by Uptin Saiidi, with reporting by Brittany Breen
Thousands of walkers claimed the Jersey Shore boardwalk over the weekend in Asbury Park during the 2011 Zombie Walk. The event, in its fourth year, was started by Jason Meehan, 30, who admits it started out of pure jealousy.
“A friend went to a Zombie Walk in Atlanta and I really wanted to find an event like that around where I lived in NJ," he said. "I realized there wasn't anything like it… [and] the rest is sort of history!”
Last October, the event took the record of the world’s largest gathering of zombies with 4,093 participants. While Guinness wasn’t present this year, the event organizers say more than 12,500 attendees were present.
Creator Meehan believes zombies are gaining popularity because they have a mass appeal. “Zombies sort of have that ‘every man’ feel to them, and with video games like Plants vs. Zombies and dramas like 'The Walking Dead' they aren't just for horror fans ... everyone can relate to feeling like a zombie at least sometimes.”
In attendance were actors who’ve appeared on “The Walking Dead” including Keisha Tillis, Addy Miller and Travis Charpentier. Tillis, who sat at a booth doing a fan meet-and-greet, credits the show with much of the recent craze.
"'The Walking Dead' gave zombies a new rush," said Tillis. "It shows a new generation of zombies that we haven't seen before."
Zombie-fans thrive on the freedom that lets them leave much to the imagination which keeps people like Tillis invested in her role: "There obviously has been no scientific research on zombies, so it leaves the audience open to guess. Do zombies feel? Do they think? We don't know!"
While zombies continue to gain in popularity, some wonder if they’ll ever become as big as the latest vampire-craze. Second-time walker, Sally Cantrino, 21, dressed as a zombie with bloody wounds and rotting flesh, thinks they ultimately have different priorities.
"I don't think zombies can replace vampires, but they definitely are giving them a good fight," said Cantrino. "Vampires are too romantic. Zombies don't fool around with romance. They don't have time."
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