HOLLADAY — Neighbors say they're disturbed by what appears to be a mock lynching in the front yard of a Holladay home, and they've asked city officials to have the Halloween decoration removed.

The scarecrow-like figure in the yard Tuesday at 2955 E. 4505 South was wearing a plaid shirt, jeans and what appears to be a black pillowcase for a head as it hangs from a noose tied to a tree. It's the second year the hanging figure has appeared in the yard in October, city officials said.

"When I drove past it, I was horrified," recounted Jill Christensen, a retired schoolteacher who said she's has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.

The display, she noted, appears at a time when racial tension is running high across the nation. Christensen has a black son and lost a family member to suicide by hanging, she said.

Now, she said she fears that people in her community who aren't white or who have lost loved ones in the same manner will feel threatened or traumatized by the image.

The homeowner, Chase Deeds, said some people have said "that it looked like a black man and was racially motivated. So I immediately went out and got the mask and put the mask up."

He said his Halloween prop from a tree got more positive than negative reviews, and that the neighbor who originally complained drove up to apologize to him.

"It's not meant to bring up those emotions of suicide, of racism," Deeds said. "It's simply in the spirit of Halloween. Halloween's always been my favorite holiday."

On Christenen's Facebook post, Deeds posted, "I have multiple Halloween decorations by my door! I have been told I should put more out in my yard, which I intend to do."

Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle said the display is inappropriate, disturbing and "certainly not who we are in Holladay."

"We hope if he understands the level of angst he's created in the community that he'll do the right thing and take it down," Dahle said. "It only takes one person. We have a population of 31,500 people in Holladay, (and) 99.9 percent of them are awesome."

Dahle and other Holladay leaders were talking with the city attorney to find out whether the object could be removed without trampling the homeowner's rights to free speech and control over private property.

"We're not certain we have much leverage beyond that, but we're looking into it," the mayor said.

In early October a year ago, city officials asked the homeowner to remove the display, but he declined, saying it was a Halloween decoration. The mayor said he believes someone else removed it last year in the middle of the night.

The figure drew more attention this year, with the city receiving at least a dozen calls about the fake body on a rope that went up a few days ago.

Christensen, who lives several blocks away but passes the yard on her way to the supermarket, snapped a picture Tuesday and posted it to Facebook in hopes someone in her social circles knows the family and would encourage them to take down the display, she said.

Mock hangings sometimes are meant as a nod to Old West warnings to horse thieves, Christensen said, "but there's nothing about this particular display that says Old West."

Christensen said she was encouraged by her neighbors' support, especially with racism on the rise.

"I think people are really upset by that and tired of it happening and wanting to speak out when they see it happening," she said.

Suicide prevention help is available from the Utah Department of Health, and the national crisis hotline is 800-784-2433.

Contributing: Peter Samore