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The Man They Couldn't Hang

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"He's got a strange way o' holdin' his neck, stiff-like an' twisted, like he bin hanged, on'y the hangin' didn't take."
Mule Jesse, Kung Fu (1972), "The Nature of Evil"

A character who has survived a hanging. They will frequently sport a scarred or deformed neck as a result. This may just indicate that he is a real hard case and too tough to kill easily, or it may be used to show what a bad life he has led and to explain his hatred of the world. A Bungled Suicide may also be involved.

If he survived three attempts, a sporting (or superstitious) executioner may have let him go. Probably because it's best to keep on the good side of a badass like that.

Shoot the Rope may be used to explain their survival.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cross Ange, when Ange is sentenced to a hanging, because they want her to suffer, they drop her from a height short enough that her neck doesn't break, and watch her choke. She survives long enough for Tusk to rescue her.
  • Fist of the North Star:
    • Devil Rebirth. He had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment because Villainy Prison didn't have anything, including rope, capable of killing him, and they tried no fewer than thirteen times to execute him, none of them taking. He later meets Death By Kenshiro, but survives just long enough to take Jackal, the scumbag who lied to him to get him to fight Kenshiro, with him.
    • The spinoff Ten no Haoh revealed that Uighur used to be a prisoner of Cassandra who survived five death sentences. He fought Raoh, who ended up making Uighur the new warden of Cassandra because of his ambition and strength.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable has Angelo, who was to be hanged for his crimes survived the punishment, most likely due to his recently awakened Stand.
  • Bando from Kengan Ashura is a criminal on death row for raiding Yakuza offices and killing at least 17 of them. He has been hanged 45 times over the course of 25 years and has survived all of them. This is because of his extremely flexible joints, which prevents his neck from breaking when he is dropped.
  • One Piece: Kaido, one of the Four Emperors of the Sea. They tried hanging him; the rope just broke. They tried again with chains; they also broke. They tried to guillotine him; that also broke as soon as it hit his neck. He's survived 40 execution attempts so far, simply because he's that indestructible. It's reached the point he attempts suicide for fun (and also to figure out if anything can so much as scratch him).

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: Played with. The supernatural hero the Hanged Man is a spectre with a burlap sack on his head and the remnants of a hangman's noose around his neck, and is implied to be the victim of a hanging several centuries ago. Whether or not he currently counts as alive is another matter. It turns out the implication's at least partially true - while the Hanged Man's true nature remains a mystery, he needs a willing host to serve as his physical body, and seeks out a new host if his current body's destroyed. On at least one occasion, his host was a criminal being hanged who accepted the Hanged Man's offer of redemption.
  • The EC Comics story "Jury Duty!" (Crime SuspenStories #6) is centered around a man whose "neck was broken, but the spinal cord wasn't severed!" And using the fact that he was declared legally dead as an odd sort of diplomatic immunity to murder the jurors. His downfall came when the remaining jurors realized that since he was legally dead, it's not a crime to bury him.
  • In Death of the Family, when Harley Quinn tries to point out to Joker that a girl always has a secret or two, he gets a noose made of chains around her neck and starts pulling, saying that she should "hang" around and tell him a few secrets. She survives this.
  • DC: The New Frontier: John Henry survived his attempted lynching and went after the lynch mob who killed his family.
  • Ironwood opens with Dave Dragavon hanging upside down from a tree with a rock tied around his neck. He has been like this for three days. Upon being released, he treats the whole incident as no more than a minor inconvenience (aside from a burning need to pee).
  • Lucky Luke: In "Le Juge", Judge Roy Bean, survived because his would-be executioners used a faulty rope he himself sold them. It did however leave him with a chronic neck injury that prevents him from turning his head.
  • The Mad Hatter: The titular hero narrowly survives some criminals trying to hang him in his first appearance.
  • Nemesis the Warlock once crashed on Earth and a group of alien-hating villagers decided the best way to kill him was by hanging. Three days passed before they realized he was still alive, after every person who wronged him met Karmic Death.
