In the conventional Christmas tale, Santa is the one who keeps track of good and bad behavior, so he can dish out presents or lumps of coal to recipients when he makes his annual rounds. However, sometimes Santa (or at least some of his impersonators) has been the one who belongs on the naughty list. Below are 10 of these rogue Santas, whose transgressions range from mild to horrific…
10. Making it a Green Christmas
Depending on your perspective, this Santa wasn’t all bad. Christmas did come late—this happened in January 2015—and Santa brought only one present (weed), but he was passing it out by the handful to surprised patrons of a Buffalo Wild Wings in Seaside, California. Despite not being dressed in Santa-like garb, and having a black beard instead of a white one, Randy Lange, 57, claimed he was Santa and told recipients he had a gift for them. He did wrap the marijuana (in napkins from the restaurant) and didn’t forget the employees, even putting some pot into the tip jar.
However, employees were unmoved by the gift–and the potential for additional sales from customers with the munchies–and called local authorities. The responding officers found two pounds of marijuana on Lange (in addition to what they collected from recipients) and arrested him for “furnishing marijuana.” Seaside Police Sergeant Nick Borges classified the situation as “very unusual,” further adding. “I didn’t believe the call when it came out and even when we were investigating here, it was just surreal, I didn’t believe him.” Lange, who “did not appear surprised at all” when police showed up, was arrested without incident and held on $30,000 bail. According to Sgt. Borges, the would-be Santa said, “he expected to be arrested for doing this at some point. Sounded like this was not his first time.”
9. Hitting the Picket Line
When you hear that Santa was arrested for protesting at a Walmart, you might think he just wanted to shut down the competition. However, Karl Hilgert, who was dressed as Santa when he was arrested at an Ontario, California Walmart in November 2013, was there to support more than 100 Walmart workers from stores across Southern California who were protesting for better wages. At the beginning of the day, Hilgert announced his plans to “get arrested for civil disobedience,” and, along with nine others, followed through on his vow and was arrested when the group refused to leave a nearby intersection. Hilgert offered an officer a candy cane as he was read his Miranda warning, and was then cuffed and taken into custody.
This wouldn’t be the last Santa arrested for protesting at a Walmart. In 2014, Michelle Pariset, a social justice organizer, dressed as Santa and was one of about 40 people arrested while protesting low wages and poor working conditions at a Rancho Cordova, California Walmart on Black Friday. Pariset said that she was the last to be arrested and the officer who did so noted, “I’ve never arrested Santa Claus before.” When Pariset was loaded onto a police bus with other protestors, the group began singing, “Here comes Santa Claus.” Pariset, who noted that “the beard was itchy,” says of her arrest, “I would do it again. Fighting for fair pay is important.”
8. Stealing a Helicopter
Sometimes Santa just needs a break from the sleigh. It isn’t entirely without precedent for Santa to give the reindeer a day off before their big day and to take an alternate form of transportation to some of his pre-Christmas appearances. Santa has been known to show up in vehicles including a swamp boat, a hot air balloon, and even a jet ski.
So when Santa wanted to rent a helicopter from an air taxi service for a Black Friday “surprise” in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2015, no one was too concerned. However, the surprise was that Santa, along with his accomplice, hijacked the helicopter, forcing it to fly to a small farm outside the city. There, Bad Santa and his friend met another accomplice, tied up the pilot, and flew away. The pilot eventually managed to escape and alert police, but authorities were unable to locate Santa, his partners in crime, or the helicopter. The helicopter, a Robinson R44, has a maximum range of 550 kilometers, suggesting that Santa’s final destination was likely pretty far south of the North Pole.
7. Artfully Stripping Down
Some early Black Friday shoppers lined up outside the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlborough, Massachusetts in 2014 just after midnight got a surprise visit from Santa. However, the real surprise was what Santa was wearing—or more accurately, what he wasn’t wearing. 18-year old Eric Watterson was wearing a Santa hat as he ditched his robe and streaked by shocked shoppers in line outside the mall—but not much else. Watterson was wearing sneakers, a thong, and the Santa hat, which he had strategically positioned over…ahem…his Christmas package. According to a local police detective, “Several people in line were shocked, alarmed and disturbed.” Tweetsfrom those who witnessed Santa’s unveiling indicate that some viewers also found it pretty funny, and the mall’s general manager called the incident a “non-event,” noting that no one had complained and saying that overall, it was a “very positive day.”
