Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A further guide to Zombie Planning: Melee Weapons, pt.1

Greetings and condolences once again to my readers in the land of the living. If you have been following my H1N1 zombie outbreak watch and have started preparing, this post is for you. Due to the current popularity of the topic of zombie planning, I have again returned to expand on my earlier public service announcement with A Further Guide to Zombie Planning, Although I promised a Firearms part 3, I have decided to leave that a bit longer, this time taking a closer and more in depth look at selecting melee or hand-to-hand combat weapons.

Selecting your weapons.
Before selecting any weapon, the first thing that must be determined is what classification of zombie will you be encountering. In the event you are encountering pseudo, or non-zombies where the afflicted is simply a mortal exhibiting zombie like behavior, disposing of them is as simple as disposing of any mortal human cranked up on meth, as they will not be distracted by pain of injury. Naturally a zombie that cannot be destroyed because of mystical origin or any other reason, and thus cannot be destroyed by conventional weaponry, discussion of weapons would thus bee moot. For the purposes of this discussion we will assume the zombies are of Modern of typical contemporary nature that can only be destroyed by destroying the brain or severing the head.
As this is the first I have written of this, I make mention of it here, as it is pertinent to the destruction of a zombie, but as I further progress in the completion of Macabre’s Guide to Zombie Planning I will re-edit at some point in the future. Really it is imperative that anyone looking to survive a zombie outbreak fully understands the mechanisms of destroying a typical zombie. Naturally the destruction of the brain is self-explanatory. The less gray matter left intact the greater the likelihood of destroying the zombie. But the details of decapitation are not nearly as straight forward. What it is about removing a zombie’s head that destroys it? As removal of any of the other bodily organs including severing the spinal column does nothing other than perhaps reduce mobility? Effective decapitation really is an extension of the former method of destroying the brain. More specifically it is the separation of the brain from the brainstem, or the destruction of said brainstem that bears results. This may simply sound like semantics, but the intricacies of such are quite important. If a zombie is decapitated below the brainstem the head will remain animated and dangerous, and by the same means if a decapitating blow is delivered to the base of the skull complete decapitation is not necessary. This is important to realize as the human neck is very muscular and is not easily severed. Even with the sharpest of edged weapons multiple blows are usually required to fully decapitate a human body, but partial decapitation near the base of the skull is quite possible with one blow.

Melee Weapons:

While a firearms or even multiple firearms should be your first choice as a defensive weapon, (providing you are capable of using them to their potential) it would be foolishness to not include some more basic primitive weapons in your arsenal in the event you must defend yourself without a gun. The reasons for this could be quite numerous, and as this whole planning guide is about being prepared, one must also be prepared for the contingency that you may find yourself without a usable firearm. Much like with firearms, the individual choices are practically limitless, but there are some common traits of certain types that can be examined and considered more closely.

General weapon types

Archery equipment: Lets get this out of the way right from the beginning. Unless you are previously skilled with the use of these weapons they are NOT worth your effort. Although they may present some benefits in being a relatively silent ranged weapon they are not easy to use with the accuracy that would be required to consistently take out a zombie with a well-placed head shot. As a hunting tool, their purpose is not to cause trauma or significant damage but to lacerate vital organs causing death through exsanguination (blood loss) that is obviously not going to affect a zombie. Additionally they are typically long and awkward, usually have very limited amount of ammunition and a very slow reload rate. I say this to you being experienced with archery equipment myself.
While they may be useful as a tool to deliver a form of incendiary over a long distance or into a building, they are not a good choice for a type of weapon. Even crossbows, although they than can be equipped with optical sights and fire much the same as a rifle are too flawed. Firstly a suitably powered crossbow is no more silent than a .22 rifle, possesses only a fraction of the effective range, and lacks the reload rate of even a single shot rifle. Hand crossbows are not a suitable consideration in that they are again relatively inaccurate, are lacking in power, and possess an abysmal range at which you will be lucky to get that one shot off.

