The instructions for the upcoming Zombie Walk (Asheville’s second such event) are simple: Get ready by burying your clothes.
Sounds gross, right? But, according to the forum on Zombiewalk.com, planting your threads in a garden or other muddy patch of ground about a week before the event gives them that necessary mildewed effect.
Other tips include painting skin with liquid latex for a wrinkled and peeling look, or going the costume-shop route of “Zombie Rot,” a concoction that leaves skin temporarily “rough looking, and corrupted—like an advanced case of leprosy.”
But would-be zombies taking part in this week’s Ashtoberfest stroll don’t need a team of cinematic makeup artists. A torn suit, some fake blood and white makeup will do. Oh, and a hankering to munch on the brains of the living, of course.
The reanimated deceased—often the subject of horror films and, more pop-culture specific, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”—conceptually originated in Afro-Caribbean voodoo practices. Folkloric traditions trace mentions of zombies back to Middle Ages France and even to the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh.
Their Night of the Living Dead contemporaries are more of a bumbling pack of flesh-hungry automatons than nefarious monsters sent to carry out the vindictive wishes of some evil mastermind.
But local horror writer and Ashtoberfest contributor Dan Burrello points out that “the whole zombie thing is an excellent metaphor for consumerist culture.”
He adds that the Zombie Walk draws heavily on the work of George A. Romero, who created Night of the Living Dead along with Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead and the recently released Diary of the Dead.
Similar zombie strolls—practices of irreverent fun—are loosely organized throughout the United States and Canada. One of the first took place in Toronto four years ago. Minneapolis’ annual Zombie Pub Crawl attracts hundreds of participants. The Asheville event, though mostly spread by word of mouth, drew about 250 people last year. In the style of a flash mob (a recent phenomenon where a crowd gathers quickly, does something bizarre and then disperses), the zombies ambled from the gates of Riverside Cemetery into downtown Asheville and, in an unplanned but inspired move, through the tourist-filled Grove Arcade.
Burrello’s hope this year is a similar walk (“shamble,” as he calls it) to Pritchard Park, where zombies will be treated to a surprise performance, and then on to the Food Lion Skate Park to enjoy an as-yet-to-be-named band.
Potential zombies should be aware that this is a family-friendly event geared toward law-abiding fun. No zombies should harass onlookers and, because the group doesn’t have a permit, zombies need to keep their shambling to the sidewalks.
“[Several] years ago there was a big Halloween riot,” Burrello recalls, referring to an impromptu, late-night parade in downtown Asheville in 2002, which ended in a violent conflict between paraders and the Asheville Police Department. “We don’t want to be associated with that.”
Instead, the plan is to jump-start an Ashtoberfest Halloween tradition. The horror writer points out that while Christmas is deemed the family holiday, it’s actually Halloween that gets people out of their houses, walking around their communities and visiting neighbors—thanks to costumed trick-or-treating. So why not take that theme a step farther?
“Salem, Mass., is Halloween headquarters,” Burrello notes. “We’re trying to give those guys a run for their money because Asheville is much weirder.”
Especially in mildewed clothing and liquid latex.
who: Ashtoberfest Zombiewalk.
what: An undead stroll (in costume) through downtown Asheville.
where: Starts at the Montford ballfield, ends at the Food Lion Skate Park.
when: Friday, Oct. 19 (meet at dusk; kid-friendly; free). myspace.com/daninthearmy)