“It was like the climax of Quatermass and the Pit! People were running around attacking anybody who wasn’t shopping, whilst a huge image of Santa Claus shimmered over the shopping centre bellowing ‘Ho, ho, ho’!” exclaims Ned Hobwalt, who claims to have witnessed what police have described as a ‘Christmas shopping fuelled riot’, which recently erupted in Basingstoke town centre. During a two hour period, thousands of shoppers, apparently in the grip of seasonal shopping frenzy, started physically assaulting each other. “I saw one poor bastard surrounded by a mob of them outside Debenhams in Festival Place and beaten with artificial Christmas trees,” asserts Hobwalt. “Other people were being pelted with Christmas baubles, whilst one guy was buried under a pile of Tesco’s Finest Christmas puddings. It was terrifying! The attackers all had this maniacal gleam in their eyes as they set about their victims!” According to the fifty-two year old plumber, the only thing the victims seemed to have in common was their lack of festive shopping. “They were all just trying to do their regular shopping,” he notes. “None of them had mince pies or turkeys in their bags – a fact which seemed to enrage their attackers!” Hobwalt himself nearly succumbed to one of the attackers, an elderly lady, apparently possessed by the evil spirit of Christmas, attempting to strangle him with a string of Christmas lights. “Luckily, I had some Brussels sprouts in the bottom of my shopping bag,” he reveals. “As I lost consciousness, I dropped the bag and they came tumbling out – she immediately released her grip and went to find another victim! Those sprouts saved my life!” The plumber also claims to have seen various of the shopping centre’s Christmas decorations apparently taking on a life of their own and attacking non-Christmas shoppers. “I saw one woman engulfed by a writhing mass of tinsel, whilst a party of old age pensioners were trampled by a herd of plastic reindeer,” he says. “I got the impression that they were being animated by the Christmas shoppers, through some power of telekinesis that they’d suddenly possessed!” The disturbance ended as abruptly as it had begun, leaving scores injured and the centre of Basingstoke in ruins. “This eerie silence hung over Festival Place, punctuated only by the groans of the injured,” recalls Hobwalt, who believes that the destruction of the giant Santa hovering over the town centre was the key to the riot’s ending. “I saw some bloke hurl a branch of mistletoe at it and it exploded! Simultaneously, the shopping madness stopped.”

Local police have dismissed Hobwalt’s claims, stating that the disturbance was sparked by the main car park being declared full at only eleven o’clock,, resulting in enraged shoppers turning over vehicles in the car park and setting them ablaze. “Unfortunately, the situation was exacerbated when already irritated shoppers found that Sainsbury’s had run out of mince pies and they started running amok,” Inspector Howard Jobster told a press conference. “It was ridiculous really, as they could have got the same thing over at the Tesco Metro, but I suppose it just goes to show the power of brand loyalty.” Nevertheless, rumours of a more sinister origin for the riot persist. “A bloke who works for the council told me that when they were excavating a hole to plant the municipal Christmas tree in, they uncovered a mysterious object,” confides Hobwalt. “He reckoned it was some kind of ancient casket, possibly containing the remains of some Iron Age chief, or something. He thinks it could have set off some kind of pagan curse against the Christian hijacking of the mid-winter festival!” According to other reports, the object took the form of a giant gold cylinder, in its shape, reminiscent of a huge Christmas cracker. “Police cordoned off the whole area, and they had all these geezers in white coats down in the pit looking at the cylinder,” reveals Joe Macroon, a cleaner at the Malls Shopping Centre, who claimed to have witnessed the mysterious object’s discovery. “They tried drills, angle grinders, even sledge hammers to get it open, but all to no avail. Then, without any warning, it just opened of its own accord! It seemed to fly in half, accompanied by a huge bang, spilling its contents out into the hole!” Macroon claims that these included several objects resembling giant-sized nutcrackers, combs and nail clippers, all apparently moulded from pink plastic, a parchment covered with mysterious writing and the Christmas paper-wrapped remains of several alien beings. “As soon as they found those things, the weird stuff began to happen,” says the cleaner. “The whole place began to shake and all the Christmas lights started to flicker, then this strange noise came over the tannoy system. That’s when people started going crazy!”

One expert believes that Macroon’s revelations about the cylinder provide irrefutable proof that Christmas, far from having its origins in ancient religious festivals, was actually the result of alien intervention. “Obviously, it is far too sophisticated a celebration to have evolved by chance, that cylinder and its contents provide proof positive that Christmas was brought to us by aliens,” opines Dan Friddles, a local window cleaner and president of the North Hampshire Flying Saucer Society. “It is quite probable that they were a dying race attempting to perpetuate their culture by proxy, through this planet’s primitive denizens. When the cylinder was opened, it obviously triggered some kind of primal instinct in the true descendants of the aliens to purge society of all those not fully committed to the festival!” Others suspect that the riot was the result of an experiment by the retail industries to spark a consumer spending frenzy during the recession. “My mate who works for the water company says they put something in the local reservoir to create a shopping frenzy,” says refuse collector John Spreckfold. “But the experimental drug they used was too powerful, and turned half the population into Christmas-obsessed homicidal maniacs!” The police continue to deny all such explanations for the riot. “It’s the same every year, faced with the stress of seasonal shopping, people brace themselves for the ordeal by getting tanked up on the wrong type of Christmas spirits before entering the fray. When will people learn? Alcohol and shopping just don’t mix,” says Inspector Jobster. “As for all the other stuff people are claiming happened – drunken mass hysteria.” Indeed, the Inspector is keen to point out that no hole was never dug to plant the municipal Christmas tree, as it is artificial and stands on the concrete floor of the shopping centre. “There were a couple of old gas cylinders dug up in some nearby road works, but these were removed without incident,” he points out. “As for the giant Santa Mr Hobwalt claimed to have seen floating over the town centre, this was simply an inflatable Christmas decoration which had broken free and had floated over the shops, before puncturing itself on the spires at Festival Place and deflating.”