Location: Oceanside, California
Date: January 4, 1993
January 4, 1993, began quietly in Oceanside, California. Tired after all their holiday activities, Margie and Larry Beavers were, like their neighbors, sleeping soundly in their beds. Suddenly, at about 2am, they were awakened by a loud noise in their house.
Still half asleep, Margie, 56, got out of bed and made her way to the front door, thinking that someone was knocking. On her way through the living room, Margie was startled to find that the noise was coming from their own living room fireplace. She called Larry, 62, to join her, and they cautiously approached their hearth, only to find a man's soot-covered head and shoulders suspended above the iron gate of the cold chimney hearth. When they asked the man who he was, he angrily replied, "Santa Claus!" Margie then asked him, "Well, if you're Santa Claus, then where are our presents? We know that we've been good!"
Larry and Margie saw that the man could not move--he was stuck fast, hanging upside down, in their fireplace. He seemed to be okay--he was able to talk to them--but he could move neither up nor down. They had no idea who he was or why he was halfway in their living room, but they were frightened and knew that they needed to get him out of the chimney as quickly as possible. They were extremely curious about the man, and how he came to be in their chimney, but they knew their first priority was getting him safely out.
Still wearing their pajamas, and with their Christmas tree lights blinking in the background, Margie called 911 and explained their unusual situation to Laura Harris, the Oceanside Police Department dispatcher. Laura's first reaction was disbelief. She couldn't understand why or how a man could be trapped in the Beavers' chimney. Her duty log for that night lists the call as a burglary, and as "a man stuck in the chimney." She remembers thinking that usually break-in calls require the police to chase a suspect around the neighborhood. In this case, however, the suspect was right there, ripe for the picking!
Following established procedure, she passed the information about the call to Reggie Grisby, the watch commander for the night. Reggie chuckled when he reviewed the case. He had to struggle to remain professional and not to laugh when he put out the call to police cars in the area. Police officer Katherine Held was about a mile away from the Beavers' house when she got the call. She, too, thought the call might be some kind of joke, but immediately rushed to the house.
When she pulled up in front of their home with her lights flashing, Officer Held was met in the front yard by Margie. Although the call sounded funny to the rescue squad, it was no joke to Margie and Larry. They'd been abruptly awakened, and their house had been invaded by a strange man. Margie lead Officer Held into the living room, where the man continued to talk nonstop under the watchful eye of Larry. Officer Held's reaction was one of amazement. She remembers thinking that the whole event would have been perfect for an episode of Candid Camera. She questioned the man, and was relieved to find that he was unarmed. But she couldn't get a straight answer out of him as to why he was in the chimney.
Officer Held called for backup, and arranged to have the Oceanside Fire Department called in to help. Police officer Brad Hunter arrived and could not help laughing. He asked the stuck man what he had planned to do when he got into the house, and the suspect replied that he intended to "steal the piano!" When Fire Captain Jim Myers arrived on the scene, he was dumbfounded by what he saw. He sent his crew to the roof to see if there was any way to pull the man back out of the chimney from the top. When they found that the only way to get him out was through the hearth, they called for a rescue truck. Then, while the stranger talked nonstop, complaining about how long it was taking the rescue crews to help him, they began to chip away at the Beavers' fireplace.
Margie and Larry, meanwhile, were beginning to relax. Although they were upset, the reactions of the rescue team helped them to see the funny aspects of their situation. While rescue workers took apart their hearth, brick by brick, Margie got out her camera and took a few pictures of the stranger hanging upside down in their living room.
When at last the final brick holding him in place had been removed, the man slipped down into the room. Jim Myers compared the scene to the birth of a baby. He thought that this man must be the dumbest criminal ever, for his plan had failed miserably. Not only was he not able to rob the Beavers, but he had ended up suspended upside down in their living room for approximately two hours! Once he was out and on his feet again, he tried to fight the officers and resist arrest, but they were able to quickly subdue him. The police officers led him out of the house and brought him to the station house for booking. The Beavers finally had their house back to themselves!
The suspect claimed that he had jumped down the Beavers' chimney in an effort to hide from a group of people who were chasing him. He was eventually found guilty of burglary and sentenced to 330 days in prison.
As for the Beavers, they'll never think about Santa Claus delivering his presents in quite the same way again! They are able to look back at that wild night now and realize how funny the whole escapade really was. They are grateful to the Oceanside Police Department and Fire Department for protecting them and, at the same time, rescuing the criminal. They know that they have a very funny holiday story to tell their children and grandchildren for years to come. They have made Christmas cards with a picture of the would-be thief hanging upside down in their chimney, with the words, "Just drop in any time!"