Krampus, the horned Christmas character has increasingly been featured in movies, TV, greeting cards, and ads, as well as parades in North America and Europe. An expert in the phenomenon, writer Al Ridenour joined Connie Willis (email) in the first half of the show, to discuss the darkly folkloric figure and detail its true history and meaning. The legend, he said, is an Alpine Christmas custom native to areas in Austria and Germany, dating as far back as the 1800s or even earlier. Krampus could be considered the dark side of St. Nicholas. When St. Nicholas (a villager dressed like a Bishop) visits children to find out if they’ve been good, he brings with him a team of six horned devil-like Krampus, wearing fur costumes and wood carved masks (see images).
In the folklore, the Krampus kidnap naughty children and worse, but what really happens is that they stomp around the house, and make a lot of noise to induce good behavior in the kids, Ridenour outlined. Krampus, he explained, are a species rather than an individual being. In villages south of Salzburg, Austria, the Krampus tradition is best preserved, where Krampus troupes go on runs through small towns, and invade various establishments. The tradition, he continued, has now spread to America, which has its own version of the ritual, which includes Krampus runs in Philadelphia, and various events in Los Angeles.
Is the happiest time of the year also the creepiest? Winter has an even darker and richer lore than Halloween, according to British artist, researcher and author Sam Shearon, who appeared in the second half of the show. His new coloring book, Creepy Christmas, features his macabre drawings and poems about such yuletide creatures as Krampus, Santa Claws, Rabid Rudolph, the Grimace Tree, the Yule Cat, the Abominable Snowman, and more (view sample images). Shearon shared his own adventures in the Pacific Northwest, where he went Bigfoot hunting, and heard a creature’s ominous and imposing moaning that traveled through the wind.
An early influential experience was when, as a young boy, strange unexplained “children” entered his bedroom. He later learned that other worldly entities sometimes cloak their appearance as children. Shearon read a couple of poems from his book, and also talked about the dark imagery he’s created for a variety of comic book series, including The X-Files, KISS, and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, as well as illustrated album artwork and merchandise designs for the rock and metal music industry.
Connie’s Strange Encounter
At the studio at WHAS in Louisville where Connie was broadcasting the show, she had a strange experience sitting by herself in the back studio. She felt something invisible pull the back of the hoodie she was wearing. Board operator Nathan Stayton, who had once worked for WHAS, joined the show to reveal that years earlier, before it had been a radio studio, there was a fire at that location, and some of the people did not get out alive.