Hook, Line, and Sinker

Liar Liar Claw

Anoth­er piece at the Hearsay show that real­ly hooked my atten­tion was A. S. Ash­ley’s Dis­mem­ber Me For­ev­er, based on the urban leg­end “The Hook.” There are many vari­a­tions on this sto­ry, but the artist was there to talk about his piece, and in his own words, it goes some­thing like this:

I’m third-gen­er­a­tion native South­ern Cal­i­forn­ian, born and raised in Pasade­na. My fam­i­ly used to own a dairy right on Col­orado. I chose the urban leg­end “The Hook” as the basis for my piece because this area is famous for its car cul­ture, and SoCal could very well have been the ori­gin of the story.

It was a clear Fri­day night, and the boy (a foot­ball play­er) was dressed to the nines. He bor­rowed his dad’s big honk­ing boat of a Cadil­lac and picked up the girl (a cheer­leader, of course), who is in her best par­ty dress, to go to a par­ty. They are hav­ing a great time at the par­ty, but after a while, the boy asks the girl if she wants to take off. The girl asks, “To go where?” To which the boy replies, “I don’t know, let’s go watch the sub­ma­rine races or some­thing.” The girl thinks about it for a bit and says, “OK,” so they hop into the Cadil­lac and take off.

The boy dri­ves around until they get to a cliff in the woods out­side of town, with no one around for miles (or so he thinks). He turns on some music on the radio and makes his move. They get busy for a only a few moments before the DJ breaks into the broad­cast with a news bul­letin — a ser­i­al killing axe mur­der­er has escaped from the local asy­lum. If you spot him, you are to imme­di­ate­ly turn around and flee, do not take any chances by inter­act­ing with him. He is a large man and eas­i­ly iden­ti­fied by his pros­thet­ic arm, which ends in a hook. The mes­sage repeats a cou­ple of times and the music starts back up.

The boy smart­ly locks all the doors, then turns the radio up and starts in again with the girl, but she push­es him away, say­ing, “What do you think you’re doing? The asy­lum is right by here.” The boy says, “It’s OK, we’re per­fect­ly safe. I locked the doors, and this is a huge Cadil­lac. We’ll know he’s here long before we’re in any dan­ger.” The girl says, “That’s not good enough, I’m still scared.” The boy says, “If he does show up, I’ll just beat him up.” The girl says, “Nope, we’re done, take me home.”

The boy thinks about push­ing his luck, but can see he’s get­ting nowhere, and frus­trat­ed, he peels off in a hur­ry and takes her home. Back at her place, the girl gets out and slams the door in huff, only to dis­cov­er to her hor­ror that there is a hook hang­ing from the door handle.

Dismember Me Forever

From the object label:

1987 Cadil­lac d’El­e­gance pas­sen­ger door, pros­thet­ic arm with hook, par­ty dress.

The Hook” is an urban leg­end about sex, fear, rejec­tion, and a slew of Freudi­an metaphors.

For me it is a sto­ry of dismemberment(s).

I want­ed to know why our vil­lain did­n’t have a hand. Was it because of a con­gen­i­tal defect, or the result of some bru­tal­ly vio­lent inci­dent that pushed him into a per­ma­nent­ly psy­chot­ic state? And what did hav­ing his pros­the­sis torn off (along with part of his arm) by a speed­ing car do for his already rosy disposition?

Have you heard the leg­end of “the Hook” before? Do you think it is sim­ply a fun-to-tell tale of a near death, or is it a social warn­ing against promis­cu­ity? Is the hook a Freudi­an phal­lic sym­bol and his failed attack a psy­chic “cas­tra­tion”, or a lit­er­ary device to sim­ply high­light the near-miss?

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