The Ultimate Zombie Survival Guide – By Jordan Garren

For decades, humanity has suffered the ravages of various incarnations of the flesh-eating undead and I’ve often wondered to myself, "How do zombies manage to consistently gain the upper hand against the living?" After a moment of thought, I realized the answers to my seemingly trivial questions: Human ignorance, egotism, and disbelief are the main factors that have allowed zombies and other undead creatures and ghouls to remain a threat to our existence. It’s because of this, that I have devised my own personal zombie survival guide in order to prepare you for an impending undead apocalypse. As I haven’t personally dealt with any zombies on my own, or personally know anyone else that has, I’ll be basing my "experience" on the dozens of zombie films made during the last forty years. Laugh if you will, but I believe that there is a grain of truth in each of these seemingly far-fetched flicks. Anyway, let’s begin shall we?

KNOW YOUR ENEMY:

The first key to survival is knowing what you’re up against. Generally zombies are all the same in that they are reanimated corpses looking for a hot meal. Most are slow moving and lack intelligence; all of them are relentless and savage. However, over the years, new varieties of zombies have begun springing up around the globe. Some of them are beginning to show cognitive thought and have even been seen using primitive tools. If that doesn’t chill you to the bone, then this will: In several isolated cases, some zombies have retained the ability to speak and have even learned (or remembered) how to utilize firearms and other weapons! Are these just stories told by panicked eyewitnesses, or could our ghoulish foes be evolving? Either way, it’s time to prepare for the worst, so let’s get cracking!

THE "CLASSIC" NORTH AMERICAN ZOMBIE

Origin: These fiends are the most common assortment of ghouls in the world today. Generally they are very slow moving and are only a major threat when precautions aren’t taken to halt their increasing population. Their true origins are still a mystery, but scientists have speculated that the first wave of these creatures was started by an irradiated satellite that returned from Venus. Was it the Venusian radiation that brought these beasts to life, or was there an unknown extraterrestrial virus aboard the aforementioned satellite? We may never know.

Strengths and Weaknesses: The main strength of these creatures is their ability to grow in numbers exponentially. Small outbreaks left unchecked have turned into massive legions of the undead seemingly overnight. Thankfully, these flesh-eaters have one overwhelming weakness: Their Brain! A sharp blow to the skull or a shot to the head with a firearm is enough to bring these witless, shambling corpses down.

Recent Discoveries: While the majority of these undead creatures have proven to be "stupid" and easy to kill, experts have discovered that some zombies have begun evolving the ability to communicate, lead, and use primitive weapons. This is not good news for the human race. Recently, the written works of a Dr. Logan have been released to the public that has some Darwinists cheering. Apparently Dr. "Frankenstein" Logan was working on the domestication of the undead and found success with a test subject he lovingly referred to as ‘Bub.’ According to Logan’s notes, Bub was extremely calm, intelligent, and "sweet" in comparison to his undead compatriots, and was capable of speech and advanced cognitive abilities. Dr. Logan’s work was discovered within an empty military missile silo in the Midwestern United States. No further information has been given on this subject.

For further Preparation: Read Max Brooks’ allegedly fictional "Zombie Survival Guide" and watch George A. Romero’s series of zombie films, namely Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005). Don’t laugh, these movies could save your life!

THE EUROPEAN ZOMBIE

Origin: Found mostly in Italy, these creatures are very similar to their North American cousins, but don’t let that fool you. The European zombie is a much older and is entirely more evil than you’d care to believe. While the North American zombies are primarily driven by instinct, the European zombie has proven to be amazingly intelligent and adaptable. It’s not uncommon to hear tales of these vile monstrosities using weapons (especially swords and spears) and using ambush tactics on unsuspecting victims. The biggest theory going for these foreign zombies is that they are literally spewed forth from the gates of hell to prey on the living. Until scientists prove otherwise, we’ll have to rely on religious superstition.

Strengths and Weaknesses: Like the North American zombie, the European zombie can be defeated by pulverizing it’s skull. Since their bodies are usually rotted and deteriorated to the extreme, the European zombie’s skull is more easily broken. So theoretically they are easier to kill than America’s homegrown undead. However, these zombies are pros at ambushing and may use some sort of pointed or edged weapon to disable a victim before feasting. A few rare eyewitness reports from Euro zombie attacks even go as far to say that the zombies literally teleported behind their victims. This is probably the ranting of several survivors in shock from their ordeal, but who can really tell.

