Believe it or not, even small places like Richmond, VA are capable of being host to some extremely entertaining events. And as conservative as this town may be, there's still an undercurrent of artistic people looking to make every day a little less drab. Many of those very people rose to the occasion this past Saturday, October the 15th. Rose right from out of the graveyard that is.
That's right, this Saturday marked the first Zombie Walk in Richmond history... something that many are hoping will become an annual event. There have been other zombie walks in the past, seeming to have originated in Canada. It's only natural that something with so much potential for fun would spread to other areas.
Back in August I decided to take it upon myself to organize a Zombie Walk for Richmond. Soon after, I registered the domain zombiewalk.com and setup a simple message board where we could start to get organized. My pal PoX (the guy who does the art in the PickleMan comics) was even nice enough to design us a nifty logo.
So word started to spread around on places like Livejournal, Myspace, and even in classrooms. Yes, my friend who is a teacher actually printed out flyers and gave them to his students. How's THAT for an extra credit assignment! Soon enough it seemed like everybody in Richmond knew about the Zombie Walk and wanted in. Everybody voted on a date and a location to hold the zombie walk - Saturday October 15th at Short Pump Mall. It's an outdoor mall with plenty of walking room for brain-craving zombies, so the setting was perfect.
Next thing on my to-do list was to start taking names of anybody who was interested in participating as a zombie. It's one thing to get people saying they'll show up for a zombie walk well over a month before it takes place; it's another thing entirely to get them to remember it and actually show up. With everybody's names, phone numbers and email addresses, I would simply contact anybody who signed up to be a participant during the last week before the walk actually took place.
I don't think I've ever made that many phone calls in my life. In fact, I don't want to ever touch a phone again.
Still, when I was done contacting everybody, it appeared as though we would easily surpass the 50 zombies I had originally hoped for. In fact, it looked like we might have 100+ zombies if everyone pulled through. After all, some of the people who signed up boasted that they would be bringing 10 or more friends with them. Heh, yeah I was skeptical too, but it seemed like every single person was at least bringing 2 or 3 people with them so the turnout was destined to be good.
So the day before the Zombie Walk rolled around and it was absurdly chaotic. It seemed like everybody and their grandma either decided to signup at the last minute or cancel. Hell, we even had people signing up for the walk or canceling less than 30 minutes before we left for it the very next day! The most disappointing cancellation came in the form of the people from Scream Forrest - a local annual Halloween attraction. One of them wrote me saying that all of them were going to be attending the zombie walk in full costume. Unfortunately, something came up at the last minute and they couldn't make it. Something came up? Nothing is more important than zombies damnit... NOTHING! Oh well, maybe they can come next year.
So early Saturday morning my friends and I had a little blood party at my place. We spent the morning getting zombified thanks to some effects makeup and a lot of fake blood. Don't waste your money on those $5.00 bottles of blood; a little food coloring and a lot o' Karo syrup will get you more for your money and it'll look far more realistic.
A few days earlier when I was making my clothes look shredded I had the idea of attacking them with a cheese grater. Don't ask me why, but it just popped into my head when I was thinking of ways to make the clothes look worn, yet not obviously shredded on purpose by a pair of scissors or something. Man oh man did that cheese grater ever work wonders!
So after all of us were looking nice 'n dead, it was off to the "secret" zombie walk meet-up spot. I chose a public park since I knew there wouldn't be any complaints about us meeting up there or anything.
Let me tell you, all the work that went into this, all the time trying to get it organized... it was all worth it the second we pulled into that parking lot at the park and saw a horde of zombies just waiting for us to arrive. It was at that moment that I knew everything was gonna be a blast. Everybody looked fantastic. I wish you could've seen the smile on my face as I pulled into that parking lot... it was one of those rare moments where you feel both proud and extremely excited for what's still to come.
More and more zombies started showing up. A lot more. Some of them had some amazing costumes and some were still making their costumes right there at the park, applying dirt to their clothes and faces. One guy was even nice enough to bring a ton of extra homemade blood for those zombies who needed some touchups. Along with him came some friends who were going to document the whole thing for me so we could eventually put a nice video documentary together of the whole event. And then somebody else showed up.
