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Here's how an Arizona town went from Christmas Wonderland to holiday horror

Deep in Mohave County sat Santa Claus, Arizona: A holiday-themed wonderland that crumbled away. It was torn down this year. Here's its story.

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Deep in Mohave County sits the ghosts of Christmases past: An abandoned cluster of holiday-themed ruins derelict against the background of the desert for almost a century.

This is Santa Claus, Arizona.

It was a town that erupted from the mind of real estate agent Nina Talbot (no relation to the Hogan's Heroes actress) in 1937. Her idea was to promote the sale of nearby land with a Christmas-themed wonderland.

The town post office was billed as Santa's Workshop. Kids could send their letters to Santa to that address. Christmas trees dotted the landscape. Cutouts of elves and fairy-tale characters stood between the sparse buildings.

Nina set out to pluck Santa from the North Pole and drop him 14 miles northwest of Kingman.

It worked – for a while.

Credit: Todd Huffman, Wikimedia

Nina ran the theme park for the next 12 years, but it never blossomed into the full town she envisioned.

Eventually, the "town" was sold as an attraction in 1949.

Santa Claus Acres continued to pop in and out of the public eye as another novel stop on Route 66. In 1961, the December issue of Popular Mechanics ran several advertisements about the town for one last hurrah of popularity.

At the time, Santa Claus, Arizona was the place to send your mail for a Santa Claus postmark from the United States Postal Service.

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But by the time the 1970s came around, Santa Claus was on the decline.

Credit: Todd Huffman, Wikimedia
Santa Claus Train & Santa Claus Inn. Photo provided by Todd Huffman from Phoenix, AZ, CC BY 2.0.

As fewer tourists came through the area, the town began to fall into disrepair. In July, 1983, its owner tried to sell the 4-acre property for $95,000. It never sold.

By 1995, the last of the gift stores and amusements closed down for good, Roadside America reported.

The waning travel along Route 66 meant that the town was harder and harder to find. Soon enough it was just a handful of buildings, all closed and abandoned.

All over the decorated remains are emblems of lost holidays. Hand-painted faces of Santa, elves, and more rotted between more recently sprayed graffiti. 

Credit: Todd Huffman, Wikimedia
Photo provided by Todd Huffman from Phoenix, AZ, CC BY 2.0.

Yeah, it's terrifying.

But for better or worse, Santa Claus (the town) is gone. From the derailed train ride to the vandalized buildings, the holiday horror was torn down sometime in late 2021 to early 2022.

Now, instead of the Mohave Desert, it's only haunting our nightmares.

If you do want a letter return from Santa, try sending your mail to Santa Claus, Indiana instead.


Explore amAZing people, places and things across our state on our 12News YouTube playlist here.

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