Blowguns: Another type of ancient weapons that will prove quite useless against the undead. Don’t even consider these even in the direst of circumstances.

Ancient and Historic Weapons: Now we’re getting down to the meat and potatoes of hand-to-hand weapons, but we’re not quite there yet. Like archery equipment, many ancient weapons require specific training to be properly effective in combat. If you are so trained in their usage you will likely already have a selection of weapons at your disposal. If you are not, acquiring them is going to be difficult short of raiding a museum. Most ancient and historic weapons available are reproductions intended primarily for display purposes only and will not perform in combat as well as a proper weapon would. Most effective historic weapons realistically are reproductions designed and build for the purpose of use, and training by clubs and associations, and you can likely bet that when the time comes they will not be gracious in sharing them with you. Some suitable choices of Ancient and historic weapons however will be discussed a bit later in this topic.

Improvised Weapons: These are going to be among your best choice of hand-to-hand combat weapon come Z Day. Like the ninja, selecting and crafting practical every day implements to be used as weapons is an option that should not be overlooked. Many products available off the rack at your local hardware store require no modification whatsoever to become a lethal weapon. And to their advantage, unlike “fantasy swords” and replicas, they are for the most part designed to be used and abused. Additionally in a post apocalyptic world having the weapon perform as a tool for the purposes it was intended will become invaluable while scavenging and for building and removing blockades and barricades, giving them an edge over many similar historic weapons.

Power tools however are poor choice in improvised weapons for anything beyond a very localized primary outbreak. They are limited to their energy source, be that electrical battery or gasoline motor and tend to be rather noisy which may draw other zombies to your location. In addition they tend to be bulky and heavy using energy better saved for carrying other more valuable equipment and supplies, or simply conserving that energy for later, as exhaustion in battle is equally bad as running out of ammunition. Another significant drawback of motorized rotary weapons, such as chainsaws, lawn edgers, and gas mowers will likely result in infectious splatter that, while looking really cool, presents a considerable health threat to everyone in your party.

Basic primitive weapon types:

Edged Weapons: Edged weapons are traditionally for cutting or slashing. While for the most part their use is intended to be directed towards the torso and vital organs of an opponent, that can still be somewhat effective when used on the living dead. Unless one is utilizing a particularly sharp blade with significant force, decapitation with one blow is unlikely. A decapitating blow aimed to the back of the head if possible will increase your chances for killing with a single blow. If this is not possible it is best to attempt to direct your blow to the side of the skull, hopefully penetrating far enough to damage the brain.

Pointed Weapons: Pointed weapons are designed for piercing blows to the opponent. Like edged weapons they’re traditionally intended to target the torso, however they can still be somewhat effective when directed toward the head as a target. The human head is a fairly hard object designed to protect the brain, and is a relatively small target too. The rounded shape also tends to deflect killing blows from the brain, making a fatal piercing blow rather difficult, but not impossible. When using a pointed weapon there are three targets to aim for providing the attacker is coming straight towards you. The first target would be the eye(s). The skull behind the eyes is noticeably thinner than at the forehead thus far easier to penetrate. The Eye socket will also trap the point of the weapon and direct the following thrust right where it counts most without deflection. The second target is the mouth, again trapping the point of the weapon and directing the blow towards the base of the skull. The third target is the head/neck just below the lower jaw. The wielder will have to direct the piercing blow upwards and back, driving the weapon as to penetrate the back of the skull. This will destroy or sever the brain and or brainstem. In some cases, depending on overall weapon design (usually involving a form of spike), a deliberate piercing blow to the cranium will be the most effective.

Blunt Weapons: Blunt weapons traditionally had two purposes; to wear down an opponent and more significantly deliver a fatal crushing blow to the opponent’s cranium. Wearing down a zombie isn’t going to happen, but then again they really don’t defend themselves well anyway. As the head is the best target when attacking a zombie, a weapon that targets that specifically is a prime candidate for consideration. Blunt weapons usually are constructed in one of two designs, fixed to a handle as a club or hammer or attached to a handle in a pendulous fashion. In either case the user simply directs the blow towards the head of the zombie relying on concussive force to break open the skull and destroy the brain.