  • The Nightwing villain Torque is a grotesque variation of this. His neck was broken when Blockbuster twisted his head 180 degrees, but he survived with a cybernetic neck brace and a backwards head.
  • Sturmtruppen: Played with in a strip featuring a man too tall to be hanged by normal means, much to the soldiers' dismay.

    Comic Strips 
  • One strip in The Far Side depicted a wax museum for cowboys. One of the attractions was "The Unhangable Rustler", depicting a man happily taunting his would-be executioners while his neck was caught in the noose.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Back to the Future Part III, Marty McFly survives Buford Tannen and his gang attempting to hang him because Doc Brown shoots out the rope. Like Brendan Fraser mentioned above, Michael J. Fox really got hanged during one take when his hand slipped, before resuscitated by a crewmember.
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Played with in "Near Algodones" where The Nameless cowboy is about to be hung for robbery when injuns attack and kill the lynch party. They leave him strung up for a laugh, but he's found by a cattle rustler and freed, only to be hung for the rustler's crime which he had nothing to do with.
  • In Bend of the River, James Stewart, of all people, is one of these. References are made throughout the film to his past as a "border raider" during the Missouri-Kansas violence before The American Civil War. At the end of the movie he's revealed to have somehow survived a hanging, with an ugly scar on his neck as the proof.
  • Death by Hanging: This Mind Screw of a movie starts getting weird at the point where the prison staff, conducting an execution, put the noose around the victim and drop him through the trapdoor—and he simply does not die. The staff are left at a loss, unable to figure out what to do as the prisoner's heart continues to beat even as he swings from the rope.
  • In Excalibur, Morgana, Mordred, and their minions capture Sir Percival and hang him from a tree where several other knights have already been hanged. Percival hangs from the tree for several hours in agony until his rope is accidentally cut by a hanged knight's spurs.
  • Friday the 13th:
    • After the Final Girl Chris manages to knock Jason out in Friday the 13th Part III, she tries to kill him by putting a noose around his neck and dropping him from the barn's second floor. This doesn't work, and she has to give him the axe.
    • In Jason X, it is mentioned how officials tried to execute Jason multiple times, which includes a hanging, before settling for cryogenic imprisonment.
  • Exaggerated in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, where the Bandito Tuco survives being hanged at least three times thanks to Blondie's ability to Shoot the Rope.
  • In Gunless, The Montana Kid survived a hanging by Cutter's Bounty Hunters when the branch they tried to hang him from snapped.
  • Freddie attempts to dispose of Michael Myers by hanging him in Halloween: Resurrection. Needless to say, it doesn't work. Michael acts as though being thrown out of a window and hanged was nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
  • In The Hands of Orlac, Vasseur claims to have survived being guillotined, and has the scar on his neck to prove it. It's fake.
  • Clint Eastwood's character in the movie Hang 'Em High, an innocent victim of vigilante justice who seeks revenge on those who strung him up and left him for dead.
  • Attempted by Yankee Jim in The Haunting of Whaley House, as he did in real life. However, his method of doing so just guaranteed a slow death by strangulation instead of a quick one by his neck breaking.
  • In The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, it's revealed that Tony has been hanged several times, most likely for the various crimes he's committed (including dealings with the mob and selling children's organs on the black market). He survives through a trick in which he swallows a small metal flute, which prevents his throat from being crushed. He ultimately dies when Parnassus swaps the flute with a fake, breakable one.
  • Lieutenant Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds has an unexplained rope scar around his neck, suggesting that this trope is somewhere in his backstory. In the part of the country he's from, at the time this movie takes place, didn't take a whole lot.
  • In the 1974 Italian movie Last Days Of Mussolini, the Italian dictator has been captured by the partisans who are lynching fascists. A female partisan guarding Mussolini wordlessly pulls down her scarf to reveal a hanging scar.
  • In Machete Kills, Machete gets hanged by a racist sheriff near the beginning. To the sheriff's amazement, other than being unable to free himself, Machete is unaffected. Machete gives him a Death Glare until he is released.
  • The eponymous villain in Madman survived being hanged by angry villagers who tried to punish him for killing his family, and now carries the noose as his secondary weapon.
