Most zombie survival plans involve trying to hide behind zombie-proof defences. While this might seem like a good idea, there’s two problems with it. The first is that the zombies will inevitably be drawn to your presence and will eventually overwhelm your defences once their numbers become sufficiently great. The second is that you’ll eventually run out of food then be forced to go outside to find more and the zombies will be there, waiting for you.
But what would happen if you could somehow protect yourself so that you could simply walk amongst the zombies? I know what you’re thinking: that’s pure madness, it would never work. Yet, there’s a number of precedents out there, with good scientific justifications, which suggest it might be possible.
The first is to build zombie-proof armour which would mean that even if they attacked you, they couldn’t actually bite, injure or infect you. I’ve already provided instructions on this blog on how to built makeshift zombie-proof armour using duct tape, and there are many other possible options based on Kevlar, space suits, diving gear etc. The only problem is, the zombies will still know you’re there and you risk getting pinned down by a horde of the rotters, and if that happens you’ll either be suffocated by the weight of the undead piling on top you, or you’ll starve to death because you can’t move. Either way, death won’t be quick, but it will be inevitable. So zombie-proof armour might work in the short-term, but it’s not a good long-term solution.
The second option is to try to act like the undead. Shuffling slowly towards them and moaning might fool the zombies into letting you passed (it certain worked for Shaun and his friends in the film Shaun of the Dead), but this relies on a number factors. The first is you’d have to be a good enough actor to be convincing, which I suspect few would be able to do. The second is that you’d need to keep it up for long periods of time, and the chances are eventually you’d slip, leading to a painful and messy end. Thirdly, it requires that zombies only recognise humans by sight and not by other senses such as smell (see this post for more information about how zombies know you’re there). This approach is probably only best used for short forays into areas where you might encounter the occasional undead, just like Bill Murray when he wants to go out and play a round of golf in the film Zombieland. However, as Bill Murray found out, there’s also the risk you’ll be mistaken for a zombie by other survivors and killed (damn those great acting skills of his!).
The third option is to try to disguise your presence by covering your scent. Effectively, if you smell the undead, then you may be mistaken for them and be allowed to pass. This is a tactic used in an early episode of The Walking Dead called Guts, and it has even led researchers for the American Chemical Society to look into its feasibility. Surprisingly, as the video below shows, this might actually work from a scientific perspective, and one researcher has even produced her own ‘Death Cologne’ containing pungent chemicals called Purtrescine and Cadaverine which we start to produce soon after death. The best advantage of this approach is the chemicals can be produced very quickly and in advance, so they could be stockpiled, just like we stockpile Tamiflu in case there’s a flu pandemic.
The final way to hide from zombies in plain sight which I’m going to consider here comes from the film World War Z. Here, the main protagonist realises that the zombies only attack healthy humans (which makes sense if the zombies are caused by a disease looking for a viable host), so if you can produce a vaccine which makes it appear that you have some fatal disease, they’ll leave you alone. This might take time to develop, but it’s one of the most novel and interesting approaches which come across to the problem of how to live amongst zombies.
So there you have it, four ways you could potentially stay safe in a zombie apocalypse without having to lock yourself away in some hidey-hole waiting for them to break through your defences, and believe it or not, almost all of these have precedents in nature. Porcupines, pangolins and hedgehogs all rely on armour so they can walk amongst their predators. Stick and leaf insects rely on acting like something they’re not to avoid being eaten by other animals. The larvae of the Large Blue butterfly gives off a chemical which allows them to live in ant’s nests rather than being torn apart as any other caterpillar would be, while using one disease to protect yourself from another is the basis of vaccinations (which first came about when it was noticed that being infected with the less dangerous cow pox protected people from the much more deadly small pox).
Of course, all this assumes that you’re up against zombies which are the re-animated corpses of the dead. If you’re up against still-living, humans infected with a disease which makes them act like zombies, the chances are none of these approaches will work. So, make sure you know what you’re up against for trying any of these methods for hiding from zombies in plain sight.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.