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.
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?