In 1966, a local advertising consultant had the idea of building a colossal straw goat in the style of the traditional Swedish Yule goat (don't ask) in the town square of Gavle, tasking his brother, the chief of the fire department, with its construction. It turned out to be an ironic choice when the goat burned down on New Year's Eve, but the goat has since become a thing of legend. Not only is it impressive in its own right, standing 43 feet tall as the biggest straw goat in the world, but it's also been burned down almost every year since that first ritual sacrifice, apparently just 'cause.

The vandals responsible for this pyrotechnic tradition have engaged the city in a cat-and-mouse game for years: When they put up security cameras, hackers simply disabled them. When they put up fences, the caprine arsonists took up fire archery. When they hired security guards, a particularly industrious team offered them $50,000 to look away while they kidnapped the goat via freaking helicopter. It's even been attacked by hooligans wearing Santa and gingerbread costumes, wielding the aforementioned flaming arrows like some kind of Christmas pageant gone very wrong. The poor thing has only survived 16 times in its 54-year history.

It's even become the subject of conspiracy theories that the burnings are the work of a secret pagan organization who believe the goat must be burnt, as Thor barbecued the goats who pulled his chariot to ensure a good harvest in the coming year. The theory was notably supported by a Cleveland man who was arrested after claiming he was tricked into believing it was an accepted tradition. That guy is an anomaly not just for his weirdo beliefs but also because despite all that security, goat burners are rarely caught, possibly due to some kind of yule goat magic.

Top image: Tony Nordin/Wikimedia Commons

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