  • At the very end of The Magnificent Seven (2016) it is revealed that Chisolm has a scar around the base of his neck from where a group of Confederate renegades tried to hang him on Bogue's orders, back in Kansas.
  • Boris Karloff starred as Dr. Henryk Savaard, who is executed but brought back to life in a 1939 Columbia Pictures thriller titled (you guessed it), The Man They Could Not Hang. Although in this movie, he really does die, and is brought back to life with science... he had it all planned out ahead of time though.
  • Richard O'Connell is hanged in The Mummy. His neck is strong enough that it doesn't break, and Evelyn negotiates his release before he strangles to death. Brendan Fraser himself fits this trope. He was actually being hanged in that scene due to a prop failure.
  • In Night Creatures, Peter Cushing's kindly vicar is actually a retired pirate thought to have been hanged, complete with scar. It's implied that his right-hand man, Mr. Mipps, was the hangman and made sure he was in no real danger.
  • In Cary Grant vehicle People Will Talk this is Mr. Shunderson's backstory. Dr. Praetorius saved his life, after he had been successfully hanged and slabbed. In a horror movie this would have implications, but this is a comedy... still, Mr. Shunderson does come off as fairly unearthly.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • He doesn't have a scar, but Captain Jack Sparrow fits this trope by the end of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Will throws his sword into the scaffolding just as the hangman pulls the lever, and Jack lands on it perfectly, balancing there until the rope is cut.
    • Carina Smyth also survives a hanging early in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Henry catches her out of the air below the gallows and holds her high enough that the rope doesn't pull taut, having to stay there until his allies defeat the British soldiers and remove the noose.
  • In The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Torture Technician Medoza survived being crucified, and has the holes in his hands to prove it.
  • Played completely for laughs in The Ridiculous Six. To provide a distraction, Li’l Pete intentionally rallies up an angry mob. When they release the weights to hang him, he begins sputtering and choking... only to immediately start laughing and say he’s fine, he was just joking. After a few swinging-back-and-forth tricks, the crowd begins to get upset that they aren’t seeing an execution, and draw guns on him. Immediately, the rope is cut by a thrown knife by the gang, and they drag him behind a speeding carriage by his noose... and he’s still fine. Apparently, while growing up on the farm it was his job to pull the plow with his own throat, so he “always had a strong neck”.
  • Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes (2009) lives through hanging the first time. Though it turns out that he didn't survive through any sort of toughness or special powers, but because his execution was staged; a hook hidden in the noose and a torso rig diverted the weight of his body away from his neck and onto the torso brace. A few feigned twitches and a drug-induced death-like coma completed the illusion.
  • Detective Hartigan in Sin City gets hung by Roark Jr, but managed to hold his neck stiff to avoid it being broken and rocks back and forth to break the support he is being hung from.
  • Ygor from Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein, the character who gave his name to The Igor, was hanged for his part in providing bodies for Dr. Frankenstein. He received his trademark broken neck in the process and was pronounced dead from the ordeal, but didn't actually die. This doesn't stop him from saying he had died.
  • The Suspect: The silliest moment in the movie has Ji the secret agent hanged by the North Koreans, who helpfully walk away right after dropping him through a trap door. His hands are tied behind his back, but he manages to rotate his arms backwards 180 degrees to grab the rope and pull himself up.

  • In one of the war novels by Sven Hassel, Porta tells the story of a sailor who can't be hanged because he virtually has no neck. In the end the hangman goes insane with frustration and demonstrates that his rope works perfectly on himself. The authorities decide to kill the condemned by other means, but fortunately he escapes. Admittedly Porta has a fondness for tall tales, so it's not certain if any of this is true.
  • The protagonist of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Loss Of Breath" loses his breath and essentially becomes a sentient, intelligent zombie sans the appearance of one. Plenty of antics ensue including being sentenced to death by hanging. Having discovered that he is unable to die albeit still able to feel pain, he decides to fool the audience by faking convulsions and playing dead.
  • Half Cocked Jack of Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle survives a hanging by being pulled down by an angry mob. Although the experience did leave him with a wicked crick in the neck.
  • The Hanged Man from The Black Company. Survived due to being an incredibly powerful wizard.
