In 2003, Billy Bob Thornton played a miserable con man who, with the help of a buddy, planned to rob department stores on Christmas Eve in the movie Bad Santa, which also starred Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, and the late John Ritter. Neither Billy Bob nor his elfin buddy is an upstanding citizen, but both are drunk, womanizing thieves who work as the mall Santa and elf. This year, Billy Bob is back as Willie, along with his dwarf friend Marcus, in Bad Santa 2, and this time they plan to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. It seems as if they did not learn their lesson.
It is scary that in real life, there are a ton of bad Santas, even worse than those two knuckleheads. Willie and Marcus may be a lot of (bad) things, but compared to some Santas out there, they are angels. Men wearing the suit and boots that lead kids around the world to believe they are the kind-hearted, jolly Old Saint Nick can often really be criminals. What is terrifying to parents, or anyone really, is that children trust these mall Santas, or any Santa-lookalike, often without question.
There are sadly too many evil Santas to name, but I have rounded up some of the worst of them, much worse than the bad Santas in the first and second movies (the second one, by the way, which was released on November 23, has gotten less than stellar reviews so far). I am talking kidnappers, pedophiles, and even murderers, with a few committees of lesser crimes in the mix, too. The following 17 men played the part of Father Christmas, who is so loved by children everywhere, but were some very, very bad Santas; Billy Bob and his partner in crime have nothing on these guys.
17. Motorcycle Kidnapping Santa
A Santa Claus in South Carolina in 2006 was stopped to put gas in his motorcycle at a convenience store when he got three young sisters to come check out his stuffed Rudolph. The Santa, whose real name is John Barton, grabbed the oldest sister and took off with her in his sidecar. The girl’s father (who later said he could tell Barton was intoxicated) chased them in his car, getting up to 80 miles per hour, and it actually worked! The 55-year-old kidnapper let the girl off the bike and went to hide out at a nearby bar. Authorities learned that Barton had been playing Santa for several weeks, and giving rides to kids and posing for photos with them. He later apologized and said he had just asked her if she wanted a ride and she said yes, and he’d been giving rides to kids ever year. Friends of Barton say he meant no harm, but whether it was meant or not, he took a child on a motorcycle (illegal in itself) without her parents’ permission, while inebriated, risking her life and probably traumatizing her.
16. Drunk (Sleigh) Driving Santa
In the city of Ustrzykach Dolnych, Poland in 2013, a Santa and his female helper wound up in the hospital with concussions. Having shown up at their outdoor market gig drunk, they had arrived there via a sleigh pulled by two real horses. Santa was described as “being under the influence” by shoppers that saw him, and “behaving like they had just come out of a nightclub or something.” He was driving the sleigh erratically, and the horses were getting spooked as cars that passed them were honking their horns. After one honk, the horses actually reared up and sent Santa and his helper flying onto the street. The crowd was shocked and the children were devastated. Not only had these two irresponsible drunks scared little kids and ruined many people’s day, but they put themselves and the whole crowd in danger. Driving a sleigh drunk is bad enough, but it was driven by two horses, which can weigh up to 2200 pounds each, and they are in more control of the sleigh than the driver. A scary thought, when you consider how many people were likely at that market that day.
15. Cradle-Robbing Santa
A then-49-year-old Oklahoma man who played Santa Claus at local schools was arrested in 2013 for attempting to have sex with minors. In the town of Warr Acres, Wiley Gene Davis replied to a Craigslist ad he thought had been posted by a 15-year-old girl, making obscene suggestions and calling himself Santa. He was arrested and charged with lewd acts proposals to a child under 16, violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act, and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The police took him into custody at the convenience store where he had planned to meet the girl. Davis was a married man who often played Santa at the schools and was a co-ed baseball coach for kids six years old and younger in the Oklahoma City Metro area. He was collared as part of an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Act.
14. Bank-Robbing Santa/Leprechaun
In 2009, a Santa robbed a bank in Brentwood, Tennessee, which is a suburb of Nashville and is known for being one of the wealthiest cities in America. He pulled a gun on the stunned bank tellers and told them that Santa needed to pay his elves. Then he robbed them, carrying away an undisclosed amount of cash in his red Santa sack. The man, named David Cotton, had mostly gotten away with his crime, and due to his confidence about that fact, he attempted another robbery in early 2010, this time on Saint Patrick’s Day. And yes, you guessed it; he was dressed as a Leprechaun. But this seemingly amusing story does not have a happy ending. This second bank robbery attempt was interrupted by the police. They engaged in a shootout with Cotton, who fled to a nearby field and shot himself in the head.
13. Murderous Mall Santa
Atlanta mall Santa Elkin Clarke, 49 at the time, is serving life in prison for murder. In December of 2004, he fatally attacked an elderly woman with a block of wood for allegedly stealing the candy he was selling. He claimed she took $145 worth of Hershey’s chocolates that belonged to him, but witnesses say Clarke was completely unprovoked. He lost his temper and savagely beat the 74-year-old woman with a two-by-four in the head. He continued to hit her even after she was lying motionless on the ground, according to witnesses. She died in the hospital over a month later due to the injuries she sustained by his hand. Clarke was convicted of murder, and also with the simple assault of a Georgia State University student who tried helping the woman. Now that is one really bad Santa.
