A zombie walk is an organized public gathering of people who dress up in zombie costumes. Participants usually meet in an urban center and make their way around the city streets and public spaces (or a series of taverns in the case of a zombie pub crawl) in an orderly fashion. Zombie walks can be organized simply for entertainment or with a purpose, such as setting a world record or promoting a charitable cause. Originating in North America, zombie walks have occurred throughout the world.
Zombie walks are relatively common in large cities, especially in North America. Some have been established as annual traditions, though others are organized as spontaneous flash mob events or performance art. Many zombie walks in the United States have been "hunger marches", intended to raise awareness of world hunger. Promoted primarily through word of mouth and online message boards, most zombie walks are an underground activity. During the walks, participants are encouraged to remain in character as zombies and to communicate only in a manner consistent with zombie behavior, which may include grunting, groaning or slurred, moaning calls for "brains".
The complexity and purpose of zombie walks varies. As an advanced technique to heighten interest and realism, some zombie mobs will "eat" victims to create new zombies, in sight of onlookers. More coordinated zombie mobs establish a route and an easily recognizable signal so that other participants can plant themselves along the route in old, tearable clothes, allowing the mob to discover and devour new "victims" as it progresses. As the zombies surround the new victim to loudly feed, concealing him or her from witnesses' view, they tear clothes and quickly apply makeup and fake blood to create a new zombie, who then shambles along with the ever-expanding pack to find new victims. Some participants occasionally dress up as soldiers who are called in to contain the outbreak, or survivors who are trying to defend themselves from the onslaught of the zombie horde. Some events are staged as spoof political rallies organized "to raise awareness of zombie rights", with participants carrying placards. Many zombie walks have also been staged as "hunger marches" with the intent of raising awareness of world hunger and collecting items for food banks.
An early flash mob-type gathering of zombies was hastily put together at the Gen Con gaming convention in Milwaukee, USA in August 2000. The event was created to poke good-natured fun at the Vampire LARPers that were taking over large portions of the convention, and disrupt their games. Michael Yates, Mark Stafford, Jacob Skowronek and several others organized the event with roughly 60 participants. The event was later recorded in the book "40 Years of Gencon" with photos and recollections from the organizers. While it was rumored that the organizers were arrested and thrown out of the convention for their flash mob of zombies, they were simply questioned by security before being told to disband.
An early zombie parade event was held on 19 August 2001 in Sacramento, California, USA. The event, billed as "The Zombie Parade," was the brain-child of Bryna Lovig, who suggested it to the organizers of the Trash Film Orgy as a way to promote their annual midnight film festival. It was held again on 27 July 2002, and has since become an annual event, drawing over 1000 participants in 2012.
The first such gathering specifically billed as a "zombie walk" occurred in October 2003 in Toronto. It was organized by local horror movie fan Thea Munster, and had only six participants. In subsequent years, the Zombie Walk grew tremendously in size. The Zombie Walk then moved to Vancouver, spreading the zombie walk tradition to that city. On 27 August 2005, over 400 participants proceeded through Vancouver's Pacific Centre mall, travelled on the SkyTrain (referred to for the event as the "SkyBrain" or the "BrainTrain"), and continued 35 blocks to Mountain View Cemetery.[not in citation given] In 2011, Calgary held their first zombie walk along the downtown core. It has since become an annual event gathering, with over 1000 people each time and growing.
The mid to late 2000s saw an exponential gain in popularity for zombie walks, due largely to the success of zombie films at the time, such as the Resident Evil movies, 28 Days Later, Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, and Zombieland. Documentation of zombie walks consequently began to appear more often in mainstream news media and blogs, such as Boingboing and the Blog of the Living Dead. Zombie walks soon spread across North America and to cities around the globe, such as Mar del Plata, Argentina. Rio de Janeiro had its first zombie walk on 2 November 2007 (Day of the Dead) and the event has become annual since then. On 27 October 2012, Singapore's first large-scale zombie walk was held in Clarke Quay. On 26 October 2013, The Singaporezombie walk will take place at The Cathay.
On 29 October 2006, nearly 900 "zombie walkers" gathered at the Monroeville Mall outside of Pittsburgh, which served as the set of George A. Romero's classic zombie film Dawn of the Dead, to participate in Pittsburgh's first annual Walk of the Dead. In addition to setting a Guinness World Record, the event was a benefit for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Pittsburgh's zombie walk has since grown into an annual horror festival called Zombie Fest. Zombie Fest is organized by The It's Alive Show, a local Pittsburgh late night horror and science fiction television program. The Pittsburgh festival plays host to the annual Walk of the Dead as well as a zombie ball, costume contest, concerts, and celebrity guest appearances. Zombie Fest also serves as the headquarters of The It's Alive Show's World Zombie Day, a world hunger charity event.
