BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — A story of murder, vigilante justice, and intrigue that has all the makings of a Hollywood film. Now, one North Dakota true crime story is being reimagined in cinematic form.
“With any artist, you want to tell stories that are meaningful for you. But I think it’s especially nice for the people here that we’re telling their stories too,” said Daniel Bielinski, co-writer and producer of the film, End of the Rope.
Those from around the area where the crime took place- the town of Schafer which is now a North Dakota ghost town- remember the story well.
“It was a story that anybody who lived here knew about. When you drove by Schafer and the bridge there, it was kind of a spooky thing that you knew as a little kid. So it’s been a part of my memory since I was a little kid,” said Gene Veeder.
It’s the tale of Charles Bannon, confessed murderer of the Haven family, and a community that took justice into its own hands in what’s been called North Dakota’s Last Lynching.
“This story of the sheriff who is caught in a very difficult position and trying to discern what is the right thing to do. That is something that is appealing to me as a storyteller,” said Bielinski.
The late Dennis Johnson authored a book about the events with the same name, End of the Rope. He also had a hand in the film’s production.
“He was so instrumental in getting this project off the ground. It was his baby. The story was his baby for such a long time and he put so much love and energy into the story. So it wouldn’t be here without him,” said Bielinski.
Veeder knew Johnson well.
“Many, many years of friendship like you have in a small community. Dennis was always interested in this kind of stuff. Even at UND, his major was in archaeology and anthropology. He had a real interest in history and so, it didn’t surprise that he dug into this further. History and law were the two things he was interested in,” said Veeder, reminiscing about his longtime friend.
As a high school student, Brianna Vine worked alongside Johnson, helping him put the finishing touches on his book.
“It’s his vision, his legacy, and I just feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to help preserve that history. History not preserved is history lost and I think that was his goal, to tell this story,” said Vine.
All these years later, the story has stayed with her.
“It was just intriguing and haunting at the same time. I remember really having to take a break from the information, just to stomach what happened to the Haven family,” said Vine.
The majority of the film’s cast and crew are from North Dakota.
“It was filmed right in the area, so I expect there will be very high interest in it,” said Veeder.
“I have so many friends and family members who are in the film and I can’t wait to see some of those familiar faces on the big screen so what a legacy Dennis has left for the community,” Vine said.
You can view the full list of film screenings around the state here.