Rise of the Undead in the City of Oaks


A chilly breeze blew through Moore Square in Raleigh, the City of Oaks. The sun was setting, the fall leaves rustling. From bars and restaurants that line the square came the sounds of laughter, and conversation.


Suddenly, there were sounds of shuffling, and groaning, of lifeless legs dragging along the sidewalk. My son and I, in the middle of the square, near the giant acorn that gets dropped every new year’s day, found ourselves suddenly surrounded. On every side we saw pasty faces, entrails exposed, undead creatures thirsting for fresh blood and brains. We were, of course, amidst this year’s Raleigh Zombie Walk.


A couple of years ago I witnessed my first zombie lurch, in Durham, my then two year old and wife in tow. It was a great show of the macabre, full of rotting flesh, dangling limbs, and the gnawing of dismembered hands. Wanting to see what our fair capital could conjure up, this year we drove out to Raleigh.


The Raleigh zombie lurch is a pretty well attended occurrence, as we discovered–zombies, zombie hunters, paparazzi, and spectators all descended at the appointed time, gathering into a moaning, shuffling mass of animated corpses. Led by ghoulish bagpipers, the zombies and their entourage then shuffled their way on a complex route that eventually led to warmer venues with alcoholic beverages to bring a little life back into that cold flesh.


While there was no shortage of theatrics at the Raleigh zombie lurch, I found myself somewhat underwhelmed. A big reason for this was the late start of the lurch. Attendees were told to show up at the square at 7:00pm, and then the walk would start shortly thereafter. On these increasingly shorter fall days, that meant that it was already past sundown before the lurch even started, which in turn meant that it was very difficult to see all the hard work that the zombies had put into falling apart. I get that zombies and their ilk are scarier in the dark, but one of the great features of the Durham lurch was that you actually got to see the zombies, and experience the full force of their decomposition, their complete hunger for human brains, their dreadful empty eyes and blood-stained chins.


As a photographer, of course, I greatly prefer the beautiful pre-sunset golden light, with its long, ominous shadows and opportunities to really show off scarlet blood against the patina of decaying flesh. The Durham lurch was just so, featuring ideal light with which to frame the damned. Yes, night is scarier, but zombies are pretty scary any time. Ever seen Dawn or Day of the Dead?


Beyond the time, I found the Raleigh zombies a bit too quick, a bit too coordinated, and a bit too able in the operation of complex electronic devices. The costumes were great, but it is the overall presentation and theatrics that make or break a lurch.


Those critiques aside, anytime you get a bunch of likeminded and creative folks together to do something as creative as staging a zombie invasion, you are bound to have a lot of fun and see a good show. I particularly enjoyed watching the zombies as they shuffled by the capitol, and as they crowded around busy restaurant windows, clambering to get the tasty people within.


If you missed the Raleigh zombie walk this year and are hoping to catch some undead fun, you are in luck! There are a couple of things going on today in the Triangle (that I know of). In Raleigh, there is the Day of the Dead Fun Run, and in Durham, our lurch launches in a parking lot near Central Park at 6:10pm. I unfortunately won’t be able to attend either event, but I hope you’ll check ’em out, even though another Halloween is in the books–they are great fun!








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