  • Pangloss from Candide, who survived hanging by the Inqusition. It's not sure it was for the better.
  • Ned in John Masefield's Dead Ned / Live and Kicking Ned is hanged until nearly dead towards the end of the first novel, but - as the title of the sequel indicates - he survives.
  • Discworld's Moist von Lipwig is a subversion - Vetinari deliberately has him publicly hanged "to within half an inch of his life" to fake his death so that he can keep Moist on as a Boxed Crook.
    • In The Last Continent, the Real Life concept of a sentence being reduced if a hanging is failed is parodied. If the gallows malfunctions in a Fourecksian execution, they let the prisoner go back inside so he doesn't have to stand around in the sun while they fix it. If it takes long enough, they'll even give the prisoner lunch while he's waiting.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: Juliette, from the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, is an unusually young example; she's only thirteen. It's implied she'd attempted to hang herself, but not only did she not do it properly, the Doctor showed up to rescue her.
  • Dragonlance: The head of the Thieves' Guild in Dragons of Summer Flame is a man named Lynched Geoffrey (or just Lynch), so called because he was lynched and lived to tell about it (just don't ask to see his neck if you value life or limb). Also subverted later in the same book- he antagonizes the Evil Overlord in a misguided attempt to get an alliance, and the response is two words- "Hang him." This hanging goes rather well- after all, Lynch already had practice!
  • Lloyd Shepherd's The English Monster; Or, the Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass opens with the title character, hanged for piracy and murder, wondering why another man is carrying on a Dead Person Conversation with him. The rest of the novel explains why Ablass is apparently immortal.
  • Arenadd from the Fallen Moon series counts. Granted, he was killed, but he did come back to life. While his mortal enemy was standing over his body glad for his death.
  • Sheriff Jon Highfather from The Golgotha Series was hanged three times at the end of the Civil war, none of which worked. He believes that neither that nor anything else can kill him as it's not his time yet.
  • Thomas of Hookton from The Grail Quest novels.
  • You can hang a Hoka, but it won't hurt him (they have unusually strong neck muscles), and he'll consider it all part of whatever fiction is currently being lived out.
  • Kullervo in The Kalevala was The Man They Couldn't Hang. Or drown. Or burn alive.
  • Tal from The Licanius Trilogy discovers his immortality this way. He tries more extreme methods, but still isn't able to die.
  • And, as Skeeve learned in the Myth Adventures series by Robert Asprin, never try to hang a Pervect by the neck. They've tried to hang Skeeve too, but being a wizard, he just levitated. Aahz is a wizard as well, but he was depowered at the time, so he survived because Pervects have extremely strong neck muscles.
  • The young adult novel Newes from the Dead, based on a real account of a young woman sentenced to death for killing her child (it was stillborn, but they assumed she did it) who survived.
  • In Jean Zimmerman's The Orphanmaster, the female protagonist's servant, Antony Angola, survived hanging because no rope was strong enough to hold him.
  • Roger in the Outlander series.
  • The Big Bad in Portlandtown is an outlaw known only as The Hanged Man. He survived being hanged because the lynch mob didn't include anyone who knew how to do it right and he got away before the actual law could take him into custody again.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Reynard has this reputation due to a double being hanged in his place.
  • The Riftwar Cycle:
    • In the Tsuranuanni Empire, any man possessing magic is automatically and immediately enrolled into the elite Wizarding School regardless of prior circumstances. In one instance, a condemned criminal was about to be hanged and his powers awoke at the instant the stool was kicked away, so he just hovered in midair.
    • A mock hanging is part of the recruitment of the Silver Eagles. Afterwards, the condemned criminals are told that if they cause any trouble during their service as a Boxed Crook, they'll be taken back to the gallows, and this time the guards will tie the other end of the noose to the scaffold before opening the trap door.
  • The thoroughly nasty Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill from Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels. Obadiah Hakeswill survived a hanging, and claimed that this meant that God had chosen him to be spared and therefore he couldn't be killed. The firing squad proved him wrong on that count later on, though.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire one of Beric Dondarrion's numerous rumored deaths is being hanged. As it turns out, he was, and died. He just came back after.
