Z is for Zombie

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The shuffling undead take center stage this Halloween season

Move over, vampires. Zombies have shuffled, crawled and dragged themselves onto center stage in American culture.
How do you survive a zombie apocalypse? What weapons do you need to face a zombie horde? These questions fascinate modern society. Consequently, shows like AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and movies like “World War Z” have given life to a zombie obsession in the U.S.
It’s no surprise, then, that haunted houses around Greenville are tapping into the zombie craze.
Joseph Thompson says when he and his brother, Tim, started Madworld Haunted Attraction & Zombie Shoot three years ago, they wanted to give their haunted house a distinction.
“People are demanding something different,” he said. In the haunted house industry, the goal is to “grab people’s attention and make them have the maximum amount of fun.”
The brothers added the Zombie Shoot to their main haunted house attraction because “people are crazy about zombies,” he said.
People see actors fighting zombies on television and in movies and want to experience what they see, he said. The Zombie Shoot gives them the opportunity to actually live out these experiences for themselves.
At the Zombie Shoot, participants use replica assault rifles and “shoot” their way through zombies to complete a mission. The fastest team to complete the mission by the end of the month gets a $300 cash prize. Tickets for the attraction can be purchased at madworldhaunt.com through Nov. 3.
Thompson said most of the brothers’ customers range from ages 14-25, but “the people that are coming to these events is in a total change.” He said he’s beginning to see many more families and even adults up to age 60 come out. 
“People always want to imagine themselves in a different life,” he said. “People fantasize about this kind of stuff. Even though it’s at its peak right now, people will always enjoy and be drawn to zombies.”
Paul Thomas, an education professor at Furman University, said, “Psychologically, zombies are very interesting to most people because they represent how we feel.”
Thomas, who has written books on the topics of science fiction and graphic novels, said the idea of zombies resonates within society now because, like zombies, people are “going through the motions and not connecting” with what’s around them.
His seminar class recently worked through the book “World War Z” and noted that “in almost all of literature there are patterns, and if you can articulate the pattern … you can get the meaning out of it,” he said. People need patterns, Thomas said, referencing Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth.” They will find their religion in the myths and cycles of pop culture and like how these creatures are bound by certain rules, he said.
“Things like zombies, werewolves and vampires are predictable,” he said. Zombies are more interesting than most pop culture characters because they offer a sort of satire on consumerism and capitalism – they describe the modern human condition, he said. “What’s fascinating about zombies is they’re constantly eating.”
He said that the television series “The Walking Dead” was one of the ideas that stuck and drove interest back to the topic of zombies. Although zombies are popular right now, they will run their course and society will cycle through to something else, he said.
“We go through pop culture phases. Once ‘Twilight’ did well,” he said; then “publishers were scrambling for the next thing.”