With barely more than a week left until Election Day, there was bound to be a fringe group taking to the streets in a town as a deeply politically active as Madison. On Saturday afternoon, this very vocal minority made their moans heard. The zombies were back.
In what has become a Halloween-season tradition in Madison over the last few years, several dozen of these recently deceased gathered on the Capitol Square to lurch down State Street. Becki Theisen of the Coalition of the Living Dead, or COLD, has been organizing the undead for weeks in anticipation of this demonstration, calling for an expansion of zombie rights, zombie benefits, and of course, plenty of brains.
This warranted a closer look, so I hastily applied some Halloween makeup and smeared some fake blood on my clothes to blend in with the creatures. I was determined to be the Dian Fossey of zombies, but instead of living with them, I would simply not-live with them. I couldn't expect to understand their struggle without walking a mile in their shoes, and though this lurch wasn't quite that length, I figured it was close enough.
Upon arrival at the Capitol I mingled with the zombies, some of which were freshly risen from the grave. I tried to ask questions, but they merely moaned and groaned in response. Zombie small talk. Many did have signs which were surprisingly legible, though, suggesting that "Dead People Are People," advocating zombie veterans' benefits, and declaring support from "Zombies for John McCain."
I was given a slip of paper by one of the zombies with suggested chants -- zombie talking points?! -- as well as a note to obey all traffic and pedestrian laws, and to not attack cars or other people. This was obviously designed to be a peaceful protest.
First came a little music, though, in which a pair of the undead performed the classic dance from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video in concert with the
With this, the lurch commenced. Zombies wandered onto State Street and on the adjoining sidewalks, spilling into bus stops and climbing over benches. They dragged feet and stumbled slowly, their newly re-animated joints and muscles struggling to coordinate a semblance of a walk. Their dead stares and gaping mouths showed little sign of sentience or emotion, only showing excitement at the prospect of fresh "Braaaiiinnns."
Several times over, I separated from the cluster of undead to shoot photos and document their actions. The reaction from onlookers was a mix of confusion and shock. Some didn't realize the dead were back, some searched for reanimated love ones in the crowd, and others shielded their children from possible infection. The zombie masses did have to pause at crosswalks, though, and were threatened several times by passing Madison Metro buses.
Perhaps the true intent of the lurch was revealed as the zombies neared the UW campus, as a sea of fans wearing Wisconsin red approached from the other direction. The Badgers had just wrapped up their big game against Illinois, and fans had hit the streets to celebrate the hometown win. Their youthful excitement was in pointed opposition to the decaying and shambling zombies.
The lurch continued onto the campus, ending on the steps of the Memorial Union. The zombie masses celebrated and cheered for the differences they'd made for their rights. Pictures from can be viewed in a montage as well as in the gallery above.
As quickly as the undead came together, so too did they disperse. Their quest to consume continued, though, as more than a few zombies lurched back toward State Street with a new chant: "Beeeeeer!"