zombie claus redux

Zombie Claus went well… Sure, there were probably things that we could have done better, but, all in all, I’d say it was extremely successful. First off, and most importantly from a personal perspective, I wasn’t the only zombie involved. I don’t have an exact count, but it seemed like we had about 15 people actively participating, which, considering the fact that there was no parking within a mile of our designated meeting place, and that it was well below 20-degrees outside, isn’t all that bad. (In addition to the people dressed as zombies, we probably also had about 8 people tagging along, taking photos, offering moral support, screaming for pedestrians to run for their lives and, as it turns out, reporting for the local newspaper.) In planning this thing, I was almost certain that I’d be doing it alone. I was prepared to do it by myself too, but it sure was nice to see that there were already eager zombies waiting at the bar when I got there. (Speaking of the bar, we all owe a big “thank you” to the staff of Bab’s Underground Lounge for giving us a place to setup camp. Like rotting corpses, they were great hosts.) Second, I’d say it was successful because no one got either 1) punched by an angry pedestrian, 2) hit by a car, or 3) detained by the police. Sure, there were probably things that could have been done better (like having more “victims” waiting to be attacked along our route, and the incorporation of a few choreographed dance numbers), but we nailed the stuff that really mattered — good zombies, good fun, no real blood.

OK, because I don’t have a lot of time right now, I’m just going to share a few bullets. (If there are aspects that you’d like to know more about, just leave a comment.)

– We started out on a positive note with eminent local historian Brett Schutzman giving us pointers on how to be good zombies. (Brett grew up in the shadow of the mall where “Dawn of the Dead” was shot, so he was clearly the most qualified.) My favorite piece of advice he offered was, “If someone talks to you, don’t make eye contact. Just look at their ear, groan and move on.” (Brett, by they way, has his photos and thoughts up at the Maproom Systems site.) He was going to do a section on Zombie sexual harassment in the workplace, but chose to keep hammering the key points of “Move slow” and “Don’t use words” instead.

– I had a beer with Brett and his wife after the event (back in the safety of Ypsilanti) and he mentioned that he would have stressed empathy more if he had it to do again… He wanted to impress upon us that these weren’t monsters that we were portraying, but things to be pitied… He also alerted me to the fact that there was a “serial face-stabber” on the loose in Ypsilanti.

– Occasionally you could see in a passerby’s eyes that he or she wanted to be attacked. I avoided even those individuals (afraid that I might cause them to slip on the ice, hit their heads, and die), but a few of my fellow zombies went with it and lunged at a few people, even making contact on rare occasion. No one gave into this temptation more than Pigtail Zombie, who really enjoyed making the experience as real as possible for those individuals in our path. For the most part, people were happy to play the role of victim, but there was one tough guy who wasn’t having any of it. I heard him yelling at Pigtail Zombie behind me, “If you fucking touch me, I’ll knock you out,” or something like that. (Pigtail Zombie told me later that she touched him right after he said that.)

– So far I’ve only seen one blog entry by someone on the street that night that wasn’t with our group. You can find it here… He says we were realistic, but not that scary.

– Someone on State Street came out of an ice cream shop and yelled, “I’m not scared of you,” in a confrontational tone that kind of surprised me, like he really thought that we were trying to terrify people, and that he was being brave in standing up to us.

– A few of the non-Zombies traveling along with us reported snippets of conversations that they’d overheard during our march. One reported on a conversation between an older husband and wife. The wife asked her husband, “Why are they doing this?” The husband responded, “It’s how they’ve chosen to express themselves, Dear.” The second report was of another couple. In that one, the man said to the woman he was with, “Don’t be scared, they’re just from Ypsi.”

– If we do this again some day, I’d want to send someone into the crowds around us with a directional mic to pick up the conversations taking place. (Can someone please make a note of that?)

– Andy Claydon, who made his Santa outfit out of a giant Christmas stocking, had a brilliant idea. If we do it again, he wants to have one of the zombies blasting poorly done covers of classic Christmas songs. (He’s played some grade school recordings for me that are absolutely brilliant.)


– On the subject of “next time,” it was pretty much the feeling of everyone involved that we should have more volunteer victims spread along the route. The one real victim we had (Windbreaker Zombie) was incredible… He was so good, in fact, that we ate him twice… We needed more though.

– Windbreaker Zombie said that next time we did this he wanted to play the role of a loud, obnoxious guy who comes out of a store to yell at us, only to be surrounded, pulled to the ground, killed and turned into a zombie himself. I thought the idea was incredible.

– Lots of people honked their horns in support. I remember someone yelling out a car window that they wanted to have our “zombie babies.”

– After the formal march ended, a woman introduced herself to me. She was a reporter with the Ann Arbor News and she’d apparently been with us from the beginning (I guess waiting to see if we did anything newsworthy, like knock people over). I was encouraged by the fact that the News has someone assigned to the “zombie beat.”

