I was hanging out around Zack’s house when he asked me if I had heard of the Hook. We had been playing video games, and I did not know what he meant, at first.
“You know, the story about the Hook?” Zack asked. “It’s the one where the guy is in his car, and he has driven off after some argument with his girlfriend, and…”
I suddenly knew what Zack was going on about. It was nothing but a story which kids had told to each other for years, maybe for decades. It was told on Halloween, with torches pointing upwards under the chin of the storyteller, to make his face look weird. It was nothing more than a story. It was not even an urban legend.
“You’re telling it wrong.” I said. “In the Hook, this guy and a girl drive off down some country lane so that they can start making out. Except that, while they are on the way there, they have the radio on, listening to some rock and roll music. But suddenly a news bulletin breaks in through the music, to say that some maniac called the Hook has just escaped from the local lunatic asylum. He’s called the Hook because instead of his right hand he’s got… well, he’s got a hook. He was put in the asylum because he used to hang out in the sort of country lanes where kids would go in their cars to make out, and he would use his hook to gut them like a fish. The news bulletin says to be on the lookout for this lunatic.
“Well, the girl in the car begins to freak out, because there she is, in a lover’s lane in the country. She wants to get out of there, and back to the safety of the town. After a massive row with her boyfriend he finally agrees to take her back home; but, by then, he is so angry that when he pulls away, he gives his car plenty of gas, going back to town well over the speed limit.
“But when he gets back to town, and he opens his door, he finds that there is this great metal hook hanging from the door handle. Is that the story that you mean?”
“Yeah, that’s the legend, but it didn’t happen like that.” Zack said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that the story was based on real events, but they got the details wrong.” Zack said. “The whole thing’s true – well, bits of it are. But the guy didn’t escape from the lunatic asylum. Think about it. Would the staff at a lunatic asylum allow one of their inmates, a dangerous murderer, to go around with a hook on his right arm? No, of course they wouldn’t. as soon as he was sent to the asylum he would have that hook removed, just for the safety of the staff. Remember, this was the Fifties that we are talking about.”
“Zack, it’s just a story.” I said.
“No, it really happened.” Zack said. “But it didn’t happen like in the story. This is what really happened.
“It all started with this guy who had been in the navy during the Second World War. He had been going to get married before going into the navy, but he put that off until the war was over. His girlfriend said that she would wait for him.
“In some battle in the Pacific he got his right hand blown off. He had it replaced by a hook, and he was sent home. He checked out the love of his life, the girl who he had been intending to marry, but she dumped him as soon as she saw the hook.
“Well, that was not the way that things were supposed to work out. He was filled with great anger, directed towards girls who looked like the young woman who he had been going to marry. He began to hunt down young women – not couples – and he managed to kill over a dozen young women, burying their bodies at some isolated cabin which he had gone to live in after he had got back from the war. He always went for women who looked like the girl who had dumped him. But for some reason he never actually tried to kill the actual girl who had turned him down.
“Forensics weren’t what they are now in the Fifties, and nobody knew that there was a serial killer in the area. Hell, they did not even use the term serial killer yet. They didn’t have DNA or anything like that. The women had disappeared from different towns, over several yeas, and all of them were simply down as missing people. The local police hardly bothered to look for them, presuming that they had gone off to seek their fame in some big city or something. Nobody knew that there was a killer.
“One day the killer saw a girl making out in a parked car at a lover’s lane not far from where his cabin was. Now, until then, the killer had only gone for women who had been alone. But this girl looked just like the girl who had dumped him. So the maniac decided to kill her boyfriend and her.
“The boyfriend, though, saw the Hook coming, the curved metal hook raised and ready to plunge down. He managed to gun the car out of there before the killer could attack.
“The Hook had brought his weapon down at the last instant, though, and he had embedded his hook in the rear bumper of the car. He was hooked up, so to speak, and he was dragged all of the way back to town. He was not in a great state by the time he got into town, and it was pretty easy for the police to arrest him.
