Accidental Hangman: The True Stories

There are dozens of campfire stories and urban legends about a Halloween prank gone terribly wrong, sometimes referred to as the Accidental Hangman. In these stories, during a scary theater performance, a young man, usually a teenager, decides to provide the ultimate climactic scare, and pretends to hang himself in front of an audience. The audience is shocked and frightened by the theatrics, but the horror doesn’t end with a standard curtain call. After a short time, it becomes evident that the stunt had gone wrong and that, while the on-lookers had been applauding, the young man had actually hung himself.


The story is so popular that movies and television shows have copied it, albeit with their own twists and turns to the tale. However, either by the course of accident or by thoughtless imitation, incidents of teens and young adults accidentally hanging themselves is a somewhat frequent occurrence. What follows are 5 incidents of accidental hangings from only the recent past.


In October 1990, a 17-year-old named Brian Jewell, working at a Halloween haunted hayride event in New Jersey, accidentally died of strangulation. He was attempting to perform a stunt where visitors would find his body hanging from a gallows as the ride rumbled past his scare station. Jewell would then normally speak to the visitors passing by as he hung from the rope, Yet, the hay wagon’s tractor driver grew suspicious when the boy failed to deliver his scheduled speech when they arrived at his stop. That was when it was tragically discovered that he was already dead.


One week later in Charlotte, North Carolina, 15-year-old William Anthony Odom accidentally hanged himself while staging a gallows scene at a private Halloween party. He was found hanging inside a free-standing wooden cupboard, dressed as a pirate. amid fake spider webs and plastic bats while decorating an aunt’s home. The child was tall enough to stand up in the cabinet but he was found sitting down with a 3-foot length of nylon rope tied into a hangman’s knot hanging from a bar. Odom’s grandfather and aunt tried to revive him, but the boy was dead by the time an emergency medical team arrived.


Then in October 20th 2001, Caleb Rebh, a 14-year-old Michigan boy working at a another haunted hayride at a horse farm, died after switching places with a noosed skeleton hanging from a tree. A friend of Rebh’s claimed that the boy thought jumping out of the woods to scare passers-by was too awkward, and that he decided taking the place of the skeleton would be more effective. The,, as he let go of the rope with the noose around his neck, the tree whipped back and pulled the rope taut, choking him as his feet remained on the ground. When he started struggling and scrambling to get the tightening noose off his neck, fellow workers and the audience seemed to think he was acting and did not immediately rush to help him. When other workers finally realized Rebh was in trouble, they tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late and Rebh was pronounced dead at the scene.


In 2011, 17-year-old Jessica Rue accidentally hanged herself as part of a display, although luckily, she survived. On her second day working for Creepyworld in Fenton, Missouri, Rue was stationed in a gory bathroom scene by herself with a bloody bathtub and a noose bolted to the ceiling hanging above. Somehow, Rue became tangled up with the noose, and it tightened around her neck. The exact details remain a mystery, as the girl spent the following three days in a coma and suffered memory loss upon waking. It is unknown whether she slipped and fell into the noose, or if she purposefully stuck her head through the loop and something when horribly wrong. As visitors passed by, while she was struggling to survive, they believed that she was a part of the show. After spending three days in a coma, Rue suffered neurological damage, is plagued by headaches, confusion, heart flutters, and has blackouts.


In September of 2013, Jordan Morlan, a 16-year-old boy from Kentucky died after trying to scare his little sister. His family said that, after spending a whole day decorating for Halloween, Morlan decided to pretend he was hanging from the noose decoration they had hung in the front yard as a prank. The sister found him and alerted the mother, who still thought this was part of the prank. However they found him unconscious and discovered that he was hung. Investigators said the boy became disoriented after putting the noose around his neck, his brain was cut off from oxygen within 20-30 seconds, and he then had passed out. Paramedics rushed the boy to a local hospital, where he was placed on life support, and unfortunately died 12 hours later from organ failure.


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