– The WCBN guy that had interviewed me the day before dropped by the bar to say hello and wish us luck before we set out. I thought that was pretty cool.

– This is kind of unrelated, but are there any young women in the audience who would be interested in filming a “Zombies Gone Wild” video? I’m convinced that I could make millions.

– The images in this post were collected from multiple sites. Among them were the Flickr pages of Paanta, Sam Abuelsamid and John Baird, all of whom did incredible work. (Sam Abuelsamid has also posted some rough video footage of the event on-line… It takes a really long time to load, but hopefully we can get an edited version up on MM.com shortly.)

– A few blogging zombies have already posted their thoughts. So far, I’ve found mentions at Suds and Soliloquies and Sam’s Thoughts. (If any other zombies have posted, let me know.)

– In conclusion, I’d just like to thank everyone who participated, either locally or from far away. This was a great little project and it proved to me, once again, that there really isn’t a limit to what can be accomplished with the tools we have at our disposal… Just to remind everyone, this all started a few weeks ago when the idea occurred to me and I posted a short blurb here. A reader in Hawaii then read the idea and liked it enough to buy the ZombieClaus url and launch a site. Several other readers then helped tweak the idea until it made sense. A half dozen other people in the audience then contributed artwork promoting the event. And, as all of this was happening, everyone began putting out the word. Within a few days, it was listed at MetaFilter, and on the Laughing Squid site in San Francisco. A bar owner offered space. Several people got on-board to document the event. Local radio ran a half-hour segment on it. And, perhaps most importantly, over a dozen people gave up a night of their lives to get made-up, and walk a few miles in the freezing cold while being stared at. I’m not suggesting that it was the most noble or meaningful of endeavors, but it does demonstrate, rather remarkably, I think, that a community like the one we have here can actually execute on projects when they want to. I think that’s pretty encouraging.

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28 Comments

  1. Dave
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    There are some really great photos of this thing. I’m impressed. Also, this is rather humbling to admit, but I think I’m actually better looking in zombie makeup.

  2. Dale
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Saw you guys at the corner of Liberty and Main; my girlfriend was like “what the hell” and I got excited, like “Oh, hell yeah!” I was definitely impressed with the showing. That corner was pretty busy and I think it had to have been fun to be out there. Loved the “zombie chatter” bit on WCBN, too.

  3. grr
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Great pictures! I overheard a pedestrian saying “They must be vegetarians” or something to that affect.

  4. schutzman
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    My list of possible suggestions for next time is longer than an eviscerated entrail, but I can’t stress enough how well I thought the event went.

    No cops, no actual physical harassment, and overall the zombies were absolutely amazing- the still photos don’t do them justice, and i haven’t seen all the video yet, but i kept wishing i’d brought an mp3 recorder to capture the vocal stylings. wonderful stuff. we need to rent a studio space and lay down some tracks.

    my wife suggested that andy, who you mentioned made his costume out of a cheap oversized stocking, should do a workshop on the subject and that way more zombies will actually ‘be’ santas next year. I suggest anyone who’s interested in participating in the future, if nothing else, should start scouring stores after christmas for cheap materials like that to use for next year. If this was a regular ‘santanarchy’, it would be a daunting challenge requiring sewing skills, but since we’re talking about portraying the undead, the quality of your needlework is fairly irrelevant.

    finally, i just realized that when i re-registered here after your spam attack, i became ‘schutzman’, instead of ‘brett’ who i was formerly known by here, and to whom mark still refers. sorry for any confusion.

  5. Sam
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I am working on the video. I’m not feeling so good tonight. Hopefully I should have a finished version up on a faster host in a day or 2. BTW in spite of the frigid temps it was a lot of fun and my son Max had a blast. Thanks to you Mark and everyone else for you efforts in making this happen.

  6. Sam
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    One other great thing was the guy with his son who really got into it. I believe it was completely spontaneous, and he ended up overwhelmed by the zombies. Also next time we should try and get one of the bag-pipers to participate as a victim. Can you imagine a bag-pipe playing sombie?

  7. mark
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    The bag-pipers we did come across were absolutely humorless. As they passed through us, they, as my friend Jeff would say, looked as though someone had just stuck a plate of turds under their noses. (I do love the idea of a bag-pipe playing zombie though.)

    As for the footage, Sam, my advice would be to cut the stuff at the beginning where we’re out of character and just stick to the terrifying zombie footage. The other stuff is cool to have for the archives, but I think that publicly (like on the Zombie Claus site) we should stick to the script and not break character. (And sorry you feel sick. Was it someone you ate?)

  8. mark
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Grr, were you walking along with our group? If so, which one were you? (It sucks, but I didn’t get to talk with everyone that night.)

