When we took one of our first walking tours, we got chatting with two of the masterminds behind the horrorfest that is Castle Horror – Carrol and Scott.  We eagerly took up their offer to come and see them in action training volunteers up for their latest instalment of zombie madness – their ‘Zombie MAYhem’ event in Dundee. It was a fairly pleasant Sunday afternoon when we turned up to Mains Castle, with the sun shining and a slight breeze ruining the warmth (but at least it wasn’t raining).  With not a clue what to expect, we rocked up for the first round of training; partly excited, and a little apprehensive that we were going to get mauled by a bunch of zombies!

We went inside the castle and up a set of stairs, where we could hear people chatting.  Already there was an air of excitement amongst the people who had gathered beyond the bar area in an original room of the castle.  Exposed stone, wooden beams and ornate mirrors gave the room the perfect vibe to have a zombie training session in.  Dark, flocked curtains held most of the sunlight at bay as a group of about 25 volunteers gathered round the crew responsible for Zombie MAYhem.  Chandeliers shone overhead, but even they could not fully banish the eerie haze of darkness that seemed to fill the room.

You could tell the team had done this before, as the entire thing was efficient, professional and thorough.  All participants were given disclosure and secrecy forms due to the nature of the event and the element of surprise that it is famous for.  Guests were offered bottles of water prior to the start of the training, and we were even given a wee shout out by Carrol, who explained who we were and why we were there during her introduction speeches.  There were plenty of people on the team Carrol needed to introduce, as it takes a LOT of people to get something like this off the ground, so we were really happy that she took the time to thank us for coming and promote us to her volunteers!

As well as Castle Horror themselves, they had Jim (technical), Stuart (entertainment director), Chris and Stevie from Scare Scotland, Dave and Paddy from Viper Strike.  If we’ve missed anyone out, we apologise – Stewart was typing as fast as he could, and Louise just sat enthralled the whole time!  On top of the people we’ve named, there are many more people required to make the event a reality, such as zombie actors, regular actors, scare actors, soldiers, airsofters, as well as a media team to handle engagement.

We were promptly handed over to Scott to begin the briefing (who loves a bit of dressing up, and isn’t afraid to tell you), during which a video is played, which he put together himself for the training, and was pretty cool, even if he didn’t think so!  What Scott told us was top secret, so we can’t tell you what he said, or we’d end up in the old graveyard at the back of Mains Castle!  Suffice it to say that it whet our appetite to come back and get a bit more Zombie MAYhem for ourselves.  It’s going to be a real screamfest, we can assure you.

The next zombie academy training is on 7th May 2016, so if you’re up for it, you’re in for a real treat.  We’re going back on 7th May to watch the actors going through their paces, which we are really looking forward to.  Dress rehearsal is on 22nd May, with the event in Dundee going live on Saturday 28th May 2016, .  Get in touch with Castle Horror directly either to be a part of the action, or to buy tickets to what promises to be a true night of horror!

The thirst for zombie-based movies, games, books and tv shows shows no signs of slowing down, and as our genetics technology makes advances year on year many people question whether a zombie apocalypse scenario is likely. Of course no existing virus is able to induce the raising from the dead, people-nibbling behaviour typical of movie zombies. But as more potential causes of zombie-like behaviour emerge including genetic manipulation of viruses or a rogue prion protein (suggested by Scotland’s very own Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies), maybe it will be possible in the future for zombies to move from the movies to our streets.

Whatever the cause if the zombie apocalypse happens, we want to be prepared. There are plenty of websites out there giving advice on how to survive a zombie apocalypse, many of them thriving upon the gore and bloodshed of the genre; what’s the best object to smash a zombie’s skull in? Or elaborate DIY weapons you could make in a pinch, most likely influenced by games such as Dead Rising.

But some people do take this issue very seriously. Our own city council was asked through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Lee McAulay in 2011, what their plans were in case of a zombie invasion. While they stated that the invasion of zombies or vampires was not identified as a threat or hazard present in the Tayside area (phew!), they did say they would consider making arrangements should more evidence suggest a zombie invasion was a threat.

Several councils and governmental organisations including the BBC have been asked through FOIs about their zombie preparedness plans. Some have sent back tongue in cheek responses such as Bristol Council, but most have simply responded with links to their generic emergency plans.

Dundee Council noted in their response that they do have an emergency planning website which has details on how the city would respond to any emergency and how you should prepare. These are useful details for any emergency, but relate to a zombie apocalypse as much as a natural disaster or any other disease outbreak. Regardless of whether you believe a zombie invasion is likely, we suggest being prepared in the following ways to survive any apocalyptic level emergency.

Know where to go

Most theoretical advice says if there are zombies, or any kind of infected people or animals running around outside in the streets, its best to stay at home. Lock your doors and windows, and avoid engaging with any zombies. Ideally your home would have the emergency supplies needed (see below).

If you have to leave your home, get out, stay out and try to stay together. You should have two meeting places planned for your family, one near home and one further away in case you can’t get home. Dundee Council have emergency shelters at points across the city and will have information going out from police, radio and tv stations if an emergency is declared about where to go.

If the city is completely overrun, you may need to leave the city behind completely. Researchers at Cornell University suggest heading for sparsely populated areas, especially the mountains, and stocking up on supplies and waiting out the infection. So perhaps heading into the Angus or Perthshire hills would be a good bet, although they propose the Highlands of Western Scotland to be the ideal place. Dundee Town Centre is likely a place you’ll want to avoid, and other built up areas with lots of blocks of flats are also going to be pretty hairy with so many people in one area.

Be prepared

Just knowing where to go isn’t going to be enough to survive; you’ll also need supplies. Ready Scotland suggest having an emergency kit that includes
• Your household emergency plan which should include emergency contact numbers, insurance details and reference numbers for utility companies, and locations of your pre-planned meeting points
• Any essential medication and details of any prescription medicines
• Toiletries
• An extra set of contact lenses or glasses
• First aid kit
• Battery powered radio, torch and extra batteries (or wind up radio and torch)
• Notebook and pen/pencil
• Mobile phone charger
• Three days supply of bottled water and ready to eat food (that won’t go off)
• A penknife and a whistle
• Anything else that might be important for your family including pet food, baby formula and nappies

Other items might be useful especially if you are forced outdoors and can include emergency shelter such as a tent, sleeping bags, more food, a portable stove, utensils including a can opener, extra warm clothes – really you can go as far out with being prepared as you think you need. You may need to survive longer – if you are more concerned about the collapse of society than the likelihood of zombie outbreaks warrants, then you may want to think about a longer term plan. Plenty of resources and books are available on how to plan for survival in the long term.

The above really is good advice to be prepared for any type of emergency situation, so we do recommend all our readers make a plan and emergency kit. And if you still think the risk of a zombie outbreak in Dundee is unlikely, we’ll just leave you with this story from 2014 in Lanarkshire…