I thought Cropsey was a stellar documentary. So I’m eager to watch Killer Legends, this filmmaker’s second documentary about Urban Legends and there possible sources. Check it out, now, streaming on Netflix!
For those unaware, like I was, but apparently, social scientists are trying to re-brand urban legends as “contemporary legends.” Well, whatever the label, what these legends basically boil down to is modern folklore or oft told tales — usually with a macabre element or an ironic twist to them, deeply rooted in popular culture, with just a hint of plausibility to keep the gullible hooked enough to keep passing them along. These tales are used as fables, parables, possible explanations for strange occurrences or events, but, more often than not, they are used as cautionary tales that usually happened to a friend of a friend of a friend or someone’s cousin’s uncle. And one of the prime examples of an urban legend is the tale of ‘The Hook.’
It begins with a young couple parked in a secluded lover’s lane engaged in some premarital necking. And as hormones rage, passions heat up, and few hickeys are born, the music on the radio is interrupted by a breaking news bulletin revealing an escaped mental patient / mad-dog killer has just escaped from a nearby asylum / prison; and this fugitive has one very distinguishing characteristic: one of his hands is missing, and has been replaced with a stainless steel hook — which he used to murder several people. The bulletin ends with the authorities encouraging everyone to stay indoors until this madman is captured. Of course, the girl is frightened and wants to head home. The boy, who was >this close< to getting to second base mere moments ago, scoffs, saying the killer is probably miles away. And as the minutes tick by while they argue about what to do, a sudden scraping outside her door frightens the girl so much the boy finally gives up and drives away. But when he gets to her house, ever the gentlemen, he exits the car and hoofs it around the hood to get the door for her. And there, caught on the passenger side handle, hangs a torn-off stainless steel hook covered in blood.
You heard it right. At one point during the 1950-1960s, the “Hooked Man” urban legend had so infiltrated teen society, that Dear Abby featured the legend in her newspaper column.
A man and woman are in love, and after their date of dinner and a movie, they decide to go to a secluded spot and have some special quiet time alone with each other. They drive to a spot near the woods at a lookout point, which overlooks the city below. They turn on the radio to some soft listening music and begin to kiss, hug, and talk of their future together. As time goes by, an announcement comes on the radio telling of an escaped murderer that has a hook for a hand. The man blows it off however the woman starts to feel nervous and uneasy, as the place of the institution that this man has escaped from is just on the other side of the woods they are park at. She convinces her lover that they should leave, and the man, frustrated, speeds off in a frantic manner. They arrive at the woman’s home, and he gets out, opens her door to walk her to her front door. That is when he notices a bloody hook attached to the passenger side of the door.
According to popular lore, bloody hooks have been left hanging on car doors since the mid-1950s. It’s possible the roots of legends like The Hook and The Boyfriend’s Death lie in distorted memories of real life Lover’s Lane murders. There were actual cases of kids who’d gone necking coming back in pine boxes. The residue of news stories about those events would likely remain around for a while, mutating into cautionary tales with the addition of bloody hooks and scraping sounds on the roof of the car.
Real life roots or not, The Hook has been a legend for almost as long as anyone can remember. The key to this legend is the boyfriend’s frustrated response to the girl’s demand to end the date abruptly. Almost invariably, he is said to have gunned the engine and roared away. This behavior is essential to explain how the hook became ripped from the killer’s arm, and to underscore the moral of the tale. The boyfriend’s frustration stems from sexual denial. His girlfriend’s insistence on getting home right away puts the kibosh to any randy thoughts he’d been hoping to turn into reality that night, and he’s some pissed about it.