    And, Brett, I like the idea of having a costume-making workshop. We could do it at a bar or something and just have everyone bring lots of scraps.

  9. Ken
    Posted December 18, 2005 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    It was creepily quiet on the blog after Friday. I thought something tragic may of happened. Now that I have seen the pictures I see something tragic did happen. Those zombies got around. Main street all the way to state street; I think they were movin’ quick. Can you post a map of the route? In might be helpful to folks that want to avoid being killed in future. Maybe you can get Dr. Theo to do it.

  10. Collin
    Posted December 19, 2005 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    That’s simply awesome! Congratulations Mark and everyone else who was involved. Great job! I wish I could have been there.

  11. Dave
    Posted December 19, 2005 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    If we do it again and it’s still in downtown Ann Arbor, my house is only a few blocks away and my street is usually pretty clear in the evening for free parking. I also have a driveway, though it’s kind of steep and scary. Maybe I could put out a buffet of brains for the post-event.

    Did anyone see if the Ann Arbor News did a story? I haven’t seen a print copy and last time I looked, I saw nothing online.

  12. Jim
    Posted December 19, 2005 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    The photos look great–I’m sorry I missed it!

    Next year you could take it up a notch with Speedo Zombie Claus:

    http://towleroad.typepad.com/towleroad/2005/12/ho_ho_hos_bosto.html

    On second thought, never mind.

  13. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted December 19, 2005 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Tell me when the next one is. I have an idea for a zombie John Lennon “Give Flesh a Chance” Bed-In performance that I might want to tie in.

  14. Andy
    Posted December 19, 2005 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m up for a costume workshop. Just bring over beer a couple of nights before and we’ll make a party out of it. The costumes look better when drinking..
    We can probably get a bolt of plush from the fabric store and shred it for pretty cheap. I used safety pins to hold it together. Just drapping red plush over people would have looked pretty good. My beard was duct tape cut in the shape of a beard with pillow stuffing pressed on. I thought about bringing my beard making kit to Bab’s but was worried about time. I was originally going to do a severed arm if I could find a proper Santa suit. Time and money became an issue.
    It was a good time. My suggestion for next time would be more zombies, less cameras.

  15. grr
    Posted December 19, 2005 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Mark, yeah, I was the other videographer (we didn’t really speak in person, but via email).

    I agree on the one guy with his son. I saw them run down the street and get in the way of the shambling horde so that they could become victims.

  16. Kathleen
    Posted December 20, 2005 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I know a bagpiper who is cool and would probably love this idea. Let me know next time and I can talk to him.

  17. Posted December 20, 2005 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Zombie-Claus 2005

    Well it was bound to happen. Two of the bigest mob memes, santas and zombies, will finally come crashing together this Friday, December 16th at Zombie-Claus 2005, which takes place in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is the best thing to come…

  18. Posted December 20, 2005 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Zombie Claus Report

    Mark Maynard posted a follow-up report with some great photos on Zombie Claus 2005 .
    A few of the non-Zombies traveling along with us reported snippets of conversations that they’d overheard during our march. One reported on a conversation betwe…

  19. It's Skinner Again
    Posted December 20, 2005 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Very nice! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

    By the way, my friend Mark Pilkington has alerted the Brits to your local customs on his site, http://www.strangeattractor.co.uk/further. Happy holidays!

  20. Posted December 20, 2005 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Zombie Claus 2005

    Zombie Claus 2005 took place last weekend and was a huge success. Organizer Mark Maynard reports on all of the gory details.
    Rumor has it that the zombies were pissed-off that the Christmas season is beginning way to early and starting to encroac…

  21. Posted December 20, 2005 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    ZombieClaus Video
    I finished the video of ZombieClaus. It is up on ourmedia.org because it is free. If anyone else wants to host it on their site feel free to save a copy and put it on your own site.
    It is up on ourmedia.org because it is free. If anyone else wa…

  22. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted December 20, 2005 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Jim, you just made me look at gay holiday-themed porn. You are a very, very bad man.

  23. Sam
    Posted December 20, 2005 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    My video is up ourmedia.org

  24. Stella Magdalen
    Posted December 20, 2005 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Because every cop car needs a zombie butt rub

  25. Jim
    Posted December 20, 2005 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Tony; I hope that neither the National Security Agency nor your employer were monitoring your computer at the time. Now purge your browser history before a loved one checks it. You might want to reformat your hard drive just to be sure.

  26. Dave
    Posted December 20, 2005 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    More ZC footage online:
    http://ourmedia.org/ia/details/GrrZombieClaus2005

    (It’s about 12 megs and in Windows media format.)

  27. pepsi_deaf
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    Sorry I missed it well maybe
    next year. What about a
    Shaky Jake zombie.
    now that would be funny and
    scary. Great Job guys!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Posted May 4, 2007 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Thoselooked cool they almost looked like they were real zombies!

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