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Vintage Photos of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff as Santa Will Warm Your Heart

Neither legend played Santa on screen, but they both did in real life!

Having provided the voice of the grumpy hermit known as the Grinch in 1966’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, horror icon Boris Karloff is a staple in most homes during the holiday season; but the real Karloff wasn’t actually a Christmas curmudgeon.

Along with fellow icon/longtime rival Bela Lugosi, Karloff was known to don the Santa suit in December, as evidenced by a handful of vintage photos that you’ve probably seen across social media at one time or another. But what’s the story behind them?

After doing some digging, I learned – via Gregory William Mank’s book, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration – that both Karloff and Lugosi took part in the Hollywood Christmas Parade in the late ’30s and early ’40s, which has taken place annually on Hollywood Boulevard’s “Santa Claus Lane” since 1928.

Originally called the Santa Claus Lane Parade, the parade features celebrities riding in Santa’s sleigh each year, and Lugosi rode alongside John Wayne and Russell Gleason for the December 10, 1940 event – Karloff rode in the parade in the years prior.

We can only assume, as there’s no further information on them, that the photos came from those events, where Lugosi and Karloff put aside scaring kids in favor of donning fake beards, red suits and spreading a little Christmas cheer in Hollywood.

Warms the heart, doesn’t it?



  • Creepshow

    It’s only fitting to see them celebrating the Lord Schaech’s birthday.
    Merry Schaechmas to one and all!

    • Saturn

      I for one am going to be watching Schaechy Night Deadly Night to get into the spirit of things!

      • Creepshow

        With a warm mug of egg(booze)nog, of course. 😉

        • Saturn

          We don’t really have eggnog over here in the UK.
          I think the closest thing to it we have would be advocaat, which is made from eggs, sugar and brandy, so I’d imagine is more or less the same.
          It’s usually served to the aunties and grand-ma’s of the family at Christmas time, usually as a snowball (advocaat,lemonade/a squeeze of lime, with a glacé cherry on a stick) and goes down a treat.

          • Creepshow

            I don’t drink that sludge anyways.

  • That’s awesome.

  • Batcat

    These are charming pictures. They really fit the part, don’t they?
    That’s Bela’s son looking at dad in those pics of him. It’s pretty cute.

    Gregory William Mank wrote several essential books about classic horror films(his book, “It’s Alive,” about the Universal Frankenstein series, is definitive.) and his book on Karloff and Lugosi is wonderful. It acts as a dual biography of horror’s two most legendary leading men and really details a very complex relationship the two shared. It comes as highly recommended.

    Thank you, for sharing these photos with us this holiday season.

  • IWC-3PO

    Karloff…. Sidekick…

  • Jay Rosen

    Interestingly, Bela Lugosi played Jesus Christ on the Budapest stage. The caption underneath read the Prince of darkness once played the Prince of peace.

  • Saturn

    Why no pictures of legendary horror legend Johnathon Schaech dress as Santa? He was there with both of them, so the photo’s do exist.
    Unless of course they are being saved until Christmas day, so Karloff & Lugosi can have their moment in the sun, without being out-shadowed by the Greatest Horror Legend of them all?

  • DukeStKing

    Nope. Heart still cold. And this “Johnathon Schaech” thing? Sooooo played. Move on.

    • IWC-3PO

      “Horror Icon Johnathon Schaech.”

      • DukeStKing

        Sorry. I stand corrected.

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