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Claus, Santa (c. 1823-1932.12.19)  Merry old pot bellied gentleman fond of red & white clothing.

Plummeted to his apparent death from a plane flying over Mesa


In the winter of 1932, business activity along Main Street in the rural town of Mesa had slowed to a crawl.  The nation was in a depression and the 4,000 or so residents of the farming community were not spared.

The date for the annual Christmas parade was fast approaching and a prescription was needed for the economic malaise.  The editor of the Mesa Journal-Tribune, John C. McPhee, had a vision.

Picture jolly ole' Santa Claus flying over the city with throngs of shoppers anxiously awaiting the start of the parade.  As the plane reaches the outskirts of the town, Santa dawns a parachute and glides to his honored position just as the parade starts.  The crowd cheers.  By the end of the parade everyone is overcome with the Christmas spirit.  They head for the stores, clearing the shelves of the season's merchandise.

That was the plan.  Its execution seemed eminently feasible.  Barnstorming was in its heyday, and finding a plane and a jumper would be no problem.  McPhee made the arrangements and waited for the big day.

On the morning of the parade, Monday, December 19, 1932, the plan suddenly unraveled.  The parachuting Santa had imbibed far too much Christmas spirit to accomplish his task.

McPhee hastily concocted Plan B.  A mannequin would be dressed as Santa.  McPhee would hide in the pickup designated to retrieve the parachuting Santa.  He would then take the place of Santa in the parade.  All would end as happily as originally planned.

As the parade was about to start, the plane traveled its appointed course.  Right on cue, Santa emerged from the cockpit dove from the tiny plane.  The observant might say that he was pushed.

Parachuting apparently takes more skill than the average department store mannequin can contribute. Santa's chute did not open.  He tumbled end over end, dropping to earth like an anvil, and smashing into the field with a thud.

The crowd gasped.  Mothers covered their children's eyes.  A pregnant woman went into labor.  By the time the parade started onlookers had evacuated along with their Christmas spirit.  Dazed merchants stood in doorways as the parade passed by.

McPhee left town for three days.  The actual story did not appear in the Tribune for several days.  When he died in 1958, he was remember in the Mesa Tribune with the headline, "John McPhee, The Man Who Killed Santa, Dies."

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