HAPPY HALLOWEEN (copy)

Zombie Samantha Niemeyer and her brother Nicholas Niemeyer, both from Fox Lake, attended the Fox Lake Spooktacular on Saturday. Zombies have become pervasive in American culture.

TERRI PEDERSON/Daily Citizen

October was declared to be Zombie Preparedness Month by Illinois lawmakers. Approved in February, the resolution was a bid to encourage the state’s residents to be prepared. The state had yet to pass its budget, but lawmakers spent time on this bill so citizens would take note.

The idea was that if citizens are prepared for zombies, they are prepared for any natural disaster. A few years ago, Kansas did the same thing and I thought it was a fluke then. Now it is closer to home and less peculiar as time goes on.

For the life of me, I can’t understand the continued popularity of all things zombie. Try as I might, the foot-dragging, blood-dripping, blank-starting creatures leave me cold. And yet their presence continues and their numbers are growing.

Just when I thought zombies were falling out of favor, and maybe actually dying one last time, I read about The Zombie Dash held Oct. 21 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Runners were offered a chance to see if they could survive a zombie apocalypse scenario. “Sounds like great family fun,” snarked a woman who has never run a race in costume and still can’t wrap her brain around these disturbing cannibalistic creatures.

Call me old-fashioned (and many have), but brain eating isn’t my idea of a fun night out. Am I the only person who doesn’t enjoy viewing bile being spewed or seeing heads bitten into? I understand the appeal of being scared out of one’s wits now and then as a break from reality, but a whole culture and belief system seems a bit over the top, even for the most die-hard of participants.

Movies, books, video games, costumes and television shows perpetuate the animated corpses that ooze their way into mainstream Americana not only at Halloween, but throughout the year. The multi-billion-dollar enterprise has a lot more to sell than bluish paint fake blood. In addition to the usual product line from comic books to clothes to video games, there are conventions from New Jersey to Germany, from Nashville to London and all across the globe. The experience of a lifetime: three days of walking dead.

They seem as current as they were in 1968, when the first movie came out that risked all to entertain and scare at the same time.

“The Night of the Living Dead” introduced them, but long before that, folk tales of zombies were prevalent in societies throughout Africa, Brazil and Haiti. But it was the “Twilight” series that replaced vampires with zombies as the monster of choice.

This year there have been zombie walks, zombie runs, zombie hunts and a Zombie Shoot in Aurora, Illinois, that advertised a 10-stage action shooting event for adults and children over 5. Billed as a chance to show off your zombie killing abilities the ad said, “Bring as much ammo as you can carry. Rain or shine, zombies don’t care if it is raining.”

I haven’t read the books “Alice in Zombie Land” or “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” or “Zombie, Ohio,” or any of the other dozens of newer materials out there. These titles and the commonplace discussions do begin to normalize this kind of occurrence.

One bestselling zombie genre author put it this way. “I think zombies reflect very real anxieties of these crazy, scary times.”

If that means it is easier to be afraid of zombies than hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes and the chaos around us, I think I get it.

No one knows for sure if a document was prepared by Homeland Security that provides Counter-Zombie Dominance evacuation plans. If they did, it was out-of-the-box thinking, not out of the coffin. And it was tongue and cheek, not tongue in brains.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at kaystellpflug@gmail.com.