Santa Claus had an accident as he descended by rope into the food court of Florida's Palm Beach Gardens mall. His fake beard became tangled in the rappelling gear, reports the Miami Herald, and for a wrenchingly long time he wriggled furiously to free himself. To distract the crowd, an assistant below led them in a rousing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." When Santa finally landed, he ripped off the tangled facial hair, told the children that he was actually an elf, and fled.
The real Santa Claus is of course something of a stunt man himself. He survives the North Pole's perpetual winter, and once a year tears through space-time, squeezing his above average BMI through some hundred-thousand-million chimneys.
Many mall Santas over the last few decades have tried to emulate him. But as mere mortals, without the true Santa's magical gifts, the results have on occasion been tragic.
On Dec. 9, 1967, a helicopter delivering St. Nick to the North Park Shopping Center in Evansville, Ind., crashed in front of a thousand horrified onlookers. One of the chopper's propellers touched a power line, throwing the craft's battery through a car's windshield and causing what looked from below like fireworks.
William C. Bretz, a veteran Santa Claus, died alongside William Dorr, the president of the Indiana Aviation Training Association.
In 2009, a woman injured herself as part of a very L.A. take on the mall Santa tradition. She was a "Candy Cane Girl," one of several in "Hunky Santa's" posse at the Beverly Center shopping mall. While suspended upside-down from a large metal hoop, she lost her grip, and fell from the third floor.
Thankfully, the 26-year-old suffered only minor injuries as she landed on a video projection cube. She smiled as EMTs lifted her onto a stretcher, and the crowd erupted into applause.
Shoppers get the most cash-happy during the holiday season; this Black Friday alone brought in $11.4 billion. Spectacle is a good way for a mall to lure in all those spendthrift customers, unless, that is, it's the uglier kind.
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