L is a 78-year-old Caucasian male originally from Meridian, Mississippi. L is a retired drill sergeant and veteran of the American war in Vietnam.
While visiting Phoenix, Arizona I met with L to discuss folklore, as he had previously helped me collect war stories for an oral history project. I met L at his Phoenix office where he provided me with two scary stories he remembered from his past. The following is the first of these two stories, which he first heard as a teenager in the 60s.
L: Ok so this is the story of Muscle White… and Muscle White.. was a really bad man, he was always in trouble and been to prison two or three times, and uh been in a bunch of fights and stuff and he got in a fight where he was hurt really bad one time.. and he lost his right arm. And uh, they fixed him up a hook in prison, so he had this hook on his, on his right arm… Well he was in prison, in Parchman Prison in Mississippi… and he broke out, he escaped. And there was this state wide manhunt for Muscle White because he, he was a bad man. They, everybody was looking for him because uh.. he’d been in fights he’d killed some people I mean, he, he robbed some banks this was a bad guy. So everybody was out looking for him.. So, around Meridian where I lived, there were several places where, uh, teenagers liked to go and uh, park and pad, and.. you know and, and uh.. So, one of ‘em was a place that we called Lover’s Lane. And it was a place out in the country. And so uh, this boy and, and girl went out there, they were I think sixteen years old or so, and they went out there and they’re talking. And.. and uh.. um. The girl said that uh, she thought she heard something. And, the boy said “no it’s just your imagination there’s nothing out here there’s nobody out here” and they look, there’s no other cars out here, so there’s nobody here. And she says “no I really thought I heard something, you know or somebody or something” and he goes “no no it’s ok there’s nothing, there’s nothing out here.” And uh, she says “well, see I’m scared.” She says “I really wanna go.” He says “well no, see it’s ok really no no no” she says she really really wants to go and she’s really scared. He says well ok. Uh.. I, I guess we’ll go. And, and then he heard some—a bump on the car. Just as he was cranking up, and that kinda spooked him, and he threw it in drive and he took off real quick. And went down the road, and he said well “the night is ruined so I might as well take you home.” So he took this girl over to her house.. he got out and walked around to the side of his car to open the door for her, and there was a right arm hanging on the door with a hook on the door handle. Muscle White had been there.
Reflection: I have heard the Hook Man urban legend enough times over the course of my life to assume it offered me no more surprises. Yet, L managed to offer a version of the story that was both compelling in its execution and completely unfamiliar to me. I found it fascinating how fleshed out the Hook Man was in L’s telling of the narrative, as most versions of the story I know reduce the Hook Man to a faceless, nameless escaped convict. I believe the local geographical details that L imbues Muscle White’s backstory with provide excellent insight into Mississippi’s cultural history. Specifically, I believe L’s linkage of Muscle White to Parchman prison (a real prison in Mississippi) speaks to the prison’s historical notoriety in Mississippi. As Parchman prison is linked to a storied past of forced labor and terrible conditions for its inmates, it’s not hard to imagine how the story of the Hook Man and the prison eventually melded together through a shared association with evil in the Mississippian collective conscience.
“For another version, see Brunvand, Jan Harold. 2014, Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends, Page #1659