As kids all over head to bed hoping Santa Claus will drop by with a few surprises, a part of the U.S. military will be tracking his trip around the world.
And this unusual holiday tradition started thanks to a misdialed phone call.
It was Christmas Eve 1955 when a special phone rang at the Continental Air Defense Command, which was watching the skies for missiles and bombers.
The phone was only supposed to ring in a major emergency, so when Colonel Harry Shoup picked up the phone and heard a kid ask for Santa, he was very annoyed and quite confused.
It turned out that Sears had been advertising a Santa Claus hotline that had printed the military hotline’s phone number by mistake.
The Santa line was one number away.
Shoup decided to make the best of the situation and directed one of his airmen to answer the phone as Santa.
And they kept the tradition going each December, even after the command changed its name to NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
At least a few people in the U.S. government realized that during the Cold War, publicly announcing that you were giving old Kris Kringle a clear path while the Soviet Union frowned upon the holiday was good publicity.
NORAD says it fields hundreds of thousands of phone calls each year on its hotline, not to mention thousands more emails.
And then there’s the official Santa Tracker, where they post online updates about where Santa’s going all Christmas Eve long.
So, at least officially, a guy in a red suit bellowing “Ho Ho Ho” as he flies reindeer and presents through the sky does show up on military radar.
Here’s the story of a Christmas present that probably wasn’t supposed to fly through the sky.
In the mid 1960s, inventor Jack Hurlbut put together the Nothing Box.
You could push a button and lights would flash, dials would spin and switches would turn, but nothing happened.
At Christmastime 1965, someone caused a commotion by taking a Nothing Box on a plane.
Security officials were worried it was a high-tech bomb.
The newspaper headline read “A ‘Nothing Box’ Stirs Up Plenty.”
The Nothing Box (Weird Universe)