An election campaign pushing to build a zombie-proof wall around Edmonton couldn't sign up for the ballot because the zombie candidate was dead.
Yuri Wuensch, the man behind the campaign, joked the mock candidate couldn't add his name to the race on Monday because he was "denied eligibility on account of being dead."
Wuensch says while the group never intended to run for office, the goal of the stunt was to raise awareness of key campaign issues.
The undead publicity stunt, Vote Zombie Wall, is aiming to make sustainable urban development part of Edmonton’s campaign conversation.
It jokingly proposes the city build a wall around the city to keep zombies out – with deeper meaning that a wall could also stop suburban growth.
Story continues after slideshow
11 Reasons Zombies Are Real
Zombiism is enshrined in law in Haiti
It should come as no surprise that in the birthplace of the zombie, the practice is taken very seriously indeed. So seriously, in fact, that the nefarious practice of creating an undead slave is prohibited in the law books. Article 246 of the Haitian Penal Code expressly states that poisoning with the intent to produce a death-like state – the first step in creating a zombie – will be treated no differently than murder. The law is frequently cited as Article 249 (which is a far more mundane statute on murder with not a whiff of zombies), owing to a typo in Time magazine back in 1932. Zombies also have a clearly defined appearance and mannerisms, although the description doesn’t include deliquescing bodies and an appetite for human brains. It’s widely accepted that zombies can be recognized by their rough, nasal voices, slumped necks, vacant eyes and slow, ponderous walks. Unlike their ferocious Hollywood counterparts, Haitian zombies are placid and easily subdued. An eyeless needle and thread left in their coffin will distract the waking zombie, and failing that, you can protect a recently-deceased loved one from zombification switching the head and feet inside the coffin.
The author William Seabrook once met one
The “lusty, restless, red-haired” Seabrook was an inimitable character whose incredible life was reflected in the incredible stories he wired home to Vanity Fair and Reader’s Digest magazines. Alternatively a war hero, an alcoholic, an abusive partner and a madman, Seabrook gained notoriety for refusing to publish a book on cannibalism in the Guere tribe of West Africa until he had sampled the illicit fare for himself. In 1928, he set off for Haiti to investigate reports of black magic there, and to see if the dead really did walk the Earth. Seabrook’s guide took him to a sugar plantation where several disheveled men laboured slowly in a field. Seabrook wrote: <blockquote>My first impression of the three supposed zombies was that there was something about them unnatural and strange. They were plodding like brutes, like automatons. The eyes were the worst. It was not my imagination. They were in truth like the eyes of a dead man, not blind, but staring, unfocused, unseeing. The whole face, for that matter, was bad enough. It was vacant, as if there was nothing behind it. It seemed not only expressionless, but incapable of expression.</blockquote> When Seabrook tried to speak to them, they stared at him vacantly, and the gang-master soon shooed Seabrook away, growling, “Negroes’ affairs are not for whites”. It was one of the anecdotes that made Seabrook’s The Magic Island into an instant bestseller.
There are published scientific papers on human zombies
It’s not just adventuring writers of sensational stories that have fallen under the spell of Haiti’s walking dead. Scientists, too, have taken an interest in zombies. Roland Littlewood, a professor of anthropology and psychiatry at University College London, published one such academic paper on zombification in the Lancet in 1997. The year before, he led an expedition to Haiti where his team carried out a detailed medical examination of three purported zombies, said to have been killed and revived by witchdoctors to work as slaves. All three patients showed some form of mental impairment, though the severity and underlying causes varied between them, and received routine clinical diagnoses that did not have a trace of the supernatural about them. However, Littlewood did notice that two of the three had the same strange, circular scar over their sternum, as if a catheter had been inserted into the chest to administer some unknown substance. The witchdoctors interviewed by Littlewood and his team disavowed any knowledge of such a wound – it had nothing to do with their magic, they said. Asked what he made of the scars, Littlewood replied, “Haven’t the faintest!”
Pusher wasn’t just a story on “The X Files”
In 1996, Mulder and Scully faced off against a psychic killer who could manipulate people into hypnotic subservience using nothing but his own voice. If that seems far-fetched, we only need to look to the horrifying series of hoax calls perpetrated across the US, in which a mysterious caller convinced restaurant staff to physically and sexually abuse their own colleagues. In 2004, eighteen year old Louise Ogborn received a $6 million settlement from the company after she was held captive by her manager Donna Summers and forced to submit to a strip search that culminated in the teenager being forced perform a sex act on the manager’s fiancé, Walter Nix Jnr. The four-hour ordeal was orchestrated by a caller who claimed to be a police officer investigating the theft of a wallet. David Stewart, a thirty-seven-year-old guard working for a private prison company was charged with impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy. By targeting businesses with strict procedural codes, Stewart had allegedly been able to find people predisposed to obeying authority and unused to handling novel situations independently. However, Stewart was acquitted, and the hoax calls – over seventy between 1995 and 2004 –ceased as mysteriously as they began.
