It’s remained a mystery for a least a decade.
Every year, a specific New York City apartment receives letters addressed to Santa. One year, more than 400 letters were delivered. And no one knows why.
“It was overwhelming,” Jim Glaub told InsideEdition.com. “They were spilling out of the mailbox.”
Glaub and his roommate Dylan Parker lived in the apartment on 22nd Street in Chelsea when they started pouring in.
At first, they didn’t open any of them, since the letters weren’t exactly addressed to them. Then, at a party Glaub and Parker were throwing, friends started questioning the stack in a corner.
“We started reading them and decided to fulfill them,” said Amanda Lehner, a guest at that party. It soon turned into an event the entire community participated in.
Each letter was different. Some were written by kids with many words spelled wrong. Others were from parents themselves asking Santa for help.
“Unfortunately, I am a single mom and it makes me sad I can't handle it anymore,” one read.
The letters broke Glaub’s heart.
“They were from kids who needed coats, shoes, bags, basic necessities,” he Glaub.
Glaub created a Facebook group he called “Miracle on 22nd Street,” in a nod to the Christmas classic, “Miracle on 34th Street,” to help spread the word and to get more people involved in answering the letters.
“We were flooded with texts and messages from people all over the world who were touched by this story and really inspired us to create a nonprofit that [fulfills the letters] every year,” Glaub said.
The organization connects families in need with what Glaub calls real life elves. Families can write a letter to Santa and upload it to the Miracle on 22nd Street’s website. Then, volunteers can elect to pick a letter and fulfill the Christmas wish.
There are about 500 families signed up, with 2,000 elves participating each year. Lehner, who has a background in non-profit communications, is the head elf of the organization.
Nadia Fortini of Seattle, Washington has participated for the past few years. Three Christmases ago, she was matched with a family of nine from Arkansas and sent everyone a gift, including the parents.
“The mother told me many times she felt so overwhelmed. She cried of joy to see all those gifts for the children and even themselves.”
Their friendship now extends well beyond Christmas letters. They stay in touch through texts and on Facebook, and met for the first time when she just attended the wedding of their oldest daughter, Amber. There, she served as the wedding photographer.
“It was just wonderful to be part of this experience,” she said.
Why Is It a Mystery?
For the last decade, Glaub has been trying to figure out why the letters go to this specific address on 22nd street. He has two theories.
He believes the address was listed on a PTA newsletter that went out to the school district, but neither Glaub, nor InsideEdition.com was able to find out if that was ever the case.
A spokesperson for the United States Post Office said it’s unclear why mail addressed to Santa is sent that apartment. As the street number and address is correct, the mail will be delivered as it’s addressed, the spokesperson said.
But Glaub second theory leans into the magical nature of the season.
The area of Chelsea where the apartment is located used to be called Chelsea Square, which was owned by “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” author Clement Clarke Moore. “When the poem came out, there was a thought that people had found his address and wrote him letters to Santa to see if they could help him this year,” Glaub said.
In the early 1800s, the area was all open land and fields before New York City’s grid system was created in 1811 creating the streets that exist today. “That's when these townhouses that we see on this street today were built and the neighborhood of Chelsea arose around it,” explained Jason Haber, a New York historian and broker at Warburg Realty.
Haber believes Chelsea has always been a “magical place,” but said it’s “hard to say” why the letters are going to that specific apartment, especially since Moore didn’t ever live in that house.
The building’s owner also has no idea why or when the letters starting coming. A man who once lived in one of the units was known to send money back to some of the people who wrote letters, the landlord said, noting he believed the letters to be a scam and advised his tenants to “throw [them] out.”
The current tenants said they got a few letters already this year. They’re handing them off to Glaub so that volunteers can help answer them.
A few years ago, Glaub received a phone call from Tina Fey, who expressed interest in writing a movie about the letters with her husband, Jeff Richmond.
“There's so many people that have been connected to people that they would never would have been connected before,” beamed Glaub of his dedication to Miracle on 22nd Street.
Lehner, once obsessed with trying to figure out how the letters began being sent, has since let it go. “After all the years that we've been doing this, it doesn't matter. It's part of the fun.”
Jim agreed, saying “There's some magic behind this and that feels like the spirit and the reason for this season.”