The police who responded were less-than-amused, taking Watterson into custody and charging him with open and gross lewdness and disturbing the peace. Dan Enders, the photographer/friend who accompanied Watterson, later explainedthat they were college students who were home on break and were, “simply staging a satirical photography piece on Black Friday.”
6. Throwing a Wild Party
Michael Andrew Ward goes by a lot of names. Most commonly, he goes by Mike Busey (he is the nephew of actor Gary Busey) and he has also dubbed himself the “King of Rock and Roll Debauchery.” In December 2012, he took on another identity—Santa—throwing “Mike Busey’s End of the World Sexy Santa Holiday B-Day” party at his Florida home, which he refers to as the “Sausage Castle.” When an undercover investigator visited the Sausage Castle shindig, which had a $20 cover, he was able to purchase a Bud Light from the venue’s unlicensed bar.
Ward, still clad in his Santa Claus suit (though baring a tattoo-covered chest that looked decidedly un-Santa-like) was taken into custody and booked into the Osceola County Jail on charges of selling alcohol without a license. After posting bond the following day, an unrepentant Ward shared a photo of himself in the back of police cruiser in full Santa garb and informed the world, via a tweet, “Last Night I Got Arrested For Throwing A EPIC Party! I Never Had Some Much Being Arrested! Thank You For All,” adding offenses against grammar and spelling to his list of holiday misdeeds.
5. Breaking and Entering… While Dressed as a Zombie
This Santa didn’t come through the chimney, but instead wandered unsteadily into a St. Paul, Minnesota home in October 2014. Brock Quinn Johnson, a student at a nearby college, had been attending a Zombie Pub Crawl and was wearing a Santa suit and zombie makeup when he came in through the unlocked front door of a home near the university that was definitely not his. Instead of leaving presents, Johnson barfed all over himself and then fell asleep on the couch.
The teenagers who lived there were home without their parents, and were terrified by the invasion of zombie Santa. The 14-year-old called 911 and screamed to neighbors (who struggled to process his account of a Santa suit-clad intruder with a zombie head) for help, while his sister hid in the bathroom. When police arrived, they woke Johnson up and he had no idea where he was. They cited him for trespassing and took him to a local detox center. According to the father of the traumatized teens, “The police did a nice job of calming them down and explaining the individual meant no harm,” though he also noted, “No one will ever think of Santa the same way.” Unsurprisingly, once you see a vomit-covered zombie Santa passed out on your couch in October, it takes some of the sparkle out of the holiday season.
4. Dealing Drugs Out of a U-Haul
We’re not sure where he stashed the sleigh, but this Santa, Isaac Geiger, was using a U-Haul to hold his goodies instead. After Jacksonville, Florida police received “numerous” complaints about drug activity in the area, they spotted Geiger, who was wearing a red Santa suit, hat, and beard, repeatedly retrieving items from the U-Haul and walking away. According to police, the Santa Claus outfit made him “very distinguishable.” Once Geiger saw the police, he took off running, but his Santa getup got the better of him, causing him to trip and fall. Undaunted, Geiger allegedly continued to resist arrest, rolling over onto his jolly belly, using it to cover his hands to avoid the cuffs. Eventually, after backup arrived, and Geiger attempted one more run (after which he was tackled by police, further muddying his already rough-looking Santa suit), this Santa was taken into custody.
Police found a plastic baggie under the Santa suit and cash in Geiger’s pocket. In the U-Haul, police found marijuana (including a large bag sitting on the driver’s seat), ecstasy, molly, pills, and more money. Geiger faced several felony charges related to drug possession with the intent to distribute and resisting arrest. He was booked into the Duval County jail, where he traded the Santa suit for a jail uniform, and faced the prospect of spending Christmas 2016 (and perhaps many subsequent Christmases) behind bars and far from the North Pole.
