I am an author and paranormal enthusiast who has published numerous books and articles on the subject of true unexplained phenomena.
The Thrift Store Santa
Steve Sellers, accompanied by his wife and children, spent many a Saturday afternoon visiting the various second-hand stores, flea markets and antique malls in and around Columbus, Ohio. On one memorable weekend in 2001, they happened upon a small shop that they had somehow missed on previous outings.
As the family pulled up in front of the store, the first thing they noticed was a Santa Claus figure that was on display in the window. It was November and the place was already lit up with Christmas lights and decorations in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season.
The Santa was propped against a sled with fake snow at its feet. The kids' faces immediately lit up at the sight of Jolly Ol' Saint Nick winking at them from the other side of the glass.
Once inside, Steve and his wife tried to look around at the impressive collection of wares, but the children kept pulling them towards the window. It was clear to their parents that they were only interested in checking out the Santa. Knowing that he was fighting a losing battle, Steve finally relented and accompanied his excited brood to the Christmas display.
Upon closer inspection, they could tell that the Santa had seen better days. The figure was about five feet tall with rosy cheeks and one eye frozen in a permanent wink. The face was plastic, but the body appeared to be soft. The clothing was a bit ratty and worn. Santa's hat stood straight up and the white tip was torn and hanging on by a thread. The thing that Steve found most off-putting about the figure was that it was missing two important appendages: its hands.
Despite its shortcomings, the children begged their father to buy the Santa. He briefly considered it, but one look at the price tag dangling from its tattered sleeve changed his mind. It was way too expensive for their tight budget. Steve told them that they would have to look for something else.
As they were about to leave, the family was approached by a man who introduced himself as the shop owner. He was an older gentleman who grinned continuously as he spoke. He told Steve that he had overheard the conversation at the window and was willing to cut him a deal. He explained that it was his way of sharing the holiday spirit. Since there were children involved, he knocked several dollars off of the price tag just for them.
Even with the discount, the cost was still too steep for Steve. What he didn't tell anyone at the time was that he didn't really want the piece. He thought it was kind of creepy and the sight of it made him feel anything but festive. He didn't know then how accurate his gut feeling would turn out to be.
The owner was very flexible on the price and kept lowering it until Steve couldn't refuse. He ended up purchasing the figure for a fraction of the ticketed value. His children were overjoyed as he loaded the musty old Santa into the back of the car. This would be a Christmas to remember, though not for the reasons one might think.
Make Yourself at Home
Although Christmas was still over a month away, the family went ahead and placed the oversized decoration in front of the picture window in their living room so that passersby would see it. It hadn't really bothered them that Santa was holding up a handless arm in greeting.
The next day, things took a turn for the strange. Even though the figure had been in the living room when they went to bed, it was standing in the corner of the dining room beside the china hutch when they came down for breakfast.
After establishing that neither he nor his wife had moved the Santa, Steve questioned his children. He knew it was unlikely that they were responsible, mainly because the piece was too heavy for them to lift. Still, since they were the only other people in the house, he had to ask.
They protested their innocence and their parents believed them. No one in the family would own up to having relocated the figure, so Steve moved it back to the spot in front of the window and let the incident go. He reckoned that someone had pulled a prank that backfired. No harm done.
Later that same day, Steve and his wife were relaxing in front of the television while the children played in their bedrooms. They could hear them laughing and jumping around, probably on their beds which they weren't allowed to do.
Steve's wife was on her way upstairs to tell them to stay off of the beds when she spied something odd in the front room. The picture window was bare; the Santa was gone again.
She went back into the family room and asked Steve if he had moved it. He assured her that he had not bothered the figure since putting it back in place that morning.
The couple went upstairs to confront the children. Someone was being mischievous and enough was enough. When they reached the top of the stairs, they found the Santa. It was standing there waiting for them.
This was too much. Steve didn't think for one minute that his children were capable of dragging the figure all the way up the stairs by themselves, but he could think of no other explanation. Even so, he questioned them hoping that, if they didn't do it, they would know who did.
The youngsters denied any involvement. Out of sheer frustration, Steve punished them anyway. Life isn't always fair and he was tired of the shenanigans. With that out of the way, he lugged the Santa back down the stairs and, once again, set it in front of the window.
That night, his wife woke him to say that she heard a noise downstairs. She wasn't sure, but she told him that it sounded like someone had opened and closed the front door.
