Photos: Krampus is coming to town


Ross Otto, dressed as Krampus, frightens Dylan Welch.
1 Outside the Union Depot train station in St. Paul on Saturday, the European Christmas Market is in full swing. Shoppers are browsing handmade gifts and sipping mulled wine. Then they hear it. It's the sound of ball bearings rattling around in big steel bells. In the crowd, Ross Otto, dressed as Krampus, frightens Dylan Welch. 
Three Krampus march to the Christmas Market at Union Depot.
2 The performers are part of Minnesota Krampus. It's a group of about 35 people started in 2014 who make appearances at community events, breweries and even nightclubs during the holiday. 
Sasha Denisova and Sheri Arisumi take selfies with three Krampus.
3 Some people who see Krampus are frightened, or even oppose Krampus on religious grounds. Minnesota Krampus President Tyrone Schenk and other members give them space if they're afraid, or even high-fives to reassure them. Sasha Denisova and Sheri Arisumi took selfies with three Krampus on Saturday. 
Multiple Krampus leave the hallway where they dressed.
4 Minnesota Krampus' goal is to promote the central European custom. But their appearances have a different feel than long-running traditions in places like Austria, which is where Schenk first encountered Krampus. 
A Krampus waves at children at the Christmas Market.
5 The exact origins of Krampus are foggy. Some point to pagan traditions, while others speculate that Krampus emerged from folklore in the Middle Ages. Traditionally, a host of figures in Europe have served as a counterweight to the St. Nicholas or Santa Claus tradition. 
Ross Otto dressed at Krampus, patrols the Christmas Market.
6 "The goal of the Krampus organization in Austria and in America is that there's that balance between right and wrong, good and bad," said Minnesota Krampus President Tyrone Schenk. "The Krampus should never outshine the saint. That should be the motivation is like, do good. And then if you're not good then you get Krampus." Here, Ross Otto dressed at Krampus, patrols the Christmas Market. 
Mark LaCourse helps his son, Matt, into his Krampus outfit.
7 Mark LaCourse helps his son, Matt, into his Krampus outfit before Minnesota Krampus takes to the Christmas Market at Union Depot. Matt has been part of Minnesota Krampus for four years, but it is his father's first time with the group. 
Members of Minnesota Krampus suit up .
8 The Krampus in Austria carry switches and whack people they encounter. Schenk says it can have a wild, sometimes drunken, energy. 
A Krampus mask and bells sit in a hallway.
9 The group of performers wear masks carved from stone pine into grotesque faces, all red eyes and bared sharp teeth. Real billy goat horns adorn their foreheads. They carry bundles of sticks with little wisps of horsehair tied to the end that they swat at passers-by.