I think I saw every zombie's heart stop at that very moment. Ok, well maybe not their hearts, but whatever it is that zombies have inside them that keeps 'em moving somehow... that's what stopped. We all thought the Zombie Walk had stopped before it had the chance to even begin. The cop pulled up and asked what was going on and we explained that we were simply having a Halloween party of sorts. He was totally cool with it and simply said he just wanted to see what everybody was all dressed up for. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
More zombies poured into the parking lot as it grew closer and closer to 1pm, our scheduled departure time. And then another cop showed up. What now?
This cop, unfortunately came to deliver some news that we didn't want to hear. He knew all about the Zombie Walk and informed me that if we showed up at Short Pump mall, we would be banned from it. Now honestly, I don't think anybody at that walk (myself included) could give a damn about being banned from one of the many overpriced shopping malls in the area. However, he also informed us that security at the mall had made preparations for our arrival. I'm not sure what that really meant, but he went on to tell me we would all be arrested if we showed up at the mall. What, even the kids who were with us who were looking forward to a fun day of celebrating Halloween in good zombie style?
I don't know who told the cops about us meeting at the park, and I don't hold it against the cops at all. They were actually totally cool to us and just doing their job. I do have a problem with whatever uptight prick(s) at Short Pump mall couldn't see this as a simple celebration of Halloween. We weren't showing up there to destroy merchandise. We weren't showing up there to cause a panic. We were simply showing up to celebrate a holiday we all love and to give some people some good laughs. So a hearty "fuck you" to whoever saw fit to take those kind of measures for such a harmless event.
Fortunately, I had heard rumors a few weeks in advance that Short Pump was planning on stopping us. So I made some alternate plans of my own. After the cops left, I announced the news to the group and while they were disappointed at first, they got pretty excited about the alternatives. First there was Stony Point mall, another outdoor mall and hey... the cops didn't say anything about us not going to that one! The other alternative was Carytown, one of the most popular places in Richmond and home to many shops, places to eat, and the historic Byrd Theatre.
The choice was in their hands and they voted overwhelming for Carytown. And so the plan was set, the 80+ zombies would soon invade Carytown and infect all of the inhabitants within!
We rode into Carytown and drove into the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store, waiving a pirate flag out of our car window to flag down all the zombies. We waited about 10 minutes for more zombies to show up and while we did, some zombies ran inside Kroger to take a leak (hey, they may be dead, but those bodies still have plenty o' fluids running through 'em). And then it was time... we all changed are walking patterns from completely normal to dragging feet and stiff limbs as we headed down Cary street.
Instantly we were greeted with laughter and disgust... quite a combination. I have to say, for the most part, the people in Carytown were extremely cool about it and really appreciated our horde o' zombies filling their streets with undead entertainment. There were some snobs and hipsters, however, who tried to act like they were too mature for it all. Some would actually try to pretend that they didn't even notice. Like hordes of zombies walk down Cary street every single day. It was both funny and sad to see people like that. But again, they were a very, very small portion of the crowd.
Most people would simply laugh outloud or run away screaming. Some would actually dart into stores just to avoid the zombie mob! So you see that? We were literally driving customers into the stores and I'm sure the storeowners appreciated it! See what you fuckers at Short Pump Mall missed out on? The Zombie Walk stops people from window shopping and gets them in your doors!
We walked by some people trying to find homes for dogs, and the dogs were absolutely flipping out. Gotta give credit to those people though, even though they were laughing and/or disgusted by the zombies, they still asked every single one of the zombies for donations. I would've given them money, but my hands were caked in blood and I wasn't about to go dive into my wallet for a few bucks. I offered them the brain I was carrying and they declined. I'm sure one of those dogs would've loved a brain chew toy. Oh well, their loss.
Once we made it all the way down to the Byrd Theatre, we crossed the street and started to walk all the way back up the other side of Cary Street. I heard someone remark that they wished they could have all of the zombies come into the Byrd Theatre and get up on stage with them later in the day. Sorry pal, we zombies were going places and didn't have time to wait around.
We continued moving up Cary street, moaning and shouting about "Braiiiiiiiiiiins" as pedestrians and drivers continued to slow down and look at our group with astonishment. We finally made it back up to the Kroger parking lot and our Carytown invasion had come to an end. However, we weren't done just yet.
While more zombies ran inside the grocery store and CVS to get some refreshments, we started discussing where to go next. One zombie suggested that we all head down to Grace Street where they were currently holding a big festival. It was also right near Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). We all took a vote on it and everybody seemed to agree that was the place to go. More than half of our zombies had to go due to other engagements or having extremely tired kids which was totally understandable. Walking around in hot weather like that while being caked in zombie makeup is a taxing activity. So again a big thanks to those zombies who stayed for the whole Carytown invasion.
