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5 Halloween Displays That Weren’t Pranks – They Were Tragically, Horrifically Real

hangman noose with a dramatic background
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You may have noticed some rather elaborate Halloween decorations around your neighborhood these days, from zombies and vampires to tombstones and cobwebs. Someone in your town may have even turned his house into a playground of haunts and nightmares, perhaps featuring a corpse hanging from a tree branch. We only mention that last possibility because, at least in one case, that hanging corpse turned out to be a real, actual dead body. (You can read about it in further detail below.)

Most Halloween displays and pranks are just that — displays and pranks. But sometimes, sometimes something truly horrifying has occurred. Here are five such stories to keep in mind as All Hallows Eve approaches…

Tragic Tree Hanging

In October 2005, a Delaware woman committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree. People who saw the body hanging across the street from some houses on a relatively busy street thought it was a Halloween decoration and didn’t call the police or 911.

The next morning, people went to work and saw the body of the 42-year-old woman, but no one thought anything of it, thinking it was a Halloween prank. Hours later someone finally called the police, who discovered that the body was in fact real.

Realistic Balcony Display

In Los Angeles in October 2009, a man’s corpse decomposed on his balcony, in full sight of his neighbors, for days because anyone who saw it thought it was part of a very convincing Halloween display and never called the police. Mostafa Mahmoud Zayed died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on a Monday, but wasn’t actually discovered by police until that Thursday when someone finally called it in.

“The body was in plain view of the entire apartment complex [and] they all didn’t do anything,” one witness said. “It’s very strange. It did look unreal, to be honest.”

Haunted House Hit-and-Run

In 1997, a Connecticut woman was hit by a car outside of a haunted house display. Passersby, on their way to partake of the fright and gore at the Nightmare at Floydville Road, thought the woman who lay there dying, bloodied and in pain, was part of the act. One eyewitness even told police after the fact that he saw the woman reach up from her prone position and thought she was one of the haunted house performers.

Kimberley Kitrinos eventually died from her injuries and police were able to track down the driver who never realized he had hit a person with his car.

The Mailman Who Didn’t Look Twice

In 2013 a mailman in Denver came across what he thought was a very authentic-looking Halloween decoration on someone’s front porch, but it turned out to be an actual dead person. Just a day after Halloween, a man died on his front porch after working a late-night shift. His body lay on the front steps near the mailbox where he collapsed and the first person to come across it was the mailman making deliveries on his route the next morning. He ignored the body, thinking it was part of the residents’ Halloween display.

Once the Postal Service found out what had happened, they released a statement saying, “We do know the carrier delivered mail to the house that day, and he remembered seeing something he thought was related to Halloween. When the carrier learned that was not the case, he was shocked and extremely upset.”

Haunted House Hanging

In 2011, a frightening accident at a haunted house that could have ended tragically, actually ended miraculously well. A Missouri teenager was working as an actor at a haunted house outside St. Louis, when she somehow (she has no memory of the incident) hanged herself in the scary bathroom display she was assigned to work. As she struggled to survive and escape the ropes, people who were going through the haunted house thought it was part of the show. Marks on the wall and her hands show how hard she fought to get freed. Finally, a co-worker was making rounds to check on employees and found her hanging there, unconscious.

She was rushed to the hospital where she remained in a coma for three days. She has since recovered from the incident, but suffers from short-term memory loss, dizzy spells and occasional blackouts.

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