Soviet scientists claimed they could resurrect people over 50 years ago
In 1943, over a thousand scientists huddled into a theatre as part of the Congress of American-Soviet Friendship in Manhattan. There, they watch a screening of Experiments in the Revival of Organisms, a twenty-minute film about the Russian scientist Sergey Bryukhonenko. In the film, white frocked men and women are shown keeping the severed head of a dog alive with the use of a primitive heart lung machine. But this is not the limit of the autojektor’s power. Bryukhonenko delivers his sensational finale: a dog is euthanized, and after ten minutes, a switch is thrown and the autojektor purrs into life. Oxygenated blood begins to flow through the corpse and the insistent rhythm of the pumps slowly provokes the heart into action. The animal has been restored to life. Experiments in the Revival of Organisms ends with the patient fully recovered, tail wagging as it is joined by several other dogs that, we are told, have all been living happily since experiencing their own resurrection. As early as 1929, his colleague Fedor Andreev claimed to have been able to briefly revive a dead man for 20 minutes. Andreev told the press: “The principle has already been demonstrated successfully. It only remains to develop the technique for surgeons to apply practically”.
And so did the Americans
The Americans were not to be outdone by the Soviets, and Dr Robert E. Cornish was their hero-in-waiting. Leanly built, with hollow eyes, sallow skin and an unruly tangle of dark hair, he was a child prodigy; he had graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1922 at age eighteen, and earned his PhD four years later. He decided to set his mind to the science of resurrection. His first attempts were failures. Tying the corpse of a heart attack victim to a large see-saw, Cornish tipped the body up and down, sloshing the blood around in an attempt to generate artificial circulation. Although at one point, the “face seemed to warm up suddenly, sparkle returned to the eyes, and soft pulsations were observed in the soft tissue between windpipe and sternum,” the man remained dead. Cornish switched to using dogs, as these were easier to source from the local pound. Naming all of his test subjects Lazarus, he asphyxiated the animals with nitrogen and rocked them on a see-saw. Adding drugs, electrical prongs, heat and even judo techniques, he was able to revive several animals from the point of death. However, unhappy with the sensationalist press these macabre experiments were attracting, the university provost asked Cornish to vacate his laboratory.
Outbreaks of insanity do happen now and then
In 1951, the Lancet reported several urgent dispatches emanating from a tiny French village called Pont-Saint-Esprit. The town’s inhabitants appeared to have gone mad overnight, babbling incoherently, suffering from hallucinations and fits, some even violently attacking each another. The Pont-Saint-Esprit mania affected several hundred people, resulting in four deaths and numerous cases of permanent madness. The first symptoms were feelings of anxiety, after which physical complaints such as nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea set in. Patients became cold to the touch, with a heartbeat was so feeble that doctors could no longer detect a pulse. Their sweat acquired a strange odour. Oddly, the physical reflexes of the sickened villagers were enhanced. Unable to sleep, the victims began to babble incessantly as their dreams streamed into the waking world, and they fell into madness. To date, nobody knows for sure what caused the outbreak of insanity at Pont St Esprit. The most likely candidate is grain contaminated with poisonous ergot fungus, which causes a delirious condition known as St Antony’s Fire. Many other suggestions have been put forward: the British MP and staunch anti-drugs campaigner Donald Johnson (himself a victim of temporary madness) claimed that wild cannabis, which he found growing nearby, was to blame.
Mind control chips were implemented fifty years ago
The US neuroscientist Dr Robert Galbraith Heath used dentistry drills to cut tiny holes in the skulls of their patients, through which they gently pushed long needles into their brains. With these electric needles, they hoped to alleviate their patients’ psychotic behaviours. The first recipient of this neural pacemaker was a mildly retarded man whose fits of anger made him “the most violent patient in the state”, known for repeatedly trying to slash himself as well as his caregivers. After the operation, the man abruptly ceased his violent attacks and was well enough to be allowed home. One day he suddenly reverted, seriously wounding a next-door neighbour and attempting to murder his parents. Subdued by police and returned to hospital, X-rays revealed that the wiring of his neural pacemaker had come loose. Once repaired, the man’s violent behaviour disappeared once again. But Heath also discovered he could tweak other behaviours. The electrodes could make patients giggle spontaneously, or begin searching their room, even though they couldn’t explain what they were looking for. When an agent arrived from the CIA, eager to know more about these mind control boxes, Heath threw him out, later telling the New York Times: “If I wanted to be a spy, I’d be a spy. I wanted to be a doctor and practise medicine”.