And so roughly 30 zombies remained as we made our way to Grace street to meet up in front of The Village - a popular diner / bar that always has some interesting characters hanging out inside. I missed it, but one of them supposed started shouting at all the zombies about how we were basically being disrespectful to Taylor Behl - a girl in Richmond who was recently murdered. Correct me if I'm wrong, but she was killed by some sick asshole, not by a horde of zombies... so I see how a Zombie Walk could relate to her tragic story in any possible way. But hey, this was coming from a guy who was hanging out at a bar early in the afternoon. A true philosopher.
After a few of us zombies scared the bejesus out of some very dramatic 7-Eleven clerks, it was off to the Grace Street festival. The cops there were totally cool with us being there and seemed to be amused about how the zombies wouldn't cross the street until the electronic sign said it was ok to go.
New Zombie Rule: Zombies never jaywalk.
We then tore through the festival looking at all the trinkets that were for sale, growling at the shoppers, clutching our ears in agonizing unison as the band played blind melon while we screamed about how it hurt our braiiiiins. I also had the pleasure of scaring a clown. Normally it'd be the other way around since clowns seem to scare a lot of people, but I walked right up to him and growled as he was in the middle of creating a balloon animal and he immediately stopped what he was doing and just handed me the balloon and said, "Here! Just take it!" And I did take the balloon in my mouth and tried not to laugh as it stuck to the blood that was caked on my cheek. Good times.
There was also a snow-cone stand and they looked like they were really enjoying the whole zombie invasion. I walked right up to the lady as she shouted "Bless you! Praise Jesus!" and she then made me a snow-cone for free. I have to say, after shouting all afternoon about brains, that was the best goddamned snow-cone I've ever had.
We then decided to head on over to VCU's campus since it was an open house day and we would surely see some student prospects taking a tour of the college. What better way to introduce them to their potential future home for the next 4-5 years than with a horde of zombies, right?
We chased some around, moaned into their cellphones as they helplessly tried to explain to the people on the line what was happened before their very eyes, and continued to chant about brains. And then we saw it... the library. The big VCU libary.
For what was surely the most surreal experience of the entire day, we zombies actually went into the library. What had once been a moaning, growling, and screaming horde of zombies was now a dead silent crowd of undead walkers.
New Zombie Rule: Zombies remain hushed in libraries.
We walked on by all the braniacs in the library and they looked absolutely 100% bewildered. How does one react, when they've had their face buried in a Chemistry book all day, to a horde of zombies quietly walking by you in the library as they whisper things like "braiiiins" and "shhhh" ? They just stared at us like they were caught in headlights and it was absolutely hilarious. Then after we made our way through the entire library, we exited the front doors and instantly started yelling about brains again. CLASSIC.
The Zombie Walk continued around the VCU campus and even past a chapel where a wedding was taking place. Amusingly enough, the wedding photographer decided to take a few snapshots of us as we walked on by. My pal Josh joked about how that'd be an interesting surprise for the bride and groom when they opened up their wedding photo album. Indeed!
Eventually, we ended up back at the Grace Street festival and some of the zombies actually started dancing to the funk music that the band was playing. Personally, it still hurt my braiiiins.
So we met up and took a few group photos and I thanked everybody for coming out to the first-ever Richmond Zombie Walk. These remaining zombies were real troopers and we had walked a long way that day in full zombie costumes 'n makeup. Those zombies should be proud of what they did and I can't thank them enough for showing up for the fun.
All in all, it was a unique experience that I will never forget for as long as I live. A lot of people said it was the most fun they've had in a long time and I couldn't agree more. I'm glad I had the opportunity to organize this thing, because we brought a lot of laughs and scares to people this October and frankly... that's what Halloween is all about. Here's to hoping we can make it happen again next year!
On a final note, I've been collecting photos from various people who attended the zombie walk and have started a large online gallery. It's a work in progress so keep checking back for the latest photo additions:
The Official Zombie
Walk Photo Gallery:
Also, we brought along a bunch o' people with video cameras, so as soon as we have all of that footage collected, we're going to combine it into a nice little documentary about the Zombie Walk and hopefully have a post Zombie Walk party here in Richmond for everyone to come watch it.
To all you zombies out there, thanks for the memories...
click to return to zombiewalk.com