On the surface, the words "zombic sociology" seem to be the ultimate oxymoron. It was long thought that zombies were incapable of social interaction beyond determining whether or not the person before them was human or zombic. To make matters worse, their catatonic state meant they weren't able to offer any personal testimony to abet empirical findings. Nevertheless, modern researchers have uncovered a surprisingly complex social order among zombies, an overview of which is presented here (many thanks to Waxman Himmelburger for his assistance).
Unlike vampires, newly-transformed zombies have little to no acclimation period. They do possess and are able to access memories, but there is none of the nostalgia or pining for the past often found in vampires. Memories allow zombies little more than a rough sense of geography. A nascent zombie might try to return to its home, but the trip is motivated by hunger rather than nostalgic yearning. Relatives of such individuals often make the mistake of trying to help their diseased loved ones, and soon find themselves joining the ranks of the undead.
The Hunting Pack
Using their prodigious sense of smell to lead the way, newly-risen zombies will instinctively gravitate to other members of their kind, making solitary individuals very rare. Such packs are typically much larger than their vampiric counterparts: within days of an outbreak, mobs made up of dozens of zombies will have formed. While vampires form packs to improve their hunting capability, it is actually detrimental for zombies to group together, as it makes them more conspicuous while limiting feeding opportunities. Zombic researchers believe that the pack fulfills some primal need for community and connection.
While hunting, zombies are all business—but in moments of repose, they show evidence of affection: they will cluster together and rest against each other; even show particular warmth towards child zombies. Within the pack, zombies will assemble themselves into approximations of family units, with children, parents and grandparents huddling together.
Stage III zombie; 1954|
Courtesy: Coroner's Office;
Macon County, Georgia
There is a pecking order in a zombie pack, although it is much more subtle than with vampires. A group of stronger, quicker zombies will take the lead in hunting and eat first, and any rival who disrupts their feeding will be dealt with viciously. Weaker pack members seem to accept their fate and try to make the best of it. While vampires often use their cunning to improve their standing in the pack, zombies are relatively guileless. However, they all possess a chilling single-mindedness when it comes to hunting. While vampires have been known to succumb to malnutrition because they lacked the stomach for hunting, there is no such thing as a cowardly zombie.
Hunting: Zombies show a surprising adaptability when it comes to hunting. Contrary to popular opinion, they are observant and fast learners. A newly-transformed zombie may stagger around mindlessly for a few days, but once it joins a pack its learning curve rises sharply. Since they cannot speak, zombies communicate using gestures and wordless vocalizations. A favorite hunting strategy is to have a few pack members drive prey towards an area where many others are hiding.
The cooperation zombies show in hunting generally vanishes when they start eating, as they can seriously wound one another during a feeding frenzy. Hungry zombies leave nothing but the bones, which they break open to get to the marrow and brains. Well-fed zombies will stick to these nutritious parts, leaving the rest of the viscera for the weaker members of the pack. Only in times when the food supply is plentiful will a zombie share.
Photograph of a live Stage I zombie taken|
in a motel bathroom sometime during the 1960s.
Note the ghoulish smile as it stares
down the photographer.
Their voracious appetite begs the question: if zombies consume entire corpses, how do they manage to increase their numbers? Perhaps an outbreak's most important method of growing lies in a victim's ability to escape after sustaining an infectious injury, along with the fact that zombies will commonly abandon downed prey to chase after healthy survivors. There is also some debate as to whether zombies will, like vampires, occasionally seek to increase their numbers. This theory is backed up by the fact that zombies will sometimes consume only the legs of a victim, leaving everything else mostly intact so the person can survive and transform. Furthermore, when a victim falls into a zombic coma, any zombie who comes across the person will usually leave them alone until they fully turn. If not, they'll only take a few bites out of them and walk away.
Unlike vampires, zombies have a very limited range. While the former can move quickly and tirelessly, covering up to 20 miles in one night, a zombie is lucky to cover a few miles in 24 hours. What they do share in common, however, is that a given swath of real estate can only support so many zombies. For these reasons, zombism outbreaks tend to be self-regulating. A plague will usually start fast, hit a plateau, then die out quickly as food supply diminishes. On average, such outbreaks tend to be over within a week or two.
Agents looks over the remains|
of a home in which 24 zombies
were found and destroyed.
For the zombie, home is nothing more than a safe place to rest before the next hunt. Whether holing up in an abandoned building or a fully furnished house, they make no effort at decoration or comfort. As for the finer things in life, zombies do respond to music: a favorite song will cause them to move their bodies in a kind of stiff-limbed dance. They've even been known to hold onto one another while silently moving their lips to the lyrics.
Since zombies can go out in the daylight, their choice of hideouts is somewhat more varied than that of a vampire. For example, while the latter must find a cave or construct a crude hovel before the sun rises, a zombie can simply rest against a tree in the woods. However, because they lack the vampire's supreme adaptability, zombies rarely proliferate in urban areas. They do much better in the country, where they can disappear into the landscape.
Hygiene: Unlike vampires, zombies are not sophisticated enough to infiltrate crowds and public places. Thus, there is no need for them to practice personal hygiene. They will wear their clothes until they are in soiled tatters.
While vampires are predominantly males in the 18 to 35 age group, zombies come from all over the demographic spectrum. The average zombie is 55 years old, and females outnumber males. A disproportionate number of the elderly and infirm are found in zombic populations for the simple reason that they are less able to flee during an attack.
As for mortality and lifespan, the zombie faces an even bleaker prognosis than the vampire—rare is the zombie who lives even one year. The two leading causes of death have always been extermination by zombie hunters, and malnutrition (often due to injuries sustained in fights with other zombies).
Continue to Zombic Mythology
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