The 14 Most Messed Up Pop Culture Santas and the Naughty Crimes They Committed

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Vote up the psychotic pop culture Santas you'd add to your naughty list and put over your knee this Christmas.

It might strike some as surprising the number of psychotic Santas that exist in pop culture, but the most fearsome monsters are often born from our warmest comforts. Santa represents a purity of curiosity, a childlike naiveté you look back on with fondness. To transform the gentle giant you once wrote letters to into a bloodthirsty killer is nothing if not cruel, and in cruelty lies the essence of horror. 

Because you love Santa, creative minds have given you many reasons to fear him. There's no shortage of creepy movie Santas, terrifying TV Santas, and a fair few nicely naughty straight-to-VHS evil pop culture Santa Claus iterations. Some are seminal, others surprising, and all of them sure to ignite the embers of fear in even the most hardened horror fans heart. Which killer Santas would you invite over for Christmas dinner? Vote them up below!

Needless to say, spoilers ahead. 

  • American Horror Story's Leigh Emerson
    Photo: FX

    The Creepy Santa: American Horror Story never met a trope it couldn’t exploit, so you better believe FX’s anthology has a killer Santa in its catalog. Played with greasy abandon by Ian McShane, this homicidal Santa Claus pops up in the show’s second season, Asylum (which already contained aliens, serial killers, demons, and freaks, natch). His real name is Leigh Emerson, and his reputation rides on the fact that he killed 18 people from five families in one night. While dressed as Santa.

    Santa Crime: Emerson’s Santa is extra terrifying due to his penchant for sexual assault, but it’s his crucifixion of Joseph Fiennes’s Monsignor Howard that serves as his gory, glorious (gorious?) swan song.

  • The Creepy Santa: While Silent Night, Deadly Night made the killer Santa mainstream, many (including John Waters) consider Christmas Evil the gem of the genre. Credit the origin story: As a boy, Harry wanders in on his mother boning Santa (not realizing it’s his dad in a Santa suit). So much innocence is shattered in that one, destructive moment, it’s not surprising when Harry snaps as an adult, becoming convinced he actually is Santa Claus. 

    Santa Crime: Harry’s lethal with an axe, but there’s something extra cruel about cutting somebody down on church steps (even if they are a yuppie).

  • Silent Night, Deadly Night's Traumatized Billy
    Photo: Anchor Bay

    The Creepy Santa: A seminal title in the killer Santa subgenre, Silent Night, Deadly Night actually has two killer Santas: the one who killed Billy’s parents when he was a young boy and Billy himself. History repeats itself, no?

    Driven mad after witnessing a psychotic Santa Claus murder his parents, Billy is sent to an orphanage, where he grows into a massive young man under the cruel eye of a nasty nun. He leaves at age 18 and gets a job at a toy store, where he's coerced into dressing in Kris Kringle’s signature outfit. This sends him over the edge. Billy becomes obsessed with slaughtering the naughty, coldly believing punishment is good.

    Santa Crime: Billy may be crazy, but let nobody tell you he isn’t creative. He brings some genuine yuletide ingenuity to his kills, murdering people with a string of Christmas lights and a rack of deer horns. When there’s nothing holiday-appropriate nearby, he relies on his trusty, double-bladed axe, which does its best to bloody up all the snow in sight.

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    Tales From the Crypt's Escaped Madman

    Tales From the Crypt's Escaped Madman
    Video: YouTube

    Creepy Santa: While 1980’s To All a Good Night boasted film’s first killer Santa, a murderous St. Nick appeared in the British anthology version of Tales From the Crypt eight years earlier. In the segment “… And All Through The House,” Joan Collins kills her husband and, in trying to make it look like an accident, is bested by a red-and-white-clad madman outside her house.

    Santa Crime: We only see the Santa of this story for a brief moment, when he chases Collins down and chokes her to death in front of a fire. The creepiest thing? That a child is in the next room. No thank you.