All of us in the DPG are big fans of AMC’s post-zombie-apocalypse series The Walking Dead. We watch for various reasons – escapism, mostly – but we all love its unique blend of storytelling, pathos and outright, ick-inducing gore. If you’re not a fan, or if you’ve managed to miss the barrage of ads related to this fact, you may not know that the new season will premiere on Sunday night, and we are unilaterally excited.
That got us to thinking: where do zombies show up on the pages of our campus newspaper, the Baylor Lariat? Surely, over the course of more than a hundred years, there would be at least a few mentions of the word “zombies.” Turns out there were 22, and we wanted to highlight a few of them here.
Earliest reference: June 20, 1947
No, that’s not a typo: the oldest reference to zombies comes in 1947, but it’s in a context that may surprise you. In an ad for Snaman’s Women’s Wear and Shoes, we are informed that a new shipment of Zombies (a shoe style) have arrived and are available for the low, low price of just $5.95.
Oldest Use of Zombies as Metaphor for Listlessness: May 8, 1959
Shirley Henderson’s regular Friday column was given over to covering the aftermath of 1959’s “May Day,” a precursor to today’s Dia Del Oso. She conjures up a terrifying crustacean-undead hybrid by mentioning the sight of sunburned students “walking stiffly around the campus like zombies,” red enough to look like “broiled lobsters.” Maybe she was having a premonition of the Walking Dead season 4 episode where several zombies had an unfortunate encounter with a fire set at a backwoods still by fan favorite character Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus)?
Throughout the next couple of decades, there are numerous references in the Lariat archives to Zombies, as the word appears in the title of a number of movies shown at Waco’s movie houses. My favorite title? The Plague of the Zombies (1966).
First Use of Zombies as Metaphor for Social Ill of the Day: January 13, 1983
The question of whether or not video games contribute to delinquency has gone back decades, and it had made an appearance in the pages of the Lariat as early as 1983, when Shelly Williamson wrote this opinion piece about whether or not video games are turning children into “video zombies.” Best part of the piece: Williamson’s citing Asteroids, Pac Man and Donkey Kong as potential carriers of “zombieism.” By today’s standards, those video games are about as inoffensive and non-threatening as a basket full of rainbow-colored kittens.
First Use of Zombieism as Symptom of Caffeine Withdrawal: September 24, 2004
Almost exactly one decade ago, Kevin Chandler wrote a story about the “oft-used, oft-abused’ nature of coffee on Baylor’s campus, and he opens with this sentence: “It’s 8 a.m., and zombies are invading campus.” Chandler outlines the kinds of coffee available on campus, including those served by the recently opened Starbucks location in the Dutton Avenue Parking Garage (closed in 2013) and the Java City location formerly housed in the Moody Library garden level (replaced by, ironically, a Starbucks in the lobby).
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the ways shambling, undead, unstoppable, reanimated corpses are used in the pages of a well-regarded collegiate newspaper. And if anyone on our team seems more tired or paranoid than usual on Monday morning, you’ll know why: we spent our Sunday evening glued to the TV, intently focused and staring like …. well, you know.