Zombie walks are also a regular occurrence at ZomBcon, "the world's first zombie convention." ZomBcon takes place every October in Seattle. Apart from zombie walks, ZomBcon also features panel discussions with zombie authors, actors and artists, workshops, film screenings, and other activities for zombie fans. ZomBcon also organizes Seattle's annual Red, White and Dead zombie walk every July.
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The first zombie walk world record was set on 29 October 2006 at Monroeville Mall outside of Pittsburgh, during the city's first annual Walk of the Dead. Guinness World Records certified that 894 people participated in the walk. The second zombie walk at Monroeville Mall during the 2007 Zombie Fest was also verified by Guinness World Records as the largest gathering of zombies to date, with 1,028 participants.
The 2007 Toronto Zombie Walk drew a crowd of over 1100 zombies, a number confirmed by Toronto Police Services. At the time, this was the largest zombie walk on record. A zombie march in Brisbane on 25 May 2008 set an unofficial record of over 1,500 participants, according to media reports. On 21 June 2008, a zombie march took place in Chicago with over 1550 zombies estimated, setting a new unofficial record.
On 31 October 2008, a zombie walk took place in the Old Market Square of Nottingham, England, with 1,227 attendees. The event was organized by GameCity, and the zombies did dances to zombie-related songs such as "Thriller", "Disturbia", and "Ghostbusters". There was also a performance from American singer Jonathan Coulton. The event achieved a new official Guinness World Record for largest zombie walk.
In June 2009, Pittsburgh zombie fans won back the Guinness World Record after Guinness verified that the Zombie Fest 'Walk of the Dead' at Monroeville Mall on 26 October 2008, had 1,341 participating walkers.
On 3 July 2009, a zombie walk organized by Fremont Outdoor Movies in Seattle beat all previous zombie walk records. Guinness World Records officially recorded 3894 zombies at the Red, White and Dead zombie event, though local news claimed 4277 participants.
In October 2009, Guinness World Records officially recorded and approved a new record for the largest gathering of zombies. The record was set at the Big Chill Festival in Ledbury, England, on 6 August 2009. There were 4026 zombie mob participants.
On 25 October 2009, the biggest recorded gathering of zombies in the Southern Hemisphere occurred in Brisbane, with over 5000 participants reportedly in attendance as reported by the Queensland Police. The walk was also a charity event helping to raise awareness and money for the Brain Foundation of Australia. On 30 October 2009, zombie walkers in Grand Rapids, Michigan attempted a second run at the zombie mob world record. An estimated 8000 participants braved rainy weather to gather in Calder Plaza outside of Grand Rapids's City and County buildings. The event was coordinated by Rob Bliss, organizer of Grand Rapids's first zombie walk. Approximately forty to fity volunteers collected signatures from the crowd, though the record is currently unverified by Guinness. Organizers of the fifth annual Denver Zombie Crawl in Denver counted more than 7300 zombie walkers in the event. This is considered to be a low figure, as up to one third of the total participants did not walk through the counter. The crawl took place on 23 October 2010, in downtown Denver at the 16th Street Mall. On 24 October 2010, a reported 10,000-strong zombie walk took place in Brisbane. As with previous years, the event raised money for the Brain Foundation of Australia.
Guinness officially recognized a new record for the world's largest gathering of zombies on 30 October 2010, at the third annual New Jersey Zombie Walk on the Asbury Park Boardwalk in Asbury Park. Guinness recorded 4093 zombies at the event, though organizers, police, and fire officials estimate more than 5000 zombies were in attendance.
In July 2011, more cities would attempt to break this world record. On 2 July 2011, Seattle attempted to take back the record at the 3rd annual Fremont Red, White and Dead Zombie Walk hosted by Fremont Outdoor Movies. The zombie count according to Fremont organizers was 4522 in attendance with estimations of over 4800–5000 after the official stop point for counting zombies. Representatives from Guinness did not attend the event. On 23 July 2011, the Dublin Zombie Walk in Dublin had an estimated 8000 zombies in attendance, but confirmation is still pending from Guinness World Records.
October 2011 also saw multiple attempts to break the New Jersey world record. On 8 October, the unofficial count for the Pittsburgh World Zombie Day Zombie Walk was 4900 zombies. Over 7000 zombies are believed to have attended the 9th Annual Toronto Zombie Walk on 22 October. Both the annual Denver Zombie Crawl on 22 October and the annual Brisbane Zombie Walk on 23 October claim to have had over 12,000 zombie participants. On 29 October, the city of Long Beach, California, set out to break the world record as part of its fourth annual zombie walk, produced by community organizations Long Beach Cinematheque and Mondo Celluloid, and partnered with Michael Jackson-inspired flash mob "Thrill the World", who set out to break a world record of their own with the world's biggest "Thriller" flash mob. The endeavor gained worldwide press, with media covering the event from as far as the United Kingdom (Telegraph UK). By night's end, an estimated 14,000 participants had taken over the entirety of the downtown area, breaking local business sales records and all but shutting down traffic for hours. In November 2011, Mexico City counted 9806 for their large zombie gathering.
