The Hook (Legend)

Original Text: “It was my brothers friends and my friends in their basement and we would all have a sleepover, we would just put a ton of blankets on the floor and sleep down there…8 or 7 boys, and we would all tell ghost stories. I feel like the one classic story which was more of a joke because everyone would say it and knew it, was “The Hook”: This couple was sitting in a parked car listening to the radio and then it was like ‘Breaking News! A man has escaped from the insane asylum and is recognizable by his hook’. They got freaked out and the girl was like freaking out and the dude was scared. And then they hear a hook scratching against the car, and then the hook man kills them.” 

Context: The informant is 18 and grew up his whole life in the East Bay Area of Northern California, specifically Orinda, California. He was mainly friends with his older brother’s friends (a year older), so the boys he hung out with were generally slightly older than him. The informant says he was 9 or 10 when he heard this story. He says that the story was used as a running joke to scare each other by saying something like “It’s The Hook!” while everyone was trying to sleep — a “bonding joke”

Analysis: While this legendary hook man may seem like a silly kids story, it reveals a lot about the little 9-11 year old boys that were telling it. As the informant stated, it was a “bonding” joke/story that the whole group of boys knew, indicating their friendship and shared culture. If you don’t know the story, people can identify that you obviously aren’t in the group, which is one of the main draws of having folk stories like these. The element of a hook hand also could indicate a fascination with mutilation and harm, which young boys like these have not been exposed to in the same way that adults have. There is a sense of mystery and unknown that goes along with having a hand for a hook because the thought of that occurring to these boys is pretty unfathomable. The mention of a car and radio indicates that this version of the legend came about terminus post quem (or time after) when the cars with radios were widespread.