Listen to those bells!
If instead of watching videos, you’ve just been looking at pictures (especially old postcard illustrations where bells are notably absent), you might not understand the role sound plays in a Krampus’ run. The cacophony of bells is a huge part of the overall effect and creates a great sense of anticipation even before the creatures come into sight. The beastie’s natural movement and exaggerated jumping gets the clappers going, and often a chain will be fixed over the bells for further clatter.
You cannot buy these things in the US, and even in the EU, you’d spend $100+ per bell (without shipping). The bells above aren’t even particularly big like like these or these seriously huge bells. While most all these bells are purpose-made for Krampus costuming, sometimes normal sized cow bells are used as well.
A better (lower and louder) tone seems to come from bells that are wider, taller, and especially those of thicker gauge metal. Our favorite supplier of this type of cowbell has been Harbor Freight, however — as of this posting — they were out of stock. Thankfully(?) a backordering option appears (no idea about the wait or ultimate availability though). These nice largish, low-toned bells were priced at only $3.99 (with cheap shipping), so let’s hope they get them back in stock.
Bells appearing similar to the Harbor Freight bells are available elsewhere, often described as “Kentucky cow bells” for around $8-14 at the larger sizes. You can also find smaller and cheaper bells sold for as noisemakers for sporting events or parties — okay in a pinch, but more like rattles than bells.
When looking for cow bells, don’t forget to try both both “cow bells and “cowbells.” Also consider widening your search to “livestock bells” as well as “goat bells.” Searching “cow bells” will also bring up musician’s cowbells, which tend to be larger (9-11″ sometimes) and more resonant, but also pricey. Sometimes, however, you’ll find a deal on one with visible wear and tear. Signs of age — especially rust — are only a plus for a spooky Krampus. Rarely will you see a European Krampus sporting shiny, new bells.
As a belt for your bells, you might economize with an old hemp rope, but a wide leather belt is the traditional choice — think “Santa belt” then double the width. Wider rugged belts can often be found in hardware stores as work belts or by searching online for “work belt, wide, double” (double-pronged buckles usually mean wider belts). The robust look of leather weightlifter belts also seems a fairly good match. Most all these belts can be found under $20 if you’re patient. You might have luck searching under theatrical/re-enactor costumes, but these are often too flimsy and overpriced.
You can easily drill holes in a leather belt and tie your bells on with twine or leather thong. If you want to get a bit fancier, you can use a cheap (under $10) leather punch-set and attach proper hangers with snaps — all materials available at leather hobbyist shops like Tandy. If you visit one of their local outlets (as in North Hollywood), you’ll see other hardware that might inspire ideas as well as tempting bins of scrap leather and rabbit pelts.
The belt below was created by LA Krampus Al Ridenour using products mentioned above as well as a few (non-traditional) decorative deer bits from eBay. The hanging clips here actually just heavy-duty picture hangers, and the newly purchase work belt was distressed with acetone, wire brush, and sander. Metal parts were “rusted” with paint or chemically rusted using an easy process found here.