and sentenced to 99 years – Brooks received a life sentence on a single count of murder.
In 2012, a Polaroid picture of a possible 29th victim was found by a filmmaker among Henley’s stored belongings.
It shows a boy in handcuffs next to Corll’s toolbox used to store his implements of torture – authorities ruled out the boy being any of the known victims, but weren’t able to positively identify him.
Henley is still serving his sentence in Texas and will next be eligible for parole in 2025.
After 45 years of his sentence, Brooks died in custody aged 65 last year from Covid-19.
Andy Kahan, a victim advocate at Crime Stoppers of Houston, spoke of Brooks’ evil after his death.
“The crimes that Brooks, Henley and Corll committed are considered to be one of the most insidious and sadistic serial killings not just in Houston but nationally, when you considered that they lured young boys to a horrific death, knowing what was going to happen to them,” Kahan told the Houston Chronicle.
“It’s unconscionable what Brooks was responsible for.”
This story was published by The Sun and reproduced with permission.