The informant both introduces and retells her father’s encounter with the mysterious “Hook Man.”
When I was a kid, I lived in a house in the woods, and often, the power would go out. So when the power was out we would sit around the kitchen table with candles and my dad would tell us scary stories. This story is a story my dad told me when I was a kid, and it’s called “The Hook Man.” So my dad told it in the first-person perspective as if it happened to him, ‘cause he believes it did. It’s a ghost story — he believes it happened to him while he was at the University of Virginia. I don’t believe that, ‘cause I don’t believe in ghosts, but this is how it goes:
So my dad and his friends were by the old train tracks one night because they heard this urban legend about the Hook Man. The Hook Man worked on the transcontinental railroad in the early 20th century. He was the man who would put the railway down — the train tracks. And that work was very dangerous, so one day, the Hook Man got his hook, because his arm got cut off while he was working, and he died soon after, because he had no food, no way to sustain himself. So his ghost would haunt the train tracks.
So, my dad and his friends decided they would go to the train tracks in search of the Hook Man. And he would carry a lantern — the Hook Man — and this is how you would know, because the lantern would swing on his hook. So, they came to the train tracks. They were in their car waiting and they’re waiting to see him. And all the sudden, about five hundred feet away, they see the hook, the light swinging *swwsshh* — my dad did sound effects — and so, they got in their car and they’re like, “that’s the Hook Man” and they step on the gas *rrrr* (doing car revving sound effect) down the train tracks and they stop, because they notice that the lantern is now about a hundred feet away from where it was before. So they chased the lantern all night, and in the morning, it was gone. And that’s “The Hook Man.”
When the informant introduced her story as “The Hook Man,” I assumed she was referring to the popular urban legend of an escaped hooked convict terrorizing teenage couples, but was pleasantly surprised with a completely original ghost story. As with many supposedly-true ghost stories, this one has likely evolved and been exaggerated over time by the informant’s father, though this is a second-hand telling. As such, “The Hook Man” could be classified as a memorate: it originated with an experience the informant’s father ostensibly had, but was almost certainly altered to conform to common storytelling conventions when retold to the informant.