Zombies have always been a big part of my life. My first exposure to zombies came at a very young age when George Romero was filming Day of the Dead on Sanibel Island. Actors in full Savini makeup showed up at my elementary school to pick up their kids and as soon as I saw their beautiful disfigured faces, I was hooked.
The Walking Dead Escape has been around for a few years at Comic-Con and actually tours the country converting large stadiums into the ultimate Walking Dead fan experience. It was one of the few times at Comic-Con where I was instructed over and over again to RUN, not walk to the next safe zone.
9:01 PM – I arrived at around 9:00pm just in time for the fun to begin. Myself and about fifty other survivors gathered in a small tent city and were greeted by a military man with a megaphone letting us know that we were in a safe zone and that we were going to have to move to another area that was more secure.
9:05 PM – We shuffled off to another holding area with large fences on either side. Walkers pounded on the gates and a military woman chastised us for moving too slowly, “If you walk, you’re dead!” The gates open and we start to run.
9:08 PM – We start to trot through the bottom floor of the stadium. There are debris and pieces of waste here and there. Apparently there was a struggle here at some point. Ahead of me I hear a shriek and notice that there are two walkers in the path ahead. Some people freeze and start to backpedal, but I sprint pass the large one on the left and don’t look back.
9:10 PM – With no place else to go the crowd starts to make their way up the ramps leading to the higher levels in Petco park. The lights are somewhat dim and I realize that it’s pretty hard to tell who is a walker and who is a survivor. I don’t trust anyone and keep moving at a brisk pace. Eventually I encounter another group of survivors stalled on the ramp, there are two walkers shambling our way slowly. A young teen, much faster than myself, scurries past the walker on the right and pulls himself up to the next level. I sprint down the middle as both walkers reach for me… they miss.
9:15 PM – After climbing more ramps and dodging walker after walker, I come across a large southern man who has managed to capture a walker in a cage. He’s poking him with a stick and taunting him. I don’t trust him at all so I essentially ignore him and move on. At the top of the next ramp I encounter a woman doubled over with her hands on her knees. A crowd gathers around her but nobody can tell if she is passing out from heat exhaustion or turning into a Walker. We leave her behind and press on.
9:20 PM – At the top of the ramp a young girl in a filthy white dress writhes around while dragging herself toward other survivors. Some people jump over her while others back up in fear. I pause to take a photo and am almost eaten by another walker from behind. Someone shouts, “Look at the flowers!” then I turn away and keep moving. Ahead a soldier is being devoured by walkers, but we all run past him leaving him to die.
9:23 PM – We make our way into a dark stairwell and it appears as though survivors have written some grim messages on the walls. At this point I’m exhausted and short of breath. We gather around a thick metal door and wait to enter the next area. The stairwell is sweltering.
9:30 PM– The triage center is completely overrun with walkers. Bodies covered with blood and white cloths line the ground and walkers start moving on myself and the other survivors. I run and scurry under a hospital gurney as the guy to my left leapfrogs over the bodies lining the right wall. It’s getting harder to move quickly and the heat is brutal.
9:35 PM – We enter an area where the military seems to have regained control. We’re offered water but are told to keep moving. The water is warm but very welcome.
9:41 PM – Not good. We’ve entered a narrow walkway that is literally crawling with walkers. With nowhere to go but THROUGH them I wait for a person more brave than myself to head in first. With the walkers distracted I jump over a metal beam and make my way along the far wall avoiding contact with the herd. By some twist of fate I make it through the group without being touched. At this point I’m winded and panting.
9:45 PM – I come across an abandoned military checkpoint with various barricades, walkers, and cars scattered about. An agile teen jumps onto the roof of a car and sizes up the situation before leaping off and running in the opposite direction. There are walkers everywhere and I’m really running out of steam. After bobbing and weaving for a bit I make my way through the maze of cars and exit the area unscathed. I hear people screaming behind me, but I don’t look back.
9:47 PM – With little energy left I navigate what can only be described as a gauntlet of obstacles and walkers. Other survivors, completely out of energy, lean against a nearby fence in an attempt to catch their breath. A large man sprints past me and trips over my feet, landing face first on the concrete. He shakes off the injury, likely adrenalized, and continues on his way.
9:50 PM– Finally we reach a large tent with just a single light on inside. Survivors, including myself, cram inside and wait for whatever may come next. The light goes out….
The Walking Dead Escape was more fun (and more exhausting) than I was expecting with dozens of actors 100% committed to giving people an unforgettable experience. While I knew very well that I wasn’t going to get eaten, my adrenaline tried to convince me otherwise. The Walking Dead Escape is currently on tour and will visit the following areas in the coming months –MIAMI, FL – Saturday, October 25th – Sun Life Stadium, TAMPA, FL – TBA – The Sun Dome, JACKSONVILLE, FL – TBA – EverBank Field, and NEW ORLEANS, LA – TBA – Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
My biggest advice is to wear comfortable shoes, and be prepared to run your ass off!