Sorry, Zozobra: Old Man Gloom is Going Down


Once upon a September early, while I wandered, feeling wearlily,
Looking for a way to eradicate twelve moons of slumgullion gloom—
Though I steeped in restless stressing, there came the moaning
Of an old friend’s blessing, reminding that though they loom,
Last year’s worries, are dust beneath Zozobra’s broom.
“Burn Him,” I uttered, “burn my mind’s torturous loom—
sweep it upward in his flume.”

Though Edgar Allen Poe did not live to see William Shuster’s Zozobra tradition take form in 1924, perhaps the adaptation above of “The Raven’s” first verse would have crossed his mind. The toothless, empty-headed spectre is made, staged, and flamed by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe since 1964 as part of Santa Fe’s 303 year-old Fiesta season’s tradition. Previously the pageantry took place as part of the Fiesta weekend, but last year marked Zozobra’s break out attempt-brooding quietly, then fiercely, and finally fiery on the Friday night of Labor Day weekend in an attempt to garner a larger attendance and develop a more positive impact on Santa Fe’s downtown businesses.

Inspired by Mexico’s Yaqui Indian’s effigy of Judas, Zozobra gains his namesake from Will Schuster’s and E. Dana Johnson’s collaboration to bring physicality to anguish, angst, or dread.  Zozobra, literally means “anxiety, or gloom” in Spanish - an apt name for the literal embodiment of our collective worries.

Shuster’s creation first appeared as a six-foot puppet and has since grown to about 50 feet. Made of muslin and stuffed with shredded paper, Zozobra is an eerie, groaning, flailing character who appears to be part ghost and part monster. Amid fireworks and the ceremonial dances of ghosts and fire, a growling Zozobra is set ablaze and, it is said, as the fire consumes the beast, so go the feelings of gloom and doom from the past year, the flames renewing the hope and optimism of the gathered celebrants. The ever-howling Zozobra can be heard echoing throughout Santa Fe. 

The first Zozobra. Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy Tobias Roybal

The effigy used in Zozobra is a giant wooden and cloth marionette that waves its arms and growls ominously prior to its demise. A major highlight of the Zozobra pageant is the Fire Spirit Dancer, dressed in a flowing red costume, who appears at the top of the stage to drive away the white-sheeted “Gloomies” from the base of Old Man Gloom. 

Photo courtesy of Marco Creer.

As the major annual fundraiser, Zozobra has become a fun way for the citizens of Santa Fe (and visitors from around the globe) to participate in community service. The festival is one of the most anticipated events of the season, unique to Santa Fe, with visitors coming from every corner of the globe to experience the celebration. School children, on planned field trips, arrive in the park in the morning to watch the assembly of Zozobra.

The 91st annual burning of Will Shuster's Zozobra will take place on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, at Fort Marcy Park. Gates open at 3pm. The pre-show officially beings at 7:00, and Zozobra bruns at 9:30. Get your tickets online by clicking this link. If you aren't able to attend, you can watch it from front row seats video streaming live here at beginning at 6 pm (thank you, City of Santa Fe for this collaboration).


Exclusive Rate of $159. Click here to book your stay now!

The Zozobra Package Includes:

Exclusive rate of $159
2 Entrance tickets to the 91st Annual Burning of Zozobra
Shuttle service to and from the event, located at Ft. Marcy Park
Goody bag with glow sticks, water, light snacks
WiFi for unlimited devices
Local Treasures 15% discount card providing you with exclusive savings at New Mexico’s best shops, boutiques, restaurants and area attractions.


The city will charge visitors a flat fee of $5 to park in all city downtown parking facilities from 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday September 4, when Old Man Gloom gets torched at Fort Marcy Park.  The city will also run a modified shuttle service to carry visitors from the various parking lots to a location near the event site. In addition, there will be expanded bus service from the South Capitol Rail Runner station to the burning, as well as the free bus fares on the night of Zozobra.

Many, many thanks to the City of Santa Fe and Joe Abeyta for your collaboration with live video streaming on

More thanks to Santa Fe Community Television Channel 16 for special collaboration on this project with