Mayor of ND town has to wait to hang

Associated Press


The mayor of the southwest North Dakota tourist town of Medora is seeking permission for a hanging, and he is sticking his neck out by volunteering to be the one to go to the gallows.

Mayor Doug Ellison wants to erect a gallows on his property to stage mock hangings for tourists, and he has taken his request to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

“The matter was not on the agenda, and they were a little taken aback,” Ellison said. “There was about five seconds of stunned silence, and at first I think they thought I was joking.”

The commission, of which Ellison is a member, tabled the idea Tuesday and will vote on it next month. Commission members want to be assured the idea is safe and that a locked fence would surround the gallows display.

“I’ve spoken to the commissioners individually, and I’m optimistic it will pass,” Ellison said.

“My vision is to stage a shooting, where I’d gun down someone in the street, have a trial and a hanging, all within 20 or so minutes,” he said. “Anything longer than that, and the tourists would lose interest.”

Ellison, 49, said he would purchase material for his mock gallows from a movie-industry stunt supplier. A harness would be worn under his clothes that would take the impact of the fall from the gallows, he said.

“The rope is just a prop — there is no danger of breaking your neck,” he said. “If all goes well, it will look very realistic. I will be the only one being hanged, just to keep it safe.”

Ellison’s wife, Mary, said the gallows would be at the couple’s home in town, and she’s just as worried about tourists trampling her flower beds as she is for her husband.

“I have to work this into my landscaping,” she said. “I am a little uneasy about [the mock hangings], but he will take all precautions.”

The couple owns an inn, bed and breakfast and a Western bookstore in the city of about 100 people, in the heart of North Dakota’s desertlike badlands that could serve as a backdrop for a cowboy Western movie.

Medora was founded in April 1883 by a French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores, who named the town for his bride. Lt. Col. George Custer passed through in 1876 on his fatal march west to the Little Bighorn, and Theodore Roosevelt ranched and hunted in the area before becoming president.