*Names have been changed to protect zombies’ identities
HUMOUR — “Humans seem to forget that zombies are people too,” Terry Gilchrist says.“We’re just undead.” Gilchrist, 37, is the founder of Zombies Are People (ZAP), a support group for zombies struggling with social anxiety and identity issues. “We want to give zombies a safe space to talk about their insecurities, and to see that they’re not alone,” he says. Long-time ZAP member Nick Eggleston, 57, says, “Gaahhhggghhhhhhhnnnnnn.”
ZAP focuses on building a positive self-image. Popular media has featured zombies frequently in recent years, in movies such as World War Z, Zombieland, and 28 Days Later, and the TV show The Walking Dead (based on the popular graphic novel series). Gilchrist thinks that the media portrays zombies in a negative light. “They make us seem like mindless killing machines—which is not true. We have minds—they’re just infected with a virus that tells us to kill,” Gilchrist says.
“It would be nice to see zombies as protagonists,” Gilchrist says, “I don’t see why a zombie can’t star in a TV show—look at /Hannibal/. The lead character is a cannibal, and we’re basically re-animated cannibals.” Gilchrist is careful to point out that although the media’s portrayal of zombies is less than desirable, zombies do appreciate the influx of work they’ve received in the film industry in the past decade. “Those acting jobs are great for our community. It sucks when Hollywood actors are made up as zombies, because they’re taking away potential gigs from real zombies—although Bill Murray was pretty great as a zombie. Bill Murray is awesome,” said Gilchrist.
The typical ZAP group session starts with guided meditation, followed by discussion. “We also do trust falls, which don’t always work so well,” Gilchrist says. “Some of the zombies’ limbs are very loosely attached, so we usually end up with some extra parts lying around.”
In addition to providing a safe space for zombies to talk—or groan—ZAP promotes a healthy lifestyle. “Our motto is ‘be the best zombie you can zom-be,’” Gilchrist says. “Just because you’re undead doesn’t mean you can’t take care of yourself.” Gilchrist doles out tips on dieting and exercise. “You’ve heard of the slow food movement, right? It’s healthy for humans, but for zombies, fast food is best. The more you have to run to catch and eat someone, the better,”said Gilchrist.
ZAP also holds events outside of group therapy sessions. “We just had our first potluck last Tuesday,” said Gilchrist, “And when I say potluck, I mean we met outside The Goat and Hawk Pub, and chased down passersby. You know, on second thought, we should’ve called it a Pub Crawl.” The group is also set to start a tag tournament next month.
ZAP meets every Thursday from 7−8 p.m. in the abandoned church on Wellington Avenue. “Well, it wasn’t abandoned until the group started meeting here,” Gilchrist says. “We sort of scared people off.” Refreshments are available (coffee and danish), and zombie-allied humans are welcome (not as refreshments).