Candace Hilligoss

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Candace Hilligoss
Hilligoss in Carnival of Souls (1962)
Mary Candace Hilligoss

(1935-08-14) August 14, 1935 (age 83)
Alma materUniversity of Iowa
Years active1962–2001
Spouse(s)Nicolas Coster (divorced 1981; 2 children)

Candace Hilligoss (born August 14, 1935) is an American actress who gained fame for her role as Mary Henry in the independent horror film Carnival of Souls (1962).

Early life[edit]

The daughter of L.F. Hilligoss,[1] she was born Mary Candace Hilligoss[2] and raised in Huron, South Dakota, where she was active in school plays.[3]

After studying at Huron College[4] and the University of Iowa (where she acted in theatrical productions)[5] for three years,[3]:146 she went to New York City to study acting with a scholarship[6] to the American Theatre Wing, studying under Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg.[3]:147 She made her professional acting debut in summer stock in Pennsylvania. She acted at the Cape Cod Playhouse, appeared in a touring production of Idiot's Delight with Nina Foch, performed in television programs produced in New York, and worked as a dancer at the Copacabana nightclub.[3]:146


After college, Hilligoss attended the Barbizon Modeling and Acting School in New York. Following her graduation from there in 1956, she was one of five models who traveled to South America on a month-long tour to demonstrate then-new American fashions.[4]

Film career[edit]

She is best known for her portrayal of Mary Henry, a church organist haunted by specters, in Carnival of Souls (1962), a low-budget horror film that has developed a cult following.[7] She had been offered a role in the Richard Hilliard-directed horror film Psychomania (1963), but opted for the role in Carnival of Souls.[3]:146 She stated that at the time, she took the role as a "take-the-money-and-run type of situation";[3]:147 she was paid approximately $2,000 for her work in the film.[3]:152

She also appeared in a supporting role in the horror film The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964),[3]:156 which was shot in Stamford, Connecticut, while Hilligoss was living in New York.[3]:152–53 In 1997, she was asked to appear in the remake of Carnival of Souls, but declined.[3]:90

Personal life[edit]

Hilligoss was married to actor Nicolas Coster, with whom she had two daughters, Candace and Dinneen.[3]:154 They divorced in 1981.[8] As of 1990, Hilligoss lived in Beverly Hills, California.[9] Her self-published memoir The Odyssey and the Idiocy – Marriage to an Actor was published in 2017.



Year Title Role Notes
1962 Carnival of Souls Mary Henry
1964 The Curse of the Living Corpse Deborah Benson
1971 South of Hell Mountain Helen Uncredited


Year Title Role Notes
1962 Naked City Mrs. Harris Episode: "Hold For Gloria Christmas"
1981 Quincy, M.E. Actress Kimberly / Victoria Sawyer Season 6 Episode 8: "Stain Of Quilt", (final television appearance)


  1. ^ "S.D. Lass Making Hit in Washington Theater Circles". Argus-Leader. South Dakota, Sioux Falls. Associated Press. July 6, 1960. p. 8. Retrieved February 26, 2018 – via open access
  2. ^ "Honor Pupils Listed In Huron Public Schools". The Daily Plainsman. South Dakota, Huron. May 4, 1947. p. 10. Retrieved February 27, 2018 – via open access
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Weaver, Tom (2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland. pp. 145–56. ISBN 9780786482153. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Huron Woman To Model In South America". The Daily Plainsman. December 19, 1956. p. 8. Retrieved February 27, 2018 – via open access
  5. ^ "Candace Hilligoss Has Play Role". The Daily Plainsman. South Dakota, Huron. April 22, 1956. p. 15. Retrieved February 27, 2018 – via open access
  6. ^ Champlain, Charles (April 19, 1990). "The Reincarnation of 'Carnival of Souls'". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 27 February 2018. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Cult horror classic, David Lynch-influence 'Carnival of Souls' screens at Bay City's Masonic Temple". 18 March 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  8. ^ "Nicolas Coster Biography". Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  9. ^ Champlin, Charles (April 19, 1990). "The Reincarnation of 'Carnival of Souls'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2016.

Works cited[edit]

  • Weaver, Tom (2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-48215-3.
  • Weaver, Tom (2011). I Was a Monster Movie Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-46265-0.

External links[edit]