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This may be simple and fairly well known, but I couldn't find it anywhere here, and felt it deserved a place in the ranks of puzzles

A man is found dead, hanging in an empty barn having committed suicide. The base of the barn was 20 feet by 30 feet, and the ceiling was 10 feet above the ground. The rope was 4 feet from the roof to the man's neck, and the man's feet were hanging 1 foot above the ground, and the man was 5 feet from where the rope was around his neck to his toes. The man was hanging from the exact center of the barn. Aside from the man and the rope, there were no other objects in the barn, and the door to the barn was closed and locked from the inside, so no one had come in or out since the deed was done. The barn was structurally sound, with no holes or windows to be found anywhere. The roof was also water tight, but the ground beneath the man was damp. The ladder used to tie the rope up was found outside around the corner (guess he didn't want those that found him to have to move it later). There were no supports or beams along the ceiling of the barn.

It was determined that the man was too weak to jump and pull himself into the noose, or to climb onto the roof with just his hands. How did he manage to hang himself?

Change log: No windows, no holes in the roof. Roof is water tight. Door to the barn was locked from the inside. Damp ground was found under the man

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    $\begingroup$ I'm surprised this wasn't found. This is very well known... $\endgroup$ – Mark N May 19 '15 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ How about a tick for the most up-voted non-canonical answer instead of who can answer the fastest with the classic solution? $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast May 19 '15 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ @EngineerToast You're suggesting a bizarre death competition? Well, I go for "quantum fluctuation of his body which teleported his neck inside a rope hanging on the ceiling" $\endgroup$ – leoll2 May 19 '15 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ @EngineerToast That sounds like a dangerous road to start down. $\endgroup$ – Aggie Kidd May 19 '15 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ I've heard it told with a puddle of water below the man, thereby making the block of ice a much more likely explanation (compared with other comparable explanations that apply to the question as it now stands). $\endgroup$ – Glen O May 20 '15 at 12:40

14 Answers 14

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Canonical Answer:

The man stood on a block of ice which has since melted.


Non-canonical Answers:

1. The man stood on his horse who then took off and is out wandering the fields. (This is in the same category as the ice: "Man stood on $X$ which has since removed itself through means common to things of its type.")

2. If it wasn't for the explicitly stating the ladder was used to hang the rope and implying the general weakness of the man, the man could have thrown the rope over the rafters, tied the ends together, and then climbed into the rafters. He then unties the rope, attaches it to the rafters, and ties a noose. He slips the noose over his head and jumps down.

3. Again, this might be ruined by the weakness, but he could tie it in the rafters with the ladder and then climb the rope, tie the noose, slip it on, and let go of the rope.

4. There is a powerful electromagnet under the floor set on a timer. The man was lifted up his shoes laced with natural magnets oriented to the opposite pole, put the noose around his neck, and waited for the magnet to turn off.

5. If it didn't state that it was suicide, I'd say that someone else hung him up there for cattle thievin'.

6. He was a depressed wizard with the power of levitation.

7. The rope is sentient and strangled its abusive master.

8. The rope was tied around the rafters before the barn was raised. He stood there as his friends and family raised the barn, lifting his body into the air.

9. He used the ladder. It is stated that the ladder was put away but not that the man was the one who put it away. That conclusion is only guessed at. The first person on the scene put the ladder away to make it seem like a murder as they were embarrassed that the man had committed suicide.


Answers from the comments:

A. He climbed the ladder around the corner of the barn (where it was later found) to the roof, then jumped through the hole in the roof. – Paul Draper

B. The man was too weak to jump into the noose himself, but he put Flubber on the floor (or his shoes) and jumped on that. – Paul Draper

C. Ropes with natural fibers can shrink 5-10% when wet. He tied the rope around his neck, and leaky roof cause the once 10ft rope to become 9ft. – Paul Draper

D. The man dug a pit, tied the noose outside it, and jumped into the pit. – Paul Draper

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    $\begingroup$ I have a strong feeling it was #7. $\endgroup$ – Mark N May 19 '15 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ For #4 - its superconducting shoes he'd need to be wearing. Chain mail would only ever be attracted to the electromagnet. $\endgroup$ – brhans May 19 '15 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ He climbed the ladder around the corner of the barn (where it was later found) to the roof, then jumped through the hole in the roof. $\endgroup$ – Paul Draper May 20 '15 at 3:34
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    $\begingroup$ Ropes with natural fibers can shrink 5-10% when wet. He tied the rope around his neck, and leaky roof cause the once 10ft rope to become 9ft. $\endgroup$ – Paul Draper May 20 '15 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ The man dug a pit, tied the noose outside it, and jumped into the pit. $\endgroup$ – Paul Draper May 20 '15 at 3:46
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Since a heap of people have offered alternative solutions, I thought I'd provide a few of my own (ones that are relatively plausible, hopefully, compared with "he used flubber" or "he was a wizard with the power of levitation")...

