In the weird world of the paranormal there are certainly a lot of strange, often eye-brow raising things that are reportedly seen and encountered. From ghosts, to aliens, UFOs, Bigfoot, demons, angels, and everything in between there is no shortage of bizarre things that people claim to see. Yet these are all perhaps pretty small-time compared to the sheer, utter outlandishness that is Santa Claus sightings. I am not not making this up, and I am not talking about seeing a fat, bearded guy dressed up like Santa at the mall, or something said in jest or to encourage a small kid waiting for the big guy. I am talking about actual, real reports from otherwise seemingly perfectly sane and sober people who insist that they have really actually seen or even encountered none other than Santa Claus, and it is all every bit as bizarre as it sounds. Fasten your seatbelts, because we are going for a whirling, ride to some deeply weird reports, and on to theories that lie on the very fringe of the paranormal world.
By far the most in-depth collection of supposedly real Santa sightings has been compiled by a paranormal researcher named Stephen Wagner, who has long been collecting serious reports from seemingly otherwise sane and rational people who truly believe that they have seen the Christmas icon in the flesh. These reports run from the wondrous to the frankly creepy, and one was told by a woman named Karrie K., who claims that in 1961 she went to bed on Christmas Eve and was awoken by her bedroom door slowly creaking open to allow the light from the nightlight in the hall to trickle in and illuminate quite a bizarre sight indeed. She says of what happened next:
I was so astonished, however, at who opened the bedroom door. I found myself looking at a man dressed in a red suit. He had white trim around his waist, like fur, a long white beard, and was wearing a Santa hat. He had red pants and black boots. If I close my eyes, I can still see Santa standing in my door, it made such an impression on me.
He stood there and looked at me for a few seconds, then closed the door. I pulled the blankets over my head for a while - I was so scared! Finally, I looked out, but no one was there. The next day, I asked my mother if she or my father had been out of bed the previous night. My mother said no; in fact, my sister was only four months old, and my mother said she had slept through the night for the first time, and neither of my parents had gotten up, they were tired and they both slept.
So I don't know who or what looked in my bedroom that night. I told my mother I saw Santa, and she got really mad at me and told me that I did not. But I know what I saw... it was Santa Claus. And I swear this story did happen! I know I wasn't dreaming
There is also the perhaps even stranger account given by a woman named “Sarah A.,” who says her sighting happened at a very young age, but that it has stayed with her into adulthood as clear as day. On this evening, Sarah was sleeping on the floor, as her aunt had been visiting and taken her bed. Because of this she was unable to really get into a deep sleep, and at around 2:30 AM she noticed a faint glow coming in from the crack under the door. She got up and wandered to the door, opened it, and looked out into the hallway, saying of what she saw next:
When I fully opened my eyes, I could see that Santa was standing in my door with a mystical, magical glow around him. It was silver and gold and glittery. Santa looked right at me and without moving his mouth he said to me, ‘Now you know you are supposed to be asleep while I am here, don’t you?’ I told him that I knew I was supposed to be asleep but how could I? He told me, ‘Close your eyes and at least pretend.’
I was shocked. I knew this could be a dream but I knew that I was awake. People have told me maybe it was my father, and maybe it was. How he got the hallway to glow with glitter would be beyond me, but as far as I’m concerned, it was 100% the spirit of Santa Claus. It was the beautiful golden glow around the man in the big red suit that told me it couldn’t possibly be my father. It was glittery like a parade, but the pieces were not falling to the ground. I am now 41 years old and still believe that I saw him.”
There is also a report from a witness who tells of how one Christmas Eve when he was 8 years old he woke up at midnight, mostly out of sheer excitement because of the coming joyous day. It was then that he heard something out in the hall, which sounded like quiet footsteps, as if someone were trying to stealthily creep down the hallway. The witness says he then got up, cracked open his door, and peeked out to see something very strange indeed, of which he says:
Slowly, a man in boots, carrying a sack looked into my room, my parents' room and then my brother's room. I'm absolutely 100% positive I was awake, too. I could see him fairly well because we had a nightlight on across the hall in our bathroom. I remember hiding my entire face under the covers with a small portion of my eyes to see. He then walked away quietly and he was gone. Of course I told my parents and brother in the morning about my sighting and, of course, they thought I was crazy. To this day (I'm 28 now), I ask my parents if they had anything to do with this, and they still deny it and say I was dreaming. I strongly believe I saw a spirit or some kind of entity of Santa.
Some people have even claimed to have had multiple encounters with Santa, such as is the case with a witness called “Claxton Kalmbach.” The witness says that the first sighting happened in 2002, followed by additional encounters in 2004 and 2007. He explains this strange series of experiences as follows:
It was Christmas Eve of 2002 in New York City. My parents had invited some friends and relatives over for dinner, sort of like a Christmas Eve celebration. After that, I decided to go to my room to watch some television, but there was nothing good to watch. I then found myself pacing back and forth in the hallway. My house is big, so there was no one with me. Everyone was in the living room watching a movie I wasn't interested in.