“The police checked out the cabin where he had lived, and that was when they found the graves of the dozen girls who he had killed, and who they had put down as missing persons.
“Well, as you can imagine, it was all pretty embarrassing for the police, as they had not really done their job, had they? So, rather than a big trial which would attract all of the press, the serial killer was declared to be insane, and marched off to the local lunatic asylum, where he lived out all of his days. And that is the real story of the Hook.
“The thing was, though, that you could not shut up this story entirely. But somehow in telling the tale it got confused, where the killer was supposed to have escaped from the lunatic asylum, still with the hook on his right arm, and with him going off after couples in their cars.”
“An interesting variation.” I said. “But it’s still just a story.”
“No, it’s true.” Zack insisted. “And I can prove it. I know where that metal hook is.”
“What?” I asked. But I must admit that I was suddenly intrigued to hear just what Zack had to say.
“The hook was removed from the right arm of the serial killer when he was sent off to the lunatic asylum, just like I said that it was.” Zack continued. “The hook went into police evidence, where it should have stayed, I guess, being a murder weapon. But the police, back then, weren’t all that honest, and one of them sold it to this individual who had assembled his own Black Museum of stuff like that. He made the hook into one of his exhibits, although I guess that the guy would be the only one who would get to see it. And it’s still there.”
“How do you know all this?” I asked.
“Because my dad saw it. You know how he’s a realtor? Well, he was called to look over the estate of some old weirdo who had just died. And that old guy – Masters, or something like that – was the guy who had had the Black Museum. We can go and look at it, if you want, before the collection gets broken up. But we will have to go tonight. It’s gonna get broken up next week, and all the stiff taken away.”
“Where is this place?” I asked. I did not really fancy a long drive. I had gone around to Zack’s to play video games, after all.
“Don’t worry, it’s in Maine, we won’t have to leave the state.” Zack said. “It’s some house not far from Bangor. I’ve got the address. So, are you up for it? Do you want to see the Hook?”
I tried to say No. I really did. But I had to know. I had to see if there was any truth in the story, or whether Zack was just playing some trick on me.
“Okay.” I said. “We’ll go. But you can drive.”
Zack smiled, and turned off the games console.
By the time that we got to the house it was almost midnight. The house was miles from Bangor, along a drive off a country road. If you did not know that the house was there you would probably never find it.
The house looked like it was maybe a hundred years old. It was no mansion, but it was bigger than the sort of house that Zack and I lived in. I didn’t know anything about architecture, but I would have called the style American Gothic. It had windows that made me think of eye sockets in a skull, dark shadows through which I could not see. The eaves hung out over the house, casting more shadows, the full moon overhead the only light in the sky.
I got out of the car. I was glad that there was a full moon, as I would not have liked to have been in this place in total darkness. I was sure that, by the light of day, the house looked like nothing more than a curiosity. But by the light of the silvery moon I could easily imagine some monster issuing forth out of the house, some vampire or zombie or worse. But, of course, there are no such things as monsters in the real world.
Zack had parked the car beneath a tree, dark bushes off to the side. I almost had to step in them as I walked around to the front of the house.
“How are we going to get in?” I asked.
“I’ve got the keys.” Zack said, holding them up to show me. “My dad’s the realtor, remember?”
We walked up to a porch at the front of the house. Zack put the key into the front door, and tried to turn it. But the door was already unlocked. All that Zack had to do was to push it open.
“That’s funny.” he said. “I guess that my dad must have forgotten to lock it.”
Zack flicked the light switch beside the door. Nothing happened. But, of course, if the last resident had passed away, all of the utilities would have been turned off.
“There’s a torch in the boot of my car.” Zack said. “Be a lamb and fetch it. Don’t worry, the boot’s unlocked”
“Why do I have to fetch it?”
“Because this was my idea, and I’m the one with the keys.