Recent Discoveries: Apparently Euro zombies are territorial because they seem to stay and "haunt" certain areas. This has led to further speculation that these malevolent corpses are either guarding passageways to the underworld, or are slowly building up for an invasion of apocalyptic proportions. In any case, due to their territoriality, Euro zombie attacks don’t occur frequently.

For Further Preparation: Read Max Brooks’ "Zombie Survival Guide," and feel free to watch any number of Euro-zombie films, especially The Gates of Hell (1980), The Beyond (1981), Burial Ground (1980), Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971), and its subsequent sequels.

ASIAN ZOMBIES

Origin: Almost nothing is known about the walking dead of the Far East. According to ancient legends in certain countries (particularly Japan), certain areas serve as portals to the netherworld. Anyone that dies in or near one of these portals can sometimes return from the dead.

Strengths and Weaknesses: Though Asian zombies are fairly rare, they are perhaps the deadliest of the species. Unlike their American and European relatives, the Asian undead are quick and powerful, and sometimes quite hard to kill. In numerous cases, it took more than a simple "head shot" to stop an Asian zombie in it’s tracks. The only hope of surviving an attack from one of these creatures is to completely destroy it with anything you have at your disposal. The best weapons against these marauding undead are shotguns, fire, and (samurai) swords.

Recent Discoveries: Apparently the Asian zombie has been used for centuries as a training tool/sparring partner for students studying certain martial art forms. Some still believe that this type of training is still utilized today in the smaller and more remote villages of China and Japan.

For Further Preparation: Watch Versus (2000), Down To Hell (1997), Junk (2000), Zombie vs. Ninja (1987), and Wild Zero (2000).

These are not the only zombies to ever walk the face of the Earth by any means, but they are the most frequently seen and discussed. Zombies have been sighted in various islands of the Caribbean (considered by some scholars as the birthplace of the zombie), in New Zealand (see Peter Jackson’s Dead-Alive), in Australia (the Spierig brothers’ Undead chronicles this one time zombie invasion), and all over the African continent. With the exception of the New Zealand zombies, the rest seem to be easily destroyed by a sharp blow or gunshot to the head. Well, I think you’ve probably had enough with the "geographical zombies," so let’s do a further categorical breakdown of the undead.

THE VOODOO ZOMBIE

Voodoo is an African/Caribbean religion and some who practice it are said to be able to create zombies. Wether this is true or not has yet to be proved, but I can tell you for sure that voodoo does not result in the creation of flesh-eating undead, only mindless servants. Sorry to bust your bubble on this one folks. (For further backup on my comment, read the invaluable "Zombie Survival Guide!") For those who have seen Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, although voodoo was hinted at in the film, the true cause of the zombies was more than likely, viral.

THE VIRAL ZOMBIE

It is believed that nearly 90% of all zombies in the world today are a result of viral infection from a zombie bite or exposure to zombie blood. Studies for an antidote for this alleged virus are still going on with no positive results foreseen in the near future.

THE NUCLEAR ZOMBIE

In some rare cases, exposure to high doses of nuclear radiation have created a new strain of zombies, dubbed as Nuclear Zombies. The most famous recorded case of "nuke-zombies" was made into an insane Italian horror/action film called Nightmare City. Apparently people were infected by a high concentration of radiation after a nuclear meltdown (many hint that Chernobyl is to blame), resulting in (literally) blood-thirsty mobs of horribly scarred and mutated people. Supposedly, victims of these Nuclear zombies were drained of their blood and eventually became zombies themselves. This nuclear zombie uprising was crushed by the Russian military following a total media blackout. The few reports that were released after the incident stated that gunshots to the head completely stopped the "nuke-zombies" in their tracks.

