Inside the Boston Zombie Apocalypse

By Charles Borsos
Video by Valdya Baraputri
BU News Service

In the quiet suburb of Abington, something strange happened after the sun set Saturday night. A crowd of people gathered on the edge of town at a large warehouse tucked behind a row of school buses. Guards wearing tactical vests and a gruff demeanor started to move the line of people into the warehouse. There was the constant sound of gunfire. The guards barked orders to the crowd and grouped them into units of six or seven. Then they were given a shotgun and minimal training on how to use it. Finally, they were sent to make their way from one end of the warehouse to the other, under constant attack from zombies.

The Boston Zombie Apocalypse isn’t your normal haunted house. Before entering, everyone has to sign a waiver and are warned that the volunteers playing zombies are allowed to reach out and touch you as you make your way through the quarantined zone. 

The crowd was a mix of ages.

“It can actually scare someone our age,” said Nicole Rozelle. She had been to the Zombie Apocalypse before and was at the front of the line Saturday night. Some of the younger patrons even dressed up and one boy clad in camo assured his friend that, “If you have a seizure, I’ll call 911.”

Makeup artist Denise McDonough (right) applies zombie makeup to a voluneer in preparation for the Boston Zombie Apocalypse. Photo by Crystal Milner/BU News Service

Makeup artist Denise McDonough (right) applies zombie makeup to a voluneer in preparation for the Boston Zombie Apocalypse. Photo by Crystal Milner/BU News Service

The warehouse is normally an airsoft gun arena and also houses a laser tag room. Owner Randy Fink said that for five days leading up to the October 14 opening they worked almost 24-hours-a-day to get ready.

The end result was a labyrinth that twisted through four zones including hospital rooms and bloody butcher shops. John Aitken, the zoning director, described the overall setup and how it was designed to confuse.

“We have eye checks to keep night vision down with flashlights” Aitken said.

Part of the backstory is that zombification can be determined by checking eyes with a bright light and the effect is that the guests never get used to the dark. He also described how the zombie actors moved behind curtains and would reappear so that a half-dozen zombies in one area seem like a whole swarm.

Aitken said that the Apocalypse was wheelchair accessible. He worked on the construction and brought a wheelchair through every doorway to make sure. He took personal responsibility for this, and his father was in a wheelchair towards the end of his life. For eight years he took care of his father, who had been a firefighter for 40 years. The medical bed in the hospital at the Boston Zombie Apocalypse was Aitken’s father’s.

A participant fights zombies on Oct. 15, 2016, at Stronghold Airsoft, which converts their headquarters in Abington, Mass., into a post-apocalyptic site during October. Photo by Crystal Milner/BU News Service

A participant shoots zombies with his airsoft gun at the Boston Zombie Apocolypse. Photo by Crystal Milner/BU News Service

On Saturday there were about 38 zombies, most of whom were volunteers from two community groups: The South Shore Gymnastics Association out of Rockland and the Watermelon Alligator Theater Company. For their part in the Apocalypse, the groups received a portion of the profits. Fink said that the last two years they donated approximately $25,000 to local non-profit groups.

The zombies, many of whom were parents in the community, were transformed by Denise McDonough and Kevin Hagerty Jr., the makeup artists. Donough described the use of latex, cream makeup, and three types of blood.

Hagerty’s father and girlfriend were made up so well that Randy Fink asked who they were with. “I didn’t recognize you guys at all. I know these people in real life,” Fink said.

The Boston Zombie Apocalypse relied quite a bit on theatrics and practical effects to make things scary. Also on display that night was a technology on the other end of the spectrum: augmented reality. Outside were a couple of Microsoft Hololenses, a new device that allows a programmer to put virtual objects in a real environment. The game on display had users shooting holographic zombies that came around real hay bales. Mark Belmarsh, a founder at AR-cade Studios which is developing the game, said that he foresaw a future where the devices like the Hololens would “replace what’s going on inside.”

Participants take a photo with volunteer zombies Saturday night at Stronghold Ops Airsoft, which converts its Abington, Mass. headquarters into a post-apocolyptic site during October. Photo by Crystal Milner/BU News Service

Participants take a photo with volunteer zombies Saturday night at Stronghold Ops Airsoft, which converts its Abington, Mass. headquarters into a post-apocolyptic site during October. Photo by Crystal Milner/BU News Service

But until that cutting edge technology becomes more sophisticated, things like the Boston Zombie Apocalypse do a pretty good job at scaring guests.

“It makes you ready for the real apocalypse,” said participant Josh Surprenant on his way out of the warehouse.

The Boston Zombie Apocalypse runs for two more weekends. Friday and Saturday, the 21st and 22nd, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday the weekend leading into Halloween. Tickets are available for $20 at bostonzombies.com.

 

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