About seven minutes into my pacing, I saw a tall, fat figure scurry away about 20 feet away from me. It was crouched down, too. It was even wearing some sort of Santa Claus suit. I didn't believe in Santa, but this just freaked me out. There was a strange man in my house! I quickly ran to where my parents were and told them all about it. They grinned at me and said jokingly, "Maybe it was Santa Claus." I didn't believe that, so I just sat down in the living room with my family and everybody else.
Then it occurred again on Christmas Eve, 2004. I remember it more vividly than the last one. I was lying on the couch in the living room. My parents were in the kitchen having a conversation about a business blog or something. Suddenly, I saw a huge man, about seven or eight feet tall, crawl underneath the tree and just vanish. Before it disappeared, it looked at me and said, "Shh." Very strange, so I went into the kitchen and sat with my parents.
Similar happenings occurred the following Christmases. I recall one in 2007, it was daylight this time and I just happened to see another tall figure with a Santa hat trudge by me for two seconds, then it was gone. This really happened!
Some encounters sure do have a rather creepy aspect to them that make them seem almost menacing. One witness named “Ana” says her encounter happened when she was just 5 years old. On this evening she crept downstairs after hearing something moving around down there, and to her surprise was met with the sight of Santa Claus standing there in the living room, complete with red, black, and white outfit and snow-white beard. Only there was nothing jolly or jovial about this Santa, and indeed he seemed to emanate a certain sense of creeping dread. Ana says of her experience:
He must have felt my presence because he turned around and looked at me. He didn't look jolly or kind and happy like you would expect Santa Claus to look. He looked kind of eerie like he was staring into my soul. Automatically, I ran into my parents' room and hid under the covers. I don't know why I was so scared at the time, but I wrote it off as a dream for a while before I forgot about it completely. Years later, I remembered it. I thought it could have been a burglar, but when I asked my parents, nothing was ever missing from that apartment. The only time we were ever robbed was when we moved later on. The only explanation I have now is that it was some kind of apparition.
Another rather spooky account comes from a 37-year-old witness who is certain he saw Santa one evening as he was walking outside his apartment complex on the chilly evening. He explains what happened as follows:
Being 37 at the time, I was a little old to believe in Santa. I had the faith he existed and felt in my heart he was real, but not physically real until ... I was in our parking lot dumping trash in the dumpster. Walking on the sidewalk next to me was a chubby old man with long, snow white hair and a long white beard, round glasses, wearing a green flannel shirt, blue jeans, and red suspenders.
He said, "Hello, Richard" as he passed. I said hi and he kept walking. It wasn't until a few seconds later I realized I didn't know him yet he knew my birth name. We did not wear name tags or anything. He wasn't a customer, but he knew. I watched him as he continued down the street, and as he came to the intersection he didn't stop to wait for the light to change. It just turned green and he walked out of sight. Weird? Yes, but it changed my mood knowing I wasn't nuts.
There have been a surprisingly large number of accounts like these, hundreds of such sightings in fact, many of them collected by Wagner and others posted on forums and sites like Reddit, and at first it all seems rather ridiculous. After all, Santa doesn’t really exist (sorry folks), he is a piece of pure lore and obviously does not really come to houses to leave presents, and yet the sightings and encounters persist from people who seem to very seriously believe they saw what looks like the actual Santa Claus, in some cases even seeing him riding in his sleigh through the sky complete with a compliment of reindeer. So what is going on here? How can they be seeing Santa Claus when there we know there is no Santa?
One possible key that can be found in the fact that even in some of the reports I have covered here and others like them the witness mentions that they felt that what they saw was something that looked like Santa, which is quite different than saying it was the actual Santa. In one report I have mentioned the witness says it was a “a spirit or some kind of entity of Santa," and in another the witness says “it was some kind of apparition.” Herein could lie a possible answer, in that these people are not really seeing the literal Santa at all, but rather something merely taking on that appearance and pretending to be Santa. Loyd Auerbach, a parapsychology professor at Atlantic University, in Virginia, gives his thoughts on this possibility thus:
I’ve never even heard of people seeing Santa. The Grim Reaper, yes, but not Santa. The only possibility of this being real is if it’s an alien or a ghost pretending to be Santa. We can’t investigate that. There’s nothing we can do with that.
It is unclear as to just what sort of entity would be doing this or why. For some it is demons, for others aliens or ghosts, and one prominent theory is that these could be some sort of interdimensional interlopers or trickster spirits that appear as whatever the witness is most expecting to see. In this line of speculation, these very same entities could be behind some of the more bizarre paranormal encounters to be found, including gnomes, unclassifiable entities, demons, angels, impossible animals, or even more traditional phenomena such as Bigfoot, ghosts, aliens, UFOs, and the Loch Ness monster, but in this case Santa Claus, all of them connected and coming back to these tricksters who are the same thing in each case, merely appearing differently to different people for inscrutable reasons we do not yet understand and perhaps are not meant to. The prominent paranormal researchers John Keel and Jacques Vallée devoted much time to discussing this possibility in their works.