In Melee weapons part 2 we will look at some examples of melee weapons. We will also in the near future look at what other supplies and equipment we should look to acquire beyond the weapons.

G. Macabre

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Moment of Horror #6

Stephen King's Carrie
In 1973 the Horror landscape changed forever. Unknown author Stephen King would publish his first novel, entitled Carrie. Undoubtedly the success of the novel had a fair amount to do with the story's subject matter finding an immediate and hungry audience. Carrie, a teen aged girl, living under the thumb of her "unbalanced" and oppressive mother; ridiculed and ostracized by her peers develops telekinetic powers and uses them to exact revenge. OK I admit being a guy, and one who grew up as the younger sibling, and was intelligent enough to let my older sister challenge parental authority, and make all the stupid teenage decisions to which I could observe and myself avoid later in life, the book had no appeal. But to the millions of girls just like my sister King was writing about their lives, or more accurately, their lives as they perceived them. His writing style was new and explicit and tackled subtexts that would clearly have been taboo anywhere else. In the beginning of the book he addresses Carries discomfort with her adolescent body and the changes it is undergoing, and then goes over the edge with people stoning here in a communal shower with tampons and "sanitary napkins". The book was so evocative, that it was widely banned from numerous schools, and not just library collections, but students could face out right confiscation in many cases. Only three years after it's initial publishing the book was made into a major motion picture, again with great success, which produced one of the Horror genre's most iconic film images, Carrie standing on stage dripping with blood.

While this image, this film and more so this book are all worthy of being included in horrors greatest moments, really the most important aspect is the emergence of Stephen King the novelist. So synonymous with horror fiction today that it could be argued his name rivals the likes of Edgar Allen Poe.

Gary Macabre

Friday, May 8, 2009

Zombie Apocolypse update

Despite the fact authorities are now down playing the seriousness of the H1N1 virus, and the spread of the virus is being greatly reduced from what was anticipated, Fact is the numbers of the infected continue to rise and so does the body count. From the 26 reported deaths and 1085 infected persons as of my last post, the official count is now 44, with 2384 reported cases as of this posting. While apparently these numbers are still within the comfort levels for most of the authorities, it does however indicate that with still no known vaccine or treatment if the virus continues to spread in an exponential fashion half of the world's population will be infected my mid August. And with a current mortality rate maintaining approximately 2% of the infected population would translate to 68 million deaths. Now naturally these figures are quite rudimentary, utilizing minimal data at the moment not fully factoring in such variables as comparative infection in third and first world nations, incubation periods and then there is the dynamic of when the dead actually start rising and killing and further infecting healthy humans. So clearly these figures will be dramatically different in the coming weeks and months.

Unfortunately as we have not seen much evidence of the dead rising at the moment as the numbers are still few, it is still hard to clearly identify this as a Zombie outbreak, and beyond that it is impossible to determine what type of zombies are we dealing with. Although we can comfortably rule out Traditional or Voodoo Zombies, both Modern and Contemporary Zombies are both still plausible (see Know your Zombies). Early indications would rule out supernatural origins, and the Long Dead zombie however.

As the authorities seem to be regaining control of the media and the panicked hype is lessening somewhat, this could indicate that any clear evidence about the nature of the outbreak as it relates to the living dead could, and is quite likely to become more obscured from the general public. One factor that greatly worries my in this scenario is that if there in fact is an airborne flu-like component, and how that will effect the transmission of the virus. Utilizing our current base of knowledge regarding zombie outbreaks, transmission has been exclusively through direct contact via open wounds, etc. Bearing in mind there is currently no concrete evidence to the contrary here, beyond the authorities persistence about this being a flu virus. If airborne transmission does become a factor, this could have a dramatic effect on your zombie plan. For example remaining in a densely populated urban environment waiting for the chattel to evacuate the cities could be a monumental mistake in not getting as far from the vestiges of humanity as soon as possible. Similarly the size of your group, or secure community could be more detrimental than beneficial. Again I stress that it is far to early with far too little information to start amending your current zombie plan yet, but it may be well worth your while to begin evaluating and adding for these yet unexpected possibilities.

