Rise of the Zombies

Zombies are everywhere nowadays. You can’t turn around without bumping into one. They’re all over. What would my Monday Mayhem series be without them?

Cemetery
Cemetery

In 2013, hackers in Great Falls, Montana infiltrated KRTV’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) and broadcasted a dire warning to viewers—the zombie apocalypse had begun. A pulsating noise followed by a voice had drowned the audio to the regularly scheduled program. “Dead bodies are rising from their graves.” A blue bar at the top of TV screens ran the names of counties and areas affected by the event.

The announcement continued: “Follow the messages onscreen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

Local police reported viewers had called the station requesting information. What type of firearm can the citizens use against the roamers? Of course, the police took every call seriously even though folks had placed them in jest.

Abandoned Morgue
Abandoned Morgue

But has anyone ever asked if this scenario is actually possible? It’s all very well and fine that we know this whole thing was a hoax. Who in their right mind would take something like this and act on it is beyond me. However, several things stand out.

How did the hackers gain access to the EAS? Aren’t there security checks in place to prevent this kind of thing from happening? Who performs the yearly audit of the system? Shouldn’t someone have caught this vulnerability in deployment testing? If I were the affiliate station, I would certainly place a very concerned call to the FCC demanding a revamp of the system. Then again, I am Canadian, so my ramblings really don’t count.

More importantly, I’ll ask again, has anyone yet asked if a scenario such as this is possible?

My answer? No. A resounding no! Dead bodies rising from their graves makes for a cool horror flick but looking at it from the perspective of science can prove informative.

There’s this thing called Primary Flaccidity that occurs soon after death whereby every muscle in the body relaxes. Following this condition is Rigor Mortis, which takes place about three hours after death causing muscles in the body to stiffen. During this stiffening process, blood pools into larger veins discoloring the body giving it a pale look. This is called Livor Mortis or what embalmers call Postmortem Stain, for the bruise-like appearance of where the blood settles. The sequence by which the body stiffens tends to differ due to the variance with lactic acid levels in the muscles and glycogen levels in the different types of muscle fibers. Suffice it to say the process may begin with eyelids, neck and jaw. During the course of Rigor Mortis, the body cools in another process called Algor Mortis.

Within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, the body’s muscles relax again in Secondary Flaccidity. Within a week, the abdomen swells with gas produced by bacteria in the body. Skin blisters appear. Within two weeks, abdomen tightens and swells further. Within three weeks, organs and cavities burst. Nails fall off. Within a month, skin liquefies making the body unrecognizable.

It’s pretty morbid but fascinating nonetheless.

Anyway, getting back to the scenario of dead bodies rising from their graves in a maelstrom invasion of sorts—impossible. That is, impossible if the bodies hadn’t gone through decomposition. It would mean every body rising in every grave had to have died within minutes of each other and rise just before Rigor Mortis stiffened the muscles, Livor Mortis pooled the blood, Algor Mortis cooled the flesh, and Secondary Flaccidity prepped the abdomen for exploding organs.

Doesn’t make sense to me. If the reports from Montana were true, they’d of had skeletons roaming the streets and not bodies.

What does make sense, though, is an invasion born of the living, much like the post Zombie Apocalypse: Revisited I’d written regarding the origins of such an event.

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What do you think? Is a Zombie Apocalypse possible from bodies rising from the graves? Where does science fit in all this?

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9 thoughts on “Rise of the Zombies

  1. Jack, this is probably one of the most informative and also grossest posts you’ve made in a while (which is to say that it was a great one but I’m just glad I ate dinner a few hours ago). On the topic of things icky and interesting regarding dead bodies, I highly recommend the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach if you haven’t already read it. Nonfiction and all strangely true, it is also quite informative, oddly amusing, and yes, sometimes a wee bit gross. 🙂

  2. My fear of a zombie apocalypse is pretty nonexistent (that is to say, the evidence base is very, very low). Still, if you suspend your disbelief really, really far . . . In any case, this is a great primer on the stages of death, Jack. I’m sure the Google police are okay with you searching all those ‘weird’ concepts! 🙂 But seriously, it is fascinating, if stomach-churning, and makes for great fiction. It reminds me of the “Frankenstein Chronicles,” which my husband and I recently watched; in terms of re-animation of the newly dead through electricity, that seemed somewhat more plausible than, as you said, the long-dead somehow rising from their graves, when there would be little to no material substance to some of them. And why they’d have a hunger for human flesh? Why they’d be motivated to do anything? You’d think, if they had the basic instinct to eat, they’d have a desire for self-preservation and/or, somehow, making themselves alive again.

  3. Oh, Jack, you’re making the mistake of analysing the science using classical physics and not quantum mechanics. You need to consider the corresponding existence in other dimensions, the potential confusion following the collapse of a superposition and the possibility that zombies, like vampires, can be a form of Janome (copyright Yves Surnier and Diana May Ronson) in that paranormal figures are the anti-matter versions of the original and not subject to the same laws of physics…

    I could go on.

  4. Actually death is not kind. You lose the ability to hold in your crap and poop in your pants, urinating on yourself and smell really bad. The graveyard would reek but the zombies do not smell therefore they do not smell their own stink. And that sir, is the good part. It gets worse as the eyeballs come out of the sockets and therefore they do not see. They have no live nerves and therefore they do not sense feelings. Emotions are zero and why they are hungry for flesh makes no sense. They pass KFC and go after the employees? They do not raid circle K but eat the people who have gas going for gas? Zombies are not rational.

  5. I think the CDC has a zombie plan, but that could be an urban legend. I think the chances of a zombie apocalypse are zero. I’d be more scared of technology turning on us. Then again, if something is done that revitalizes the bodies enough to bring it back to ‘fresh corpse’ levels then it could be something to fear. Kind of like with vampires needing blood to look human. Zombies would need to ingest living flesh and blood to keep their own body functional.

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