This Saturday, the undead of Baltimore will embark on a large-scale, eight-hour game of zombie tag.
Just in case the undead return tonight, we’re here to report that Baltimore is a fairly safe place to be in the event of a zombie apocalypse — compared to other cities, at least.
Nothing makes Halloween more Halloween-y than a hearty dose of real, live (or, undead, rather) zombies. And some actual woods during actual nighttime definitely up the fear factor there. This year marks the second annual Zombie Horde Scavenger Hunt being held at Robert E. Lee Park. This year, it’s back by popular demand (at least from those who survived last year). It’s a chance to run and hide from brain-eating ghouls, all while trying to collect items along the trail, and outlasting your fellow hunters. It’s not for the faint of heart, but then, what zombie-oriented activity is?
We report on a lot of rankings here at the Baltimore Fishbowl. Some of them are encouraging (Baltimore is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country!) and some are confusing (Baltimore is one of the best cities for singles– really?), so we try to keep a healthy level of skepticism. But this ranking of states most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse seems not only scientifically rigorous, but also very important. And, unfortunately, we lose.
So much of our lives is dictated by chance. By chance, my mother suggested I take the ghost tour through Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Frederick, last summer. By chance, my husband couldn’t come, so I invited my friend Barb, a.k.a., Day Trip Pal, instead. Now the two of us have taken up “cemetery photography” — not in the ghost hunting way, but in the “oh my, that’s a pretty statue” way. We’ve become tombstone tourists. (Although if I ever do see a ghost in a photograph, you can be sure I’ll blog about it!)
By chance, I happened to hear something about Loudon Park Cemetery, in Baltimore. So one Sunday morning — a brilliant autumn day in early November — when I happened to have nothing better to do, I called Day Trip Pal and suggested we grab our cameras and check out this historic cemetery.
Once we got there and started exploring, we realized we would be going back, several times, and we have, including on a foggy morning that was eerie and quiet and last weekend, in the snow, to photograph the sunrise. It’s huge — 350 acres — and evidently is where many of Baltimore’s rich and famous are buried. There was too much to absorb in one visit — so many intriguing grave markers and statues to photograph. And that was before we even drove into the older, and really interesting section.
Visiting historic cemeteries isn’t for everyone*, but it’s not as morbid as one might immediately assume. Cemeteries are surprisingly alive and busy — at any given time, you’ll encounter several joggers or cyclists taking advantage of the well-maintained and peaceful drives. In the newer section, you may encounter funerals (please be respectful). Birds and small wildlife abound in cemeteries. And the historic ones are really quite scenic — in keeping with the Victorian era’s attitude that cemeteries were meant to be — and were used as — beautiful parks in which it was quite normal to stroll about and picnic in.
(*Dr Who fans will be weirded out by all the angels!)
Not long ago, Ed Benckert was driving his car and minding his own business when he saw those dreaded flashing lights in his rearview mirror. “What did I do?” he asked the cop who pulled him over. “Oh, nothing,” the cop replied. “I just want to take a picture of your car. My daughter loves zombies.”
You see, Benckert’s car is not like other cars; it features fake gore and a life-size, realistic looking zombie on the roof. It’s a tribute to the current zombie craze, but it’s also smart advertising — Benckert runs Laser Shark Design, a company that provides custom vehicle wraps, among other innovative marketing products. And the zombie car is a perfect example of how a car wrap can get you noticed: “I can’t leave the parking lot at Wegman’s without someone stopping me and wanting to take a picture,” Benckert says.
Ataxic neurodegenerative satiety deficiency syndrome (ANSD) is an airborne virus that causes brain swelling while also decomposing the body and causing an uncanny craving for human flesh. It’s also fictional. Zombie pop culture is everywhere, but leave it to Johns Hopkins students to be most interested in the medical side of decaying, flesh-hungry monsters. Earlier this fall, the school hosted Harvard professor Steven Schlozman, who has spent a lot of time considering medically plausible zombie apocalypse scenarios.
From elites like William and Henry Walters, Johns Hopkins, and Enoch Pratt, to extraordinary slaves like Patty Atavis, and even the infamous assassin John Wilkes Booth, the dead at Greenmount Cemetery tell a rich and fascinating story of the growth of Baltimore. On Saturday, October 27 from 12- 2:30 p.m., Baltimore Heritage will partner with the Maryland Historical Society and Greenmount Cemetery for a rare and special treat: lunch discussion of the famous cemetery followed by a tour led by Greenmount guide Wayne Schaumburg.
They’re everywhere these days, it seems — the undead, we mean. Shambling through AMC’s gory drama The Walking Dead; drooling all over poor Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But, um, why?
If you asked my little brother, he’d probably roll his eyes and say “because they’re cool.” But English professor Jared Hickman of Johns Hopkins has an answer that’s a bit more academic than that: “I do think that, historically speaking, the zombie narrative can perform a sort of critique in an especially hard-hitting way. It represents this loss of autonomy that we as human beings understandably fear.”
Bishop’s main area of zombie interest predates the current craze by a couple of centuries. He studies the cultures of Atlantic slavery and slave rebellions in the 18th and 19th centuries; turns out that the word “zombie” comes from West Africa, translated through various Caribbean Creoles. But Hickman has a take on today’s zombies, too:
“I think it is interesting in the post-Romero zombie invasion narrative that the threat is not so pressing that certain conditions of social life can’t be re-created. There’s the possibility of boarding up the house and, at least for a while, holding it off. You don’t need special knowledge or silver bullets. You just need to be able to whack them on the head. So particular to the genre is this possibility that human beings may return to social life after the attack—and all the fascinating questions that go with that. Can we go back to what we had before? Should we go back to what we had before?”
Hickman taught his first undergraduate seminar on zombies this fall. We’d love to read some of those term papers.