Santa sleuth: Naughty or nice?

Published December 25, 2004 1:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An Ohio man's search for Santa Claus has brought him to the redrocks of southern Utah.

Lloyd Darrow says he has just returned from some caves in Ten-Mile Canyon, near Lake Powell, where he claims to have found ancient petroglyphs - rock carvings that he believes date back to A.D. 650 - containing references to a sleigh-driving bearded man.

"Alongside carvings of turtles and horses is clearly depicted a bearded man, wearing a hat and driving a sleigh as he follows the North Star," Darrow, a bald, typically nerdy, bespectacled man, says of his very unorthodox "research."

"These are items that would not likely have any meaning to American Indians, so the only explanation for this is that he was some sort of [ancient] visitor or part of their folklore," he says, his face straight and betraying nary a wink.

Darrow, who has a degree in meteorology, says his lifelong fascination with "unexplainable phenomena" led him to establish the Tangible Evidence, Real Discoveries Organization - or TERD, which he insists on pronouncing "tea-ard" in spite of what its acronym looks like.

He has studied all the details behind the legends and rumored sightings of Big Foot, Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster and found them all to be "a bunch of hooey."

But the Santa theory, he maintains, is "unexplored territory."

Darrow claims no agenda and says he will be pleased no matter if his research bears out in favor of the existence of Santa Claus or finds it to be one of the world's longest-held hoaxes.

"I'm a skeptic, by nature," he says, dismissing the fact that he, himself, may have many skeptics.

"But I, like a lot of people, want to believe there is a human form from the North Pole that travels the world bestowing gifts on young children. "

As proof of his supposition, Darrow claims he recently obtained some "top-secret" footage of two Arctic-bound explorers that he says has been under government lock-and-key for the past 40 years.

The grainy images on the film, which he says reportedly was found alongside some human remains, a rotting handle from a snow shovel and a frozen diary, show one of the men hiking along in the frozen tundra .

Suddenly, off in the distance, the man notices a figure in a long coat, trimmed in white, wearing a hat and black boots. The black-and-white footage fades out before the image comes into focus.

"Once again, we can't say for certain, but it looks a lot like Santa Claus," Darrow says.

The father of two planned to spend Christmas Eve with his own family at home where he has installed what he calls the "Reindeer 5000," a collection of seismic and other sensory equipment designed to detect any movement on the roof or in the house. As an added measure, he and his wife agreed to handcuff themselves to the bed.

"That sounds kind of bad, but it's all part of the research" he says. "We've cleared our home of all presents and toys, so if we arise in the morning to find presents under the tree, we will know there is some truth to the matter of Santa Claus."

Clarence Onstatt, Darrow's intern on the project, has been assigned to come to the Darrow home on Christmas morning with the key to the handcuffs. Darrow calls it one of the most "important pieces of research" in his two-year long study.

A two-man film crew from Utah - Chris Clark and Daryn Tufts, both graduates of Brigham Young University's film-studies program - has been documenting Darrow's "research." Clark and Tufts, however, declined to be interviewed for this story.

Darrow say he is well aware of running into the same controversy that surrounds those who have tried to research UFOs, Big Foot and other "unexplained phenomena." But he is not worried.

"Should I be?" he says.

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