Afternoon Inquisition

AI: In which we save the world from zzzzzombies

For my birthday, one of the kick ass Chicago skeptics, Gerg, bought me The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. It’s an incredibly useful book, and I can’t believe how irresponsible it was of me not to read it long ago. I have a small child to protect! Not being prepared for a zombie attack is almost as bad as leaving sippy cups full of anti-freeze on the coffee table,*

My only concern with the Survival Guide is that it might be too long. What happens if you’re a slow reader, like me, and the zombie apocalypse happens while you’re still working your way through chapter 2? Sure, it would be hilariously ironic, but the hipster zombie you will never appreciate it because zombies don’t get irony.

Let’s form a plan together.

What is your plan if zombies attack? Do you seeflaws in anyone else’s plans here? Please, don’t hold back, the survival of the human species is dependent upon us having a solid plan to defeat the zombies! What advice do you have for anyone who doesn’t have a zombie fighting strategy? (Any zombies answering today’s AI should identify themselves as such.)

*Yes, I’m planning on moving those to the kitchen… as soon as you quit nagging me about it!

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. We should offer up the dumbest public figures (I won’t name any names as I don’t want to derail the thread). The zombies will be fooled but soon they will die of starvation from the lack of brains. While they’re distracted, we all run fast in the opposite direction.

  2. Arsenic. I will never survive a zombie apocalypse. I am simply to lazy and uncaring about my fellow man or my own preservation.

    That said, my friends and I do have a convoluted plan to buy an island and retreat there with guns and meds and books to wait out the hordes. We even put up a Craigslist ad for a sexy nurse to come with us and be our medical savior, but Craigslist took it down. :-( Then, of course, we found out that zombies can (according to some lore) walk underwater and would get us anyway. Sighhhh…

  3. My suggestion is to grab a gun, kill yourself and get it over with. If you get caught by one, you will experience a horrendous death, so a bullet is quick and painless. With or without plan, you are doomed anyways. Either the zombies get you, or the government throws a nuke.

  4. Ok, first, this is going to require Tequila. Lots and lots of tequila.

    Then shotguns, and ammo.

    Then I’ll dig a trench around the house, fill it with gasoline, and light it when the horde approaches.

    While drinking my tequila.

  5. World War Z also by Max Brooks (son of Mel, btw) is terrific. It’s the “real world” application of the survival guide.

    I love/irrationally fear zombies so much that I dream entire zombie films & have zombie escape plans for every scenario.

    My current one includes blocking the stairwell to my apartment with boxes of books. The balcony area gives me enough room for target practice (hmmm…should invest in a rifle.)

    As supplies dwindle, I should be able to escape over the roof, down into the gated carport, through the protected parking lots along my street to the supermarket. A simple string/rock system will allow me to pull the rope ladder (not yet purchased) back down to the ground so that I can scamper to safety.

    There’s more too it but the details are specific to my location. It would be boring to list them. Plus my supplies are limited. Can’t give it away too much.

  6. Go to the nearest jail and ask for shot guns with lots of ammo. Then, i’d try to lure the zombies into free jail cells with some meat or human bait. Once, they’re in the jail cells it’s time to shoot em up!

    If that doesn’t work, then you can always become one of them. Maybe being a zombie would be fun.

  7. I always assume that I will be one of the masses who loses out in any apocalyptic scenario so I plan on fully embracing my place among the undead. Upon my zombification I plan to immediately feast upon the leaders of the living to both further the cause of my zombie brothers and sisters and satisfy my long fantasized revenge upon our elected officials.

  8. What do you mean if the zombies attack? We fend off at least 2 zombie uprisings a month around these parts!

    We have a contingency plan in case they break through our defenses. Luckily, we haven’t needed it… Yet…

    We’re going to round up as many survivors as we can, and get them to Partridge Island. The breakwater is a perfectly defensible access point, which we can cut off if necessary by detonating a C4 charge rigged with a remote trigger.

    We’ve set up underground bunkers that can support a few hundred people, with enough rations to last at least 3 years. We’ve arranged to send sorties back into the city to scout reconnaissance, and gather supplies while we wait to hear from the outside world.

    It’s all very well thought out. I’d show it to you, if you had the security clearance. Unfortunately, I’ve already said too much…

  9. @Godless Steve:

    Since zombies’ primary food source is brains, perhaps you should worry more about not starving to death than on getting revenge. Politicians won’t be the best place to go for a satisfying meal, so attack them sparingly. Remember your priorities!

