ATLANTIC CITY — Zombie popularity was evident Saturday as the walking dead took over the Boardwalk in front of Bally’s Atlantic City. The first Zombie Walk on the Boardwalk raised funds for the Humane Society of Atlantic County. It drew hundreds made up to look like flesh-eating humans, organizers said.

Make-up artist and film student Kate McMeans, who gave people fake wounds for $5 or the “full silicone FX Zombie treatment” for $30, thinks the attraction is because this monster is human.

“I think it’s that zombies are us. That’s the lure. It’s the fear of ourselves and the fear of the masses. We see the faces and think, ‘What if that happened to me.’”

It’s just a theory. Jen Hoopes, of Galloway Township, who waited in line to get make-up, had a darker view on zombies.

“I just read ‘Zombie Survival Guide.’ It could happen,” Hoopes said.

It seems like every week at the shore there is another zombie party, zombie mud run, zombie dog walk, or, as in the case of Asbury Park, assembling the most zombies at one place to set a world record. Some are saying zombies are more popular than vampires.

Donna Marie Eisele, who owns Haunted Tales, a fully animated theater on Kentucky Avenue, came up with the event idea.

“Zombies are hot right now. I think it’s because of ‘The Walking Dead’ television show. We’re going to ride the zombie wave,” said Eisele, of Northfield.

Participants received discounts at 32 businesses around town as they walked — arms outstretched, of course — the boards from Bally’s to the Hard Rock Cafe at the Trump Taj Mahal. Some won prizes in categories including best twins, best tattoo, best group, best baby, and, of course, best zombie. The best zombie even won a part in an upcoming movie, “Zombie Death Camp,” that Walking Dead Films plans to shoot in Wayne in January.

“The best make-up job today will also be doing make-up in the film,” announced Jason Koerner, of Walking Dead Films.

A cottage industry seems to have grown up around the zombie craze. Vendors at the event did make-up, sold “zombie accessories” and zombie portraits.

Ken Branch and Dan Nakrosis travel around the country to zombie events, even up into Canada, doing portraits where they take traits from a person and incorporate them into a zombie look. A keyboard player, for example, has ivory piano keys for teeth in his zombie portrait.

Branch said the craze is especially big with teenage girls.

“I’m not complaining. I’d rather draw a good-looking girl than a guy,” he noted.

The Zombie Walk seem to draw plenty of teenage girls but also families. Maggie Mnych and her 10-year-old daughter, Nicole, of Middlesex County, played a zombie bride and groom.

“My daughter really likes it. She likes scary — not evil scary, just scary,” father John Mnych said.

Some don’t even seem to know why they like it so much. Madison Robb, 11, of Gloucester County, spent two hours getting made-up to look like a zombie with her head on a dinner platter. Asked what the attraction was, the platter shrugged: “I don’t know,” she said.

Participants plucked down $20 to register for the prizes and discounts with part of the proceeds going to the Humane Society of Atlantic County.

“I think it’s fantastic. Everything we get is going to homeless cats and dogs to pay for their medical expenses,” society manager Shannon Bertino said.

Contact Richard Degener:


More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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