Steve hadn't heard a thing, but he armed himself with the heavy flashlight he kept on the nightstand and crept downstairs to investigate. He switched on the light at the foot of the stairs and saw that the door was locked up tight. There were no obvious signs that anyone had tried to break-in.
The rest of the downstairs was undisturbed. He checked every room, including the garage, but found no one lurking in the shadows. Everything appeared to be normal until he noticed that the Santa, who was supposed to be looking out onto the street, was now turned around so that it faced into the house.
Steve knew that the figure had been pointed in the right direction when he put it back earlier. He was also pretty sure that he would have noticed if it was turned the wrong way when he switched off the lights and locked up at bedtime. Mentally and physically exhausted, he turned the Santa back around and returned to bed.
The following day when Steve went outside to retrieve the morning newspaper from the sidewalk, he saw that something was missing from the front window. The Santa had somehow managed, yet again, to leave its post.
He hurried into the house to search for the wayward Saint Nick. He found what he was looking for in the kitchen. The figure was standing, on its own, in the doorway leading into the laundry room.
Bewildered and a bit unsettled, Steve stood for a few moments staring at the Christmas decoration that refused to stay put. It was early and the kids were in bed. His wife was also still sleeping. At any rate, it didn't matter. He knew that they hadn't moved the Santa on that occasion or any of the others.
The same feeling of apprehension washed over him that he had experienced the first time he encountered the Santa at the thrift store. He had thought the figure was creepy right from the start and now he just wanted it out of the house.
Once everyone was gathered downstairs for breakfast, Steve told them that he was going to throw the Santa out. His excuse was that it smelled bad and, more than likely, was infested with parasites.
He wasn't about to tell them the real reason he wanted to get rid of it which was, quite simply, that he thought it was possessed. Whatever its story, Steve didn't want the entity that had attached itself to the Santa to, in turn, latch onto his family. It had to go and that was that.
To his surprise, no one argued to keep the figure. They had done nothing but make accusations and argue amongst themselves since bringing the thrift store treasure home. Steve's wife did, however, have a suggestion.
Bugs or not, she thought that it would be a better idea to take the figure back to the second-hand store. That way, someone would get use out of it since it had, at one time, been a rather pricey item. Steve reluctantly agreed.
He neglected to tell her that he had been a little bit worried about throwing the Santa away. He had seen enough scary movies to know that, sometimes, haunted objects find their back to the person who tried to dispose of them. Steve was already aware of this particular Santa's penchant for traveling and he didn't want to take any chances.
Back Where He Belongs
With everyone's blessing, Steve loaded the Santa into the car and headed back to the thrift store to return it. He went alone this time, not wanting to risk one of the kids having second thoughts and causing a scene. The decision had been made and there would be no going back.
When Steve arrived at the shop, he took the figure out of the car and carried it inside. The owner recognized him, and the Santa, right off the bat and smiled when he saw them come through the door.
Steve told the man that he wanted to return the figure. In an attempt to sweeten the transaction, he also informed him that it was a donation; he didn't want his money back. The owner's grin spread even wider as, out of the blue, he blurted out: "Spooked you did he?"
Steve suspected that he knew where the assumption came from, but feigned ignorance, asking the shopkeeper what made him say that. The man didn't offer much, but he did say that he had always had difficulty keeping the Santa confined to one spot.
He said that he would position the figure in the window one day only to have it turn up in another part of the store the next. No one worked at the shop except for the owner, so there was no explanation for the Santa's displacement.
The man went on to tell Steve that it hadn't bothered him one bit. He had dealt in antiques and second-hand goods his whole life. He explained that this wasn't the first time he had encountered an object that moved about on its own and probably wouldn't be the last.
He related that he had seen items shift right before his eyes without cause. He had heard bells ring when there was no one holding them. Cuckoo clocks would go off even though their pulleys were broken and the mechanisms destroyed. He stopped there, but not before telling Steve that he had stories that would give him nightmares.
Steve had heard enough anyway. He did have one last question though. He asked the man why he had stayed in the business for so many years surrounded by objects that were possibly haunted. He wondered if he ever got scared being around so many questionable items.
The shopkeeper's ever-present grin widened as he shrugged his shoulders and laughed. "I don't bother them and they don't bother me" was his simple reply. With that, he took the Santa and positioned it back in its former spot in the display window.
Steve wished the man a Merry Christmas as he departed the store for the second and last time. He liked the owner well-enough, but had no desire to see him or any of his wares ever again.
While getting into his car, Steve couldn't help but glance at the Santa that was winking at him from the front window. As he pulled away, he knew that this was one holiday memory best forgotten.