It’s Christmas time in the permanently fog-shrouded seaside town of Hallowind Cove, which is also known as the “Harbour of the Weird”.
Rachel Hammersmith is new to Hallowind Cove and has recently taken over the bakery on Gloomland Street, after Marie Percht, the previous owner, retired.
However, Marie Percht didn’t tell Rachel everything, when she retired. She didn’t mention the fog, for starters, and she also didn’t mention that her bakery plays a vital role during the Christmas season and not just as a provider of holiday cookies either.
For the Krampus, a yuletide monster from alpine folklore, is coming to Hallowind Cove. And the only thing that can keep him from wrecking the town and ruining Christmas are pastries baked according to a secret recipe. Unfortunately, Rachel has no idea what the recipe is.
However, with the help of fellow newcomer Paul MacQuarie, Rachel will bake up a storm to pacify Krampus and save Christmas.
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- The Bakery on Gloomland Street is a novelette of 9300 words or approximately 32 print pages. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- I like to write holiday stories, either connected to one of my ongoing series or as a standalone. And some time ago, I wrote the beginning of a Hallowind Cove Christmas story, which I never finished. When I dug up the unfinished story again, I noticed that it stopped at the point where the various town dignitaries show up to tell Rachel that only she can save Christmas. Unfortunately, I never wrote just what it was that Rachel had to save Christmas from.
- So I brainstormed just what might threaten Christmas in Hallowind Cove. And since the Hallowind Cove stories all have horror elements – in fact, I sometimes refer to the series as “failed horror” – it was pretty obvious that it had to be something scary. And so I quickly hit upon the Krampus, that monster from South German and Austrian folklore that travels with Saint Nicholas and punishes the bad children.
- Now the Krampus hails from South Germany and Austria, but I’m from North Germany, where the Krampus isn’t really a thing. In my part of Germany, Saint Nicholas travels with Knecht Ruprecht, a man with a bushy black beard who gives the bad kids a thrashing with a birch rod. And across the border in the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas travels with the Zwarte Piet, a black man in faux orientalist garb who doesn’t really thrash anybody, but manages to be controversial nonetheless. And since the Krampus isn’t really part of the culture I grew up with, I first had to do some research.
- Since the Krampus is a monster that thrashes the bad kids with a birch rod or kidnaps them and – in those parts of the German speaking world, where Krampus is a thing – people dressed up as Krampus run wild in the street, it was obvious why the Krampus would be a threat to the peace of Hallowind Cove or what passes for it at Christmas time. Now the next question was, how exactly could Rachel of all people save the town from the Krampus’ wrath?
- Rachel is a baker and therefore, it was obvious that the solution should be bakery related. So I researched whether there were any pastries associated with Krampus and found that there were. Even better, it was a type of pastry I was familiar with, namely figures of sweet leavened dough that are known as Stutenkerl or Weckenmann in my region and as Krampus elsewhere. What is more, it turns out that in addition of the “dough man with pipe” Stutenkerl that I was familiar with, there were also Krampus shaped dough figures in the respective parts of Germany and Austria. According to legend, the Stutenkerl with his pipe represents Saint Nicholas with his bishop’s crosier, while the Krampus shaped figures represent the Krampus. And indeed, the Krampus that visits Rachel’s bakery picks up a Stutenkerl for Saint Nicholas.
- If you want to make your own Stutenkerl or Krampus, here is a recipe. Meanwhile, inspired by the story I was writing, I bought a ready made Stutenkerl at Janssen‘s excellent bakery in Oldenburg. You can see a photo here.
- Since Krampus is traditionally the companion of Saint Nicholas, Santa himself show up near the end as well. And because Hallowind Cove is persistently fog-shrouded, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer appears as well, even though he has nothing whatsoever to do with the Krampus and the traditional Saint Nicholas legend and is instead a 20th century American invention.
- Krampus is occasionally linked to a winter witch character called Frau Perchta or Frau Percht in Southern and Eastern Germany and Frau Holle in my area. Frau Percht herself does not appear (or does she?), but I borrowed her name for Marie Percht, the former owner of the bakery and custodian of the secret recipe.
- Rachel Hammersmith briefly appears in The Cursed Arm of Driftwood Beach, as do Dr. Marvin Cuttlefish, curator of the Hallowind Cove Museum, and Father MacGillicuddy. Paul MacQuarie, meanwhile, first appeared in The Revenant of Wrecker’s Dock along with Ian, landlord of The Croaking Foghorn pub, who even gains a surname in this story.
- Because Rachel and Paul are both new to Hallowind Cove and its persistent weirdness, it made sense for them to bond over their shared experiences and tackle the Krampus problem together. There’s even a kiss under the mistletoe at the very end.
- Hugo, the talking raven, also shows up again. And indeed, Hugo is the only character who appears in every Hallowind Cove story to date and also the only inhabitant of Hallowind Cove who actually tells the truth. Too bad no one ever listens to him.
- The cover is a cartoon Krampus by Klara Viskova inside the usual porthole template, though the porthole acquired some Christmas lights this time around.