WE’VE all heard the story...the Hook Man, an urban legend and Halloween classic. But is there any truth behind it? Here’s the basic rendition:
On a summer night, a boy and a girl drive out to a spot in the woods. Parked in the darkness, they heard on the radio that a man escaped from the a State Hospital, several miles from the local high school, and was terrorizing and killing innocent people. He was described to have lost his hand and years ago, it had been replaced by a large metal hook. He had hacked off his own hand in a fit of madness, attempting to escape a pair of handcuffs years earlier.
The boy thought nothing of it, switched off the radio and turned his attention to his girlfriend.
Suddenly, noises were uttered nearby through the darkness. The girl pulled away, frightened. “I’m scared. You know...about what they said on the radio? Maybe we should go home.”
“What? Do you want your parents to find out we didn’t go to the movies? Calm down.” As they picked up where they left off, they didn’t hear anything for a while until there was a loud screech on the door...coming from the girl’s side of the car.
“That’s it, take me home! It’s not safe out here!”
Her boyfriend, obviously frustrated, reluctantly agreed. He moaned all the way home, teasing her for “being such a baby”. Barely waiting for the car to stop, the girl angrily opened the door and got out of the car as they pulled up to her driveway. Slamming the car door, ready to go inside, she froze, staring at the car. She started to scream.
The alarmed boy got out of the car and walked around to her side, where he too, stopped where he stood and could only stare at the door handle in shocked amazement. Found dangling from the car door, was a bloody hook.
This supposed urban legend began circulating after World War II and more widely during the 1950s. There are many variations, but the basic story is the same. 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 man’s decapitated head in his hand and hitting the roof with it. It’s typical horror movie fodder...but is there any fact to the story?
In Seymour, Connecticut there is the Great Hill Cemetery which has been in use since the early 1802s, and as legend would have it is the preferred haunting grounds of the ‘Hook Man.’ In the 1940s a story began to circulate about a caretaker with a hooked man that once lived on the property. The caretaker murdered a young man who had been snooping around the grounds after dark. After dispatching the intruder, the caretaker hung him from one of the trees on the property. Another version of the tale claims that a man by the name of ‘Hookman’ was wrongfully accused of a murder and since haunts the same cemetery. Old maps of the property do indicate that at one time the grounds housed a caretaker cabin.
An older account of the Hook Man legend goes back to the 1920s in Maine where a sailor returned home after two years at sea to discover that his wife had taken up residence with another man. In a fit of rage, the spurned sailor grabbed a meat hook and butchered both his wife and her suitor. It is said that the sailor hid the bodies and made his way to the Far East... never to be heard from again.
Then there is the more contemporary allegory of Edward Wayne Edwards...who could have easily been the legendary semi-mythical psycho-killer rumored to haunt lover’s lanes across this country. Edward Edwards, who died in April 2011 in an Ohio prison cell at 77 years of age, was very real.
His murders earned him the moniker ‘man with the hook’ from author Phil Stanford...though he never used a hook as a weapon (as far as we know). Of all known serial killers, Edwards was among the most cunning. Once, while on the run from the law in Minnesota, Edwards posed as a psychiatrist. In Oregon, he managed to convince those around him he was a CIA agent, fighting Communists for the U.S. government.
In the 1970s, after his release from Leavenworth, where he was doing time for bank robbery, Edwards appeared on a network quiz show, What’s My Line? posing as a reformed criminal.
He even wrote and published a book, Metamorphosis of a Criminal touting his supposed conversion from armed robber to family man...all the while, dropping clever hints about his exploits as a serial killer.
Finally arrested in 2009 as the result of a cold case investigation in Wisconsin, Edwards confessed to the murders of young couples in Wisconsin and Ohio.
Those familiar with his history are convinced he also committed his signature double-murders in Oregon, Montana and California. Montana investigator John Cameron, a former police officer currently working as a parole board analyst, has raised questions about Edwards’ possible involvement in the deaths of Patricia Kalitzke and Lloyd Duane Bogle in Great Falls in 1957. He also believes Edwards may even be the Zodiac Killer who terrified the San Francisco Bay area in 1968-69 as well as the culprit in the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder.
In The Peyton-Allan Files Stanford ties Edwards directly to the savage murders of two teenagers in Portland, Oregon in November 1960.
Though Edwards could not have been the basis for the original ‘Hook Man’, his history does offer some foundation to the theory that the urban legend was the result of a real murderer from the past.