I grumbled something rude under my breath, but went to fetch the torch. At least it was there, in the boot. I picked it up, and slammed the boot shut.
As I did so, I thought that I heard a rustling in the bushes, beside the car.
“Hello, is there anybody there?” I turned on the torch and shone it where I thought the sound had come from. The rustling stopped. I had probably just terrified some rat or other small furry animal. I thought nothing more about it, and returned to Zack.
Zack took the torch and shone it around. It was one of those big torches, which took those large, square batteries.
“Which way?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. I just know that the museum is supposed to be downstairs. Let’s try to the left.”
We tried to the left. But the left ended in an old kitchen, very dirty, with appliances which looked like they had not been changed in the past four decades. I wondered whether we had come to the correct place, or whether Zack’s dad was playing some sort of practical joke on his son.
We tried to the right, and we walked into a long, narrow room with glass display cases, half a dozen exhibits on either side of the room. This had to be the Black Museum which Zack had been going on about.
We worked our way down the room, Zack shining the torch on the display cases, to see what was inside.
There was a fake plastic cast which, according to the note on the exhibit, had once belonged to Ted Bundy. For a minute I thought, bizarrely, of Married With Children. But that had been Ed Bundy, hadn’t it? I almost laughed, as I suddenly imagined an episode of Married with Children with the father figure getting so pissed off with the rest of his family that he stabs them to death. I’m glad that I didn’t laugh, though. This place was far too macabre for any humor.
There was a scarf or kerchief which had allegedly belonged to Thug Behram, somebody who I had never even heard of before.
There was a letter that was supposed to have been written by Jack the Ripper. We could just about read it through the glass. It was extremely poorly written, and read: From hell… Mr Lusk, Sor, I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer… signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk.
I didn’t think that the letter could be real, as I presumed that all such things were safely locked away in London. It was only after we returned that I discovered that the From Hell letter had been lost by the London police, long ago.
There were items from Ed Gein, Eileen Wuornos and more. I wondered what sort of ghoulish character would want to create such a private Black Museum in the first place. I never understood the sort of people who were interested in True Crime. I always thought that they had to be a little weird themselves.
Right at the end we came to an exhibit which simply read The Hook, according to the card in the case. Maybe it was the first exhibit which had gone into this nasty little election.
There was a large hole in the front of the glass case; and there was no hook inside it.
Zack and I stared at the case, as though trying to understand what it meant. But the meaning was clear: the hook, if it had ever been there, was gone.
“Let’s get out of here.” I said. It must have gone midnight by now, and all that I wanted to do was to get home.
“But it was supposed to be there!” Zack said, staring at the empty case.
“Well, it’s not there now.” I said. I began to wonder if this was all some trick on Zack’s part. But his surprise at not seeing the hook seemed to be genuine enough. “Come on, let’s go.”
We went back out to the car. I got in my side, and Zack got back behind the wheel. For a second, as Zack gunned the car out of there, back the way that we had come, I though that I heard and saw something off to my side, in the bushes next to the car. But, just at that moment, the moon had gone behind a dark gray cloud, and maybe I saw nothing at all.
A few minutes later, though, I could hear something rattling, as Zack drove.
“Stop the car.” I said. “There’s something wrong with my door.”
Zack pulled over to the side of the road. I opened the door, to see a hook hanging from the door handle. That was what I had heard, bumping against the side of the door as he drove.
All I can say is that we got out of there as quickly as we could, back home, away from that isolated house near Bangor. Despite my constant efforts to get Zack to admit that it was a trick which he had played on me, he would never admit to it. He also refused to have the hook in his house.
So I’ve got the hook, now, in a trunk at the foot of my bed. I have tried to research this legend, but still can’t find the name of the killer to whom it was supposed to belong. But I should be perfectly safe. After all, by now, the killer must be in his eighties, at the least. And he doesn’t know where I live.
Each time that I go to bed I tell myself that I’m perfectly safe… and listen and wait for the Hook to come.