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(Enlarge) Zombie Rick Kelley grabs a bite to eat outside Munch's Cafe -- namely restaurant co-owner Steve Lawson. (Staff photo by Matt Roth)

If you see the undead roaming the Westminster's Main Street next week, don't worry. The only thing they're hungry for is a good time and a free movie.

In fact, they're bringing their own food.

The Westmonster Zombie Walk will return for its third year at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, beginning at the Westminster Barber Shop, 140 Village Shopping Center, Westminster.

Zombies will shuffle down Main Street to the Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., for a free screening of "Night of the Living Dead."

Admission to the walk is canned food that will be donated to Carroll County Food Sunday food bank ... but please, no canned brains.

The annual walk is organized by Charlie "Ruckus" Pittinger, 27, a Finksburg resident and owner of a film production company, Ruckus Productions.

"It's fun to mill around out there with zombies," he said.

Pittinger started the zombie walk three years ago after attending a similar zombie walk in Baltimore. Each of the Westminster events have drawn more than 100 people.

"The first year it was like a parade," he said, noting that some people came as far as the Eastern Shore to participate.

But the popularity might increase this year, as zombies have started to take over pop culture of late.

"It's absolutely huge now compared to 10 years ago," he said. "It's part of American culture more than it was."

The movie, "Zombieland" is in theaters this weekend, the book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is a New York Times bestseller, and the "Thriller" zombies are making a comeback due to Michael Jackson's death.

Colin Rhodes, 19, of Westminster, is an intern at Carroll County's Community Media Center, and this week helped produce a public service announcement for the Westmonster Zombie Walk that shows how people how they can make themselves the living dead on the cheap in terms of makeup and clothing.

The ad is also promoting another zombie production -- "Zombie Prom" -- a play being staged this month at South Carroll High School, Oct. 21-30.

Rhodes, an aspiring filmmaker, said he's long had a penchant for zombies and looks forward to participating in the walk.

So, what is zombies' broad appeal?

"Carnage, gore -- just walk around act like an idiot," Rhodes said.

Aaron Korycki, 16, of Westminster, who helped out as an actor for the PSA, said he thinks zombies can be a metaphor for how people live their lives.

"It starts off with one zombie, and everyone is normal and this one person acts crazy," the Winters Mill High School senior said. "Then that crazy energy spreads -- the zombie spreads, and they spread their negativity. Before you know it, the whole darn town is crazy, aggressive and killing each other. Brains! Brains! Money! Money! I'll do anything to get more money!"

While Ryan Zepp, 17, of Taneytown, said he thinks it's much simpler.

"Maybe zombie movies (are) a way for escapism," he said.

And Alex Kester, 18, of Mount Airy said the macabre side of zombies is also appealing.

"I would agree that the younger crowd is raised in a darker age, and zombie films are usually more darker films," he said. "In a way, it reflects the way we've grown up."

Pittinger thinks embracing the inner zombie is a way for young people to either comfort themselves ... or playfully reflect their own paranoia.

"There's a lot going on in our own world. You got all these virus outbreaks -- swine flu, bird flu, wars going on," he said. "It's kind of a scary time, and people are look at (zombies) as a possible outcome.

"Or it's a way to comfort them."

Whatever the reason, Pittinger hopes plenty of people show up on Oct. 11 to strut their zombie stuff and simply have fun -- and that whether they come for the walk, to watch, or to attend the movie, they remember to bring their can of food for those who need it.

"We are doing something to benefit the community," he said.

If you go

Westmonster Zombie Walk, 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 11. Starts at Westminster Barber Shop, 140 Village Shopping Center, Westminster, and leads to Carroll Arts Center for a free screening of "Night of the Living Dead" Cost: Canned food donation for Carroll County Food Sunday food bank.

Name that zombie

For those who come to Westminster on Oct. 11 to enjoy the color and pageantry of the Westmonster Zombie Walk, Charlie "Ruckus" Pittinger and other zombie fans have a few tips for the uninitiated to help identify the various forms of zombie they might see:

* You have your classic "Shamblers" -- "Night of the Living Dead"-type zombies.

* "Boomers" are somewhat on the hefty side, and generally spray toxic waste.

* "Smokers" have long tongues for the better grasp of "grub" (don't ask).

* And then there are "fast zombies" -- "It's more of a modern thing that came about like 'Cabin Fever,' " Pittinger said. "They're a little fresher, and those are the ones you have to watch out for."


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