The Hook, or Hookman, is a classic example of an urban legend. The basic premise involves a young couple parked at a dark lovers' lane. The radio plays music as the couple make out. The music is interrupted by an announcer who reports that a serial killer has just escaped an institution which is nearby. The killer has a hook in place of one of his hands. For varying reasons they decide to leave quickly. The legend ends with the discovery of the killer's hook attached to the outside handle of one of the doors. Many variations include the sound of scraping on the car door. Some legends have the same beginning, but end up with them seeing him first, warning some others, then having him come to their car. They try to escape, but end up with him holding on to the top of the car. It ends with both dying.[clarification needed]
In an alternative version of the story, the couple are driving through an unknown part of the country at night, and decide to stop the car in the middle of the woods, either because the male has to relieve himself, or the car has broken down and the man leaves to go for help. While waiting for him to return, the female turns on the radio and hears about the escaped mental patient. While waiting for the male to return, she is disturbed many times by a loud thumping on the roof of the car. She eventually exits her car and sees the escaped patient on the roof of the car, holding the male's severed head in his hand and hitting the roof with it. Other variations tell of her seeing the male's butchered body suspended upside down from a tree above the car with his fingers dangling just above the roof.
A happier ending sees the couple driving off when it sounds as if the hookman is approaching the car. Along the way, they assure themselves it was just their imagination. However, upon getting home and exiting the car, they find the hook stuck in the door.
References to this legend have been found from at least the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.
Folklorists have interpreted the long history of this legend in many ways. Alan Dundes's Freudian interpretation explains the hook as a phallic symbol and its amputation as a symbolic castration.[full citation needed] Others take a more literal approach by interpreting the story as a warning against parking, a dramatic example of the reason for parental concern for their children, an expression of fear of the handicapped, or a depiction of the danger possible from a rampaging antisocial person.
Swedish folklorist Bengt af Klintberg describes the story as an example of "a conflict between representatives of normal people who follow the rules of society and those who are not normal, who deviate and threaten the normal group."
American folklorist Bill Ellis interpreted the maniac in the The Hook as a moral custodian who interrupts the sexual experimentation of the young couple. He sees the hookman's handicap as "his own lack of sexuality" and "the threat of the hookman is not the normal sex drive of teenagers, but the abnormal drive of some adults to keep them apart."
References in popular culture
- The band Half Japanese included a song called "Thing With A Hook" on their 1984 album Our Solar System, which tells a variation on the story.
- The basic story (with variations) is the opening segment in the films Campfire Tales (1991) and Campfire Tales (1997).
- The tale is told in the 1997 slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer, by the group of teen protagonists. The killer of the film also uses a hook as a weapon.
- Bill Murray's character tells the story in the 1979 movie Meatballs.
- Television series Supernatural featured a plot based on the legend during their first season episode, "Hookman", featuring the spirit of a preacher against immorality who manifests based on the anger and self-loathing of a reverend's daughter torn between her father's words and her own desires.  The characters believe that he was the source of the legend and in the end, destroy him by burning his bones and melting his hook.
- In the Daria episode "Legends of the Mall" a similar story is told with the psychopath replaced by a disgruntled shop teacher and the hook with a pair of hand-forged steel dentures.
- In the show Arrested Development, one episode includes a joke where a group of kids are telling a version of this story, when Buster (who had one hand bitten off by an escaped seal, and had the hand replaced with a hook) stumbles out of the brush, his hook-hand glinting in the firelight. Then, after the kids run away in terror, he looks at his hand then looks up to the sky and screams "I'm a monster!!!" (One of the numerous running jokes within the show).
- Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) tells a slightly altered version of the story to some camp kids in the movie Ernest Goes to Camp.
- In a Far Side comic, an elderly Hookman tells his version of the story, which sees his hook accidentally getting stuck on the car door and the couple laughingly driving away.
- In 2009, GameHouse released the casual game Campfire Legends – The Hookman, a hidden object adventure game based on the urban legend.
- The 1998 slasher film Urban Legend tells the story of two college friends taking a drive into some woods, in order to have a quiet chat, shorty after a recent shock murder has happened involving the females' close friend. The male attempts to comfort the female and also make out with her but she refuses and punches him in the nose. Aggravated, the male gets out of the car to urinate whilst the girl remains in the car. After some time she becomes more worried when her friend does not return. There are scratching noises on the roof of the car. The murderer then appears in front of the car, causing the girl to panic and attempt to drive away. Unknown to her, her friend is hanging from the tree above the car and when she tries to move the car forwards, she is in fact pulling her friend higher into the tree and actually strangling him, due to the end of the rope hanging him being tied to the bumper of the car. He was alive until she decided to run from the scene.
- The series Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed featured a segment on the tale.
- In the TV show Total Drama Island camper Duncan is seen telling the ending to the story to the remaining contestants on the show, and proceeding to freak them out by pulling out a fake hook, the latter as prank.
- The 1998 Millennium episode "The Pest House" depicts a series of murders corresponding to urban legends. The first is a Hook slaying. Character Peter Watts (Terry O'Quinn) admits that the Millennium Group knows nothing "aside from what we all heard around the campfire."
- In the Hey Arnold! episode, The Headless Cabbie, Arnold includes a man with a large golden hook for an arm in the urban legend around which the episode is based. He appears in the middle of a foggy park at the end of a tunnel and scares the cab off the road. He appears again when the boys are in the park and scares them away. However, he just wanted to sell them quality watches and his supposed 'golden hook for an arm' was just his arm covered in gold wrist watches.
- In the fourth season episode of "Two and a Half Men "It never rains in Hooterville", Alan tries to tell the story of the hook as a horror story to Jake while they are camping.
- In the Community episode "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps", Britta Perry relates a version of the story starring Jeff and herself.
- In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Frankie is driving back to Foster's in the rain and suddenly sees a large man in an overcoat with a hook for a hand walk out in front of her car, who quickly disappears, leaving behind only the hook. It turns out that the man is actually an imaginary friend who was trying to find Foster's.
- In The Sims 3, when telling a ghost story you will occasionally end up telling the end of this story.
- The 1990 short film The Hook of Woodland Heights has an escaped mental patient go on a killing spree, eventually attacking a teenage couple at a make out spot with a bent barbecue fork he has used to replace his missing hand.
- A 1973 episode of Hawaii Five-O entitled "Hookman" centered on a sniper who lost his hands in a failed bank robbery and had them replaced with hooks. The updated series, Hawaii Five-0, remade the episode with the same basic plot and title in 2013, except the sniper's hands were replaced with mechanial prosthetics instead of hooks.
- Brunvand, Jan H. Encyclopedia of Urban Legends New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001, pp.200-201.
- Ellis, Bill. Why Are Verbatim Transcripts of Legends Necessary? in Bennett, Smith and Widdowson, Perspectives on Contemporary Legend II (1987) pp.31-60.