The Anti-Claus is Coming to Town! A Brief History of Krampus

This story originally published on back in the day, but I’m reposting it here, along with a few updates, to mark Dread Central Presents’ release of SpookyDan Walker’s Slay Belles, which features one of the meanest on-screen Krampuses in movie history!

We horror lovers pretty much celebrate the holidays like any of those “ordinary” people out there — each according to family traditions, personal beliefs, childhood nostalgia, or just a few days’ freedom from the office. But by now, most of you probably know there is a mythical holiday figure practically tailor-made for fans of the macabre. Still, there might be a few of you out there curious about the long and colorful history of this creepy character, who’s been enjoying a pop-culture resurgence in recent years…especially in genre cinema.

The legendary figure of Krampus – a literally devilish fellow often complete with horns, forked tail, and cloven hooves – is apparently best buds with St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, who of course evolved into jolly old Santa Claus. According to tradition, St. Nick rewarded good little boys and girls with presents and sweets. But when it came to the naughty kids, instead of the standard lump of coal, he left the dirty work to his demonic counterpart…who would literally drag the little buggers to Hell.

Popular throughout most of Europe for ages, Krampus in his various forms has now solidified his position in North American holiday festivities – especially among the horror community. Even the name “Krampus” seems ideal for the world of horror since it’s derived from the old German word “Krampen,” meaning “Claw.” Just the idea that kids hoping for a present from St. Nick might also be cowering under their beds in fear of “The Claw” is beyond creepy, and I can’t believe most horror fans weren’t down with this dude a long, long time ago.

The origins of Krampus not only predate the Catholic feast of St. Nicholas but may actually have originated before Christianity even reached Europe. In many cultures he was first portrayed as a primal beast-man – maybe even the European equivalent of the Bigfoot or Yeti legends. Once those regions began converting to Christianity, the character evolved into a fairytale used to scare children into behaving, so they’d get presents from “good cop” St. Nick and avoid a beating – or worse – from his “bad cop” partner.

If that seems like a shitty parenting technique, remember that most of the fairy tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm were extremely gruesome in their original form, and were often meant to keep children out of real-life danger, and I dare you to look up the German children’s fable of “Struwwelpeter” for some legit scream-yourself-awake nightmares.

The best-known depictions of Krampus originated in the Germanic countries, and soon spread throughout most of Eastern Europe and even parts of Italy. Of course, with each different country and culture, the creature would take on different names, looks, and habits…such as the Dutch legend “Belsnickel,” a hideous, troll-like creature who was also known as Kris Kringle – which today, of course, is just another common name for Santa Claus.

I’m kinda skeeved out thinking how I once looked forward to this monstrosity breaking into my house during the wee hours of the night…if I’d known about this tradition when I was six years old, I’d have installed some major Home Alone-style booby traps all over the place. I mean, seriously…this is the guy who “sees you when you’re sleeping?”

But assuming you escaped his wrath with your childhood (and limbs) intact, let’s slide up to the present day: In Europe, December 5th is the traditional Krampusnacht (Krampus Night), which in some communities becomes the December equivalent of a massive Halloween party – but with a very specific theme: lots of devil stuff. Hordes of elaborately-costumed revelers (many of whom look like a cross between Chewbacca and Tim Curry in Legend) take to the streets with torches, pitchforks, scythes and other nasty-looking implements, rattling chains, ringing bells and setting off fireworks, all to commemorate the arrival of a mythical monster who steals children in the night.

By now, Krampus festivities have migrated to many large cities in North America, often coinciding with the night before Christmas instead of St. Nicholas’ Eve…or just the entire month of December, which is cool. Along with horror fans who have taken the opportunity to create some amazing Krampus costumes, masks and artwork, many members of the fetish and S&M culture have also embraced the more adult-oriented aspects of the character – who has often been depicted on German postcards as having a fondness for spanking young ladies (a tradition called “birching”), and comes ready with his own supply of whips and chains. Yes, we’re talking waaay kinkier concepts than the usual “Santa’s Naughty Helper” cosplay.

Now that you’ve indulged my little history lesson, I’m hoping you might join me in planning your own crazy Krampus holiday traditions (imagine the decorating possibilities) and beat those post-Halloween blues. You can get plenty of ideas by visiting the website, a.k.a. “Home of the Xmas Devil.” Even though it’s been a while since it was last updated, you can find tons of images, videos, and e-cards based on early 20th-century designs.

This vintage artwork adorns thousands of DIY decorations and party favors (Etsy is crawling with them now), and social sites are overflowing with fanart in just about every medium possible. Just think, another golden opportunity to scare the living crap out of your neighbors again!

Image Credit: Vincent Guastini

As you know by now, Krampus makes many awesome appearances in Slay Belles, thanks to the brilliant work of FX guru Vincent Guastini and his talented team (check out the full-size monster above!). Many fans are already declaring this version the most impressive cinematic portrayal of Santa’s evil counterpart, and he gets lots of screen-time!