Another report of a Santa sighting from a Reddit poster called “Person1031” includes the witness’ own suspicion that this might be the case. He claims that when he was about 7 years old he had woken up at night and come across a very strange sight, saying:
As I opened my door, standing there, blocking my path was mother fucking Santa Claus. He was dressed exactly how I'd imagined him. He looked like the typical Coca-Cola Santa - down to his white woollen trimmings, thick black belt with a golden buckle and red nightcap. He had small, circular gold rimmed glasses, a white, curly beard, blue eyes and liver spots on his cheeks. I froze and looked up at his eyes. He had what I took to be a stern expression on his face - almost glaring at me. Just after we made eye contact, he bent his head down towards me slightly in a manner that suggested 'What are you doing up? You shouldn't be awake. Go back to bed.' I gasped, took a few steps back and then jumped into bed, turned my back to the door, closed my eyes and then... fell asleep - despite my state of shock. I remember thinking at the time, 'Santa doesn't like kids being awake because he can't drop off the presents otherwise', so it was as if I knew that I should go back to sleep. The song about Santa Claus comes to mind: 'He knows when you are sleeping, he knows where you're awake'. I didn't get a menacing feeling from him. I didn't feel that I was in any danger. I felt maybe that I was in a bit of trouble for seeing him - that he was annoyed at me. He didn't seem joyful or loving either - just neutral I guess.
It seems par for the course so far, just as bizarre and absurd as any of the other reports we have looked at, but there is an interesting comment made by the witness that hints at his sense that he did understand that this couldn’t be the literal Santa, but was rather something merely masquerading as Santa. The witness says:
I do not still believe in Santa as I know he is a completely fabricated character (I think Coca-Cola actually created his modern image - the image of him that I saw). I believe what I saw took the shape of Santa. Over the years I have thought that maybe what I saw was possibly a spirit or some form of apparition. I still have no idea how or why this event occurred. It appeared to me that 'Santa' was just wondering around our house, checking things out. He didn't see to have an objective. The biggest mystery to me of this entire story is the fact that I fell asleep so soon after seeing him. That is just unnatural. I didn't pass out from shock and I didn't feel him touch me.
I have read other stories on the internet of people who have apparently seen Santa. Some of the people explain seeing Santa and then immediately falling asleep - just as I did. Many others report seeing a red light or orb. I know this all sounds ridiculous but I know what I saw. I know the difference between a dream state and a conscious state.
What could this mean? Another possibility much discussed Keel was that some of these truly outlandish manifestations could have their origins within the human mind, with apparitions called tulpas. These are basically a type of thought projection, images from the mind conjured up into actual existence by the pure strength of belief of a person or group of people, often without their even being aware they are doing it. Far from just an illusion, these tulpas are said to actually manifest in reality, a merging of the mind and the physical world, with more potency and permanency the more strength of belief there is fueling it, which can make them free roaming entities. According to the lore they are then able to act independently with enough power, and can appear as almost anything. One of Keel’s inspirations for this idea, a Belgian explorer named Alexandra David-Neel, once wrote of the mysterious tulpas in his book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, saying:
Once the tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its maker’s control. This, say Tibetan occultists, happens nearly mechanically, just as the child, when his body is completed and able to live apart, leaves its mother’s womb.
If any of this were true, then one could easily see the collective belief in Santa Claus of so many people perhaps invoking him into reality in a sense, a real, seemingly solid phantom figure acting of its own volition. In addition to shape-changing entities and tulpas there is also of course the idea that people are just seeing things, and that their imaginations are running wild, yet there are some problems with this. In every case the witness truly believes this is what they saw, and that they saw Santa, regardless of how absurd they realize that must be or sane they are. Do perfectly healthy people with no mental issues and who are not on any kind of drugs at all hallucinate something so potently vivid that they truly believe it to be real and tangible, completely unhinged from their ability to distinguish fantasy from reality? Does this happen even with strong convictions? Is this really a thing? It seems to me that it would be easier to believe they just made it all up, and of course that is a possibility as well.
There is no doubt that the idea that the actual literal Santa Claus, with his North Pole workshop, elves, and magical reindeer driven sleigh actually exists is untenable, completely outrageous to the extreme. Let it be clear that I am in no way trying to support the notion that Santa Claus is actually real, and indeed most witnesses don't seem to think he is really real either. Yet these real, non-ironic sightings continue to come in, so considering that we know a literal Santa Claus is not real, just what in the world is going on with these very seriously presented accounts of Santa Claus encounters? Is it all just tall tales, hoaxes and urban legends every bit as ridiculous as they sound? Or is there perhaps something more mysterious at work here? Are there perhaps forces from beyond the outer fringes of what we know behind such sightings, whether those be demons, inter-dimensional travelers, tulpa thought forms, or something else? There is no way for us to know, but it is intriguing to think about the deeper phenomena that could possibly lie under what on its surface appears to be just about the silliest thing imaginable, and it is scary to think that those “Santa Claus” entities could be something even stranger than the real thing.