I won’t say that this event is something that makes Melbourne unique – there are zombie walks held every year in major cities around the world. Rather, the zombie shuffle brings us Melburnians together. Well, the gore-loving, more eccentric ones, anyway. Held last Sunday on the eve of Halloween, an estimated 3,000 undead monsters gathered at Carlton Gardens ready to stalk the streets of Melbourne – and I was one of them. Being my first shuffle, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I ended up having heaps of fun, so I’ve decided to write up a ‘beginner’s guide’ for those of you who will be joining us zombies next year.
In this age of social media, the shuffle is all organized online. More specifically, on the Melbourne Shuffle event page. In the weeks leading up to the event, organisers share details, meeting places, a map of the shuffle route (this year starting at Carlton Gardens and finishing at Alexandra Gardens) and more. Pre-shuffle picnics and shuffle after-parties are also discussed and all the information is there: prices, venues, and so on. Invite your friends – spread the word and get a group together.
The highlight of this event is the costumes – without authentic-looking zombies, we’d just look like a mob of people staggering about and moaning, right?
There’s something you should know from the start: people go all out with their outfits. No one will shun you if your costume is average, but by all means don’t be timid. And don’t be afraid to branch out from the standard blood-covered, torn-clothed zombie. On the day there were Santa zombies, Where’s Wally zombies, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White from beyond the grave, undead contortionists and a grim reaper on stilts, just to name a few.
As for my friend and I, we were zombies on a budget. Spending less than $15 each, we came up with outfits that weren’t lacking. How? We hit the op shops. We felt we wanted to add an Edwardian element to our zombie characters and hence bought long, floor-length skirts. As for our top halves, I bought a white top and spattered it with red paint whereas Janna wore a black top, which she then slashed maliciously and painted the gaps red. But the clothes are only half of it; we painted our faces white, used dark makeup on our eyes and finished the look with red lipstick as well as red paint running from our mouths past our chins. We actually got a tad carried away with the paint: it was on our necks, chests, arms, and by the end we genuinely looked like massacre victims! At first I felt slightly awkward catching a bus into the city in full costume, but after five minutes I realized how fun it was. My friend and I scared a substantial number of civilians on our way in. So remember: compiling your costume is just as fun as shuffling in it!
People consult the event page, and there are plenty of discussions and advice given regarding where one can buy the best fake blood, scabs, fake organs…everything a zombie could possibly want or need.
From personal experience, dark red paint works best- you can buy a tube for $4 and it not only looks more authentic than the sticky corn syrup stuff but it washes off relatively easy. Don’t worry if you run out or need some more – there are always people willing to share their blood on the day!
The period before the zombies hit the streets is just as fun as the shuffle. As the mob grows, check out everyone’s costumes, practice your zombie groans and more importantly – meet people! Even before we reached Carlton Gardens we met an awesome Canadian girl who was also taking part. Ten minutes later she received a text from her friends who said they weren’t coming. “It doesn’t really matter,” she had said grinning, evidently still enthusiastic. “Sometimes it’s more fun being lost in the crowd – you get to know people!” Sure enough, we spotted her at the very end strumming her ukulele with a band of zombie musos. We met a heap of other people too, and whether you’re just after some fake blood or complimenting someone on their horrifying costume, most people are really friendly.
Get Your Shuffle On
The crowd starts to move and you know it’s time – the shuffle has begun! This is your chance to strut your zombie stuff and unleash the undead monster within you. Unsure exactly of what to do? Look around. The custom is to ‘shuffle’ rather than walk – that is, walk in a creepy, corpse-like manner, groan deeply and yell “BRAINNNS” at random intervals. But feel free to pull your own moves. As a tradition, someone will call “What do we want?” to which everyone will chant/moan “BRAINNNS!” “When do we want them?” “BRAINNNS!” This will be repeated throughout the journey.
This is a great opportunity to scare civilians. Make the most of it!
Get Your Picture Taken
As you stalk Melbourne’s streets with your maggot-infested cohorts, there’ll be plenty of bystanders snapping at the bizarre parade. Strike a pose! You’ll probably be having too much fun to take pictures yourself, but fear not – a lot of people who have their cameras on the day upload their photos and videos onto the event page. After the shuffle you can scroll through these and relive the day!
Get Ready For Next Year
After the shuffle, the zombie horde disbands. Some head off to zombie after-parties, some simply stay in Alexandra Gardens and commence impromptu picnics whereas others head home. Find yourself feeling hollow now that the shuffle is over? Prepare for next year!