  10. It frightens me so that I have actually thought about this.
    I am not a hold up and wait it out proponent. It may be the safest thing if you are already trapped in a high population area but if you act quickly I believe evacuation to the countryside is a better stategy.
    When I was working in Kendall Square my nightmare had me making it the couple blocks to the Boston Science Museum and taking a duck boat up the Charles towards my Lincoln home. Then my family and I would head north to our summer camp in Bethlehem NH.
    Depending on the Zombie type, fast infected or slow mindless animated dead you may have different weapon types. Guns for infected assuming they will die or be incapacitated like the non affected. Slow already dead in the movies have to be crippled by attacking the limbs or head shots, or whacks. Either way a projectile and close quarters weapon will be useful.
    Questions: How long will an unattended nuke function, is there risk of it melting down? This really would change where you evacuate to.
    Food sources, as the established food supplies are used up, what next?
    Weather and Zombies, are adverse weather conditions a plus or minus for dealing with zombies?
    Waiting it out? Do Zombies rot until they stop having mobility? How long would that take?

    Like I said just way too much thinking about this.

  11. @catgirl:
    By no means to I intend to feed solely on politicians, I’m dead not suicidal. I’m sure their must be someone around to provide more nourishment. And if there isn’t just think of it as my final gift to both the living and the undead.

  12. My friend Katie is actually getting her doctorate in “Infectious Disease in Film and Literature”. That’s right: I will be friends with the only doctor in America qualified to handle a zombie invasion. So, obviously, at the first sign of the zombie apocalypse (a new series of Billy Mays’ Pitchmen, a new Michael Jackson album, etc.) I will call her and confirm that we are in the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.

    I plan on using her expertise in zombies and my expertise in yelling at things to yell one or two zombies into frightened submission and study them in the makeshift laboratory in my parents’ basement. Once I learn more about how they function and communicate, I can build an effective hypno-ray and hypnotize them into worshiping me.

    With my new zombie army, I shall rule the world.

    Mua ha.

  13. What kind of zombies are we dealing with here? If they are the traditional slow zombies, I plan to hang out with my handicapped friend and use her inevitable capture and consumption by zombies to escape. I’ll make my way north to Mackinaw Island provided it hasn’t already been overrun by zombies. I figure it’ll be pretty safe since zombies can’t swim (I think). I’ll just wait it out there eating fudge and shooting cannon balls off the fort wall at any overly ambitious zombies.

  14. Too general AI. The plan would depend on the type of zombie:

    -is the zombie condition an irreversible or a reversible condition? If reversible, what are the circumstances that trigger it? What are the time periods involved?
    -is it somehow daylight/night-time bound?
    -are zombies created by an infection or by black magic? If infection, what’s the timing and vehicle? If black magic, who’s the necromancer and what are his/her experience and spellcaster levels?
    -do these zombies spit acid, have toxic breath, show haunting abilities or generally carry curses?
    -do they have re-attachable limbs?
    -do they take double damage from fire?
    -what is their actual combat speed? (although it is generally assumed that most zombies are slower than humans, this needs not be true, a zombie horse under d20).
    -can they be expelled using divine magic? Do we have enough spellcasters? Is there any Level 30 Paladin in the area?
    -can these zombies be killed for good or are they the rise-again-and-again kind?

  15. I am president and founder of the Zombie Anti Defamation League ( and I object to any vitalist misinformation that may be spread by such hate-mongers as Max Brooks and his ilk.

    I refer you to my FAQ for the basics of zombriety, and hope to engage in productive discussions with anyone willing regarding our Post Vital friends.

  16. I will cleverly disguise myself as a brainless hedge, thereby escaping the attention of any brain-seeking zombies.

    I have invested great time in effort in perfecting my hedge mimicry.

    I am a Hedge

  17. The ZADL is saddened by the all the stereotypes and vitalist hate speech in this thread. Clearly, we have a great deal of work to do.

    Too often in films, popular culture, and news reporting are our post-vital friends depicted as mindless ghouls. We would hope in these enlightened times of the 21st century, that we can finally begin to rise above those vitalist stereotypes, and present a more honest and inclusive view of Zombies. This is the reason for the ZADL. We do not seek to cast aspersions upon you, but only to provide a voice, and educate people about the vitalist attitudes that pervade our culture.

    Words like “menace” and “undead” are considered distasteful to us, and we seek to change the dialog about Zombies by using more Zombie-conscious terms like “post vital.”

  18. I read the book as well. I loved it… I think I have a fixation on “apocalyptic” senarios… Namely cataclysmic impacts and zombie apocalypses and alien invasions… So, of course I loved the “Guide” and also Phil Plait’s “Death from the Skies.”

