The Santa Claus Bank Robbery

At the time it occurred, the Santa Claus Bank Robbery was one of the most infamous crimes that ever happened in Texas, leading to the largest manhunt ever seen in the state. It all began on Dec. 23, 1927 around noon, when Marshall Ratliff, Henry Helms, Robert Hill and Louis Davis held up the First National Bank in Cisco. Three of the four were ex-cons, while Henry Helms was committing his first crime. The robbers forced all of the people in the bank out the door and towards their car. Most of the customers escaped, but two small girls were taken as hostages. The robbers abandoned the bullet-ridden car and the two girls several miles from town and continued on foot. When they were captured, Helms, Hill, and Ratliff had several wounds each and hadn’t eaten for days. Hill and Ratliff pleaded guilty to armed robbery and were sentenced to 99 years in prison. Helms was given the death penalty in the deaths of two police officers who were killed when the robbers were fleeing from the bank. A year later, when Helms had still not been executed, a crowd began to gather outside the jail. By nightfall, it had grown to over 1,000 people. They began demanding Ratliff, but the sheriff refused. Before long, the mob rushed in and found Ratliff. Dragging him out, they tied his hands and feet and headed for a nearby power pole. The first attempt to hang him failed when the knot came loose and he fell to the ground. The second time the crowd strung up Ratliff, they got the job done. No one was ever tried in association with the lynching.