Cisco, Texas is home to what might be the most insane bank robbery that has ever taken place in Texas. Two days before Christmas, four would-be bank robbers descended on Cisco intending to make off with some cold hard holiday cash. Instead, they got into a massive gunfight, people died, and at the center of it all was Santa Claus.

Cisco, Texas December 23, 1927 - Santa Robs A Bank

One big thing to note before getting into how Santa got roped into pulling off a bank robbery is that there was a bounty at the time on bank robbers. So many banks had been hit and were being hit, that the Texas Bankers Association at the time offered $5,000 to anyone who shot and killed a bank robber who was doing some robbing.

Texans loved their guns then just like they do now. That meant several people were wandering around waiting for their opportunity to make an easy five grand. Some believe this "reward" is partially to blame for what occurred in Cisco that day.

A Stolen Car, A Borrowed Santa Costume, And A Shootout

The four bank robbers started the day by stealing a car in Wichita Falls before heading to Cisco to pull off their heist. As they got near the bank one of the robbers, Marshall Ratliff, changed into a Santa outfit he borrowed from a lady who owned a boarding house they had stayed at. The crew dropped him off a few blocks from the bank and made their way to the target.

Marshall walked along, ignoring all the kids excited to see Santa two days before Christmas. Once he reached the bank, he led the other three men inside where they brandished their weapons signaling to the unsuspecting people inside that they were now involved in a robbery.

Things took a turn for the worse when a woman who had walked in with her daughter ran into an alley and screamed for help. While this was happening, Ratliff (Santa) had gone into the vault to fill his sack with cash. When he came out, all hell broke loose. One of the robbers saw someone outside of the bank and fired through the window. That shot was answered, and a full-blown gunfight broke out. Citizens and police were firing down on the robbers.

The robbers made their way into the alley with hostages, some of which were injured. Bullets continued to rain down on the robbers, and they kept returning fire. When the smoke settled, the police chief was mortally wounded along with a deputy. Two of the robbers were injured. The bank was scarred with over 200 bullet holes.

The Worst Escape Of All Time In Cisco, Texas

The robbers jumped in their stolen getaway car, only to find they were almost out of gas and they had a flat tire. They were able to drive to the edge of town, where they tried to steal a second vehicle. It was being driven by a 14-year-old boy who gave the car to the men, but not before making sure he took the keys. The robbers transferred everything to the keyless car only to discover they had no way of driving it.

So, they began moving everything back to the first car. One of the robbers that had been injured was now unconscious, and the crew decided just to leave him. It's not known exactly how long it took them to realize they had also left the money behind with him. The money was found and returned to the bank. The unconscious robber later died.

The other three were eventually found and brought to justice. One, who escaped from prison three times, eventually decided to become a law-abiding citizen and was paroled. He changed his name after being released. Another was given the death sentence for the deaths of the two lawmen. He got the business end of the electric chair in 1929. It's still not known whose bullets killed the chief and the deputy. Was it the robbers, the armed citizens, or the police?

The final robber, who dressed as Santa, was sentenced to death. To beat it he pretended to be insane. He had the people of his jail convinced he was, and an angry mob of over 1,000 people disagreed. They decided to take justice into their own hands. The mob dragged him from the jail and hung him from a nearby power pole.

A historical marker was placed in Cisco to commemorate the infamous Santa Claus Bank Robbery of 1927. The marker states "...a mob lynched 'Santa' when he broke out of jail."

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