Fortean Flashback: Witness Reports Childhood Sighting of Santa’s Sleigh

This article was originally published on December 24th, 2021.

The Singular Fortean Society recently received the following report from Haley Pearce, 24, who said that when she was eight years old, she had stepped outside of the Christmas Eve service at her local church in Lancaster, Ohio, only to see what appeared to be a sleigh pulled by reindeer flying overhead.

When I was a kid, I absolutely believed in Santa Claus. As much as a kid possibly could. So much so, in fact, that I wanted to BE Santa when I grew up. I believed in Santa a lot later than I probably should have – I was in 6th grade before I finally lost the spirit, and I think a lot of that has to do with my experience.

I was probably 8 years old, and we were leaving the 11p.m. Christmas Eve service at our church in Lancaster, Ohio. I had been obsessively tracking Santa on the NORAD website all day, and was looking forward to getting home so I could crawl into bed and stay up as late as possible; listening for sleigh bells or hooves on our roof, like I did every year.

I was the first person out of the church when the service was over, because what little kid wants to stay in church on Christmas Eve? It was a clear, cold night, and the stars were gorgeous. So I was admiring the stars when I saw a kind of shimmering out of the corner of my eye. I looked, and saw what I can only describe as Santa’s sleigh. It looked just like it does in every movie. It was pulled by reindeer, and it left a trail of glowing glitter behind it that faded quickly. I don’t remember if I heard sleigh bells or not.

It happened so fast, but I was absolutely SURE of what I saw. I kind of stood there in shock until my parents came out. I told them what I had seen, and they basically said “Well, we’d better get home and get to bed so he doesn’t skip our house.”

Over the years, I kind of began to doubt my sighting; chalked it up to a shooting star and wishful thinking. But as I’ve gotten older and become more open-minded about the nature of the universe and the paranormal, I’ve accepted my experience for what it was. It was Santa’s sleigh.

Investigator Tobias Wayland was able to follow up with Pearce, who agreed to answer questions about her sighting.

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Pearce told the investigator that she was alone outside during the sighting, and that the event lasted “probably five seconds.”

“I swear I saw a person inside the sleigh, but I couldn’t make out any details on them or on the sleigh,” she said. “It all happened so fast.”

Pearce said she doesn’t remember anything else unusual happening around that time, but has experienced several other UFO encounters and minor paranormal events.

“Nothing else unusual happened around then that I can remember, but it was so long ago and I was so young,” she explained. “I have had three UFO encounters, including one where I and everyone in my family saw a black triangle. A few unexplainable things have happened to me at home, too, but mostly little things that aren’t too exciting unless you were there.”

She went on to explain that, although she was, admittedly, “a very imaginative little kid,” she didn’t have any conditions that would lead to hallucinations, and was “quite sure” about what she saw.

“I know I didn’t imagine it,” she said. “The only other possible explanation I can think of is that it was a meteor, but I really don’t think it was.”

Although rare, at least one researcher has claimed to have collected other stories of Santa Claus sightings.

Stephen Wagner posted a list of over a dozen such sightings, updated most recently in 2019, to the website LiveAbout.

The witnesses in these encounters are, unsurprisingly, almost exclusively children, with the lone outlier being a sighting of what was, in all likelihood, a perfectly normal human being.

The sighting reports are either partially or entirely anonymous and generally describe up-close encounters with Santa Claus inside of the witness’s home.

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So far as the Singular Fortean Society is aware, the report submitted by Pearce very well could be the first such sighting to be given completely on the record.

Multiple competing hypotheses exist to explain the encounters, with the most skeptical including dreams, hallucinations, and outright hoaxes, while more paranormal explanations include Santa Claus as a living thoughtform and the possibility that the image of Santa is being used as a disguise by another, unrelated paranormal entity or phenomenon.

The Singular Fortean Society has found Haley Pearce to be nothing short of forthright in her testimony and finds her to be an overall credible witness.

Her sighting remains unexplained.


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