  • The Tide Lords quartet starts off with Cayal, one of the titular immortals, who has become a Death Seeker, getting hanged. He's annoyed, because he was hoping he'd get beheaded, but the headsman was on vacation, and getting hanged is painful, since he has to wait for the crushed throat to heal. And he gets thrown right back in jail after surviving, as the authorities, who no longer believe in Tide Lords, can't understand how and think he's crazy.
  • The potential for this situation becomes a problem in Tuck Everlasting after Mae Tuck kills The Man In The Yellow Suit in self-defense to prevent him from obtaining the Immortality spring. Mae is sentenced to be hanged, but because the Tucks drank from that spring their secret will get blown open if the attempted execution goes through and she doesn't die on the noose. They have to break her out of jail and run away, waiting decades to let the incident be forgotten about before they can return.
  • In the novelization of the 2004 movie Van Helsing, Igor reveals he was previously hanged by villagers, showing off an old noose scar.
  • Mat in The Wheel of Time series has a scarred neck from a survived hanging (because a friend cut him down in time), which he carefully conceals. Mat's hanging from the tree of life is another part of his intentional similarity to the Norse god Odin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agent Carter: When it looks like Peggy and Jarvis are going to be tried and found guilty of treason Peggy implies she survived a hanging once, but provides no further context.
    Peggy: Have you ever been hanged, Mr. Jarvis?
    Jarvis: I can't say that I have, no.
    Peggy: It is quite unpleasant!
  • An Angel flashback episode dealt with Angel attempting to get rid of a demon in the Hyperion (the hotel he now owns) that manipulates people's emotions causing them to kill each other. Unfortunately, the angry hotel guests target him and hang him from the chandelier. Vampires cannot die this way, and Angel plays dead. After they leave the lobby, he nonchalantly frees himself one-handedly and gives a big fuck you to the guests, telling the demon he can have them.
  • Big Mouth (2022): The three NR Forum prisoners give Changho a warm welcome by suspending him by a noose with a chair under his feet. They don't plan on killing him but they came close to it.
  • Charmed (1998) had the sisters go back in time to the Salem Witch Trials, where they're quickly identified as witches and hanged. Fortunately for them, one of the witch hunters was an ally and managed to secure the ropes in a way that acted as a safety harness, so they just had to play dead and wait until the others had left.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Empress of Mars", it is revealed that Colonel Godsacre was hanged for cowardice but survived. His villainous second-in-command Captain Catchpole rips his collar open to reveal the scar from the rope.
  • Played for Laughs (and a healthy dose of Breaking the Fourth Wall) with Ralph Filthy in one episode of Filthy Rich & Catflap.
  • A mob tried to hang Nick in a Forever Knight flashback. Since he’s a vampire, it’s not particularly effective.
  • Game of Thrones: Zigzagged with Beric Dondarrion, who actually died but was resurrected later.
  • An immortal was hanged in Highlander twice.
    • Duncan in “Innocent Man” during the American Civil War. A confederate immortal comes back to dig him up and give him some clothes post-revival
    • Kanis from “Leader of the Pack”. Duncan begged the queen he was a kept man of to behead Kanis but she refused, had him hanged, and buried him in a shallow grave, an immortal’s favorite kind. He’s back much later wanting Duncan’s head.
  • Played for Laughs in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. After Frank loses all his money in a ponzi scheme, he tries to hang himself in the bar. The only problem is, because his neck is too thick, he only hangs there without so much as choking. According to Dee, he'd already been hanging for a while and could probably keep going for hours.
  • Jack the Ripper has this attribute when he appears on Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Electrocution works pretty well, however.
  • Charlie, on Lost, managed to (barely) survive a hanging, but that might have been the cause of his demise in Season 3.
  • In Moonlight it's shown that the French Revolutionaries figured out the aristocracy were vampires when they tried hanging one, and failed. Hence the guillotine and the fire (instead of burning, it ashes vampires).
