What Would Really Happen If Santa Slid Down Your Chimney?

The image of Santa magically slipping down a chimney maintains one of the more mysterious and whimsical parts of the modern “Santa” folklore. The suspension of disbelief to imagine Santa living in arctic conditions, flying around the world in one night, and traveling via reindeer seems to exist in abundance, but Santa sliding down a chimney? That’s just impossible! What if there’s a fire? What about the plumbing? How does his full body fit inside the constraints of the chimney?

My personal fascination with the chimney-sliding aspect of the Santa Myth exists precisely because it’s almost realistic, much like his monogamy with Mrs. Claus, ethical treatment of elves, or the very meritocracy of a naughty and nice list.

As most of us can imagine, chimneys are not prime spaces to fit your body, they are at best uncomfortable and full of cold ashes, and at worst — dangerously flaming and full of jutted plumbing.

Chimneys have always simultaneously served as signifiers of warmth and welcome (the smoke trailing out of a chimney) and veritable death-traps. Back in the 1800s chimney sweeps would hire separate “climbing boys,” who would fit themselves inside the actual chimney in order to thoroughly clean the interior. Sadly, a notable number of these boys were injured and even died inside the chimneys.

Although “real” fireplaces are less commonly found today, and where they do exist, are less often used as primary heating methods, there are still chimneys lurking out there — and where there are chimneys, there are people who will try to slide down them.

Just last week a robber in Central California died in a chimney during his thieving attempts, when the unknowing homeowner lit a fire and heard screams from inside the chimney. By the time the cops arrived and the fire was out, the alleged burglar was dead.

Similarly, in 1986 Florida neighbors heard screams and what they assumed was an attempt at a break-in, but when the sounds died down and there was no person to be found, they resumed their business. Two days later, the wafts of rotting flesh welcomed the homeowner home, and they cracked open the chimney to find a rotting corpse inside.

Attempted burglars aren’t the only people who die in chimneys, or find themselves embarrassingly stuck after a rush of inspiration. Earlier this year a woman in Riverside, CA attempted to break-in to her ex-boyfriend’s house, and hugely failed when she got stuck. After authorities got her out alive her ex said, “I don’t like the way she’s acting or what she’s doing. That’s not good for my kids,” which I imagine is the understatement of the year.

Back in 2010 another scorned lover had a similar, but ultimately fatal experience. In Bakersfield California, a woman named Jacqueline Kotarac tried to get into an ex-boyfriend’s house via chimney, she got stuck in the chimney just as he was leaving, and was discovered dead three days later.

This all brings me to my concluding theory, that in morbid reality — if Santa were real, we’d know his arrival by the smell of rotting flesh.

(VICE)