A mall Santa in Reading had to be rescued by a member of the British Army after his beard got caught in the rope during an abseiling stunt gone wrong.

Thousands of shopping center patrons gathered to watch Steve Chessell, a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer by trade, rappel down from the roof to light the Broad Street Mall Christmas tree. But halfway through, Chessell's Santa beard became entangled in the clip.

"He could have just taken his beard off and let himself down but he was such a professional and he didn't want to let the children down," said mall marketing manager Stephanie Maynard.

After some 40 minutes spent suspended twenty feet in the air, Chessell's army buddy Marc Hilton finally managed to cut away enough of the beard to free him, but by then it was too late to hide the truth: Santa isn't real.

[video via Metro]