Photo Gallery The Alpine Monster Ball

Halloween is a joke compared to the grisly Christmastime traditions of Europe's Alps, where demonic creatures come out into the cold to drive winter away each year. A new photography book explores the many guises of these wild monsters, whose traditional rumpus harkens back to pagan rites.
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German photographer Carsten Peter's new book "Alpendämonen," or "Demons of the Alps," explores 20 different wintertime traditions from the Alps that include gruesome masks, costumed processions and pagan rites. Here, a scary Klausen from the Allgäu region lurks about.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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Peter spent four years researching the various traditions, which include both processions and wild nights of carousing by those in costume.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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In the largely German-speaking northern Italian region of South Tyrol, for example, residents of a town stage the Wudeljagd, or "Wudel Hunt," whereby dragon-like figures called Schnappviecher, or "snapping animals," are slaughtered by men in butcher's outfits during a procession. The butchers stand for spring, which triumphs over winter.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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The figures often go by different names, but are most commonly known as Krampus or Perchten, who serve as helpers to Saint Nicholaus. They threaten to punish or even kidnap naughty children when he visits on the evening of Dec. 5, ahead of the Feast of St. Nicholas the following day.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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Many of the photos were snapped in the dark without a flash, lending a spooky air to Peter's subjects. This punishment-for-sinners-themed motif wouldn't be out of place in a painting by Hieronymous Bosch.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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These masked figures in Imst, Austria only come out once every four years to drive demons out of their community.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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The Klausen monsters in Germany's Allgäu region come out on the night of Dec. 5. Many children are understandably terrified by the creatures, who have been known to rough up bystanders.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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The efforts of those who participate in the rituals is also a subject of the book's photos. Here, a group in Tramin in Italy's German-speaking South Tyrol region rests. Costumes can often be quite heavy.

Foto: Carsten Peter/ National Geographic Deutschland
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Carsten Peter's book "Alpendämonen," or "Demons of the Alps," has been published by National Geographic in Germany

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