It’s not only the famous Basel Fasnacht that is an eerie sight, with its gruesome costumes to scare away the spirits of winter. That’s just a small taste of Switzerland’s passion for the macabre.
There are many examples of this lust for gruesomeness. The Moulage Museumexternal link, part of University Hospital Zurich, exhibits wax replicas of people who have died from horrible diseases.
They would not be out of place in the bars opened by sci-fi artist H.R.Giger, who was responsible for the spine-chilling sets in the Alien, Poltergeist and Prometheus movies. In Chur and Gruyère, you can enjoy an earthly drink surrounded by his out-of-this world creations.
A completely different world also presents itself down in the dark and clammy caves of the “Höllgrotten”. Their name, “Hell Grottoes”, is just about right for the limestone caves full of shadows lurking behind stalactites and stalagmites.
Appenzell hosts a very strange festival to herald the New Year. The ritual known as "Silvesterklaus” makes dogs bark and cows moo in fear, but puts a smile on the faces of the humans. Men wearing oversized headdresses and masks embedded with animals’ teeth perform wild dances, as if possessed, to draw people out of their farmhouses.
When December comes around, the Swiss Santa (based on St Nicholas) and his evil side-kick Schmutzli visit little children. The darkly-clad, soot-covered Schmutzli carries a broom for punishing the naughty ones.
(Footage: SRF archive/Keystone)