    There’s an running xkcd arc about the character obsessing over velociraptor entry points on buildings, and survival potential… I do that with zombies all the time as a little brain distraction..

    Gives me happy-heebie-geebies all over.

  19. The Dollar Tree where I used to work has a storeroom area that’s only accessible by a retractable ladder. There’s plenty of food up there in boxes and some projectile weapons.

  20. Reading takes too long, I’m going to learn how to survive the zombies by playing Left4Dead.
    Failing that I think I’ll be quite happy as a member of the horde.

  21. I live in an apartment building with crappy front doors, I wouldn’t survive a minute if I stayed here. So if the zombie apocalypse begins while I am at home, the plan is to run to the stairwell and get up on the roof (with camping gear, of course).

    I’ve give this way too much thought…

  22. :D

    A zombie-apocalypse is pretty much my dream future :)

    My course of action would depend on where I am when I get the news (or suspicion, or whatever). If I’m home, I’d suit up in heavy clothing, combat boots, leather jacket, motorcycle helmet&gloves, double/triple layer of jeans/cargo pants, grab a pack w/ basic minimalist camping gear, a few tools, and load up on the improvised melee weapons: machete, iron pipe, claw hammer, etc. Then I would head for the wilderness. Once I get far enough away from civilization, Ill keep heading deeper, and find myself a nice remote, defensible area where I can hole up and see how well I do living off the land.

    Most of my plans are some variant of this, basically get out of the population centers as quickly as possible, with some supplies and enough clothing/armor to protect me from human teeth/claws (not too terribly effective as weapons compared to what other critters carry…)

  23. I’ve read the book, it’s a good one, but I like to think I’ve seen enough zombie movies to know what works and what doesn’t. It’s seems at least half of the people die simply because they don’t know what a zombie is. Somebody dies and comes back as a zombie and someone is always there to give them a hug. Another large number of deaths are due to misunderstanding zombies, yes they are stupid, but just because you’re fast and smart doesn’t mean a zombie isn’t hiding in your trunk.

    As for my zombie survival plans, let’s just say they involve a shotgun, a chainsaw, and Bruce Campbell, Groovy Baby!!

  24. The available literature is not clear whether zombie limbs can continue to function independently of a zombie body, but we must assume they can. There are also reports of zombie animals, especially dogs. However, to my knowledge there is no record of previously cooked meats coming back as zombies. Therefore, the only sure way to stop a zombie is by heating them so as to denature their proteins. Nukes, microwaves (break away the door, defeat the failsafe, and be careful where you point it), flaming oil, and similar should acheive this.

    Also, despite having great strength, most reliable accounts depict zombies as lacking agility and coordination. Yes they can break down doors and windows and gates, but I have never seen one climb a wall or scale a cliff. Therefore, it is to be expected that the simple ditch-and-palisade defensive structure could hold off a zombie horde, assuming it is strongly constructed and that the inside is well provisioned for a protracted seige. On short notice, a good interim measure could be finding the nearest medieval castle and relying on foraging parties.

  25. Indeed, most of the casualties in zombie movies are due to somebody either:
    – doing something stupid like hugging a zombie who used to be a loved one
    – dropping their guard and being confronted by a zombie when not prepared to fight one off
    – or going stir crazy from shacking up at the mall for too long and running out, forgetting to lock the door behind them and thereby dooming everyone else they leave behind to share in their suicide attempt.

    If you can identify the people who are likely to exhibit any of these behaviors before it happens (and keep an eye on them), you’re probably one step ahead of most movies anyway.

    The downside to the great outdoors vs. the city: if you run out of gas halfway between your supply-place and your well-guarded residence, you’ll have a lot further to go before you find anything properly defendable against a small roaming band of zombies.

  26. Personally, I’m far more afraid of the hordes of panicking living people who’ve just figured out that the stores won’t be magically restocking any more. I’d say get far far away from any urban centres not because of the zombies, but because I don’t want to be where people who are faster/stronger/better armed than me are also trying to scavenge.

  27. Seems to me that a serving of Molotov cocktail would serve adequately to remove any zombies that get too close. That, a combat-grade shotgun and a few bandoliers of shells.

    Of course, having a short sword like a gladius (or similar edged weapon) would also be useful for close range fighting. A machete would do in a pinch, if it were sharened adequately. I don’t plan on letting them get that close.