THE CHEMICAL ZOMBIE

Another "man-made" zombie species is the Chemical Zombie, or "chem-zombie" for short. During the Cold War, many bio-weapons were in production in a variety of countries. While Russia attempted to create and train it’s own undead army (a total failure that resulted in disaster), the United States was developing a series of deadly chemicals that essentially could reanimate dead soldiers during a battle. The project was scrapped however when it was learned that the chemical was highly transferable and could easily spread and get out of control. The few test subjects for this project were stuffed into containment barrels and shipped to a non-disclosed location, but unfortunately, the barrels were accidentally delivered to a warehouse, where curious employees opened the contents. Soon the chem-zombies within the barrels were loose and devouring brains left and right. Luckily the "infected" were detained within the confines of the warehouse, allowing the military to trap and completely destroy the chem-zombies within. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because film maker Dan O’Bannon used this incident as the backdrop for his horror/comedy/zombie film, Return of the Living Dead. For other chem-zombie madness see Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead and check out the two -soon to be four- Return of the Living Dead sequels.)

SHAPE SHIFTERS AND TELEPORTERS

There have been reports that zombies have teleported behind people or into buildings (something you may have seen in The Gates of Hell) but I assure you that is an impossibility. Zombies are generally very quiet (unless they let out their eerie trademark moan) so it’s no surprise if one managed to sneak up on someone outdoors or within a house. As for shape shifting, it’s a complete fabrication. People who have reported this were probably not paying close enough attention until it was too late. (However, if you do want to see some shape shifting zombies, and/or zombies that camouflage themselves as regular humans, check out Zombiegeddon and Death Becomes Her.)

THE SPACE ZOMBIE

A popular theory has started up that zombies are the creation of alien beings who plan on conquering Earth. Aside from the theory that an alien virus came to Earth via a satellite in 1968 (check the Classic North American Zombie section above to refresh your memory.), or a fallen meteorite, there’s no proof that alien beings have engineered a virus that brings the dead to life with a hankering for human flesh. Clearly, whoever started this theory was in a drug-induced state while watching Plan 9 From Outer Space or Night of the Creeps. Zombies are not from outer space and that was a weather balloon that crashed at Area 51! Hahaha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist taking a jab at all you paranoid conspiracy theorists.

THE AQUATIC ZOMBIE

For those of you who have seen Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, you may recall the scene where a zombie is simply wandering about on the ocean floor, mere moments before it battles a shark. Well as ridiculous as that was, it’s true that zombies can survive underwater. Since they do not need to breathe and because the undead’s bodies don’t bloat and float to the surface for quite a while, it is scientifically proven that they can indeed travel underneath bodies of water. (Also see George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead for further justification.)

To conclude this section of the survival guide, let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve learned. Essentially, most zombies can be handled easily. The key to victory is to know how to stop the zombies in question ("AIM FOR THE HEAD!"), find out approximately how many there are, and organize against them in order to defend yourself, your home, your family, and your nation against the undead, before they spread across the globe like a plague! The main thing to keep in mind is to not panic and make stupid, life-threatening decisions, and be sure to work together with neighbors, local authorities, and military personnel in order to truly make a difference. Now, let’s discuss how you can defend against and/or take the fight to the undead!

BATTLING THE UNDEAD

WEAPONS OF CHOICE

Guns: Firearms are easily the best tool of the trade for battling zombies. When in close quarters with an undead opponent, use a shotgun or pistol to take the zombie down. When you’re encountering zombies out in the open in a field or city street, use a rifle that has some stopping power and be sure to equip your gun with a scope for more accurate shooting. If you’re trying to keep a low profile though, try and get your hands on a silencer, in order to muffle your gunshots. And remember, aim for the head!

Edged Weapons: Out of all the edged weapons you can use, a samurai sword or machete will work be
t. If you get into some really close combat, a small hatchet will come in handy. Try avoiding anything that’s clumsy to wield; one wrong move and you could be zombie-chow!

Bludgeons: Out of all the possible things you can use to "knock a zombie’s block off," stick with a crowbar or prybar. They’re solid, cheap, and extremely efficient at caving in a skull or two.