You can bring Krampus home – along with the grumpiest backwoods Santa Claus since Bad Santa and three vloggers-turned-superheroines who kick his hairy ass back to Hell – by picking up a copy of Slay Belles and making it a part of your annual Krampus festivities! Slay Belles is available through all major VOD platforms, as well as DVD and Special Edition Blu-ray. Hit this link to get yours…and beware this Krampusnacht, you naughty boys and girls!

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Watch a Deleted Scene from Halloween (2018) Plus VOD, Blu-ray & DVD Release Details!

Making its digital bow on Movies Anywhere on December 28th of this year, David Gordon Green’s smash feature film Halloween will be hitting Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD on January 15th of 2019, and we’ve got word on the

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Bring The Crazy Evil Home With ‘Mandy’ On Blu-Ray/DVD

One of this year’s best genre movies hits blu-ray and DVD today as the cinemadness that is Mandy is unleashed. Perhaps my favorite movie of the year, Mandy had a limited but high-demand theatrical release starting last month before hitting digital and VOD, and at long last for collectors and physical media fans, the blu-ray/DVD is out and […]

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[Trailer] Witness the Arrival of Krampus in ‘Krampus Origins’

With Christmas on the horizon, it just wouldn’t be the same without a little Krampus. So, on November 6th, Uncork’s Entertainment will be unleashing Joseph Mbar’s (Genesis: Fall of the Crime Empire) Krampus Origins onto DVD and On Demand, and below we have the official artwork and trailer. Will this be something you’ll be keeping an […]

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[Trailer] Something Strange is Happening in ‘The Heretics’

Chad Archibald’s The Heretics will soon be making its home onto On Demand this November 6th and then onto DVD in January 5th, and below we have for you the first official trailer. We’re quite intrigued by this one, it looks good and has us wanting more. But what about you? Will you be checking […]

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‘Secret Santa’ Comes Knocking This November

What’s this, you guys need more Festive horror? Well, we have you covered as we have just learned that Adam Marcus’ (Jason Goes To Hell) gore-filled Secret Santa will be hitting the UK on DVD this November 5th via Signature Entertainment, which will then be followed by a Digital HD release on December 3rd. Check out […]

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[Trailer] Get in the Holiday Spirit with ‘All the Creatures Were Stirring’

Making its way to DVD, On Demand and Digital HD this December 4th via RLJE Films is David Ian McKendry and Rebekah McKendry’s festive horror flick All The Creatures Were Stirring, and with that date fast approaching, we have for you the first official trailer as well as some artwork for you to check out […]

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Butterfly Kisses Available Everywhere October 23rd

Butterfly KissesGravitas Ventures Presents Butterfly Kisses

The Camera Doesn’t Lie

Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD on October 23, 2018

Gravitas Ventures will release the horror film Butterfly Kisses on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD on October 23, 2018.  The film sets out to prove that the urban legend of The Peeping Tom is real.  The film is written and directed by Erik Kristopher Myers and stars Gavin York.

Butterfly Kisses Synopsis

Found footage and urban legend come together in chilling fashion in this unsettling film, shot on location in Ellicott City, Maryland. Gavin York, a wedding videographer sorting through used tapes, uncovers hours of footage shot by two student filmmakers obsessed with an apocryphal figure known as “Peeping Tom.” Followed by a documentary film crew, Gavin pursues the truth of the students’ fate, while also seeking  fame and fortune by editing their “found footage” into a film of his own. What he discovers instead is doubt and ridicule from all who view it, and allegations of a hoax designed to launch Gavin’s filmmaking career. As his obsession grows, Gavin leads the documentary film crew down the same dangerous path taken by the student filmmakers eleven years prior, all while a terrifying urban legend lies in wait.

For more information about Butterfly Kisses check out the following links:


Gravitas Ventures is an all rights independent film distributor – bringing you the movies you want in theaters and On Demand. As consumer habits evolve, Gravitas is a cutting edge 21st century independent film distributor with the ability to release a film in over a billion homes worldwide.  Gravitas Ventures is a Red Arrow Studios company.

The Complete ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ Series Hits Blu-ray & DVD in the UK

I can’t begin to tell you the amount of fun I had with Ash vs Evil Dead, it was just a total blast that sadly got taken away from us far too quickly. But, thankfully the series will live on, as we have word that the complete series will be making its way to Blu-ray […]

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Celebrate 25 Years of ‘The X-Files’ With the Complete Series on Blu-ray

I only started watching The X-Files recently for the very first time and I have to say that I’m absolutely gutted that I didn’t get to it sooner. It’s a fantastic series, or at least for the first few seasons I’ve managed to watch. So, with The X-Files celebrating its 25th year, we have word that […]

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