JOHNSON CITY — Everywhere you turn these days ... zombies.
From the summer blockbuster “World War Z” to “The Walking Dead” to the lighthearted game “Plants vs. Zombies” — the undead have become a major cultural phenomenon in recent years.
Now, the phenomenon has come to the campus of East Tennessee State University.
Next month, ETSU and the Gray Fossil Site museum will be hosting a day of zombie events, including the notable game of Zombie Tag.
The event takes place on Oct. 26, beginning at 10 a.m., with proceeds going to “support the study of the living and the dead,” officials say, through state-of-the-art exhibits and science education programs at the museum.
“We are so excited to be planning an entire day of zombie activities,” said Dr. Blaine Schubert, museum director. “This is a unique way to use zombie culture to bring awareness to our Natural History Museum as well as paleontology.”
To help promote the first-time event, ETSU paleontology students dressed up (or rather dressed down) like zombies and appeared in a rather grainy, black and white promotional video (at zombietix.com) — a nod to the classic zombie flick “Night of the Living Dead.”
The main event of the day will be a round of Zombie Tag at 5 p.m. for those 18 and older. ETSU and other regional college students age 18 and up may participate with a valid college ID.
The goal of Zombie Tag is to “survive” the game. “Human” participants attempt to reach six checkpoints on ETSU’s main campus without getting tagged and turned into a “zombie.”
Each player is required to wear a black shirt over a white shirt, with the black shirt denoting “human.” As players are tagged, they must remove their black shirts to reveal their white shirts, which indicates “zombie.”
The day’s events will start at 10 a.m. with a Zombie 5K, where runners and walkers can dress up like zombies and follow a certified course through the campus. Prizes will be awarded for top runners, as well as for costume creativity.
For those age 11 and under, a “flag” Zombie Tag event will be held at noon on the intramural field beside the Wayne G. Basler Center for Physical Activity. Each participant will receive a free child’s and adult’s pass to the Natural History Museum. Other activities will include face-painting, a costume contest and inflatables.
Zombie Tag for 12- to 17-year-olds will follow at 2 p.m. on the main ETSU campus, with rules identical to the main event.
Throughout the day, Zombie Tag players waiting to enter or having exited the playing field may visit a variety of vendor booths, including professional make-up artists, event merchandise and sponsors.
Tickets to the main event are $10 online in advance or $12 at the gate. Identification will be required. Tickets are $10 for the teen event and $5 for the children’s event. All tickets can be purchased at zombietix.com.
Jennifer Barber, marketing and publications manager for the museum, suggests people purchase their tickets now rather than later because the museum is limited in the number of tickets it can sell. Barber said the museum anticipates between 2,000 and 3,000 participants.
“We’ve had a lot of enthusiasm for the event and seen a huge response on Facebook with our zombie video,” Barber said. “This is just a great way to do something fun and remind people that we’re ETSU too.”