WEIRD NEWS
05/11/2011 05:16 am ET Updated 3 days ago

May Is Zombie Awareness Month

If you weren't aware that May is Zombie Awareness Month, you may be part of the problem and not the solution.

This marks the fourth year Zombie Awareness Month has been held, and according to Matt Mogk, the founder and head of the Zombie Research Society, the official sponsor of the campaign, it's needed now more than ever.

"Zombie Awareness Month is designed to make people more aware of the coming zombie plague," Mogk told AOL Weird News. "It's getting bigger each year and this year, the focus is on helping children become aware."

The reason May was chosen instead of, say, Halloween, is that major zombie films like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead" are set in spring.

One way that people can show their support is by wearing a gray ribbon, but Mogk is hoping to target the nation's youth via a new children's book, "That's Not Your Mommy Anymore" (Ulysses Press), that he describes as "Dr. Seuss Meets 'Night of the Living Dead.'"

The book explains the implications of the impending Zombie Apocalypse with verses like:

When she's clawing at the kitchen door,
that's not your Mommy anymore.
When her face looks like an apple core,
that's not your Mommy anymore.

Mogk claims he's dead serious about staying alive and insists zombies could take over the world any minute -- or not.

"It's not like the Doomsday Clock that marks how close we are to a global disaster by setting the time between 11:45 and midnight," Mogk said. "I could say it's '11:55,' but we could wake up and see zombies tomorrow.

"This is more like an earthquake. Scientists say that we're due for a major quake, but it could happen tomorrow or in 100 years. We will never know when it will happen until it does. And then we won't have to time to react, it will just be run and scream time."

Mogk and the rest of the Zombie Research Society board, which lists "Night of the Living Dead" director George A. Romero and Dr. Steven Schlozman, Co-Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, among its members are trying to use the rest of May to heighten awareness and prepare for the worst.

"New Jersey probably has it the worst," Mogk lamented. "It has the highest population density combined with the lowest percentage of gun ownership -- around 12.9 percent.

"On the other hand, Wyoming has a low population density, a high percentage of gun owners and the topography gives non-zombies a fighting chance."

Mogk says that since 88 percent of the U.S. population lives near cities, a potential zombie outbreak could lead to huge traffic jams of people trying to escape, such as the 100-mile one that occurred when Hurricane Rita hit the shores of Texas in September, 2005.

Mogk realizes that others may use Zombie Awareness Month as an excuse for a celebration. It doesn't thrill him, but he tries to see the other side.

"I don't like zombie walks myself, but they do raise awareness," he said, adding that he hopes to use the next 30 days to dispel the public's misconceptions about the ravenous creatures.

"All research suggests that zombies don't eat brains," he said. "That was only started in 'Return of the Living Dead,' a 1980s parody film.

"Honestly, it doesn't make sense. If zombies ate brains, then their victims wouldn't be able to become zombies and that, of course, is the real threat. Plus, the human jawbone can't bite through a skull."

It looks like Zombie Awareness Week is catching in some circles.

Harcos Labs, a Los Angeles-based company that markets "Zombie Jerky," a novelty product that its makers are quick to declare is made from zombies (or "cows"), not for zombies sold out its first batch right before the month and is rushing to make more to fill the ravenous demand.

In addition, two business reporters, Lisa Desjardins and Rick Emerson are capitalizing on the monthlong event by releasing "Zombie Economics" (Avery), a business book that promises to help the reader "slay your bills, decapitate debt and fight the apocalypse of financial doom."

Despite all the zombie hype, not everyone is aware of Zombie Awareness Month, even a true "zombie expert" like Arnold Blumberg, who teaches a class on zombies in popular culture at the University of Baltimore in Maryland.

"You contacting me was the first I heard about 'Zombie Awareness Month,'" Blumberg told AOL Weird News. "I feel left out of the loop; what's an internationally recognized zombie expert to do?"

"From what I understand it's being sponsored by one particular group, so it may not be very widespread, but it's just another great example of how this topic captures the imagination for so many people," he said.

Although Blumberg enjoys discussing how zombie-themed entertainment reflects society's thoughts and fears, he admits the segment of fandom that wants to treat it as if it's real, even in role-play, is not something he's comfortable with.

"I think it's a far more effective way to explore how zombie storytelling reflects our culture by looking at it for what it is -- fiction -- rather than pretending as if we should be fortifying our homes for the coming apocalypse," he said. "I think it's at least an indication that with the real world becoming more and more chaotic and threatening, people feel a need to play out end-of-the-world scenarios from the safety of a metaphorical structure. Zombies fulfill that for us very well."

Blumberg feels zombies reflect the fears of terrorism, of biological infection, and the sense that our civilized society is one or two steps away from total collapse.

"By playing out 'zombie apocalypse' scenarios, some people can process those feelings and get the catharsis they need, and there's nothing wrong with that," he said.

As for how seriously Mogk takes the zombie threat, it seems that he has his tongue firmly in cheek -- at least until a zombie pulls it out for a snack. Still, Mogk, who claims he learned survival skills while serving in the French Foreign Legion, points out that there is real value preparing for a zombie outbreak.

"All the steps suggested for preparing for a zombie attack -- such as saving water and non-perishable food -- will hold you well for any type of disaster," he said.