For the un-initiated I would like to at this time make direct reference to Max Brooks book, the Zombie Survival Guide. For those without a Zombie survival plan I would highly recommend purchasing a copy. But Please be aware, that as good as the book is I steadfastly disagree with a degree of what he has included. Firstly he has unequivocally dismissed the class of Contemporary Zombie as being a construct of Hollywood, and such Zombies do not exist. With this as a foundation for his book, it makes it far simpler to put forth a guide to zombie survival that only factors in one type of zombie. From a publishing standpoint this is a very intelligent decision. However, in contrast, I believe that the silver screen has shown us that no two zombie outbreaks are the same, and that you must be flexible in your planning and the execution of your plans if you intend to be successful in surviving a Zombie outbreak. Nor do I agree with some of his weaponry assessments (see a further guide)or the value of apartment complexes or high-rise buildings as secure places (try as you might, without some form of explosive which would severely damage the structure of said building, destroying the staircases is not practicable. Dawn of the Dead has shown how good a choice apartment complexes are IMO.)

G Macabre

Monday, May 4, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu: Is this the zombie apocolypse?

Greetings and condolences once again fellow travelers. My recent prolonged existence in the land of the living has certainly not been without it's fair share of excitement. It would seem that regardless of what remote hovel you occupy you would be made well aware of the current H1N1 virus,aka Swine Flu outbreak. Odd that such a minor viral pest, with no more adverse side effects than a normal human influenza virus that this should receive such widespread, nearly panicked global attention, after all "seasonal human influenza" claims the lives of 250,000 to 500,000 people annually (according to the WHO). Or, my dear conspiracy theorists, is there more to it?

Here is what the Center for Disease Control is telling us...(WARNING official and rather dull text follows in italics, but regardless if H1N1, Rage virus or Zombie outbreak it will all look the same, bet on it.)



The novel H1N1 flu virus is causing illness in infected persons in the United States and countries around the world. CDC expects that illnesses may continue for some time. As a result, you or people around you may become ill. If so, you need to recognize the symptoms and know what to do.

Common symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. Nearly all persons with flu will have at least two of these symptoms. (GM: yeah sounds just like what you'd expect if you were bitten by a zombie to me) The high risk groups for novel H1N1 flu are not known at this time but it’s possible that they may be the same as for seasonal influenza. People at higher risk of serious complications from seasonal flu include people age 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, people of any age with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and people who are immunosuppressed (e.g., taking immunosuppressive medications, infected with HIV).
Avoid Contact With Others

If you are sick, you may be ill for a week or longer. You should stay home and avoid contact with other persons, except to seek medical care. If you leave the house to seek medical care, wear a mask or cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. In general you should avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness. At the current time, CDC believes that this virus has the same properties in terms of spread as seasonal flu viruses. With seasonal flu, studies have shown that people may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to 7 days after they get sick. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
Treatment is Available for Those Who Are Seriously Ill

It is expected that most people will recover without needing medical care. (GM: or at least appear to before they go on a murderous rampage gnawing at any breathing being in eye shot)

If you have severe illness or you are at high risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider or seek medical care. Your health care provider will determine whether flu testing or treatment is needed. Be aware that if the flu becomes wide spread, there will be little need to continue testing people, so your health care provider may decide not to test for the flu virus.

Antiviral drugs can be given to treat those who become severely ill with influenza. These antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) with activity against influenza viruses, including H1N1 flu virus. These medications must be prescribed by a health care professional.