Incendiary Devices: Fire is a great weapon, but if used improperly, it can be much more dangerous than the undead. Unless you’re going to have a moat of fire around the spot you’re trying to defend, try and avoid using fire altogether. It may burn a zombie up, but remember, they can’t feel pain and they won’t stop, drop, and roll if consumed by flames. They’ll keep coming at you! And if you’re thinking of military weapons like flamethrowers (where the hell are you going to get a flamethrower at?!), grenades, and mines, then don’t bother. Grenades and mines are only effecient for killing the living, not stopping the dead.

ARMOR AND PROTECTION

Helmets: Unless you’re dealing with brain devouring zombies (see Chemical Zombies), helmets are useless and will only serve in impairing your peripheral vision. Don’t bother wearing them… unless you’re riding on a motorcycle that is. It’d be pretty ironic for you to crash your bike, and have your brains splattered across pavement while you tried to evade a crowd of zombies.

Kevlar: It can reduce the risk of having zombie bites rip into your flesh. It’s good to wear as a precaution, but don’t rely on it! Remember, the designers only planned on stopping bullets, not zombie bites!

Medieval Armor: To put it simply, don’t bother with it. Plate mail is too bulky and will slow you down, chain mail offers better protection, but again, it’s slightly cumbersome and will tire you out.

Mesh Sharksuit: It’ll hold off any zombie bite, but it will cut down on your "speed and agility." Overall, a pretty good choice, especially if you’re going to be battling some "aqua-zombies."

Tight Clothes & Short Hair: Believe it or not, this is the best protection you can have against the undead. Zombies attack by grabbing you and pulling you in for a bite, therefore make sure you don’t give them anything to latch onto.

HAND TO HAND COMBAT

You see a lot of fancy one on one fights with zombies in films all the time where characters either don’t get bitten or wounded, or only receive a "superficial" wound after killing a dozen ghouls. This isn’t the case in reality, especially when dealing with highly evolved and/or faster zombies. Try to avoid hand to hand combat if possible but if you are caught off guard or, God help you, weaponless, here’s what you should try to do. First, try and find a weapon of some sort; anything to bludgeon your undead opponent with. If you can’t find anything, then you should try to keep your zombie assailant off balance and knock it down, then run like hell. There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity, and trying to beat a zombie to "death" is definitely the latter.

DEFENDING BUILDINGS

When it comes to defending your home or a building from zombies, you’ve really got to know one thing: How bad is the zombie epidemic? If it’s a small outbreak, boarding up doors and windows will be more than enough. However, if things get out of hand and hundreds, nay, thousands(!!) of zombies descend on your location, it’s time too move to a new and far more secure place. First of all, stay far away from churches, hospitals, and police stations. Those areas will be the most chaotic and/or have the most people in one spot. It’s the equivalent of having an all you can eat buffet for an army of zombies. Defending Your Home: For smaller zombie outbreaks, locking doors and windows, and even boarding them up will provide suitable protection. However, if a large number of zombies manages to break in, then get out of the house if possible. If not, take the "high ground" and run upstairs, and if possible, block or destroy the stairwell. If that fails and you have an attic, then get up there! Worst case scenario: You will be be trapped on the roof for an extended period of time. The one thing, you should never do however is trap yourself in the basement of your home (unless you have several exits). Once the zombies break in, you have nowhere else to go and you will be stripped to the bone by your undead invaders.

For larger outbreaks, it’s best to leave home and find a safer and more easily defendable building. Warehouses, factories, schools, prisons, and even oil rigs have proven to be some of the best choices for a "fortress" against the undead. Oil rigs are perhaps the best choice out of those listed, simply because they are completely cut off from land. One place you should consider avoiding for sure is a shopping mall. Oh yeah it worked great for the characters in Dawn of the Dead (1978 and 2004), but remember, that was fiction. We’re talking reality here folks!

BATTLE ZONES

Icy Tundras: This is one of the harshest environments on Earth for humans to survive in, and provides a few advantages to the undead. The cold temperatures help slow the decomposition of zombies and in some cases, fully preserve the undead fiends. There have been cases where a zombie has been frozen in ice and revived once thawed. When battling zombies in icy tundras and frozen wastes, one of the best tactics is to just avoid your flesh eating foe until it freezes solid. Fire is also a valuable tool in these harsh regions when combating zombies with almost no chance of destroying man-made or natural habitats.