1. He used a rope made from a special polymer that gets significantly shorter as it cools. It was warm when he put it around his neck, and as it cooled, it pulled his body off the ground.

2. He used a second rope to assist him, but also carried a match, and burned the support rope (which was supporting enough of his weight - remove the support rope, and his full weight goes onto the noose). The ashes of the match and the support rope have since spread thinly enough in the barn that they're indistinguishable from the dirt.

3. He used hay as a substitute for some rope to help him, and the hay has since broken off and dropped back to the floor of the barn - nobody would have suspected that some of the stray hay in the barn was actually used in the suicide.

And now for some more entertaining answers (that are still hopefully a little more plausible than some of the answers):

4. He had a severe hunch in his back - he was capable of straightening it out if he really tried, but when he relaxed it would go back to the hunched position. He stretched to reach the noose, then relaxed again.

5. He committed suicide during an extreme storm, during which the ceiling sagged from the rain and the walls tilted due to the wind (not the most structurally sound barn around, I grant you, but it stayed standing, so it didn't do too badly). These two effects combined to lower the centre of the ceiling far enough that the man could reach the noose. As the wind died down, his feet were raised just far enough to hang him. Over the next couple of days the wetness of the roof evaporated and the ceiling's sag reverted, restoring the barn to its original dimensions, thus further lifting the man's feet.

6. There was a large ant nest in the centre of the barn, with a mound over a foot tall. The man detested ants at the same time, so he chose that spot - he would put his weight on the mound, causing the ant tunnels to collapse, and in the process hang himself.

7. The barn originally had wooden floorboards in the centre as a kind of stage. However, it was infested by termites. The man committed suicide, the floorboards collapsed enough to hang him, and then the termites finished the job. They're probably already working on the walls. The person who discovered the body probably heard the faint scratching noise of them termites working away, but figured it was the guy's ghost come back to haunt the barn.

8. There had been a huge flood. The man had used the ladder as support while positioning the rope in the perfect place to grab as he tried to surf on the flowing water. Unfortunately, he misjudged it, and instead of his hands catching the rope, his head went through it. The force of the water caused the man to be hanged, and later the floodwaters receded, leaving him hanging out to dry, so to speak. Oh, and the floodwaters also forced the doors shut, where the auto-locking mechanism triggered.

And now for something completely different:

9. Aliens. It's always aliens.

10. Thanks, Obama!

11. The man was a rare male spirit medium from the Fey clan. He was channelling a taller man he hadn't realised was a sociopath, who proceeded to use his body (currently shaped to match the possessing spirit's original body's shape) to "commit suicide", thereby killing the medium. It was simple - set things up, position his head in the noose, then leave the medium's body, which would immediately revert to its normal shape, thereby hanging the medium.

12. The man in the barn was Mario, and he had used a super mushroom to get bigger (becoming Super Mario). But he also had a poison mushroom in his possession - on positioning himself, he ate the poison mushroom to revert to normal, resulting in his hanging.

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The rope was made of shape-memory alloy. The man tied it up during night when it was cool. The heat at daytime caused the rope to shorten, pulling him off the ground.

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A couple of stupid answers:

He lifted himself up by his bootstraps.

He was wearing stilts

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It was indeed "5 feet from where the rope was around his neck to his toes", but his knees were bent. He had a rubber band from around his ankles to his waist, so he could stand straight up while setting up the hanging, but on relaxing his leg muscles his feet, including his toes, were pulled up to within 5 feet of his neck.

Alternatively,

He committed suicide because his beloved three-legged dog died, so he hung himself hugging his dog, so we have his two feet and the dog's three other feet between his toes and his neck.

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What if the man climbed on the roof with his hands (no ladder), tied the rope around his neck and jumped down?

