For you, the informed adult concerned about the coming Zombie Apocalypse, Halloween can be a gut check. Nevertheless, you don’t have to dread it: costumes, free candy, and parties are celebrations of life and a thumbing-of-the-nose at grim death. Have fun this year. Take the kids out trick-or-treating. Throw a party. Dress up as your favorite character, so long as it doesn’t perpetuate negative stereotypes regarding gender, race, religion, or culture. (You wouldn’t want to send a sensitive college student into years of therapy for a few laughs, would you? After all, our young people are the future.) Just keep a few things in mind that will maximize your safety.
A Supernatural/Magical Zombie Apocalypse is more likely at this time of year than any other. Halloween is when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, making it easier for unquiet spirits to cross over from Purgatory to the land of the living.
- Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things: Stay away from graveyards at all costs. A dead body buried in unhallowed ground can be an attractive vessel for ghosts seeking a return to life (or unlife, as it were). It may be traditional to hold Halloween parties at cemeteries, but as a cautious, undead-averse citizen you know that the best way to avoid being killed by zombies is to not be where there are going to be large numbers of them.
- The Craft: Stay away from practitioners of the occult, and don’t dabble in it yourself. Just like you wouldn’t play with matches near a gas station, getting out the Ouija board to see if you can contact a random spirit from the Great Beyond on Halloween is a terrifically bad idea.
To most of us, Halloween means dressing up as someone or something else. The continuing popularity of zombies in modern American culture means that there are going to be many people shuffling around outside at night looking like hungry undead. One of the worst things you could do is blow an innocent living person’s head off with your trusty Glock 19 because he made the unfortunate choice of wearing a realistic costume. So it’s up to you to make sure you can tell the difference between a zombie and a person dressed up as a zombie.
- The Scent of Blood: Because any true zombies active at this time of year are most likely Supernatural Zombies, they’re probably going to be more rotten, and hence smell a lot worse than a fresher Viral Zombie. Putrefaction has a scent all its own, and the vast majority of zombie poseurs, even the most hardcore, won’t go the extra mile of smearing rotting meat on their bodies to complete the costume.
- The Naked and the Dead: Clothing and funeral cerements tend to rot in the grave, and the effort of breaking through a coffin and digging out from six feet of earth tends to destroy burial garments. It’s extremely unlikely that someone will shuffle around town with his private parts exposed to the wind as part of his zombie costume (though you can’t entirely rule that out these days).
- Body Parts: It’s easy to apply white, green, red, and gray splotches of makeup on your face, dress up in torn clothing, limp around, make pitiful moaning noises, and call it a zombie costume. But you can’t fake a truly skeletal hand with missing flesh over moving, bony digits.
The most important thing is to make 100% certain of your target before shooting. That smelly, grunting, half-naked guy shuffling toward you might be a homeless person, not an undead creature. Don’t shoot until you know beyond a shadow of doubt that the zombie in your sights is a true monster. If necessary, call out verbal commands. Even the most “in-character” zombie actor will fill his trousers and stop approaching at the sight of a drawn gun and a proper command to freeze.
Just take behavior and appearance in aggregate before acting on a perceived threat. What’s unacceptable the other 364 days out of the year can be the norm on Halloween. Use common sense. Real zombies don’t ring doorbells looking for candy: they’ll try to break the door down. Keep an eye out, make sure your children are safe, and have a good time this year. I can’t speak to the specifics, but I’m quite certain that next year you’ll have more pressing concerns than buying the economy bag of Snickers or Clark bars for the neighborhood kids. Be prepared at all times.