Anyone with SFX/ stuntman experience: What's the proper way to hang someone?

A friend of mine will be filming a historical documentary in PA in the coming months. One of the scenes will involve someone being hanged. Is there an industry standard for making a hanging look realistic? Beyond that, will there be any specific equipment required to make the production OSHA compliant?

Well, if you’ll wind up using a dummy, Wikipedia has a good article with diagrams on how to tie the noose correctly. I’m not exactly sure what the harness requirements for a stuntman in this situation are, though.

Funny you should mention it…

We hung a guy in our (aborted) film. We bought a climbing harness and a chest strap from REI and attached it to a quarter-inch cable with carabiners. We lifted the actor by hooking the free end of the 100-foot cable to the trailer hitch of my Jeep. The cable passed through another 'biner attached to a fire escape. With the slack taken out of the cable we had three guys off camera pulling down on the cable, lifting the actor about five feet off of the ground.

The idea was that a ghost caused a television cable to snake down and hang him. We bought some six-wire cable and removed the wires, then fed the steel cable through the sheath. The noose itself was a bit of the cable casing formed into a loop and cut in such a way that it would pull free in case of an accident.

Of course we had a safety signal. If the actor was in trouble we told him to claw at his throat and thrash his legs.

All of the actor’s weigh was carried by the climbing harness. The cable was fed through a carabiner on the back of the chest strap to keep him upright. The shot was quite effective, and the actor had fun hanging around.

Oh – our rig was definitely not OSHA compliant.

I’ve been hanged. As a previous poster mentionned, I was wearing a harness and the “hanging” rope was attached to it behind my neck. The noose around my neck was a separate piece of rope loosely tied to the main rope behind my head. A “guard” was stationned besides me in order to check on me in case of, since I had to be left hanging for close to half an hour.

Which remembers me of the irrate and tired friend who, in all seriousness, shouted at me while we were repeating/testing the hanging procedure, because she and others were very busy moving stuff around when she noticed I was staying idle hanging from a beam one meter above the ground (“quand tu auras fini de t’amuser a te faire pendre, tu pourrais peut-être donner un coup de main” ).

Rereading the OP, it seems my post isn’t very relevant, since our stunt certainly wasn’t compliant with any kind of official or professionnal standart.

Oh - you mean not actually - oh.

Never mind.

(Johnny L.A., fascinating post)

I can’t read your crazy moon language. :wink:

What does that mean?

Correction: It was a 3/16" cable, not a 1/4".

I should point out that we did not just go out and hang the actor. The director and I discussed at length how we would pull off the gag. We sketched ideas. I made a visual aid out of gaffer’s tape. Once we decided on the basics, we talked to a rock climber to find out about climbing rigs. Then we constructed he rig as described and tested it on the director at the studio. Then we tested it again with the director at the location. It was only after everyone involved was satisfied that it was safe that we went for the shot. Our cast included several off-duty cops and some rather strong individuals to assist in case anything went wrong. We only raised the actor about five feet so that any fall would not be dangerous.

It would have been better to have a pulley on the fire escape, only we couldn’t find one with enough capacity to hoist the actor safely. We kept an eye on the cable and got the strongest carabiner we could find, which we checked for wear frequently.

I worked on a big-budget feature where we hung a woman. The harness looked very professional, and may have been the climbing harness described by Johnny L.A., or perhaps there is such a thing as a dedicated stunt harness? In any case, I’d imagine that the guys listed under “Stunt Equipment” (click link) in **L.A. 411 ** would be able to answer any other questions you might have, or direct you to someone who can.

Hey, this is right what I need and right on time! We may want to hang someone in the near future.

I help out with my friend’s band and of course it’s an Alice Cooper tribute. (Like that surprizes anyone! ) At the moment they make do with an electric chair and a stabbing. I’d dearly love to hang our “Alice” though.

The guys are kind of financially challenged at the moment. I was sort of wondering about doing something with bungie cords made up to look like rope. If we can figure out some kind or portable gallows, we might be able to just drop him straight down out of sight. It would be better to keep him visible though. Much more effective. I’ve also considered simply putting the gallows fairly low and having him drop partially through the hole. Underneath would be a box for him to land on so it would look like his feet weren’t touching the floor. Of course he’d slump over when he landed. The bottom of the gallows would be skirted in so nothing would be visible. The rope itself could go over a pully and “Executioner” could just hang onto the end and keep the slack tight enough to make it believable. If he went down fast enough, I don’t think anyone would notice that the rope had actually followed him.

Any ideas?

This is the the harness we used. Here is the chest harness. We needed a 'biner for each harness, and I got a couple of delta (triangle-shaped) rings for guiding the cable. So the whole thing cost under $100.

If your friend wants to try this, remember: WE ARE NOT PROFESSIONAL RIGGERS.

We did not do this on the fly. We came up with a plan first. And the director tested the rig on himself before risking an actor. The hanging rig was one of the two things we agonised over on the film. (The other was modifying a Beretta 92FS to fire blanks. In that case the two of us together had over 30 years of experience with firearms. We tested the gun over two or three weeks to ensure it was safe to use, and we trained the actor in firearms and also had a professional train him.) We DID NOT have a drop. We hoisted the actor from the ground. A hanging-style drop (as opposed to a strangulation-style lynching) will put extra stress on the rig. Granted, the harnesses are designed to take a drop when rock climbing; but there’s also the prop noose around the actor’s neck. If it were to snag…

This has the potential to be a very dangerous gag. Use extreme caution.

Just so you know, I think they’ll have to stick to the simpler stuff for a while yet. For one thing, they’re playing on pretty small stages at this point. So, don’t worry that I’m going to just show up at practice and say “Hey guys, someone on the Dope said we should try this!” We’ve got lots of time to make sure it’s done right.

(Besides, I’m kind of partial to the guy. No, I won’t let them take ANY risks! )

I actually posted that before I saw your post.

Just saw your location. We were shooting the film in Bellingham.

What Johnny said.

It seems to me, six years later, that, the harness we used may have looked more like a vest or a corset than what Johnny depicts here. And like Johnny, we didn’t drop the woman - we hoisted her up, which would involve a lot less stress. I’d absolutely recommend talking to professional stunt people before dropping anyone - are there none on this board?

Anyhow, it bears repeating:

I have a USN parachute harness that we were thinking of using. It looks similar to this only made of mush stouter stuff. We couldn’t get the Koch fittings off of it though, and with them it was too bulky. We couldn’t find a full harness, so we used the two pieces. (We also couldn’t get ahold of a safety harness similar to this locally.)

Loosely “When you’ve finished amusing yourself at hanging around, you could maybe give us a hand”.

And I just saw yours! I used to go down to my aunt’s trailer every year and hang around the Birch Bay amusement park. Guess it’s totally gone now. Small world, eh?

There are the water slides. And up the road there are the go-carts and train.

In his autobiography “Lucky Man”, Michael J. Fox tells about how he was injured and nearly killed when he was in a harness like the one described in this thread. Simulated hanging is a tricky stunt even for experienced professional stuntmen. Tread carefully.