Hookman Urban Legend

“A young couple is like driving a car in the mountains or something. And they’re just talking to each other, having a good time. It’s dark, it’s night. This is before like phones were a thing. And they heard on the radio that recently a serial killer escaped from the nearby prison and he’s on the run and you can recognize him because he has a hook instead of a right hand. And the young couple was like, okay that’s scary but whatever, and they turned it off. They parked their car somewhere, and they were just chilling in a car and doing what a young couple in a car would do. They get startled because… oh man… what happens? I think something starts banging on the roof of the car or something… or no? Maybe they just hear creaking on the roof of the car. And they go, oh shoot, something is on top of the car. And they quickly get back into their seats and they drive off. Later on, they see there was a bloody hook attached to their car handle.”

Context: This story was told to me after requesting the teller for any pieces of narrative folklore that he knew of. The teller attributes this piece of folklore to a book of campfire stories he read in a store when he was a Cub Scout. While that was his most impressionable encounter with the story, he notes that the story had been told multiple times during his experience as a Boy Scout. 

Analysis: This “Hookman” story is a common urban legend of the modern age that, as the teller notes, is shared as a common scary campfire story. In the modern day, it can be clearly dated as something of the generalistic “past,” a time, as the teller says, before the modern era of phones but still a recognizable scene for an average American. This specific telling of the story is interesting due to how the fluidity of the story is shown through how the teller explains the legend. During multiple moments throughout the telling, the teller shuffles between specific details of what may have happened, though the core events of the story remain the same and undisputed. During the telling, prior to the text, the teller even admits that he views the story not as a specific procedure of events, but rather as a list of bullet points. When compared to the noted “oral formulaic method” of professional traditional storytellers, this instance of the telling can be said to follow this method somewhat through the formula of events, but the actual performance and style lacks a specific formula that allows the story to retain a syntactical consistency. This instance of the Hookman story thus acts as an example of how stories are shifted as they are passed on from person to person.