The hidden dangers of Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween, and by now, I’m sure you’ve read or heard many safety tips concerning this fun-filled holiday. Wear reflective tape. Only trick-or-treat at houses you are familiar with. Throw away any loose or open treats.

But there is one safety concern which hasn’t been talked about much, but which everyone should be aware of before heading out Halloween night.

Zombies.

I know what you’re thinking — zombies aren’t limited to coming out on Halloween, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the word out about this ever-present threat. Werewolves and vampires have been getting all the press in the past few years, and protections against such creatures have become widely known. But zombies are just as dangerous — perhaps even more so — and one should take any and all precautions necessary to protect yourself and your family from becoming one of the flesh-eating undead.

Historical films such as Night and Return of the Living Dead and more recent docudramas like 28 Days Later and Zombieland show that there are two basic types of zombies. The first is the slow-shuffling, brain-craving zombie. These are considered the least dangerous, as they are easily escapable by running in the opposite direction, or putting on some early ’80s Michael Jackson, which will compel the zombie or zombies to break out into a choreographed dance routine and distract them long enough for you to make your escape.

It is important to be able to tell these zombies from other creatures which exhibit similar symptoms. For instance, a mummy has nearly the same shuffling gait and lack of hygiene as the zombie but is easily distinguished by the rotting bandages wrapped around his body. The zombie’s incoherent ramblings and lack of rational thought can easily be confused with the behavior of most politicians. It is important to know the difference in order to choose the appropriate weapon to combat such menaces. You wouldn’t want to attack a zombie with a voting ballot, for instance.

The second type of zombie is the one you should really be worried about. They are quick, agile and possess an insatiable appetite for human flash. Unlike their slower cousins, which are usually nothing more than re-animated corpses, these more-evolved zombies are actually biologically-infected humans, who contracted zombieism after being bitten by another infected person. Once bitten, the victim has anywhere from a few minutes to several hours before the overwhelming urge to consume the flesh of the non-infected overrides higher brain function. This is cause for concern, as the rapid spread of the zombie disease can easily lead to an outbreak of global proportions, which scholars refer to as a “zombie apocalypse.” The number of infected will quickly overwhelm the general population, leaving only pockets of survivors trying to eke out an existence inside boarded-up homes with (hopefully) stockpiles of shotguns and canned goods. This should be avoided at all costs.

Though the above scenario may seem like something out of a B-movie, I can assure you, the threat is very real. A zombie attack was averted last January in Austin, Texas, when a small group of freedom fighters hacked into a road sign to warn motorists with the message, “Caution! Zombies ahead!” And earlier this month, the University of Florida added a disaster preparedness plan in the event of zombie attack to the university Web site, which included useful information on how to spot signs of zombie infection and a form for university employees to fill out after dispatching an infected coworker.

So as you venture out this Halloween, be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for pedestrians. Take note of the houses that give out the good candy for repeat visits. And, at the first sound of strange moaning, your companion’s appetite for flesh, or other flu-like symptoms, leave the area immediately. Board up all doors and windows to your home. Take inventory of any weapons available that are capable of dispatching zombies — baseball bats, shotguns, flame-throwers. Ration the Halloween candy collected, as it may be days, even weeks, before it will be safe enough to venture outside for supplies. And if you happen to have a suit of chain mail handy, wear it at all times to help protect against being bitten.

Have a safe and happy Halloween — and with any luck, a zombie-free night.

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