Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Urban Legend Up Close: Hook Man

Historically, the Hook Man urban legend has always been a cautionary tale against sex. The story goes like this:

A girl and a guy park on lover’s lane and things start getting hot and heavy when a warning about an escaped convict airs over the radio. The killer has snuck out of a nearby sanitarium and he’s (right) armed with a hook. The girl freaks and insists her beau takes his hands off her and heads home. The sexually frustrated boyfriend burns rubber out of there. At her place they discover a bloody hook dangling from the passenger door handle. Moral of the story? You do it, you die.

Supposedly this myth has been around since the 1950’s, but the earliest print recording of the legend comes from a 1960 Dear Abby column:

DEAR ABBY: If you are interested in teenagers, you will print this story. I don't know whether it's true or not, but it doesn't matter because it served its purpose for me:

A fellow and his date pulled into their favorite "lovers' lane" to listen to the radio and do a little necking. The music was interrupted by an announcer who said there was an escaped convict in the area who had served time for rape and robbery. He was described as having a hook instead of a right hand. The couple became frightened and drove away. When the boy took his girl home, he went around to open the car door for her. Then he saw — a hook on the door handle! I don't think I will ever park to make out as long as I live. I hope this does the same for other kids.

In season 1, episode 7, Supernatural put its own spin on the Hookman, by combining it with another, similar story often referred to as The Boyfriend’s Death. In this classicly creepy episode, sorority girl Lori is parked under a train trestle with her frat boyfriend. He starts to get a little handsy and she calls a halt to things. Then they hear an awful, hook on metal, screeching sound around and then ON the car. Her date gets out to check things and disappears. When Lori decides to make a run for it she takes a look back and finds her dead boyfriend hanging upside down over the car, his nails raking the roof.

In the legend, tracked back as far as the 60’s, a young couple is on a date when they run out of gas on a country road. The guy decides to hike to the nearest station, while she stays there. After awhile, she starts to hear this scary scratching noise on the roof of the car. Here the story varies a little, sometimes the police rescue her, sometimes she gets out to check the annoying noise, but all have the same result…the girl looks back and finds her murdered boyfriend hung over the car.

Unlike the Bloody Mary legend whose roots in reality are questionable, the real fear of the hook man comes from a history of true lover’s lane murders. Granted they probably weren’t committed by the spirit of a disgruntled preacher wanting to punish prostitutes for their “sins of the flesh,” but Kripke and Co. know how to take the shadowy things that haunt our nightmares and flesh them out to up our fear.

What urban legends haunt you most?

4 comments:

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Terri, what about the "aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light" part? I heard that one in college and don't remember it connected to the hook man story, but BOY, did it have an effect on me!

Not to, you know, not have sex or to turn on the light and wake my roommate or anything. Just to be creeped out. :)

In fact...it's 1:10 a.m....I'm the only one awake in the house--even Psycho!Cat is asleep...and I just read this post...eek!

TerriClark said...

You're right. It's a third urban legend. http://www.snopes.com/horrors/madmen/lighton.asp

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Wow, I'm glad I didn't read this last night when I was home by myself. I sure enough wouldn't have slept then.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Cool, thanks for the link, Terri!

Interesting that they mention a version with a dog licking the girl's hand...just like in "Family Remains"!