There’s a conspiracist in all of us. We all apply our own private logic and science to certain situations in order to make sense of them. Some of us think that global warming is a myth and that there are no holes in the ozone layer and others believe that crop circles are conclusive proof that aliens exist. There are even those people who believe that Tupac is still alive. It was really no surprise, then, that when someone claimed that the human race would one day wipe itself out by turning into zombies, the idea went viral.
With the world fabled to end in December of this year, should we be worried that it might be at the hands of a global flesh-eating army?
Based on recent news events alone, many people are convinced that a zombie apocalypse could indeed be possible. The most famous story is that of Rudy Eugene (known famously as “the Miami zombie”) who mauled another man on a Miami highway and ate his face while completely naked and allegedly high on methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a new psychoactive drug with the inconspicuous street name “bath salts”. Reports say that Eugene continued to eat his victim’s face while a police officer shot him six times until he eventually died. The climax of the episode was caught on tape and has since been immortalised on various internet utilities – the YouTube video alone has been viewed over a million times. Toxicology reports later showed that Eugene had in fact been under the influence of marijuana and not “bath salts”.
Then came a deluge of incidents of cannibalism-related and deranged attacks that further provoked alarmist reports about the rise of zombies. In the US there were three separate events within a week of Rudy Eugene’s incident, in three different states, involving people trying to eat each other’s faces off and/or throwing their own intestines at police officers. A month later, there were nine such incidents – all of which were blamed on “bath salts”. Other incidents of murder and cannibalism that were not related to any psychoactive drugs followed, the most famous being the case of a Maryland student pleading guilty to killing his roommate and eating his body parts, including his heart and brain.
Armed with sensationalised accounts of these stories, people took to the internet in a panic, claiming that the zombie apocalypse was close at hand. This, despite the fact that none of the culprits were undead. Furthermore, there was no evidence of contagion: nothing was spreading from attacker to victim. Nonetheless, even if these events weren’t the start of a zombie apocalypse, is one still possible and why are we suddenly so prepared to believe that it could be?
Jonathan Maberry, bestselling author of zombie fiction, seems to believe that a zombie apocalypse is more than likely to occur. In an interview with The Examiner he says, “Every day we’re discovering that the line between science fiction and today’s headlines is becoming blurred. There are parasites, bacterium and viruses that could easily get out of hand and some of these could be tweaked with a bit of very doable mad science.” Maberry is not alone – no conspiracy is complete without a few non-profit organisations that are dedicated to investigating it : websites and blogs run by zombie enthusiasts desperately seeking vindication. One such organisation is the Zombie Research Society, which, according to its website, is “a global community dedicated to the serious study of zombie science, survival and pop culture.” The website contains posts about safe houses up for rent in the event of a zombie attack, weapons and supplies to aid survival.
Not everyone is a believer though and the zombie apocalypse has its fair share of sceptics. Andre du Preez, a first-year physics student, says that zombies are fun to imagine and be entertained by, but it is unrealistic to think that an army of blathering, slow-walking monsters could be the end of civilisation. “Zombies, like vampires, are not real. We’re doing the Twilight thing all over again where kids in America were biting each other because it seemed cool in books.” Suzaan Bester, who is in her first year of biological sciences, does not believe in any doomsday conspiracies and when asked if she thought the zombie apocalypse were possible, she simply replied, “K*k man.”
One thing is certain: the idea of the zombie apocalypse has become nothing less than a phenomenon in popular culture. Ever since the release of George A Romero’s 1968 cult hit Night of the Living Dead, the world has been obsessed with the idea of the living dead. There are countless hyperbolised movies and TV shows where the middle-aged woman with the child always survives after falling in love with the handsome straw-chewing, shotgun-wielding recluse with a mysterious past and a permanent sweat stain on his chest.
The idea of zombies and everything else dystopian has become a fashion of sorts. Even in the literal sense, fashion brands like Alexander McQueen and Christian Dior have drawn inspiration from zombies and other apocalyptic tropes for some of their lines. Exactly how prophetic this zombie craze proves to be will have to wait until December.
The zombie apocalypse may happen, the same way Bigfoot might still be out there and vaccines may be giving children autism. Conspiracy keeps us curious, aware and guarded. And no matter how paranoid and insane the conspiracists may sound in those YouTube comment boxes, at least they’re prepared. It wouldn’t hurt to befriend a few of them – you know, just in case.
Illustration: Simon-Kai Garvie
Video of the “Miami zombie” attack