Walking with the Dead

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A hollow screech rose from the bloody mass that was slowly moving past Bacchus Restaurant & Bar. There was a rumble as dozens of hands touched the window, leaving streaks behind. It was Friday, April 8 when zombies invaded New Paltz.

A six-foot, burly, blood-covered man with a butcher’s apron loped along. Dragging a pipe and chain, the sound of metal on pavement echoed.

As cars drove down Main Street, the drivers slowed down to watch the un-dead stagger over the crosswalk toward P & G’s. A black station wagon stopped traffic for a few moments, the woman inside tightly gripping the wheel as she strained to see the blood-spattered ballerina or decaying prom king and queen.

For the second year in a row, Nick Anderson’s Zombie Walk was a success. Anderson, 21, of Marlboro, NY, said he was inspired by stories of zombie walks in Canada. Toronto holds one annually that attracts as many as 6,000 people.

Anderson organized the first one in New Paltz in March, 2010.

“New Paltz is the only place that would accept something like this,” he said, a chunk of skin ripped from his chin. Anderson said he chose this time of year because it’s halfway to Halloween.

The route started and ended across from Stewart’s on Route 32, crossed Main Street, and then circled back via Hasbrouck and Plattekill Avenue.

Anderson promoted the event on Facebook, as he did last year. He said that the actual turnout last year was closer to a hundred, but, originally, it was only supposed to be about 20 people. On this year’s event page there were 195 “attending” as of Friday night.

“I just posted it on Facebook,” he said. “And then my friends shared it, and that was it.”

It even reached two zombie children, Eamonn, 5, and Nora, 4, brought by their parents, Nadine Lewis-Bray, 32, and SUNY New Paltz Professor Gregg Bray of Port Ewen. Lewis-Bray said she received a Facebook invitation.

“We loved the idea of it being halfway between Halloween,” Nadine said. “The kids love any excuse to dress up.”

When people took pictures, both little zombies jumped into the action, growling and clawing towards the cameras, even getting on the hood of a car, pretending to attack the driver.

Susan Mason, 20, a second-year student at SUNY New Paltz, went even though she had other plans.

“I dressed as a fancy zombie so I could go to a fancy party afterwards,” she said. “I had a lot of fun last year, that’s why I’m here.” Mason wore a black dress with tattered tights, and a white cardigan streaked with blood. Leaves poked out of her tangled hair, and she had black eyes and bleeding lips. She said it took her an hour to get ready.

Many of the zombies said they spent at least an hour getting in costume.

Marc Ferguson, 25, of Wallkill, said it took him two hours to get ready with his special blood. A dead prisoner, in an orange jumpsuit, he was covered from head to toe it, but smelled surprisingly sweet.

“The blood is chocolate syrup, strawberry jelly, and strawberry jam,” he said. It had a thicker consistency and darker color than most fake blood, and certainly made the mouth water.

Another zombie, Felicia Carlino, 18, of Rhinebeck, used toilet paper, glue and a lot of eye shadow to create her decayed, festering look. She was putrid green, with bright red wounds, and the toilet paper gave her skin a visible texture. Carlino said it took around 45 minutes to do.

Despite the gore, there was no mass hysteria. Two zombies walked into Starbucks and the barista remained in the corner, wary of his new customers. Outside Cabaloosa, a staff member stood, with several others nearby, and watched. A group of young women outside Barnaby’s heckled the zombies.

Third-year student Peter Betts, 21, left Bacchus with a friend after they saw the zombies. Staying a few feet behind, Betts and his friend followed them for a short time.

“We were excited,” he said. “We wanted to know what’s going on and wanted to join them.”

Betts and his friend were the only ones to join in. New Paltz seemed unusually empty; a few places like the Cafeteria were unoccupied, and even P&G’s and McGillicuddy’s seemed quiet.

Next year, Anderson said that he and his friends want to push for local businesses to become involved. However, after Friday, Anderson will no longer be the brains behind the walk. He has plans to enlist in the Navy.

“I’m passing it on,” he said.

And, so, the zombies will wait for their new leader until they can infect New Paltz once again.

Natassia Donohue

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