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The basic premise involves a young couple parking at a lovers' lane. The radio plays while they make out. Suddenly, a news bulletin reports that a serial killer has just escaped from a nearby institution. The killer has a hook for one of his hands. For varying reasons, they decide to leave quickly. In the end, the killer's hook is found hanging from the door handle. Different variations include a scraping sound on the car door. Some versions start the same way, but have the couple spotting the killer, warning others, and then narrowly escaping with the killer holding onto the car's roof. The couple are later killed.
In an alternate version, the couple drive through an unknown part of the country late at night and stop in the middle of the woods, because either the male has to relieve himself, or the car breaks down and the man leaves for help. While waiting for him to return, the female turns on the radio and hears the report of an escaped mental patient. She is then disturbed many times by a thumping on the roof of the car. She eventually exits and sees the escaped patient sitting on the roof, banging the male's severed head on it. Another variation has the female seeing the male's butchered body suspended upside down from a tree with his fingers scraping the roof.
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."
In 2012 an anonymous user on 4Chan wrote a short version of this story that has since become a meme for its notoriously nonsensical last sentence "man door hand hook car door", bad grammar and spelling.
- Brunvand, Jan H. The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends & Their Meanings, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1981, pp.50-51.
- 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.