Despite the fact that we live in a culture that ruthlessly and remorselessly fat-shames, age-shames, and man-shames, most of us are willing to give Santa Claus a pass because he gives us tons of free shit.
Regardless of his fat old maleness—and in most cases, his unforgivable whiteness—we see beyond all those birth defects and have formed a fond and warm emotional attachment to Santa. We see him as a giver, not a taker. Rather than molesting small children, he hugs them. He brings families together instead of murdering them en masse. He gives us candy rather than beating us to death for stealing it from him.
That’s why the following stories are all so sickening and disheartening. It shatters childhood innocence to learn that Santa Claus is an asshole.
1. Mall Santa beats elderly woman to death for allegedly stealing his chocolates
An Atlanta Santa—hey, that rhymes!— Elkin Clarke was working at a mall one grim December day in 2004 when he accused 74-year-old Christian evangelist Annie Nelson of swiping chocolates from him. He grabbed a wooden 2×4 and beat her unconscious with it. She died six weeks later from her injuries. “She was stealing my stuff,” Clarke said in his defense. “I asked [her] ten to fifteen times not to touch my stuff.” Despite such a seemingly airtight alibi, Clarke was found guilty of murder.
2. Seventy-three-year-old Santa molests his 11-year-old female elf
Zay Harold Jones pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a female child in 1981. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault on an adult female in 1991. Despite such an unsavory track record, a North Carolina business called Santa’s House hired him as their go-to Santa for three years running beginning in 2002. During the Christmas holidays in 2004, an eleven-year-old girl who’d been hired as his personal “elf” accused him of molesting her. Jones was found guilty of taking indecent liberties with a minor and hopefully will never again be able to sexually traumatize young women under cloak of Santa’s hat and beard.
3. Man dressed as Santa in Berlin spikes beverages with date-rape drug
Despite their horrible Nazi heritage, some Germans still celebrate the Christmas season in the hopes that someday in the distant future God may deign to forgive them. One of their Christmas traditions involves handing out free alcoholic beverages in public markets to help one another warm their hearts and perhaps forget momentarily about the Holocaust. In 2011 came a series of at least ten instances where unassuming revelers accepted drinks from a male stranger, only to begin puking and losing consciousness. In many instances the man reportedly wore no costume; but in at least one case he was dressed as Santa and gave a 15-year-old girl two shots of schnapps that had been laced with an odorless and flavorless date-rape drug. The perpetrator has never been found.
4. Santa for underprivileged children steals thousands from charity fund
With his chubby cheeks and white beard, seventy-year-old Ronald Papaleoni was one of those fellows who looks like Santa Claus even when he isn’t in costume. He founded a charitable organization called the Joy Foundation that saw him bringing happiness and treats to disadvantaged children in the Atlanta area. Unfortunately, he was also siphoning public funds into his alleged “charity” and was found guilty of five counts of theft amounting to what prosecutors claimed was $150,000 in embezzlement, very little of which apparently went to the impoverished children he’d appointed himself to help. I think we can all agree that this qualifies him as a jerkasaurus of the highest order.
5. “Santa Claus Bank Robbery” leads to six dead
On December 23, 1927 in the dusty Texas burg of Cisco, ex-con Marshall Ratliff, aided by some ex-con buddies, donned a Santa costume, entered a bank, held it up, and made off with over $12,000 in cash and around $150,000 in nonnegotiable securities. A massive shootout left the bank with at least 200 bullet holes. Ratliff and his accomplices took two young girls as hostages and led police and civilian vigilantes on a Hollywood-style chase that ended in the perpetrators’ abduction. Ratliff would later attempt an insanity plea, but outraged citizens abducted him from jail and lynched him right behind a theater where, as luck would have it, a play called The Noose was running. All told, the bungled robbery led to six dead, including three of the robbers. One witness described the whole debacle as “the most spectacular crime in the history of the Southwest…surpassing any in which Billy the Kid or the James boys had ever figured.”
6. Man who pulled off bank robbery in 2009 dressed as Santa dies in 2010 St. Patrick’s Day bank robbery while dressed as a leprechaun
Dressed from head to toe as Santa—with the incongruous added touch of black sunglasses—David Cotton robbed a Tennessee bank in 2009 by explaining to a teller in a “jovial” manner that he needed the money to pay his elves. He pulled off the heist without a hitch. But the following St. Patrick’s Day would not prove so fortunate for Mr. Cotton. Dressed as a leprechaun during an attempted bank robbery, he got embroiled in a gunfight with police, whereupon he escaped to a nearby field and shot himself dead.
7. Israeli in Santa costume stabs Christian leader to death during Nativity parade
In the Israeli town of Jaffa during a 2012 Eastern Orthodox parade celebrating Christ’s birth, church organizer Gabriel Cadis was rushed behind by an unknown assailant in a Santa costume who plunged a knife deep into the back of his head, killing him. An Orthodox leader in Jerusalem described the unknown murderer as someone who “killed the human and spiritual values embodied by Father Christmas—who makes children happy on Christmas Eve.”
8. Londoner in Santa disguise stabs Muslim to death
Sikandar Shaheen was a Muslim immigrant to England stabbed to death in 2005. Right after being awakened by Shaheen’s screams, a witness in his apartment building described seeing a man dressed in a Santa hat and beard fleeing the scene. The hat and beard were recovered nearby, but Shaheen’s killer was never found.
9. “Santa Claus Bandit” robs armored car
In an attempt to financially salvage his failing restaurant, Jeffrey L. Stenner robbed an armored vehicle in 1988 while disguised in a Santa hat and beard, earning him the moniker the “Santa Claus Bandit.” He was later found guilty of hiring someone to murder his accomplice in the heist. In his high-school yearbook, Stenner had written that his life’s goal was “to commit the perfect crime.” His sentencing judge accused him of having a “twisted mind.”
10. Bitter ex-husband dresses as Santa, kills ex-wife and eight of her relatives before shooting himself
On Christmas Eve 2008, roughly a week after a short-lived marriage that had financially bankrupted him was declared final, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo dressed as Santa Claus and knocked on the door of a house party attended by his ex-wife and an estimated 25 of her family members. He was toting several handguns as well as a homemade flamethrower he’d gift-wrapped so as to avoid suspicion. After being granted entrance to the house, Pardo opened gunfire and then literal fire, setting the house ablaze. Nine people died in the mayhem. Pardo had planned a getaway with a plane ticket, but the fire he’d caused was so intense that it melted his Santa Claus suit onto his skin. He shot himself dead before being apprehended.