The Signal’s Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide

Mike Eden | The Signal
Zombies at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse in Conley, Ga. on Oct. 19.


The only idea of a zombie apocalypse that ever really scared me was Michael Jackson’s music video “Thriller.” Will Smith’s “I am Legend” was another unique exploration of the undead. But everything else was always just cliché to me.

The Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (AZA) is where my editor sent me to get a first-hand experience of such an event. AZA is an annual production running from late September through Halloween. Three attractions, Zombie Shoot ($30), Zwars ($20) and Curse of the Undead ($20), attract people each Halloween season to live the apocalpytic world. The chief security officer of AZA and owner of the property, Fred Mephisto, and two zombie actors, Justin Hester and Quavas Scott, gave me a few tips to stay alive.

Learning what zombies are all about and the “rules” of an apocalypse, I realized I had to fully commit as if this was something real. Speaking to the zombie actors, they knew the details about why zombies “exist,” how to kill them, and how someone becomes a zombie. I figured if they were going to commit, I should too, especially if I’m paying to be chased by them. Once it was our group’s turn, my game face came on and I was ready to blast some dead people.

Close to midnight, a group of us walked out into the streets. At first there was silence, then there was evil laughter and clanging of chains against wood and metal. We all turned the corner to be disturbingly surprised. After most of the community was killed off, several of the more aggressive survivors had captured a number of zombies and were taunting them. A woman, who was loud and dressed in rags, had a zombie tied up like a dog. She was placing bets on who could kill him first. She counted her money and teased the zombie, almost torturing, as no one seemed able get a clean shot at his head.

Still with the group, I entered an abandoned warehouse, where the undead were still on the loose, terrorizing other defenseless, scared survivors. We found a man, armed, calm and confident. As we made our way through the abandoned warehouse, our leader and only armed survivor at the time, directed us upstairs, downstairs, into large rooms and small rooms, ready to pull the trigger with each step. He would eventually lead us out of the warehouse.

The building was dark, filthy and very odorous. Screams of nearly dead survivors filled the place. We were forced to watch the suffering people who had been infected or dismembered but lay crying for help. A zombie ripped a pregnant woman’s baby from her womb. A scientist locked away one zombie in a cage where he carried out experiments on him.

I somehow got turned around and ended up all alone. I knew the only way to escape this infested area was to shut down all brain activity in each of them. I soon found a loaded rifle. While using my gun, I was shooting at their bodies the first few shots. I soon felt their hands trying to grab me. I had to aim for their heads before they dismembered or infected me. Other survivors with guns frantically shot at one another in panic. I had to navigate through the pitch-black warehouse with nothing more than a blue flashlight and my weapon. I anticipated getting infected but I listened carefully for the groans of the undead around every corner. I killed each zombie I encountered with a bullet to the head, and escaped the warehouse into the night.

I felt relieved to be free and clear of the zombies. The fact that I could only see their silhouettes running at me in the dark was scary enough. When I came back to reality, some of the corniness of the event made me laugh, but then I began to wonder how possible a zombie apocalypse could be.

Origin of zombie outbreak

“In the Center for Disease Development (CDD), scientists are trying to create zombies and reanimate the body when it’s dead. This is something they shouldn’t be doing because too many experiments are going on. They’re tampering with certain diseases and altering it, then inducing it into people,” Hester said.

“Scientists just need to stop worrying about it because they’re getting too close. And if they keep going, they’re actually going to cause a zombie outbreak. One drug that scientists are currently researching makes you live longer, but once it’s your time, your brain shuts down. The drug is trying to keep you alive, therefore the brain stem will be present, but with no activity. They’ve already created that drug.”

When The Apocalypse strikes

“If your first move is after the apocalypse comes, you’re already behind the curve,” Mephisto said. “A smart person would have already planned beforehand with some basic survival equipment.”

Be sure to carry anything you might need to go camping with. Have everything you need packed up in a backpack. If you’re struggling to get your plan together after the apocalypse has already happened, you’re in the 80 percent or so who’s going to die in the first two weeks.

“I don’t think you should wait for the signs to prepare,” Mephisto said. “I think you should just be prepared.” It’s tough to rely on news for accurate reporting about what exactly will be happening, but “public upheavals” or “riots” can often be masking terms to be used by media for what is actually happening in terms of viral outbreak.

Apocalypse gear

Anything that’s tear-proof: denim, canvas, long sleeves and high collars. Basically cover as much skin as you can get away with. Most of the time zombies are just using teeth, hands and claws to get through you, so proper clothing can often save a lot of injuries and infections, Mephisto said.

Hester said to wear a kevlar vest through which zombies cannot bite. If you wear loose clothing, they’ve got you—unless you’re quick and you can just take it off and run.

If you’re running, zombies aren’t going to stop. If you get tired, you could get cold if you’re trying to camp somewhere, so wear a jacket too, Hester said.

If your friends are turning into zombies

“We have a policy within the CDD anytime someone is coming into or out of our zones of control check all hands and forearms,” Mephisto said. “80 percent of all bites happen on the arms. So always be sure to check people’s hands for injuries. Infections, which seem supernaturally advanced in their development, dead give away. Usually a person will themselves know that they’ve been biten, and they won’t want to tell anyone. Hoping they can find help or they can somehow escape the situation, but in most cases, that’s not going to happen.”

“If my friend got biten, I’d shoot him right there because he’s pretty much gone anyway,” Hester said. “You run a fever. The fever is the last part. There’s not a cure. I haven’t seen it yet.”

If you survive The Apocalypse

“Vagabons are survivors of the apocalypse,” Scott said. “They’re just trying to fend for themselves. They capture live zombies and get them to fight to the death and use it as a sport.”