3. Groping a Teenage Elf
This particular Santa spent December 24, 2013 not delivering presents to children around the world, but instead in court, facing indecent assault and battery charges. Herbert Jones was playing Santa at a Massachusetts mall when he allegedly pinched the butt of his 18-year-old photography assistant, who was dressed as an elf. According to the elf/complainant, this creepy Santa had previously said he wished she “were a few years older and I was younger.”
Jones was escorted from the mall by police in his street clothes, so children were spared the spectacle of seeing Santa in police custody. A judge allowed Jones to go free on bail, with the condition that he couldn’t play Santa for the rest of the Christmas season. Jones denied that he pinched the elf, saying her butt had merely brushed against his hand when she walked by his chair. Sure, Santa. Blame the butt. He didn’t deny making the comment about wishing he were younger, but said that he merely meant that he wished he could be young again so he could make different life choices. We’re guessing that this incident would be one of the “life choices” that this Santa would like to revisit.
2. Robbing a Bank
This Santa showed up at the First National Bank in Cisco, Texas on December 23, 1927. Rather than leaving presents, however, this Santa–who had grabbed a pistol and tucked it under his suit–demanded that a bank cashier open the safe and fill his sack with cash and bonds. How did this strange crime come together? A group of four ex-cons had planned the robbery of the Cisco Bank. Marshall Ratcliff, already a convicted bank robber, lived in Cisco, so he donned the Santa suit so that he wouldn’t be recognized during the robbery.
At first, townspeople were delighted to see “Santa,” with several kids following Ratcliff and his accomplices through town and into the bank. Tellers even yelled out greetings to Santa as the group entered, but the Christmas spirit quickly faded when Santa’s accomplice pulled out a gun and yelled “Hands up!” The plan started falling apart when a woman and her daughter, who had stopped into the bank hoping to meet Santa (whom they had seen entering) realized there was a robbery in progress, slipped out the door, and alerted authorities.
A shootout ensued, but by grabbing two girls to use as hostages, the robbers managed to escape. Two of the robbers, including Ratcliff, were hit by gunfire. Louis Davis, who received the more severe injury, was quickly abandoned by his accomplices and died of his wounds later that night. After an exhaustive manhunt, which left eight townspeople and police wounded and two police officers dead, the remaining three robbers were taken into custody. One was executed.
Ratcliff, who tried to escape the death penalty by pleading insanity, then tried to escape jail–mortally wounding a jailer in the process. He did get out of jail, but not the way he planned. An angry mob dragged him out and lynched him in the street. Robert Hill, the only surviving bank robber, was eventually paroled, changed his name, and became a productive citizen.
1. Shooting Up a Party
Dressing up as Santa for a Halloween party is a bit of an odd choice, but it wouldn’t have been newsworthy if not for the subsequent carnage that this Santa caused. Randall Jones was arrested, still dressed as Santa, in the aftermath of the 2017 party at his Austin, Texas home. Jones was described by partygoers as “highly intoxicated,” when guests convinced him to go to his room and calm down.
According to witnesses, Jones came out a short while later, holding a gun, and fired it into the ground. When one of the guests, Michael McCloskey, tried to confront Jones to protect the others he suffered multiple gunshot wounds, eventually dying of his injuries. Three other partygoers were also shot, one of them seriously. A guest who called 911 alerted the dispatcher to the identity of the perpetrator, saying, “the one with the pistol is dressed like Santa Claus… This guy is out of control.” When police arrived, they found Jones a block away at a neighbor’s house, “clothed in a blood-stained Santa Claus costume.” Jones, who had placed his semi-automatic gun on the neighbors’ welcome mat, was waiting for police. He apologized, and told officers he wanted to be left alone and to go to sleep. Jones was initially charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but the third charge was upgraded to murder after McCloskey, who was hailed as a hero, died of his injuries at the hospital.