by Emily Reuben

Zombies have been a cultural phenomenon ever since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead first frightened audiences in 1968. While by no means the first example of a “zombie-like” creature in film, Romero is largely responsible for the modern zombie we all known and love today. These mindless, brain eating monsters are surely frightening, but who knew they could also allow for a night of fun and community service?

Every October across the world groups of people organize zombie walks. What exactly is a zombie walk? It is essentially a mob of people who come together dressed as zombies to lumber across town simulating a horde. Often, these events resemble pub crawls or organized flashmobs. According to a CBC interview with Sarah Lauro, a professor who studied zombies at Clemson University and author of The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion, and Living Death, the trend started in Toronto in 2003, but later became popular in 2005 as a result of the Iraq war and the subsequent cultural upset. In short, zombies became a sort of catharsis for the public.

Lauro speaks about the cathartic effect zombies have:

“And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. … Either playing dead themselves … or watching a show like Walking Dead provides a great variety of outlets for people.”

So basically zombies can help society through some rough patches. With this explanation of why zombies are so popular in mind, let’s take a look at these zombie walks in a bit more detail. With this in mind, Lauro gives us a glimpse at the magnitude of zombie walk events:

“As of [2012]… zombie walks had been documented in 20 countries. The largest gathering drew more than 4,000 participants at the New Jersey Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, N.J., in October 2010, according to Guinness World Records.”

Dressing up and walking around as zombies sounds great, but is there really a point to it other than blowing off some steam? Well yes! Other than allowing for a great time, many zombie walks serve as fundraisers for nonprofit organizations.

An example of such a zombie walk happens annually in Indianapolis. Taking place Saturday October 21, the Broad Ripple Zombie Walk returned for its 12th year.

Okay so people walk around dressed as zombies, but what else? While the undead parade happens later at night, there are other activities for zombie walkers and spectators to partake in while waiting. Notably, a large makeup table run by staff from Tricoci University of Beauty Culture. With plenty of costume accessories such as fake blood, bite marks, and pieces of “flesh” on hand, attendees were able to become zombified in a matter of minutes.

For an event focused on brain eating monsters, Broad Ripple Zombie Walk offers plenty of family friendly activities. Other than the makeup booth on hand for children to transform themselves into freaky zombies, volunteers host carnival games for children to partake in and even win prizes.

While celebrating guts and gore is always a good time, the Broad Ripple Zombie Walk serves a more important purpose as a fundraiser to benefit Gleaners Food Bank.

According to the event’s official Facebook page, “The Broad Ripple Zombie Walk had over 1000 zombies and collected 4,500lbs of canned food.” During last year’s event, the Indy Star Reports that “The Broad Ripple Zombie Walk had more than 800 zombies and collected 3,500 pounds of canned food. Organizers have raised the goal to 5,000 pounds this year.” The amount of participants and food collected indicates that a zombie walk is definitely an effective way to host a fundraiser.

It may seem a bit strange that zombies, creatures known for violence and destruction can go hand in hand with altruistic ideals. With the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead and movies like World War Z, the zombie trend has infected the mainstream media and boosted zombies into a cultural phenomenon. Capitalizing on the popularity of these creatures is a sure-fire way to help communities in a fun, unique way. The Broad Ripple zombie walk is not an isolated case of this type of unconventional fundraising. These types of events happen often around Halloween and are often largely successful. Who knew zombies could be so helpful?

Zombies are staples of Halloween, mainly because they’re freaky, gross monsters. However, instead of coming together to destroy communities, as they do so often in horror media, these zombies are coming together to lift communities up.

Image Gallery

Click the image below to see more from the event!


Sources: The Indy Channel, Facebook, CBC News

Photography: Emily Reuben

Emily is a Telecommunications (Film and Media Studies) major minoring in Japanese and Professional Writing in Emerging Media. Her review Netflix’s ‘Death Note’ grossly misunderstands why the original was a success and her feature article Studying Abroad in Japan: The weebs are wrong won honorable mentions in the CSPA journalism awards categories for Entertainment Reviews and First Person Experiences. She is the 2018-2019 host for the Input 2 podcast. In the past, Emily has interned at WFYI Indianapolis as a Production Intern and studied abroad in Japan.

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