12. Helicopter-Hijacking Santa
Now here is something you don’t hear of every day. In a completely new kind of act for bad Santas, one man forced his helicopter pilot to divert the craft to a rural farm, and then proceeded to tie him up with the help of an accomplice. Then they flew away. This very bad Santa had rented the helicopter from an air taxi service at Campo Marte airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil in November of 2015. He told the pilot he wanted to participate in a Black Friday “surprise”, but his evil plan was revealed mid-flight. Upon landing, they were met with his accomplice, who helped tie him up. The pilot was eventually able to free himself of the ropes after a few hours of struggling and inform police of what had happened, but by this point Santa was nowhere to be found of course, and a huge manhunt ensued.
11. Santa Violated Young Boys
In Raleigh, North Carolina, 65-year-old creep and mall Santa Leander Dewey Jones (a.k.a. “Santa Lee Jones”) received 30 years in federal prison earlier this year for producing child “entertainment” with two children who were in his care. In 2015, he was arrested for multiple child images on his personal computer. He had brought his computer in for repairs, and it was the computer technician who found the images, all in a labeled folder. The FBI found a small pen camera in Jones’ bathroom, and approximately 5,000 images on his computer and external hard drives of young children under the age of 10 who were thought to be his relatives. The lewd photographs depicted adult men sexually assaulting the kids, and the kids having sex with each other. Jones played Santa Claus at a mall, as well as playing a magician and a pirate at children’s birthday parties. He was sentenced to three decades behind bars on August 1st of this year.
10. Celebrity Convict Santa
We’ll start with the Santa who committed the least heinous offense on this list: perjury (and possibly sleeping with a prostitute). In 2011, the residents of the North Sea Camp Jail in Lincolnshire, England were treated to some presents by celebrity convict Lord Jeffrey Archer. Jail insiders claimed that he was the first prisoner to ever request to dress up as Father Christmas. If you don’t know, Lord Jeffrey Archer is the millionaire author and member of the House of Lords who was convicted on perjury charges and sentenced to four years in prison. He perjured himself in the 1987 trial determining whether he had slept with a prostitute he then gave hush money to, and subsequently sued The Daily Star for libel, winning an impressive $800,000. Anyway, this lying author donned the traditional red suit and white beard to hand out presents from prisoners’ families, but not before checking them for contraband, of course. But in the end, he said of his time in prison, “I wrote a million words in the first year, and I never could have done that outside of prison.” Sounds like his bad Santa ways are a lot like Billy Bob’s, so we’ll put him on this end of the list.
9. Self-Defense Santa
A 28-year-old Santa Claus from Detroit, Michigan shot two men at a gas station just four days before Christmas in 2014. Marcus Wheldon was licensed to carry a firearm, and claimed that it was self-defense. Prior to the shooting that day, Wheldon had been working for a production company at a holiday party being thrown at the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit, being paid to dress as Santa Claus. After the party, he and a female coworker stopped at the Speedway gas station to fill her tire because it had an air leak. Omar Pady was there at the same time, and allegedly intoxicated, he began to hit on the coworker, believing she was alone, and he even pushed her. When Wheldon made himself known, Pady dashed for his car and pulled out a handgun and the two men exchanged fire. Pady missed, but Wheldon hit both Pady and his friend, Salah Rifai. In court, the jury acquitted Wheldon. So why does he belong on this list of bad Santas? Well, he did shoot two people, and even though he was cleared of any crime, he was dressed as Santa Claus while carrying a gun, which just seems kind of wrong.
8. German Date-R**e Santa
In 2011, there was a Santa behaving badly at a Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany. He was targeting women holiday shoppers, offering them free shots of alcohol in paper cups, and telling them that he was celebrating becoming a father for the first time. He told them he had mulled wine and Schnapp’s. Well over a dozen women fell for the lie, including one 15-year-old girl who immediately upon drinking from the cup began throwing up, and was rushed to the hospital. Bloodwork from her and the other victims showed they had been drugged with GHB, which is also known as liquid ecstasy and can be lethal when mixed with alcohol, which it was. 16 women had taken the drink, causing them bouts of vomiting, unconsciousness, and even short-term memory loss. It is interesting that GHB is a potent date-rape drug, because the Santa obviously had no intention of raping or further hurting his victims, as he quickly disappeared every time a woman took his drink, before the onset of any symptoms, so clearly that was all he wanted with them. In that respect, they were lucky.
7. Troublesome Twin Santa
In Fort Wayne, Indiana a few years ago, police were called to a McDonald’s, where one Santa was causing a disturbance. But when they arrived in the parking lot, there was not one, but two Santas. However, only one of them was disturbing the peace. The other Santa had been hired by McDonald’s, which the manager told the police. He also told them that the second Santa was “inviting children to sit on his lap, just like the other one.” So basically some dude thought he could trick the children and everyone else into thinking he worked there too, and have some fun with the kiddies. Creepy. It is actually scary to think how easy that would probably be to simply dress the part and go hang around a place you know has hired a Santa, and no one would ever know the difference, unless you’re too obvious about it, like this guy. He told police when asked that his name was Santa Claus.
