Urban Legends and Our Sex Lives

I love a good murder mystery. 

By this, I mean ask my friends, and they'll tell you that I spend really absurd amount of my life watching ridiculousness like 48 Hours Mystery and Dateline and every murder mystery documentary ever made. In all this (ahem) research, here's what I've learned:  (spoiler alert for every show ever made) every time there's an affair, you need to investigate the spouse.  Because HE OR SHE TOTALLY DID IT.

Anyway, so, when I was talking to my father-in-law about Hookman, and he mentioned that he remembered it might be a real story, I was DELIGHTED to dive into research to find out. I found a whole new treasure trove of true crime stories through Longform.org, but nothing about a guy with a hook for a hand. Seems like it's not real. Which . . . I guess is good, right?  No need to worry about a hook-handed killer.  Folks have conjectured that it sort of grew out of reports of a handful of unsolved Lovers Lane murders in Texarkana in 1946.  (Read about that here. )  But it's a made up story, ultimately.

However, what I did find was a ton of psychological interpretation regarding our dear old Hook Man story.  And that was intriguing.

So here's the story:

A cute guy and a cute girl are out on a date.  The guy decides to go for it and parks in a secluded area off a country road.  He turns off the car, turns off the lights, and sets the mood by turning on the radio.  They listen to some music, make out a little . . . But THEN, a NEWSFLASH:  a CONVICTMADMANRAPISTKILLERCRIMINALSEXMANIAC has escaped! (Maybe from a nearby mental institution?  Or a jail?  Whatever.)  He has a HOOK for a HAND, and he's out there! 

Wait, the guy's in the backseat?  No, dude, that's another  story !

Wait, the guy's in the backseat?  No, dude, that's another story!

So the girl wants to leave because DUH.  Convictkillersexmaniac = get in your house and hide under the bed.  With your gutting knife your dad gave you.  And a shotgun.  But the guy, of course, is all, "Come on, baby, we're fiiiiiiiine.  Just take off your underwear." 


And so, rejected, defeated, and generally in a huff, the boy drives the girl home.  And when he gets out to open the door for her at her house (and please keep in mind that in some versions he's still pouting and refuses to do this), they see . . . A HOOK!  On the car handle!

You. Guys. 

Do you see what happened?  They would have DIED if they had decided to stay and have sex. 

The Hook Man would have GOT them and HOOKED them.

Thank goodness that didn't happen.

And I'm not gonna quote from the six websites that all seem to have the same information as Wikipedia (you can go read it), but we can use our noggins to ask a couple of reasonable questions with regard to this urban legend:

  1. Wait, if the cute couple had stayed and had sex, would they have really been killed ?
  2. Jeez, why do you have to get punished by a murderer for having a little sexy time?
  3. What's the Hook Man specifically got against teenagers having a little sexy time in a car?
  4. Whoa, is the Hook Man like some doler-outer-of-moral-punishment?
  5. Whoa, is the Hook Man, like, a guy who hates sex or at least has some messed up relationship to the concept?
  6. Whoa, is the Hook Man's hook not really a hook but a SYMBOL?
  7. Is that SYMBOL a PENIS?
  8. Wait, then . . . did the Hook Man get castrated?  Like the boy in the story got frustrated?
  9. Ohhhh. So we should NEVER HAVE SEX?
  10. Um.  When did this urban legend get started?  In the Victorian era?

Good question!  No, it was like the Victorian era, but later.  The 1950s!  That's when it seems to have begun; in fact, it even showed up in Dear Abby in 1960.  It's a cautionary tale, y'all.  Don't park with boys in secluded areas and all that.

But here's what our playwright Lauren Yee has done, and it's what makes her so freaking brilliant.  I'll try to explain without telling too much.

Our play has a literally just a couple of lines about sex.  Sex of the millennial kind.  Sex that is murky and confusing and not discussed but happens anyway and then when you do talk about it, you talk about it over Skype, an unreliable deliverer of information.

In our play, Hookman is less clear, less defined than in the original tale, but somehow he wreaks more havoc and creates much more damage.  So . . . Is this some new-fangled cautionary tale? 

You wanna see the play now, right?