Candace Hilligoss

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Candace Hilligoss
Candace Hilligoss - Carnival of Souls.jpg
Hilligoss in Carnival of Souls (1962)
Mary Candace Hilligoss

(1935-08-14) August 14, 1935 (age 85)
Alma materUniversity of Iowa
Years active1962–2001
Spouse(s)Nicolas Coster (div. 1981)

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

Life and career[edit]

1935–1946: Early life[edit]

Mary Candace Hilligoss[1] was born August 14, 1935[2] in Huron, South Dakota, the daughter of L.F. Hilligoss.[3] She was raised in Huron, where she was active in school plays.[4]

After studying at Huron College[5] and the University of Iowa (where she acted in theatrical productions)[6] for three years,[7] she went to New York City to study acting with a scholarship[8] to the American Theatre Wing, studying under Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg.[9] 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.[7]

1947–1961: Modeling[edit]

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.[5]

1962–2001: Acting career and later life[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.[10] She had been offered a role in the Richard Hilliard-directed horror film Psychomania (1963), but opted for the role in Carnival of Souls.[7] She stated that at the time, she took the role as a "take-the-money-and-run type of situation";[9] she was paid approximately $2,000 for her work in the film.[11]

She also appeared in a supporting role in the horror film The Curse of the Living Corpse (1964),[12] which was shot in Stamford, Connecticut, while Hilligoss was living in New York.[13] In 1997, she was asked to appear in the remake of Carnival of Souls, but declined.[14]

Hilligoss was married to actor Nicolas Coster, with whom she had two daughters, Candace and Dinneen.[15] They divorced in 1981.[16] As of 1990, Hilligoss lived in Beverly Hills, California.[17] Her self-published memoir The Odyssey and the Idiocy – Marriage to an Actor was published in 2017.



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1962 Carnival of Souls Mary Henry [18]
1964 The Curse of the Living Corpse Deborah Benson [18]
1971 South of Hell Mountain Helen Uncredited


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1962 Naked City Mrs. Harris Episode: "Hold For Gloria Christmas" [19]
1981 Quincy, M.E. Actress Kimberly / Victoria Sawyer Episode: "Stain of Quilt"


  1. ^ "Honor Pupils Listed In Huron Public Schools". The Daily Plainsman. Huron, South Dakota. May 4, 1947. p. 10 – via open access
  2. ^ "Candace Hilligoss". AllMovie. Archived from the original on July 1, 2019.
  3. ^ "S.D. Lass Making Hit in Washington Theater Circles". Argus-Leader. Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press. July 6, 1960. p. 8 – via open access
  4. ^ Weaver 2003, pp. 146–147.
  5. ^ a b "Huron Woman To Model In South America". The Daily Plainsman. December 19, 1956. p. 8 – via open access
  6. ^ "Candace Hilligoss Has Play Role". The Daily Plainsman. Huron, South Dakota. April 22, 1956. p. 15 – via open access
  7. ^ a b c Weaver 2003, p. 146.
  8. ^ Champlain, Charles (April 19, 1990). "The Reincarnation of 'Carnival of Souls'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 27, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Weaver 2003, p. 147.
  10. ^ "Cult horror classic, David Lynch-influence 'Carnival of Souls' screens at Bay City's Masonic Temple". March 18, 2015. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  11. ^ Weaver 2003, p. 152.
  12. ^ Weaver 2003, p. 156.
  13. ^ Weaver 2003, p. 152–53.
  14. ^ Weaver 2011, p. 90.
  15. ^ Weaver 2003, p. 154.
  16. ^ "Nicolas Coster Biography". Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  17. ^ Champlin, Charles (April 19, 1990). "The Reincarnation of 'Carnival of Souls'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Candace Hilligoss". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Los Angeles, California: American Film Institute. Archived from the original on July 1, 2019.
  19. ^ Hilligoss 2016, p. 240.


  • Hilligoss, Candace (2016). The Odyssey and The Idiocy, Marriage to an Actor, A Memoir. Ridge Wood Heights, Florida: First Edition Design Publishing. ISBN 978-1-506-90116-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Weaver, Tom (2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-48215-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Weaver, Tom (2011). I Was a Monster Movie Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-46265-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]