  • Murdoch Mysteries has this as a key element of an episode as the detectives are trying to figure out how a convict survived his hanging and then escaped. The hangman is an expert who used detailed anatomical charts and precise calculations to make sure nothing like that ever happened. The condemned man was innocent and the hangman knew exactly how to sabotage things so an innocent man would not be hanged on his watch again.
  • Part of Bob Rebadow's backstory in Oz. He was originally sent to Oswald State Penitentiary in the 1960's to be executed in the electric chair for murder, but the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 coincidentally caused a power surge right at the moment when his executioner threw the switch, and he survived. Even more luckily, the death penalty was abolished in New York State while he was in Oz's medical unit recovering from injuries sustained during the botched execution.
  • Krane, the eponymous villain of the Queen of Swords episode "The Hanged Man". His neck is permanently cricked at a strange angle as a result of the attempt.
  • Supernatural has a man survive being hanged for killing one of the men who raped and murdered his wife because he's a phoenix. Dean kills him with the Colt in a Showdown at High Noon.

  • The Fairport Convention's Concept Album Babbacombe is based on the life of Real Life example John "Babbacombe" Lee.
    They stand me in a corner with my hands and feet still tied
    A warder holds onto the noose, the trapdoor opens wide
    Is it magic or coincidence that keeps me on the brink?
    It seems to work without me, "Will it kill me now?" I think
    My life was spared that morning 'cos it wasn't theirs to take
    Three's the most the law requires a man to feel the stake.
  • The title character in The Mars Volta's song Frances The Mute.
    He tied a rope around her legs
    And let her hang for seven days
  • Some versions of the story Stagger Lee have the titular villain getting hanged, but "his neck refused to crack".
  • Celtic rock band The Men They Couldn't Hang take their name from this trope, with the added bonus of sounding very anti-establishment.
  • Referenced in the lyrics of The Tragically Hip's song Bobcaygeonnote :
    That night in Toronto with its checkerboard floors
    Riding on horseback and keeping order restored
    Till the men they couldn't hang
    Stepped to the mike and sang
    And their voices rang with that Aryan twang

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, Nosferatu elder Prudence Stone has this as part of her backstory. Having grown up in Puritan New England, her odd behaviour ended up condemning her when the witchcraft trials rolled around; found guilty and sentenced to death, she was only saved thanks to her friendship with Osric, a Nosferatu pilgrim, who gave her a vial of his blood and instructions to drink it on the night prior to her execution. As a result, Prudence survived both the Neck Snap and the suffocation until nightfall, when Osric was able to rescue and Embrace her.
  • Variation in Eberron: In a story on setting creator Keith Baker's blog, Mordain the Fleshweaver - one of the setting's premier Mad Scientists and Evilutionary Biologists - managed to No-Sell basically every form of execution except hanging through his incredible control over his own anatomy, shrugging off drowning, dismemberment and even burning at the stake, and later went on to shrug off being Taken for Granite and escape from a convoy taking him to Dreadhold.

  • Bleak Expectations: Harry Biscuit survives being hanged, by dint of being incredibly overweight. He would have died, but since the judge who ordered the hanging was watching, and eating some cheese, and Harry manages to gain weight just by looking at cheese...
  • On The Goon Show, Neddie Seagoon was sentenced to hang by a Kangaroo Court but they were forced to relent on realizing he hadn't actually got a neck.

    Video Games 
  • Silas Greaves from Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is eventually revealed to be after the three outlaws who tried hanging him and his two older brothers. Since they hanged them on the same tree branch simultaneously, the branch broke off under their combined weight, so Silas survived—but his brothers didn't.
  • In Conker's Bad Fur Day, Franky the Pitchfork is Driven to Suicide by his heckling companions, the paint pot and the paintbrush, after failing to kick Conker's ass. When he decides to hang himself, he fails because he "does not appear to have a neck of any description", and remains stuck hanging from the barnyard ceiling until Conker cuts him down.
  • Elden Ring has the 'loathsome' Dung Eater, an insane Serial Killer who spiritually defiles his victims, shown in the opening cinematic being publicly hanged. This did actually kill him, but he (like many others) was brought back as a Tarnished in the wake of the Elden Ring shattering.
