Site of the Santa Claus Bank Robbery - Atlas Obscura

Site of the Santa Claus Bank Robbery

Where Santa Claus held up a Texas bank and started a statewide manhunt. 


When Marshall Ratliff walked into the First National Bank, he was greeted with a jolly “Hello, Santa!” It was then that his accomplice came in and announced it was a robbery.

Ratliff was a career criminal who had just got out of jail early December 1927. At this time, around four banks were robbed every day in Texas, and Texas law enforcement offered a bounty of $5,000 for anyone who shot a bank robber. Ratliff had been in the town of Cisco before and knew he would be recognized, so he went as Saint Nicholas for the heist. He had gathered two other criminals for the caper and borrowed a Santa Claus costume, so the plan was set.

On December 23rd, Ratliff walked into the First National Bank, followed by a group of children delighted to see Saint Nick. His accomplices came rushing in and ordered the teller to empty out the safe, ultimately getting over $12,000, worth $173,000 dollars today. A witness escaped through a side door and yelled that there was a robbery. 

The police took a riot gun and opened fire on the bandits. The thieves shot back and all hell broke loose. The townspeople, hoping for that $5,000, started shooting at the bank, which ended up having over 200 bullet holes in the facade. The thieves escaped through a nearby alley. Somehow, six people died from that event and the ensuing fiascos. Two police officers died from their wounds and Ratliff was caught and lynched.

Today, the robbery is commemorated by a plaque on the side of what used to be the First National Bank. In the bank’s new location, there is a painting of the heist.

Know Before You Go

The plaque marking the site of the Santa Claus bank robbery can be seen on the side of a building on Conrad Hilton Blvd. The bank's new location, where the painting is, is at 2006 Conrad Hilton Blvd (now called First Financial Bank).

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