    As far as escape, I live in a fairly rural area in the Shenandoah Valley, so the “hills and hollers “care nearby. I work on an Army base, so finding a defensible spot would be pretty easy. I might even be able to get to the armory for heavy weapons and MRE’s. Wouldn’t a flamethrower be awesome?

    This is a good exercise to think about in case of any major disaster/war scenario…

  28. Is not one of you skeptical of the Zombie stereotype? Do none of you see the difference between Zombies and Ghouls?

    *sigh* It is precisely because of this sort of thing that I do what I do. I feel so discouraged though, as if all my hard work means nothing.

  29. Alright, somebody needs to represent here. We zombies are a misunderstood lot.

    For starters, don’t listen to those stupid hippies at ZADL. I mean seriously, have a shower and get a fucking job! It’s bad enough that most pictures of zombies in the media always show the ones who wouldn’t know a bar of soap if it bit them in the ass. There’s no reason to feed the stereotype further.

    It is also wrong that we are slow, clumsy, and inarticulate. See, I’m typing in full sentences. You might be listless and speak poorly too if your food supply was as a crappy as ours.

    I ate the brain of an anti-vaxer the other day and I’m still scraping the rotting filth off my tongue. Would you run enthusiastically for your dinner if that was what was on the menu? The brains of homeopaths tend to be nice and moist from all the water they consume, but they are barely snack-sized. It’s slim pickings for us most of the time.

    And yeah, we can be a little cranky. You would be too if people were always trying to blow your head off with a shotgun.

  30. @TheCzech: Call us hippies if you want, but we’re fighting for you! We feel that Zombies don’t have to have casket deathstyles, and if they feel like being out and proud, then by all means they can be!

    Zombriety is non-discriminatory. People from all walks can be Zombies, from CEOs to Sanitation Engineers. There’s none of that hoity-toity elitism that vampires require.

    Remember, inside every living person is a dead one waiting to get out!

  31. @TheCzech, @Zapski:

    I certainly don’t mean any disrespect toward your people. After all, some of my closest friends are zombies. Or at least… used to be.

    We have nothing against you, or other respectable members of zombie society, including your local representative, Zurg, with whom you may be acquainted.

    All we ask, is that you help us keep the lumbering hoards on your own side of the armistice line. We recognize that Zurg has a commendable record keeping and providing for most of the zombie kind under his auspices, and we realize that it’s not always easy keeping the – shall we say – less eloquent members of zombie society in line. But any zombie found on our side of the armistice line without adequate documentation will be apprehended (alive, if possible… er… well… animate, at any rate). And any attack or attempted attack on civilians on our side of the line by any zombie, including, but not limited to biting, disemboweling, brain-eating, or dismemberment, will be met with deadly force.

    As for next weeks shipment of rotting carcasses, as per our agreement, I have received word that the shipment will arrive on schedule.

    If you have a problem with these terms, you can have Zurg file a grievance at the next municipal round table, which will be held a week from Thursday baring unforeseen circumstances.

  32. We are obliged to dismiss all the zombie propaganda recently spread in this blog. All these escalating zombie attempts to picture flesh-eaters and ghouls as people are an insult to intelligence and constitute a call for stricter control measures, far beyond the relatively peaceful shoot-on-sight low-intensity policy applied during the last decades.

    Reports of eaten babies, eaten girlfriends and rotten parents in zombie-populated areas have been increasing steadily. Studies also show an astonishing correlation between exposure to zombies and computer game addiction, which clearly indicates that zombies are trying to turn our children into their mindless counterparts through game infestation.

    In addition, zombies have been seen roaming streets and office buildings of all major USA cities at business hours and listening to their music, which is prohibited by current public health laws, monster transportation policies and monster sighting policies, as well as all the anti-alien directions approved after the release of the Alien movies.

    Grave as this is, however, the most unfortunate development of all these irresponsible zombie-empathic policies is the misguided attempt to turn into a semantic problem what constitutes a sociological issue affecting exclusively zombie communities.

    Zombie communities are known for their high unemployment rate, their poor health and sanitary conditions and their involvement in vandalism and damages to public property (with a particularly aggressive and obsessive tendency to assault old American cars that fail to start when their owners are in a hurry).

    The recent death of the zombie opinion leader Michael Jackson has shown the tremendous appeal that zombie lifestyle may have for the living and what a great threat it constitutes to general living public safety and human well-being, which is based on death-free bodies, fly-free meals and one-way-only cemetery admission rights. The latter constitutes a particularly sensitive issue for the living and irresponsible zombie propaganda encouraging our skeleton relatives to leave their graves after burial hours is a very negative influence on our young dead.

