Illustration by Mike Cagle


Krampus are invading Bloomington this holiday season to instill the fear of being naughty.

Originating in Austria, Krampus (pronounced krom-POOS) are hairy, horned beasts that act as St. Nicholas’ counterparts: While St. Nick rewards good children, the Krampus punish the bad by giving them nightmares or taking away their presents. St. Nick can make the creatures disappear, but only after the naughty children begin behaving.

The Krampus Legend and Arts Workshop (KLAW) is the group of artists bringing these brutes to Bloomington. They want Krampus to spark the questions: What’s good behavior, and what’s bad behavior?

“When it comes to Christmas, it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are, you still get presents,” says Kelly McBride, a member of KLAW. “The accountability part has disappeared, and we like the idea of accountability.” KLAW will be hosting educational Krampus workshops at Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington, focusing on integrity and the difference between good and bad.

Krampus is also about fun. Starting November 8, KLAW is planning a month of festivities for people of all ages, and thanks to private donations and a grant from the City of Bloomington Arts Commission, almost every event will be free. Highlights include an online video series featuring the history and legend of Krampus, a Krampus puppet show with local children’s performer Kid Kazooey, an adults-only Krampus bar crawl, and IU-associated events.

Krampus will culminate on December 8 when St. Nick leads a parade down the B-Line Trail, followed by the Krampus dressed in frighteningly elaborate costumes. If you have young children, don’t worry, says McBride. “The parents want to make sure the kids can watch but not have the Krampus come up to them, so we’re going to distribute stickers that say ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice.’ If you have a naughty sticker on, the Krampus will come up to you and mess with you.” The nice sticker guarantees a visit from St. Nick and a gift of candy. That night, there will be a concert for teens at Rhino’s All Ages Club and Krampus visits to clubs and organizations around town.

For a schedule of events, go to Krampus’ Facebook page.