If you don’t know about Krampus the Christmas demon, you’re not alone. The extreme opposite of Santa Claus, the half-goat half-devil — which hasn’t caught on quite as well in the United States as it has in Austria and Germany — punishes naughty children by hitting them with sticks.
But recently, more macabre events in line with the horror of Krampus have been creeping into New York City’s holiday experience.
This weekend, Krampus will make an appearance at the Brooklyn Bazaar, and all month long, Metrograph has been showing Gothic films. Madame Morbid, a haunted history tour, is also zeroing in on macabre Christmas stories and characters.
We spoke with Mike Gingold, a contributor to “Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television” and Allison Huntington Chase, the founder of Madame Morbid haunted tours to understand why the holiday can be the perfect time to scare your socks off.
Telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was a tradition for hundreds of years in Europe and became the norm for Britain around the 1800s, when special seasonal editions of popular periodicals from Germany came to Britain. The books included elements of the Gothic and ghost stories, according to “Yuletide Terror.”
Certain creepy figures seemed to stick. In addition to Krampus, who is said to leave sticks in naughty kids’ shoes and beat them or carry them off to hell, there’s another creature called Gryla in Iceland. The mythical giantess hunts for and eats misbehaving kids.
“If children were going to get a present, parents wanted to be sure they deserved it,” Huntington Chase said. “In America, the Christmas figure is a jolly person — the modern day Santa Claus was created by Coca-Cola. But usually in other cultures Christmas figures scare children.”
Gingold suggested that Christmas also offers the perfect setting for horror because, in some ways it has become cheapened by capitalism.
“Part of it is that Christmas is so commercialized that horror filmmakers like to rebel against the norm and mainstream,” he said. “They like juxtaposing the festive, happy, warm spirit of Christmas.”
Gingold referenced “Gremlins,” “Black Christmas” and “Silent Night, Deadly Night” as some of the big hitters of Christmas horror — all of which caused backlash from Christmas-lovers in their days.
Krampus got an eponymous film in 2015 thanks to Universal Pictures, and has popped up on episodes of “American Dad” dating to 2013.
For those wanting to take a more macabre approach to the holiday season, we’ve rounded up a few ways you can get spooked.
Madame Morbid haunted history trolley tour
This tour stops in several Brooklyn neighborhoods — Williamsburg, Gowanus, the Navy Yard and others — and tells gruesome tales you probably wouldn’t hear on another tour. Topics range from a big commercial airline crash in Park Slope in 1960 to where mobsters are said to have dumped bodies. The company has also made short documentaries about each neighborhood and added trivia games, too.
The tour, which runs daily, except for Tuesdays, is “like a Disney ride on wheels, only without children,” Huntington Chase said.
But for Christmas, the trolley tour is tweaking its usual programming to include stories of scary Christmas figures and traditions from around the world, too.
“Telling scary ghost stories was a major part of Christmas about a century ago and it died out,” she said. “We want to incorporate different holidays and keep it current.”
For the entire month of December, those who bring a winter coat to donate to New York Cares will get a $20 gift card for Madame Morbid merchandise or for use on a future tour. In addition, 10 percent of all ticket sales will go toward feeding Brooklyn’s homeless.
Morbid Anatomy Annual Krampus Party
On Dec. 16, Krampus is getting his own shindig at Brooklyn Bazaar. The party includes a costume contest, so dress up as the chain-swinging, long-tongued demon goat and try to win a prize. You’ll feast on a Krampus cake and pick from a number of drink specials. Ghoul A Go-Go will play live, followed by DJ Friese Undine. Those who deem themselves naughty can be beaten with a birch switch by Krampus himself. Tickets are $20 and the party starts at 8 p.m. at 150 Greenpoint Ave.
‘Goth(ic)’ at The Metrograph
The cinema at 7 Ludlow St. is screening goth-minded films all month long, from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” to “Beetlejuice,” “Wuthering Heights” and even “Twilight.”
The series is “the ultimate way to end the autumn, and an antidote to the too-early Christmas jingles that pervade the entire city,” said Aliza Ma, a spokeswoman for the theater.
The series goes through Dec. 23. Tickets are $15.