  • The cancelled original iteration of Fallout 3, known as Fallout: Van Buren, was going to include a companion NPC called "The Hanged Man". You would have found him hanging by his neck from a tree, more annoyed at the predicament than anything. Having him in your party would have you quickly discover that the man is regarded as legendarily evil and badass, to the point that many people will either flee outright or attack on sight if you were with him.
    • He eventually got Refitted for Sequel in Fallout: New Vegas. As the former Dragon to the Big Bad, Caesar, he was set on fire and thrown into the Grand Canyon in a truly epic example of You Have Failed Me. Rumor has it he didn't even scream on the way down. Naturally, his reputation as the ultimate Implacable Man means there are still rumours that he's walking around somewhere - though Caesar's ban on speaking his name means he's generally known as "The Burned Man". He eventually shows up in the DLC expansion Honest Hearts, where it's revealed that his survival drove him to return to his hometown and become a born-again Christian (well, Mormon). Of course, he still has some anger issues from his time as The Dragon...
  • In The Last of Us Part II, Abby gets saved from being hanged by Yara and Lev.
  • Sindy Gallows of LISA: The Joyful is initially found after being hanged and shot full of arrows by a band of cultists. After killing them, just as Buddy is about to walk away, he wakes up and tells you:
    Sindy: Hey, kid. I didn't get on that list by being a Goddamn pussy.
  • The character selection screen in Path of Exile 2 starts off like this: you're greeted with an execution of seven people and select one of them as your character. The executioner pulls the lever and they all get hanged, except for your player character, whose rope snaps. They flee from the execution by jumping off the wall and into the ocean.
  • According to the sparse back-story for Quake III character Cadaver "is a brutal murderer who couldn’t be executed, The electric chair, gallows, and gas chamber only made him meaner".
  • Mr. Black's assistant Mr. Lynch in Red Dead Revolver survived being hanged. It shows, as he has a hard time keeping his neck straight during his pre-duel scene.
  • The protagonist of Red Ninja: End of Honor, Kurenai, is hanged by her neck using iron wire with her hands tied behind her back, but her small stature combined with watching her father getting killed right in front of her gives her enough Heroic Willpower to survive.

  • From Girl Genius: you can't hang Jaegermonsters. Da Boyz are introduced swinging in the breeze in Zumzum, where they've been hanging for two days. The only thing they're worried about is Jenka finding them.
    Dimo: Hey! Vait a minute! Maybe ve gets lucky! Mebbe ve be dead by the time she gets here!
    Oggie: Ooh! Hadn't thought of that!
    Maxim: Iz you crazy? Den ve really be in trouble!
  • An odd example with Belkar in The Order of the Stick where a group of bandits try to hang him and he suffers no injury. Belkar points out that as a halfling, his anatomy is unsuitable for death by hanging (he doesn't weigh much and his head constitutes the majority of his mass). The worst he gets is a bit of wooziness from the blood rushing to his head when his weight evens out.
    Belkar: You know, that's the problem with humans, always assuming that other races are the same as they are, so they assume the same methods of execution are valid.
  • The unnamed prisoner in Penny Arcade's multi-part strip "Sand". In addition to not being killed by hanging, he also proves invulnerable to fire ("feller don't burn right"), and bullets.
  • Played for laughs in Oglaf's "Full Throttle", which has the said hung man not even realize he's still hanging there as he attempts his escape. The executioners and even the next condemned tell him to hurry up and die so they can use the equipment again, and eventually just decide to ask for a pardon.

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Scarecrow evokes this with his New Batman Adventures design, wearing a severed noose around his neck to imply he cannot be killed and to instill fear into his victims. It's even left ambiguous whether or not he truly is undead now and even Bruce Timm stated in an interview the writers weren't even sure if he was still human or not, with this design proving popular enough to carry over to his designs in Batman Begins and Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  • In the pilot of Disenchantment, Elfo's village chief attempts to hang him for sleeping with his daughter, but it turns out he doesn't have the body weight for it to be fatal. Apparently, the last elf they tried hanging died of old age.