    We at the Federal Zombie Bureau strongly and stubbornly advocate for an out-of-cemetery partying ban and for a zero-tolerance zombie-free street cleaning policy. Please join our efforts by setting fire to all the zombies you encounter tonight and uploading the images to YouZomb.

  33. I would hole myself up in Home Depot or some other similar type store. Lots of tools that can be used to make weapons, plus they don’t usually have lots of windows/doors.

    On second thought, maybe a Costco would be better – same amount of space and lack of doors/windows, but there would be food in addition to tools. My plan has been upgraded.

    Also, please tell me you all have watched “Fido”.
    This movie made me happy. It’s one of the “Watch it Now” movies on Netflix if you have an account and want to laugh at fictional pet zombie awesomeness.

  34. Amanda – considering the number of electrical tools nowadays and the total lack of good ol’ fashioned human-powered tools, I’d say a lot of your drills and screwdrivers would be pretty useless once the battery section goes out of stock!

  35. @Amanda

    -Hey, Home depot is a pretty good idea… and it’s full of materials you could use to fortify it as well, and you may even be able to grow a garden to cover some of your food

    They should have the basic hand tools, and what they lack you could improvise/rig from other tools/machines. plus, I’m sure they have generators there as well (not sure about fuel though) and if that fails, could probably rig a compressor to be manually powered, fill an air tank, and use the air tools…

  36. @Amanda –

    you know, your absolutely brilliant… I’ve had this whole zombie/Home Depot thing rolling around in my head all day…

    first thing I would do would be to close all the doors/gates, grabbing arms from the landscaping/gardening section (I’m thinking of those billhooks :) )

    After that, like you said, go about fortifying, using plywood/2×4’s and hammer/nails, maybe even grab some pipe/bars and weld in some more permanent defenses.

    Once it’s secured, set up the gardening center for future food growth (live off candybars/pigeons till then) and see about securing a long-term water supply… maybe just a lot of tarps on the roof, funneling into storage chambers, or depending on the area and their rental tool section, maybe actually drill straight down for an indoor well…

    After that, Id set up living quarters over the shelving, or maybe on the roof, so if defenses are breached, I’m not killed in my sleep

    Then on building the catapults, ballista, flamethrowers, improv mortars, petrol bombs, etc.

    I’m sure there are interesting things to do with the riding mowers and forklifts as well…

  37. Amanda: Grimalkin is a fantastic name for a cat!

    Here’s my concern, though: Mightn’t a lot of people run for Costco/Home Depot? Not to mention all the people who were there when the zombie horde appeared to begin with. We’d get a situation like in Mist, for example, where you have the crazy religious nutter who starts talking about sacrificing people, and you have the idiots who need to prove their manliness by opening the loading dock door, and the panicking guy who throws a broom that is on fire onto someone else and not only kills that person but also nearly lights the whole place up.

    IMO, you can’t trust people – especially not in panic mode. Whatever benefit you might derive from tools, food, and all that may well be overshadowed by all the negatives of being around a whole lot of panicked people.

  38. With all the talk about Zombie preparedness planning there seems to be an underlying assumption that everyone will recognize a zombie when they see one.

    Better be sure!

    Check out this video: ‘Zombies in Plain English’ from the helpful folks at Common Craft. :)

  39. I worry about this a lot. Mostly I worry about how I’m going to gather my family together. The apocalypse is a lot less fun when you’ve got 30 miles of urban hell to traverse just to get the cast together.

  40. You all are going to look pretty foolish preparing for the zombie invasion. That’s sheer lunacy.

    Obviously, it’s going to be the giant alien bug horde that springs from their meteor/egg pods to take over the world. Zombies… sheesh

    On the other mandable… there are ways to protect you from zombies that work pretty well for bugs too.

    1) Large firearms that hold a lot of really big bullets
    2) napalm
    3) helmet
    4) converted missile silo
    5) All the Dorito’s and rum you can get your hands on.

    I also know a nut-job… er… prepared survivalist who lives about fifty miles from me. All I’d have to do is convince him I’m not a zombie….. or a bug….. or a lizard alien….. or a communist….. or a socialist…. or a Democrat…. or his ex-wife…. or from the IRS/ATF/DEA/DHS/FBI/CIA/Post Office/DMV/SPCA/The Military/Chicago PD/Fire Marshall/or the UW Badgers and I’m in.

  41. Most think of offensive weapons or hiding out. What about thick leather full body and head suit (think Pulp Fiction gimp) that zombie bites can not penetrate?

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