CLEVELAND-- The walking dead are very much alive in movies, books, TV shows and video games, but could zombies cross over from fictional characters to an actual threat?
“It’s the kind of apocalyptic scenario people can really gravitate to,” said William Thrasher, artist and zombie-enthusiast.
A growing number of people think a “Zombie Apocalypse” is possible, and that the real-life scenarios are far more terrifying than anything Hollywood could create.
“It could be every man for himself someday,” said Steve Ferraro, zombie-enthusiast.
The idea of undead, mindless, soulless creatures has been around for decades.
However, filmmaker George Romero, and his 1968 cult classic 'Night of the Living Dead' is credited with cultivating the current breed of brain-eating zombies.
In the movies, a variety of things can cause a zombie apocalypse ranging from government conspiracies to plagues.
Across the country, thousands of people think those same things could lead to an actual situation.
“There are so many thoughts and theories about how it could happen; whether it’s biological or disease or something like that,” said Ferraro.
Viruses are the most common cause in fiction and the most speculated source in real life, mainly because viruses have killed people before.
The 1918 flu pandemic claimed 40 million lives worldwide.
“Viruses are smart and can change very, very, very, quickly and readily to adapt to their environment,” said Dr. Christine Alexander, MetroHealth Medical Center, Interim Chair of Family Medicine.
Humans have been battling infectious diseases for centuries since the first viruses were identified.
Dr. Christine Alexander said, each time researchers overcome a virus, the virus changes and becomes tougher.
Although they don’t re-animate the dead, she said, some viruses like HIV and Prion diseases like Mad Cow and the human version Creutzfeldt-Jakob are incredibly challenging to control.
They won’t re-animate the dead, but illnesses like rabies can produce extreme hallucinations and violent behavior. Currently the virus is under control in most developed countries and it is treatable, but if that virus were to suddenly change and become a pandemic it could be catastrophic for mankind.
“If the rabies virus were to really, really, really mutate so it’s much more contagious, who knows,” said Dr. Alexander.
Some people think it’s already started, with multiple cannibalistic news reports coming in from around the world. A bus driver in China suddenly lunged at a woman and began eating her face and a man in Maryland was arrested for killing and eating his roommate’s internal organs.
But the most infamous incident comes from Miami and has been dubbed the “Zombie Attack.”
Rudy Eugene was caught on camera “chewing off” another man’s face.
The grisly assault on Ronald Poppo was witnessed by several people.
Eugene devoured 80% of Poppo’s face before police shot and killed him. Poppo survived but will need multiple surgeries to repair the damage.
“If this was a movie those clips would be proof of a zombie outbreak beginning,” said William Thrasher.
Zombie enthusiasts also site numerous government ad campaigns involving zombies.
In September 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a Zombie Preparedness Guide.
The guide was meant to encourage people to be prepared for any disaster but it was taken so seriously that even representatives from some foreign governments including Canada mentioned it publicly.
But experts say there is no real threat of a zombie apocalypse.
They say the CDC ads really were about general preparedness and those ghastly cannibalistic crimes were committed by humans.
However, some experts think the zombie craze could signify other social ills.
Baldwin Wallace University Professor Dr. Molly Swiger thinks, “It says more on the surface that we think it does.”
Dr. Swiger says zombies throughout history have coincided with challenging times.
In the late 60s and 70s, it was the Vietnam War and energy crisis.
Currently she believes the zombie craze represents fears about our government, the environment, our food supply and national security.
“They represent things that we’re afraid of as a culture and are meant to teach us a lesson about what not to be,” said Dr. Swiger.
She says zombies are a very compelling metaphor for “unconscionable consumers” buying and destroying without any soul.
But she says there is also hope.
“The hope is that with these survivalists, there might be hope once we get rid of all these zombies, all these blank consumers,” said Dr. Swiger.