The zombie walk of 20 October 2012 in Santiago, Chile had more than 12,000 zombies walking in the city, though no Guinness record was broken. On 28 October 2012, Buenos Aires gathered 25,000 zombies.
The zombie walk occurring November 2012, in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis–Saint Paul) holds the current world record for zombie gathering, recognized by Guinness at a count of 8027 at Midway Stadium in Saint Paul on 13 October 2012. Estimates of the entire Twin Cities crawl put the zombie event upwards of 30,000 zombie participates, surpassing any other gathering of its kind, official or not.
In 19 October 2013 an estimated 15,000 Chileans took to the streets of Santiago to take part in the city's annual Zombie Walk. It was the fourth annual Zombie Walk to take place in the city. The zombies limped two kilometres along the Alameda, one of the main thoroughfares in the Chilean capital.
Charity work continues to be a common component of zombie walks across the planet. Community service organizations such as Zombie Squad have used zombie walks as demonstrations to raise funds and awareness for local and global issues, such as world hunger.
Both world record walks at Pittsburgh's Zombie Fest have included food drives. In 2008, The It's Alive Show initiated World Zombie Day. The It's Alive Show encouraged cities all over the globe to celebrate World Zombie Day by holding zombie walks to raise awareness of global hunger. The first World Zombie Day took place 26 October 2008, the same day as Pittsburgh's Zombie Fest, when more than 30 cities worldwide took part. Food drives for local hunger-related charities took place at each participating city's zombie walk. Pittsburgh's walk alone brought in more than one ton of food to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The second World Zombie Day took place 11 October 2009, with even more participation from cities all over the world.
21 October 2012 saw over 12,000 participants march through the city of Brisbane. With a new music festival format added to the event, Brisbane Zombie Walk raised $55,000 for the Brain Foundation of Australia, making them the most successful zombie charity event in the world. In 2011, the Brisbane Zombie Walk made over $25,000 for the Brain Foundation.
Pub crawl variant
Some zombie walks incorporate pub crawling, during which participants visit multiple bars over the course of the walk.
On 15 October 2005, the first large-scale zombie pub crawl was held in Minneapolis. The crawl consisted of roughly 150 participants in zombie costumes moving from bar to bar in the city's Northeast district. The Minneapolis "Zombie Pub Crawl" has since become an annual event and attendance has grown exponentially; each year it takes place in a different area of the city.
Similar large-scale zombie-themed pub crawls have developed in New Orleans, Providence, Rhode Island, Reno, Houston, Eau Claire, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Philadelphia's zombie pub crawl is held on Easter Sunday in celebration of Jesus, "the world's most famous zombie". Zombie pub crawls are now a regular occurrence in cities all over the world. There is a New York City Zombie Crawl where you walk all over Manhattan and drink at different pubs, so you have to be 21 and over with an ID.
On 31 October 2006, a young woman in Bloomington, Indiana reported to police that a group of "zombies" attacked her Land Rover by covering the vehicle in "purple goo". The zombies in question turned out to be participants in a small, local zombie walk, and several arrests were made. At the 2006 Vancouver Zombie Walk, an incident occurred in which two impatient drivers attempted to drive their cars through a crowd of zombies headed down Robson Street. This resulted in some severe injuries among the zombies, but no damage to the vehicles. Another incident involved a pair of zombies using a brick to shatter the window of a man's Cizeta V16T; both zombies were arrested.[dead link]
On 1 May 2010, the annual Zombie Shuffle in Melbourne saw the largest attendance in its five year history, but some locals complained of the mess that the zombie "gore" left behind, as well as the walk's disruption of a play for preschoolers. On 19 August 2012, a Russian zombie walk in support of Pussy Riot in Omsk, Siberia was banned by the local government.
In 2011 and 2012, participants in the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl broke store windows and caused other damage to the area in which the event was held. Many residents see the event as disruptive to the life of the neighborhood.
Zombies in media
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Zombie walks.|
- Death By Zombie, an up-to-date listing of Zombie walks
- Zombiewalk.com, a popular zombie walk community
- Crawl of the Dead, a zombie event community with a listing of some upcoming zombie walks
- Zombie events directory, a zombie event platform where you can post your event and they will help you promote it
- , a seminar of the University of Amsterdam dealing with this subject