  • Overlaps with Bungled Suicide in the Family Guy episode "Mom's the Word": Stewie tries to hang himself, but can't due to his lack of a neck and the football shape of his head.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: Parodied in the episode "Out West", where Ren & Stimpy are hanged for horse-stealing. Ren just blows in the wind, and Stimpy has no neck.
  • The Simpsons: Groundskeeper Willie mentions in one episode that his father was hanged for stealing a pig, only for said father to turn up alive and well in a later episode. Well, Willie never said the hanging killed him...

    Real Life 
  • Western legend Roy Bean was a Real Life case of this, making it Truth in Television.
  • Also the eighteenth-century Margaret Dickson, who was pardoned and ever after known as "Half-Hangit Maggie".
  • Mary Webster, also known as "Half-Hanged Mary" is one of the more well-known cases. After being accused of witchcraft by Philip Smith during the Salem Witch Trials, some boys dragged her out of her house, hung her up until she was near dead, let her down, rolled her some time in the snow, and at last buried her in it and there left her, but against all odds, she survived. Margaret Atwood dedicated The Handmaid's Tale to her, as well as writing a poem dedicated to her.
  • One tale tells of a buccaneer who was hanged, scared the crowd away by yelling at them, chewed through the rope, and escaped.
  • In real life, on the other hand, most "hanging" sentences are more specifically enunciated as "hanged until dead". Even if being hanged doesn't snap the victim's neck, staying there for a while would almost definitely suffocate anyone. It's more slow and painful but it would get the job done. This is intended to ensure the demise of a would-be Rules Lawyer.
  • There was allegedly a time in America where surviving three attempted executions of any kind was considered an act of God, and you were given a life sentence instead, if not set free.
  • The trope namer is an example from Britain, John "Babbacome" Lee. He was sentenced to hang for allegedly murdering his old employer in 1885. He is quoted as having said God would not allow him to be hanged; his words were to prove prophetic. All three times they tried to hang him, the trapdoor mechanism would inexplicably jam, even though it worked perfectly when he wasn't standing over it. An investigation revealed this was due to a misalignment with a mechanism. Given a life sentence instead, he was eventually released in 1907, when the Home Secretary was persuaded that the "evidence" against him was circumstantial and all-around rather shoddy.
  • Joseph Samuel in Australia is the only other prisoner known to survive three attempts, and his sentence was commuted to life on the spot.
  • In Imperial Russia one failed execution (e.g. due to gallows falling apart or guns misfiring) was enough to change the sentence to penal servitude or even release the convict. Only rarely, as with the Decembrists, the tsar ordered to repeat the hanging. Unofficially the tradition continued well into the Soviet times. Legend has it that the Decembrist leader made some wisecrack to the effect that the czarist regime was too incompetent even to pull off a simple hanging, and the Czar decided to prove him wrong.
  • Stuntmen can prevent the noose from tightening with an invisible knot. This allows them to hang for a while and stay alive. This stunt is very dangerous as it's easy to snap the neck, the preferred method is a harness under the clothes and a fake noose on the neck.
  • In 2013 an Iranian drug smuggler who had been sentenced to death was hanged, announced dead and was transferred to the morgue. A few hours later they saw that he was breathing. He made a full recovery and his sentence was reduced because the officials believed his sentence was technically carried out.
  • Will Purvis was sentenced to be hanged in 1894 for the murder of a man named Will Buckley, but survived when the noose came undone as the gallows' trapdoor opened. A further attempt was thwarted by threats of a riot and, days before a second scheduled hanging could occur, Purvis was broken out of jail. Eventually returning to prison for a life sentence and being released two years later, he was officially exonerated in 1917 by the deathbed confession of Joseph Beard, who had witnessed the actual killing (Beard himself was supposed to shoot Buckley's two companions, but had panicked and failed to do so).
  • Anna Greene, an English domestic servant was sentenced to death for infanticide in 1650, though it's more likely that she had a miscarriage. Greene was hanged and after half an hour on the gallows, she was cut down and given to two physicians for dissection. When the physicians opened her coffin the next day, they discovered that she's still breathing and managed to revive her. Seeing her survival as a sign from God, the authorities pardoned her and she lived unitl 1659.