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    $\begingroup$ Or with the ladder for that matter. $\endgroup$ – Paul Draper May 20 '15 at 3:48
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He tied the noose using the ladder before putting it outside etc... He made the opening of the noose large enough to put his head through comfortably. While not very strong in his arms he was quite the jumper. So he jumped up and put his head through the noose while jumping. It snagged and closed, and voila.

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He stood on a 1 foot tall block of dry ice. Which once it had evaporated enough that the block was out of the reach of his feet, led to his strangulation and subsequent death.

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Here's a thematic variation:

The ground wasn't wet, so he couldn't have been standing on a block of ice. However, this being a barn, he could have been standing on a one-foot-high bale of hay, which was subsequently carried off and/or eaten by a barnyard animal.

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The man was standing above a block of ice.

Alternatively,

The man jumped and crouched while in air, breaking his neck.

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He was murdered and the murder staged the scene to make it look like a suicide. (Because there was no note!) The murderer dug a hole out of the barn to use after he locked the barn from the inside. He then escaped through the hole and filled it in once he escaped. (No one was the wiser)

Alternatively:

He got a 1 foot block of ice, and climbed on that to pull the rope down. Unfortunately he slipped on the ice and the rope got caught around his neck :(
[He locked the doors because it was too windy outside at the time and he didn't want the wind to push him]

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  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately? He was going to suicide! $\endgroup$ – leoll2 May 19 '15 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ @leoll2 But there was no note! $\endgroup$ – Mark N May 19 '15 at 19:14
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Yet another possibility:

He climbed the ladder to fix the rope both around his neck and to the ceiling of the barn, stepped off the ladder while keeping hold of it, and with his last effort threw the ladder out the window - which is why it was found outside the barn.

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  • $\begingroup$ But why would he do that? $\endgroup$ – PStag Mar 6 '16 at 13:16
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My first thought is that the man was actually murdered. Most suicides try to make things quick, or something which cannot be easily reversed once set up. The block of ice answer gives the man a chance to undo the rope around the neck. Also, there seems to be no note, although the body was never searched. Given the information, it appears that the man was not fully examined.

I think the man was drowned, which explains the damp ground directly beneath him. The man was weak, and therefore could have been easily overpowered by a man of average strength, so almost anyone could have killed him... as long as he was strong enough to lift that ladder. This also explains why the ladder would be outside. The murderer simply took it with him before shutting the barn door.

As far as the barn being locked from the inside, depending on the type of lock, it could have been locked while the door was still open, and then shut from the outside. It happens to many bathroom doors in my family all the time. The fact that the door could be unlocked from the outside (how else was the body found?) might even suggest that a spare key for the lock might not be too hard to find.

So, the murderer simply drowned the man, took him to the barn, and hanged him (utilizing the ladder which was, later, placed outside).

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I'd like to add beyond the classical ice block answer, alternatives like:

  1. Aliens

enter image description here

The same anti-gravity device they used formerly for their UFOs, had in a gun-shaped device to help the man to levitate, tie the rope appropriately, and commit suicide. Then they'd retrieve his brain for further analysis but people was wandering there due to the strange noises and light and they had to flee (teleport - as they teleported in) without the man's brain.

The wet floor is not from water, but the man's tears caused by the same reason that lead him to commit suicide.

  1. Parkour

He was a Parkour practitioner, and quite like in the game Gunz the Duel, he performed a wall climb and jumped to grab the rope and hang himself.

The water below? It was not water: he urinated as a natural reflex after dying (his pants were also quite brownie that day for the same reason).

  1. Lucifer

He was aided by the Devil, who was bored of ruling the Hell and came to the human world and mounted his own night club. Somehow he started liking the human race a bit, and helped a policewoman, who btw is immune to his powers, with crime solving.

The dead guy is a criminal who did things (aside from plain-old torturing and murdering) I cannot tell here without violating the site's ToS, and the Devil grabbed him, showed him the crude reality about what will await him in the Hell.

The man agreed to commit suicide and the Devil helped him with levitation powers so the criminal could grab the rope and wrap it around himself (his neck).

Again, the water is not water but the same in the previous alternative. This time, he urinated twice: the first one after actually knowing about the Hell as a reality and seeing the true Devil's face right in front of him, while the second after dying.

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protected by A E Oct 23 '15 at 15:47

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