Zombie Shuffle 2011

As many are aware, zombies gather in hordes and shuffle through city streets on an annual basis, sometimes even more frequently.  2011 was the first time I’d really heard about this phenomena, so I set out to make a photographic record of the Melbourne Zombie Shuffle.

The annual Melbourne Zombie Shuffle takes place around Halloween every year. The zombies shuffle through the city down to the park, lurching their way through ranks of valiant defenders. The event attracted so many photographers that some of the best action was almost impossible to shoot: photographers were in the way. The costumes were amazing. Next year I hope all the defenders will let me know where they are stationed so I can try to get photos at every stage… before the zombie invasion destroys the humans.

I’m not sure whether it’s true or an urban legend, but I heard a great story of the origins of zombie shuffles.  Some role-playing sword fighting people were doing their thing in a park in Canada and some other people thought they’d stir them up.  The stirrers dressed as zombies and shuffled up to overwhelm these human swordsmen.  A great time was had by all, and shuffles were born.

As always, please either comment, DM me or email me to tag or remove photos.  Happy Shuffling.

Melbourne Zombie Shuffle

First published in Dark Matter issue 6
I’m not sure what rock I’ve been hiding under, but this is the first year I’ve heard of zombie shuffles. They seem to be a world-wide phenomenon, with official ‘shuffles’ in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Toronto, New York, Reno, Paris and more.

Actually I think I know why I wasn’t aware of the zombie shuffle – I don’t like most horror (Underworld is about as far as I enjoy ‘horror’), and I really don’t like zombies. Looking at good zombie makeup makes me feel squeamish. So when people have mentioned zombie shuffles, I think it sank in far enough to make sure I wasn’t there. This year, for the sake of DMF, I boldly went where no DMF editor had gone before. When I saw really good zombie makeup and costumes I just reminded myself it wasn’t real, told myself not to focus on the image in front of me but to focus on taking photos instead. It mostly worked. I didn’t throw up, I managed to eat dinner and I didn’t have any nightmares.

The word on Facebook was to meet by 1pm in a park, then walk through the city. Another page on Facebook gave me the heads up that a group of Swordcraft (LARP players) humans were going to make a valiant stand to defend the City of Melbourne against the ravening hordes of zombies. This stand was to be on the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets. Thus my plans for the day were laid.

Travelling in to the city by train, the minion and I spotted a number of zombies shuffling towards the city. In Melbourne Central there were zombies in the toilets and zombies in the food court – the invasion had begun.
I arrived at Carlton Gardens well before 1pm and wandered around for over an hour taking photos. The costumes varied immensely from cute little girls to the grotesque, from Lego men to Minecraft zombies, there was something for everyone. A lot of zombies were the 99%, wanting to #occupybrains.

I’m quite annoyed that I didn’t even see, let alone photograph, some awesome costumes while other photographers took photos in that same park. Sigh. Thank you for sharing your photos on Facebook. Where I’ve used other people’s photos, I’ve given credit. Where the photographer isn’t mentioned, it’s me. Photos are not only in this article but they’re scattered through DMF, especially at the ends of book reviews where there are lovely big white spaces that needed filling in.

Just before 2 pm I took off down the road to hook up with the Swordcraft people to make sure I got good photos of the defence of humanity. I followed some official-looking zombies in reflector jackets carrying sprayers that looked suspiciously like the kind non-green people might use on weeds. Eventually they disappeared and I didn’t see them again, so I’m not sure what they got up to with what I assume was a kind of weapon in the invasion.

I raced down to Flinders Street Station in the hope of meeting up with the Swordcraft people. When I got there, I couldn’t see any knights or rogues or anyone, but I did see more zombies. I bowled up to a small group of zombies and asked if they had seen the Swordcraft people. Blank looks. Zombies aren’t known for their brains, I guess. I explained that the Swordcraft people are LARP players (Live Action Role Playing people = games with swords and shields) and a human contingent was planned to defend against the zombie invasion. The zombies got very excited, and started yelling about what they’d do to the humans in this war. Realising the Swordcraft people had gone up Swanston Street ahead of me, I took off back the way I came but on the other side of the very busy street. I caught up to them in the nick of time. They had reached the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets, heading up Swanston. Nooooo!!! The minion pulled out a map, showing the planned route of the zombies, so the humans stayed on that corner, setting up their lines while waiting for the imminent zombie invasion.

Innocent bystanders, attracted by the sight of knights in armour, were curious, waiting to see what was going to happen. By the time the zombies came into view, there were a number of spectators with cameras out. The zombies lurched and roared into the fray, attacking the humans who defended themselves with shield and sword and spear. The sheer weight of numbers was on the side of the zombies, however, whose fallen also lurched back to their feet after being hacked down. The valiant defenders of humanity were eventually overpowered and, infected with the zombie virus, lurched off down the road.

By this time the shuffle was in full swing, so I stayed where I was, taking photos of as many as possible. This was not a good location for photography: there was too much competition with other photographers stepping in front of my camera. Shoppers, some of whom were irate to the point of abusiveness, were careless of personal space as they shoved their way through solid people instead of walking around. Some were even verbally abusive. I couldn’t help but feel that this was a war between two classes of zombies, those in zombie makeup and those with the alternate virus of rampant consumerism coupled with a complete lack of humour.

I found the remainder of the shuffle to be incredibly physically and mentally exhausting, so my plan for next year is to move further down the road. Later I discovered images on the internet where other groups had set up lines of defence against the zombies that would have been great to capture for DMF. Also, further down Swanston Street there were other locations that looked to have more space and less shoppers, thus being better for photography. Even further down the road, where the shuffle opened up onto the park, looked much more relaxed with more space for photographs. Well, we live and learn, and this was my very first zombie shuffle.

Next year I hope everyone will let me know where their lines of defence are, and I’ll visit everyone on my way to the park. Unlike this year when I took my weary and sore body off home as soon as the last wave of zombies passed.