Eastland, Texas is known for several things including a 1927 daring robbery that involved a Santa Claus imposter and his minions.
The Legend of the Santa Claus Bandits
The legend of Eastland’s “Santa Claus Bandits” began in December 1927 when one Marshall Ratliff and three of his morally bankrupt minions decided that it would be a good idea to dress up in a Santa suit and rob a bank in nearby Cisco, Texas.
Ratliff’s three minions were later identified as Louis Davis, Robert Hill and Henry Helms.
Legend has it that Ratliff, clad in the big man’s clothes, was bold enough to glad hand the city’s residents as he and his cohorts made their way to the bank.
Upon their arrival at the bank, what ensued was a December 23rd macabre mêlée that resulted in the death of a much beloved lawman by the name of G.E. Bedford.
The law abiding resident’s of all ages in Eastland County were rightfully upset over what the media dubbed “The Santa Claus Bandits.”
The law gave chase and one by one the “Santa Claus Bandits” were caught and made to pay for their crimes, but not necessarily how the Judge intended.
Marshall Ratliff was drug out of the Eastland County Jailhouse on a cold November 19thday in 1929 by some 2,000 irate Eastland residents who were intent on exacting a little revenge of their own.
They strung Ratliff up by a hangman’s noose affixed to a utility pole just across the street from the jail and made sure that the infamous “Santa Claus Bandit” met his make sooner rather than later.
What of Ratliff’s minions? The legend states that Davis died shortly after the robbery from a bullet wound and the other two men, Davis and Helms, were imprisoned. Allegedly, Davis was given life and Helms was eventually executed in the electric chair.
Eastland Law Enforcement Museum
The “Law Enforcement Museum” is located within the old “Eastland County Jail” and contains the cell where Marshall Ratliff was imprisoned as well as an exhibit detailing the horrific holiday crime.
A highlight of the “Law Enforcement Museum” guided tour included a look at the spot inside the jail cell where Marshall carved his name as well as the noose that ushered him out of this world.
In addition, there is a stone marker located across the street from the museum memorializing the spot where the infamous hanging occurred.
Guided tours of the “Law Enforcement Museum” are given by appointment only. Those interested in scheduling a tour of the “Law Enforcement Museum” should contact the Sherriff’s Department at 254-629-1774.
Law Enforcement Museum
210 West White Street
Eastland, TX 76448
Those interested in learning more about the “Law Enforcement Museum” as well as other notable historic sites in and around Eastland, Texas should log onto the “Eastland Chamber of Commerce” website.