The Legend: A teenager was killed when a haunted hayride stunt went terribly wrong.

Fact or Fiction?: Fact. This nightmare really did take place. Three times actually. Below you will find articles about the accidents.

Chicago Tribune, October 23 1990

"Teen Dies During Halloween Hanging Stunt"
A teenager who pretended to hang from a gallows as part of a pre-Halloween hayride died while performing the stunt.

Police said Monday that hayride customers on Saturday found the body of Brian Jewell, 17, hanging from the gallows, his feet touching the ground.

The stunt had worked on other nights and there was no indication of foul play, prosecutor James Holzapfel said. The gallows was being checked for flaws, and an autopsy was performed Monday.

". . . He's supposed to have the noose around his neck, but it's not a noose that tightens," said Holzapfel. Jewell would step down about one foot to the ground, making it appear he had been hanged, Holzapfel said.

During the ride, about 40 people are driven past several Halloween fright exhibits. The stunt went off without problems earlier Saturday. But the tractor driver became concerned later, when Jewell failed to give a speech he normally made as the wagon passed.

Los Angeles Times, October 29 1990

"Teen Dies In Halloween Accident"
A 15-year-old staging a gallows scene at a Halloween party accidentally hanged himself when the noose somehow tightened, authorities said today.

William Anthony Odom of Charlotte, N.C., was pronounced dead Friday night amid fake spider webs and plastic bats decorating an aunt's home. Odom and several of his friends had staged a haunted house in the basement.

Detroit Free Press, October 23 2001

Teenager's hanging stirs questions
SPARTA -- The state of Michigan generally does not inspect or certify haunted attractions, a state official said following the accidental hanging death of a teenager working at a haunted hayride.

Caleb Rebh, 14, of Sparta Township in Kent County, died Saturday night at a Sparta horse farm that offers Halloween hayrides. People who saw him desperately struggling with a noose around his neck thought he was acting, his mother said Monday.

The Sheriff's Department is investigating the death as an accident, Capt. Dan Krajewski said.

The Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services has opened an investigation to see whether youth-employment standards were being met, said spokeswoman Maura Campbell. The department's report probably will take at least a month. "It may be that it will just turn out to be a horrible tragedy," Campbell said. Rebecca Bradley -- who co-owns Alpine Ridge Farms with her husband, Thomas Bradley -- said that she and her husband are devastated by the death, but the accident does not mean the hayride is unsafe. The event will go on as planned, with Friday's proceeds benefiting the victim's family, she said.

Kathy Rebh said she took her son to Alpine Ridge on Saturday and spoke with Thomas Bradley about a possible job. Bradley told her that he had all the workers he needed that night.

"I went back and told Caleb that, and he said, 'Well, can I just stay?' He said, 'I'll work for free. I don't have to be paid,' " his mother said. "I mean, he wanted to do this." Caleb stayed and later telephoned her to say he had been allowed to participate and that he wanted to be scarier to passers-by.

"When the wagon went by, he didn't know what to do, so he just turned and looked at it and said 'boo,' " she said.

He started the evening by working at a post featuring a coffin, then switched with another worker who had been at a station with a skeleton hanging from a noose tied to a small tree, she said.

He replaced the skeleton with himself, and 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, his mother said. When he started scrambling to get the tightening noose off his neck, fellow workers and hayride participants seemed to think he was acting, she said.

Hayride employees and participants tried to resuscitate Caleb, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Caleb was active in his church youth group and enjoyed reading, writing and listening to music, his mother said. "He loved people, and he had a huge heart."

She said she and her husband do not understand why those who saw their son struggling with the noose did not realize sooner he was in trouble.

"We just can't make any sense out of why no one would go over there and try to help him," she said.

The Washington Post, October 22 2001

Youth Hangs Self at Halloween Party
SPARTA, Mich. A 14-year-old boy trying to make his role in a haunted hayride scarier accidentally hanged himself in front of a group of people who thought he was acting.

Caleb Rebh's post at the ride at Alpine Ridge Farms included a skeleton hanging by a noose in a nearby tree. His mother, Kathy Rebh, said he telephoned her Saturday night to say he felt awkward simply jumping out of the woods to scare passers-by.

He apparently spoke with other teens working at the event about replacing the skeleton with himself, his mother said.

Caleb put the noose around his neck but when he let go of the rope, he apparently was not heavy enough to prevent the branch from whipping back up and choking him, his mother said.

When he started scrambling to get the double-knotted rope off his neck, fellow workers seemed to think he was acting, she said.

"I think he thought he was safe because his feet were touching the ground," Kathy Rebh said.

Hayride employees and participants tried to resuscitate Caleb, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

"To have ... people right there watching him die, choking to death and not do anything I don't know if I can ever get over that," said Bryan Rebh, the teen's father. "They just thought he was doing his scene. But he wasn't doing his scene he was dying."

The Kent County Sheriff's Department said the death was considered an accident.

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