The Terrifying History of Krampus: Santa’s Favorite Helper

Everyone knows who Santa Claus is, but do you know Krampus? He’s a half-goat man that punishes naughty kids, and it’s not just coal…

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Santa Claus has had a number of different evil helpers. Belsnickle and Knecht Ruprecht, to name a few, but Krampus is a bit more mainstream– and a little more terrifying. He’s a half-man, half-goat who punishes naughty kids in the cruelest ways. He stems from German and Austria-Alpin regions, and he’s been lost inside the minds of children’s nightmares. Let’s dive into this evil legend of Krampus!

Krampus Origins

Krampus with a kid in a red trash bin. Behind him there is a silhouette of Krampus on a roof, and two kids horse playing.

The exact origins of Krampus are muddled, but many sources believe his legends began to take flight during the 12th century in Germany. Krampus’ name comes from a German word, Krampen, which means “claw.” Some stories conclude that he is the son of a Norse God of the underworld, Hel. Legend has it children would hear whispers outside their house of a dark-haired creature with horns and fangs. His primary weapon of choice was a bundle of birch sticks that he hit naughty kids. In Alpine folklore, Krampus was prone to go to towns and lash his chains and bells up and down the villages. In the end, he would kidnap naughty kids and bring them to Hell.

Although Krampus was vastly popular in the European regions, the Catholic Church wanted to ban Krampus’s celebration as he was a reminder of the devil. This is very common, considering the similar elements that resemble the ruler of Hell. However, the world was far too intrigued to make Krampus a taboo topic.

Krampus Celebrations

Krampus was born within pagan celebrations, but once the traditions of Santa Claus began to take flight sneakily, Krampus was also a part of this mythical legend. As St. Nicholas made his initial gift-giving rounds on December 6, Krampus would be making his rounds as well… except it was only for punishment. Some places in Austria and Germany would celebrate Krampusnacht, “the Night of Krampus.” People would dress up as the human hybrid to scare their children on December 5. It’s kind of messed up if you ask me!

People dressed up as Krampus-- Santa helper

This tradition of dressing up as Krampus began to grow because grown men would dress up as Krampus– known as the Krampuslauf “Krampus Run” to blow off steam while also scaring children into good behavior. Austrian men to this day get wasted and run up and down the streets as Krampus.

Krampus Cards

Krampus became mainstream when holiday cards were made with him as the center of attention. These were not your typical Hallmark cards. They were known as “Gruss vom Krampus” (“Greetings from Krampus”), and it showed Krampus quite literally terrorizing children with sticks, leading them to hellish places in chains, or carrying them in a bag– hauling them to a darker place.

Krampus proposing to a woman. Krampus as a woman punshing men.

As we all know, we live in a pretty dark… kinky world. So some of these cards have Krampus on one knee proposing to women, and in one instance, Krampus is shown as a woman whipping small men in submission. These cards were lost in history until 2004, when Monte Beauchamp published a book full of Krampus cards to show all these dark-filled mini-stories of fright. Beauchamp then published a second edition in 2010. He quite possibly is the sole reason why the rise of Krampus pop culture is still alive.

Books and Films

Collage of Krampus books from different genres of children picture, comics, horror, and romance.

The literary world has fully adopted Krampus as a horror character. He especially goes well with Holiday horror reads, and because of his newfound fame in recent years, he has acquired his very own comic series! Not to mention there are many other short stories and horror-themed novels that also borrow the horned man.

three erotica/romance cramps books" Married to Krampus, Kissed by the Krampus, Railed by the Krampus

Dare I mention there are also Krampus romance books? Yes, I know. Why is he so popular in every genre?! I say it started with the anti-holiday sexually explicit cards, and the fascination grew and grew. Ladies, Gentleman, people of the literary prose, I have seen it all! These romance book are just as explicit as their card counterparts. Krampus erotica has an audience that is continuing to grow on a daily.

I mean is it really a surprise why Krampus is so popular in comics, romance, erotica, horror, and even children literature? People still dress up as Krampus during the holiday season (or honestly whenever they feel like it) so they can terrorize children and tourists alike. And when I tell you there are over hundreds of films dedicated to this creature… I’m not lying! The more popular ones are A Christmas Horror Story and Krampus.

Krampus is a monstrous creature that still haunts children to this day, and yet people celebrate this heinous goat man. It’s their time to whig out and pretend to be Krampus for a night or two. I mean is Krampus really that bad? He punishes bad children as he should! Right? Right!

Want more Christmas-related trivia, check out the history of Santa Claus here!

Want horror Christmas reads, we got you covered here!