When Grace Baldree awoke one fall morning, she opened her bedroom door to find that her doorway had been barricaded with plastic wrap.
The 7-year-old Bluffton girl knew exactly who was to blame for this silly prank.
Beauregard, her Elf on the Shelf, who enjoys wreaking havoc around the holidays.
"Daddy, Daddy," Grace screamed from her bedroom.
Thankfully, there was enough room underneath the plastic wrap so she could crawl out of her room and run to her father.
Like thousands of other elves around the world, Beauregard was sent from the North Pole to find out if a child should be on Santa's naughty list or nice list. Or at least that's how the story goes.
The Elf on the Shelf comes with a hardbound children's book that tells the story of the magical elf. The story goes that when a family adopts an elf and names it, the elf receives Christmas magic that allows him to fly to the North Pole every night to report to Santa what he witnessed that day.
The elf returns to the child's home each morning in a different spot around the home. The rules say no one can touch the elf or he might lose his magic. Elves are not allowed to speak or move when anyone in the house is awake. On Christmas Eve, the elves fly back to the North Pole until the following year.
Many children awake throughout the month of December, rushing out of their rooms to see where their elves are and what kind of trouble they caused overnight. The imaginary antics these elves get into can be pretty amusing. Parents are having as much fun with the elves as their children are. In fact, they're so proud of their creativity that they're posting photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And the ideas are getting more and more elaborate.
Since joining the Baldree family a few years ago, Beauregard has had marshmallow fights with Grace's toys, eaten almost all her leftover Halloween candy and moved the Christmas tree outside. He has dyed the dog red and green, drawn funny faces on family photos, and thrown a few wild parties with Barbie, Dora and other friends. He even teamed up with the elf next door to toilet-paper the inside of the neighbors' house. And this year, when Beauregard returned to Bluffton from the North Pole, he brought a weather balloon filled with helium so Grace could send her Christmas wish list directly to Santa.
Grace's father, Quinn, said his daughter springs out of bed every morning when Beauregard is in town, wanting to see what kind of mischief he has caused.
"When he's been real naughty, she'll slink into my room and say, 'Now Daddy you're not going to believe this, but Beau was really bad last night.' "
Baldree said Grace will wait to see if he gets upset, and he plays along, pretending he's mad.
Baldree comes up with most of the elf ideas on his own.
"I've just done my best to get creative and do something to add magic and mischief to the season," he said. "The key is to put your kid hat on and use some wild imagination through the eyes of a child."
When they first got their elf, Baldree said he would just move him around, but it's evolved into something bigger.
"The first couple of times I did it, I thought I was just being cute," Baldree said. "Then it became almost expected. ... She's a little disappointed if he doesn't go over the top at least a few times a year."
Baldree said he starts thinking of ideas a few weeks ahead of time and jots them down.
"It's a lot of fun just trying to set it up and make it look as real as possible," Baldree said.
Bluffton mom Mari Goulas usually gets her elf ideas late at night. She was picking up stuff around the house one night when she decided to incorporate what was in her hands -- tape and baby toys -- into the elves' relocation.
That's when she came up with the "tape ball fight gone wild" scenario.
In the Goulas home, there are three elves, one for each child. The elves match the personalities of the children. There's one elf that is always getting into trouble just like his owner. He is the only one in the photo who is not taped to the wall. Apparently, he and his friends taped the others to the wall and threw balls of tape at their heads.
The Goulas family has a rule that others might not have. If the children behave themselves, the elves tend to act out by pulling all these crazy stunts. If the children misbehave, the elves stay in the same spot they were in the day before. The children prefer the elves to misbehave so they try to behave as much as possible. When one child is not behaving, the others tell him or her to stop.
"I think it's cute because I know when they get older, they're going to look back on it," she said. "And it's funny. My husband and I have fun after they go to bed, trying to think of weird things for them to do."
To Goulas, the Elf on the Shelf is reminiscent of her childhood, when her mother would tell her that Santa checks on kids throughout December. She would plant evidence, such as muddy footprints, showing that Santa stopped by to check on her.
"It helps you get into the spirit," she said. "It's nice for the kids to talk about at school. They all talk about their elves. I just think it's a really cute tradition ... something nice to pass down to generations."
Follow Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.