Jack Knox: How an innocent typo summoned Satan to a Christmas parade

Old Nick showed up at the Comox Valley Christmas parade on Sunday.

No, not St. Nick. Old Nick. Beelzebub. Lucifer. Mephistopheles.

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Satan.

As advertised.

Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells saw at least four versions of the devil at Sunday’s festivities. “And then online I’ve seen a couple more.”

Jake Fernandes, a promotions guy with The Eagle radio station, attended with his face painted red. Then there was Skippy, the horned, face-painted fellow who photo-bombed Wells, Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird and Comox Mayor Russ Arnott.

Another guy looked devilishly dapper in red shirt, black tie, black suit and, of course, horns. Still another, a big dude who looked like he could intimidate even without the extra adornment, painted his bare chest and bald head red, wore what looked like goat-hair pants, carried a skull-topped walking stick and somehow had horns stuck to his noggin. At least, we’ll assume they were stuck on and weren’t actually, you know, growing.

This all began with a typographical error in the Nov. 21 edition of the Comox Valley Record newspaper. An ad for the annual parade listed associated attractions, including a “Gnarly Christmas Craft Fair,” “Captain Thunderpants” (pause to consider how good a story must be when you skip right past the Captain Thunderpants part) and, ahem, “Pictures with Satan.”

It should have read Santa. It didn’t.

As you might expect, the typo created a kerfuffle. What you might not expect is how far it went, how fast. Wells says he heard about it from people in South Africa, where he used to live.

Late-night talk-show host Seth Meyers made fun of the Santa-to-Satan swap: As the screen showed a to-go coffee cup with the name Satan scrawled across it, Meyers fake-quoted Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway as saying: “That’s so weird. The same thing happened to me at Starbucks.”

The New York Post ran a story, quoting the Record’s apologetic editorial. “We often chuckle about the typos we have caught, breathing sighs of relief when the L in ‘public’ or the B in ‘Hornby’ is added by the last set of eyes before going to print. Even those are not always caught,” the Record’s editorial read. “But when it happens in an ad, it becomes all that much more blatant. They are called ‘display ads’ for a reason. They are meant to stand out on the page. This one did that, for all the wrong reasons.”

These things happen. Working for a newspaper that once ran a picture of a farmer and his pig where a husband and wife were supposed to be (and which identified the wife as the pig). I will not make too big a deal about this. My own contribution this year was to somehow write “Shady Greek cemetery” instead of “Shady Creek cemetery” in a column. Pot, meet kettle.

The happy ending? The Satan fuss contributed to a terrific turnout on Sunday. “I would say this was one of our more well-attended Christmas parades,” Wells said.

It also led, indirectly, to some help for the hungry: “We raised $136 for the food bank,” says Will Evers.

Who’s Evers? He’s that intimidating-looking devil you just read about. After the typo became a cause celebre, it was his 14-year-old daughter Saphira Evers-Jamieson who said: “Let’s have some fun with it.”

Together, they fashioned the impressive Satan costume Evers wore Sunday. They made the goat legs out of some faux fur, an old foam roller and a couch cushion salvaged from the ReStore. The cushion also contributed to the horns, which were hot-glued to a latex bald cap.

“We whipped it together in about 24 hours,” Evers said. “It was a fun dad-daughter project.”

He estimates a couple of hundred people posed for photos with him on Sunday. That included Santa and Mrs. Claus, who emerged from their own photo session in the Native Sons Hall. Some paid Evers a loonie or two for the privilege, with all of it going to the food bank. Good cause. Good fun.

“We figured everyone would get a kick out of it,” he said.

Sometimes, when things go sideways, you just have to say what the hell and laugh.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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