There are two influenza antiviral medications that are recommended for use against H1N1 flu. The drugs that are used for treating H1N1 flu are called oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu ®) and zanamivir (Relenza ®). (GM: although the WHO ha already said these seem to have little effect on the current contamination. But that's OK they're just trying to keep you blissfully calm and comforted) As the H1N1 flu spreads, these antiviral drugs may become in short supply. Therefore, the drugs will be given first to those people who have been hospitalized or are at high risk of complications. The drugs work best if given within 2 days of becoming ill, but may be given later if illness is severe or for those at a high risk for complications.
Emergency Warning Signs

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

* Fast breathing or trouble breathing
* Bluish or gray skin color (GM: who here has seen Dawn of the Dead?)
* Not drinking enough fluids
* Severe or persistent vomiting
* Not waking up or not interacting
* Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
* Seemingly heightened senses of hearing and smell
* Heightened uncontrollable aggression towards others beyond the standard
report card comment "does not play well with others"
(GM: OK those last two I added)
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

* Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
* Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
* Sudden dizziness
* Confusion
* Severe or persistent vomiting
* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
* desire to eat under prepared meat products, human flesh and headcheese
(GM:OK that was me again)

Protect Yourself, Your Family, and Community

* Stay informed. Health officials will provide additional information as it becomes available. Visit the CDC H1N1 Flu website.
* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
* If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. Keep away from other household members as much as possible. This is to keep you from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
* Learn more about how to take care of someone who is ill in "Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home"
* Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social distancing measures.
* If you don’t have one yet, consider developing a family emergency plan as a precaution. This should include storing a supply of extra food, medicines, and other essential supplies. Further information can be found in the “Flu Planning Checklist”
(GM: Seriously did I just read that right!!??? DEVELOP A FAMILY EMERGENCY PLAN!! With extra supply of food, water and other essential supplies!!!??? for a flu outbreak likely less significant than our "normal seasonal flu outbreak". Sorry but that seems a little extreme wouldn't you think?) You know I'd almost bet that was a cut and paste at least twice before replacing Nazi with Communist and flu respectively.

So this is all practical, and if we stay the course, and listen for updates, and do what the authorities tell us we all will be fine? Gee I don't know about you but I can't recall the last time that Miami was effectively shut down, with airlines canceling services to the US during any normal "normal flu" season, or the when World Health Organization called for a class 5 pandemic, even during such known deadly ailments such as the SARS outbreak a few years ago and the West Nile virus, a deadly summertime reality here in North America and Europe claiming hundreds of lives every year, or China just started detaining people based on nationality, ignoring human rights and banning import on meat products, or...Ummm, yeah forget that stuff about China.

Some interesting facts with possible Zombie plague parallels:

On March 18th. The Mexican Government starts investigating a mysterious disease in the province of Veracruz.

On April 6th. A US company located in Veracruz reports changes in behavioral patterns of local residents.

So far the World Health Organization claim that the virus is being contained and those affected have all been immediately connected to visits to Mexico, and no secondary transmission as been confirmed. Yet daily numbers of the infected are increasing. (Getting bit or wounded will do that you know.)

Mexico has confirmed 16 deaths, but are investigating an additional 85 deaths that have been reported since. (forget the paper masks, issue chain male.)

The Mexican Health Agency starts taking international flack for not getting heath workers to the families of the first reported casualty for nearly three weeks citing logistical problems. (Can you say zombie horde.)

Areas that have reported a limited number of early, less serious cases that had appeared to be recovering, suddenly have more and more serious cases. Nothing is said of the earlier patients current status. (If that doesn't scream dead returning to life and attacking others nothing does.)

Well folks it's too early to say that this is the beginning of the Zombie apocalypse, but stay tuned to this blog for any further developing information which could indicate that Hell is in fact full. In the mean time now might be a good time to check if you still have those Y2K supplies and buy some more ammunition.

Gary Macabre