Marshes and Swamps: These areas prove to be tricky battle zones when engaging the undead. There are a lot of hiding places and zombies may end up stuck in the muck and mire of swamp and ready to pull you down to your doom at a moments notice. It’s best to utilize a small boat of some sort and slowly check over every inch of land. One thing to keep notice of is the amount of wildlife in a suspected zombie infested area, or rather the lack of any noticeable wildlife. When humans aren’t around, zombies will munch on any living creature they can get a hold of. Battling in an area like this is extremely dangerous (if zombies don’t get you, a hungry alligator or a pit of quicksand will) and should be avoided if possible.

Plains and Fields: The most ideal place to battle zombies. Because of all the open space, there isn’t any way for a zombie to get the drop on you, unless of course you’re in a field full of tall grass. On open plains, there’s a lot of space to move and a complete lack of obstacles, making head shots and even close combat against the undead easier. If you can help it, take on your undead foes in a wide open plain or prairie, but do be careful. You may have a better advantage, but you can still manage to slip up at some point and get chomped on. When it comes to fields with tall grass, move carefully and quietly and never let your guard down. Be prepared at all times for a close encounter so carry a pistol, a hatchet, and some sort of bludgeon for defense.

Deserts: Yet another harsh environment for humans that gives a few advantages to the undead. The severe heat and dryness of deserts tends to aid in the preservation of zombie corpses. When engaging the undead in a desert, make sure you have plenty of provisions (mainly water) and keep very alert. It’s best to go with a group of people during a hunt or reconnaissance mission. That way, members of the group can take turns resting which means that a constant vigil can be pulled off. The main thing to worry about in a desert clash with the undead is that you don’t pass out from the heat. Rest in the shade when possible and keep hydrated or else you’ll end up as beef jerky for a group of roving zombies!

Forests: The large amount of trees and undergrowth make this a very difficult area to battle the undead in. To cover more area, you and your fellow zombie hunters (going in alone is suicide!) may have to spread out or may be huddled closely together, allowing for a multitude of ambush situations. Incendiary devices and homemade explosives used in forests is downright dangerous and can result in highly destructive forest fires. The best way to handle a situation like this is to lure the zombies out into an open area where you can take them down. It’s also a very good idea to have snipers posted out of harms way up in a few treetops. In any forest fight (or any undead melee for that matter), having some strategically placed snipers can quickly turn the tide of a seemingly hopeless battle.

Lakes, Oceans, and Other Bodies of Water: As I mentioned much earlier in this exhaustive article, zombies can be quite a nuisance once they go underwater. Without the proper equipment and weapons, an underwater war against the undead is guaranteed to swing in the zombies’ favor. Harpoon guns, fishing nets, firearms, and protective gear (i.e. a mesh sharksuit.) are a must when a conflict breaks out in any small or large body of water. The main problem with zombies heading into water is that they can pop up seemingly anywhere along a riverbank or coastline. Once the undead infest a body of water (especially one near your home), it’s best to stay on alert permanently, even if an "all clear" is sounded.

Now this isn’t everything you need to know, but it should definitely give you a huge head start. Hopefully, the knowledge I’ve imparted onto you will never have to be utilized, but if so, remember that a zombie epidemic should be treated like any other type of natural disaster. If a zombie outbreak is confirmed, be sure to stock up on food and water; get batteries and flashlights galore; a small gas-powered generator and extra fuel; a solar-powered radio with a built in dynamo unit for manual charging (you’ll need this to keep up to date on the zombie outbreak until all communications break down… which hopefully never happens); get a series of defensive and offensive weapons and keep them in the best shape possible. (Sharpen your knives, swords, and/or machetes. Oil and maintain your guns, and make sure you have plenty of ammunition for them.) There is still a lot to go over, especially what you should do in case the undead inherit the Earth, but I highly doubt that will ever happen. If you’re still extremely leery of this and need further instruction on "Surviving in an Undead World," then pick up a copy of Max Brooks’ "Zombie Survival Guide." This is a veritable Bible for the hardcore zombie survivalist and should be taken quite seriously. After you read it, you’ll be more than ready when "Z-Day" comes.

Pictures borrowed from undeadfilms.com and badmovies.org.