England’s resurrection doctors completely redrew our ideas about death
In 1650, a young woman named Anne Green achieved fame in a very unusual way: she died and came back to life. Unwed, she gave birth in secret to a stillborn child and when the body was discovered, she was sentenced to death for the crime of infanticide. Amid great outcry, Anne was hung from the neck for thirty minutes before her body was trampled underfoot and the corpse consigned to the doctors for dissection. On arriving in her coffin however, the three doctors present noticed a faint tremor in her chest, and set about trying to pull her back from the clutches of death. Binding her limbs in tight bandages and pouring warm cordial down her throat, they were able to gradually nurse her back to health, and in a month she had recovered – a divine intervention to attest her innocence, many thought. This was just the beginning. More and more “executed” criminals were revived by the surgeons who had planned to dissect them, leading to the emergence of resuscitation medicine. As well as the troubling legal implications these revived criminals raised, a new phrase entered the lexicon: “apparent death”. From now on, life and death would never be black and white, only worrying shades of grey.
Parasites are nature’s true zombie makers
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a parasitic fungus whose name hints at the single-minded bullying it employs. Its host of choice is ants. A tiny spore of the fungus enters through the insect’s breathing spiracles, and there is grows, consuming the soft tissues of the ant like blue veins through cheese. When the fungus is ready to spore, it pushes bundles of tiny threads called mycelia into the ant brain, and through these puppet strings it takes control of its host. The ant is compelled to climb a nearby plant or tree and, once high enough, fasten itself there with its powerful jaws. Once the ant is secured in place like this, a final growth spurt by the fungus kills its host, and forces bundles of fungal threads to burst out of the ant like the wool of an overstuffed plush toy. From the ant’s neck, tall fruiting bodies sprout, their swollen heads heavy with spores. By willing the ant to climb a plant, the fungus enjoys a much higher vantage point from which to shower infectious spores onto its next potential hosts down below. Cordyceps is just one example of an endless array of parasites that can manipulate their hosts in strange and frightening ways.
You may well be a zombie already
The tiny microbe Toxoplasma gondii is named for the animal it was first isolated from, the gundi, a cute, stocky, somewhat shrivelled rodent, native to the arid plains of North Africa, that looks a bit like a mix of a hamster, a cat and a very furry prune. T. gondii can only complete its life cycle inside cats, but it will use rodents – and pretty much anything else warm-blooded – as couriers to help it spread far and wide. Rats aren’t known for their fondness of cats, which poses a bit of the challenge to the parasite, because it needs to get from one to the other. To achieve this, the microbe performs a little behavioural therapy on the rat. Infected rodents lose their instinctual fear of cats. They become bolder and brasher, venturing into unfamiliar territory in plain sight, despite having impaired reflexes. This combination helps deliver them, and the T. gondii inside, into the belly of a passing cat. But as I stated earlier, T. gondii will infect just about anything warm-blooded, including humans. Roughly a third of people reading this will have been exposed to the bug. And evidence is emerging that like rats, those of us harbouring T. gondii live changed lives, with skewed risk perception and impaired reflexes. A study of 146 traffic accidents in Prague found that prevalence of T. gondii exposure was two and a half times higher in those responsible than in the general population. So if you want to see a real-life zombie, you might start by looking in the mirror...
The 41-year-old Edmonton native says he has been concerned about the city's urban sprawl for a long time.
"Really, it started out as a bit of a joke," he said of the campaign, which has been two years in the making.
Citing David Gordon, director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen’s University in Kingston, the group says Edmonton is failing to meet its own development targets.
From 2006-2011, Gordon found 86 per cent of all population growth in Edmonton was in the suburbs with infill and other growth accounting for 14 per cent.
Edmonton's municipal plan set a minimum target of 25 per cent infill, referring to downtown and already existing mature neighbourhoods instead of population growth in suburbs.
"Edmonton could be a much cooler and more sustainable, affordable place to live," says Wuensch.
The group also issued a sustainability questionnaire to all council candidates to help voters make their decision.
Responses from candidates can be found at zombie-wall.com
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