6. Sandy Hook Santa
Wendy Kennett of Abingdon, England, and her three children ages 10, seven, and six, went to the mall one day to visit the Santa there. But things did not go as planned. The Santa told them that there are bad people in the world and that bad things happen, like what happened to those children in America. He went into some detail about the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults had died at the hands of a gunman. The children’s father interrupted when he kept on talking, but the Santa was not finished just yet. He then asked for a “word” with the 10-year-old, and explained that he was a fake and that his parents were really the ones supplying the presents. In an interview Wendy said she was furious, and that all three of her children were in tears. Not surprisingly, this big-mouthed Santa was sacked.
5. Schizophrenic Santa
In Parma, Ohio in 2009, a 12-year-old girl was walking to school one day when Anthony Russo emerged from some shrubbery and tried to entice her with a bag of candy canes. The bipolar and delusional man was ignored by the little girl, who he then followed and grabbed, all while toting a unicycle. She got away and went into a store, where she told the owner what had happened, and he called the police. They arrested Russo where they found him on a city bus in Cleveland, still wearing his Santa suit (including the pillow stuffed in his belly) and holding his sack of candy canes and unicycle. Then 46, Russo was called a “good man who would never harm anyone” by his mother. She also said he still talks to his deceased father, who told him to pass out the candy canes, and that her son sometimes stayed in homeless shelters or on top of buildings.
4. Bad Santa & Accomplice Elf
A 22-year-old woman living in Quinton, Alabama in 2011 was punched in the face by a very bad Santa when she answered his knock at the door. Initially he claimed to be collecting donations for a charity, but she did not want to contribute, so he punched her in the face and went inside, along with an accomplice wearing a track suit who had been hiding out nearby. The robbers assaulted her (no more details were provided), then demanded gold. The young woman’s father arrived home a little while later and the criminals punched him in the face too, before fleeing the scene. This incredibly bad Santa and his evil little elf sound very dangerous, and were obviously willing to lie to and hurt people they didn’t even know for money, so although little is known about what happened after they fled, at the very least they deserve to be on a list of bad Santas.
3. Old-Time Bank Robbing Santa
One of Texas’ most famous bank robberies happened on December 23, 1927 by one Marshall Ratliff. Dressed as Father Christmas, he robbed the First National Bank in Cisco, Texas at gunpoint. He and three other armed men took two little girls hostage and shot their way out of the bank, which was surrounded by armed citizens and policemen. They escaped in a getaway car which ran out of gas. They abandoned it (along with a wounded accomplice and their loot), then hijacked another car, all while in hot pursuit by the police, including an airplane. A car chase and a shootout later, Ratliff was shot and taken into custody. The two surviving thieves hid in the woods for two days before surrendering themselves. One of the men was executed, one was imprisoned until the 1940’s, and Ratliff was sentenced to 99 years. However, angry citizens broke into the jail and lynched him on a power pole. These three evil men, one of them dressed as a figure children trust and love, robbed a bank, kidnapped two little girls, and endangered many lives in multiple shootouts. That is a pretty bad Santa Claus.
2. Santa Commits Foul Crime
This Santa is one of the worst of them all. The scene was Grapevine, Texas in 2011. A suburb of Dallas, Grapevine was known as the “Christmas Capital of Texas”, but that year it became known for something much more sinister. Aziz Yanzdanpanah was a divorced father of two who was not shy about the fact that he was upset his ex-wife was doing well on her own. His ex-wife and 19-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son were staying at an apartment with his ex’s sister, her husband, and their daughter. Christmas Eve for the six victims was spent at an annual holiday party Aziz was not invited to. Christmas morning, Aziz showed up at the apartment, just minutes after his niece Sara, 22, had texted a friend saying that her uncle was dressed as Santa Claus. Santa shot all six of his family members as they sat around the Christmas tree opening presents. Then he called 911, and shot himself, too.
1. Worst Santa Ever
Aziz Yanzdanpanah may have been horrible, but there is one Santa Claus out there who is even more horrible than him, and his name was Bruce Jeffrey Pardo. Like Aziz, he was maniacal because of marital problems, and his divorce had been finalized one week before his Christmas Eve, 2008 attack in which 10 people lost their lives, including him. Bruce showed up to a party that night dressed as Santa, carrying a homemade flamethrower and four semi-automatic handguns. The nine victims ranged in age from 17 to 80, and died from either gunshot wounds or the fire that started with the flamethrower. Three other victims were aged eight, 16, and 20, but they survived, along with about a dozen others from the party. Pardo drove away in his car and fatally shot himself. Like Aziz, he had no history of violence, and suffered from financial difficulties. Authorities found a “virtual bomb factory” in his apartment.