How to Tell a Zombie From an Imposter

Guest post by: Marie Sumner never grew out of playing dress-up. She writes to share her passion and offer advice to others regarding costumes for Halloween, anime conventions, renaissance fairs, and other fun dress-up events.


With the recent awareness of zombies as a threat to humanity’s wellbeing, the media has of course spun an angle to their advantage. Instead of allowing people to panic, which would admittedly not be a productive reaction, or prepare, which is what they should be doing, the media has embraced the idea of zombies much like vampires and werewolves. They have become a fantastical creature full of mystery and even, disturbingly, romance.

While it is great that people are becoming aware of zombies as a threat, the romanticization of a dangerous creature could have devastating ramifications. Well-meaning ignorants may be tempted to approach zombies once they appear and attempt to “rehabilitate” them.

Even more dangerous is the trend of dressing up as zombies. Though camouflage can be an effective battle tactic, being dressed as the enemy comes with risks. Halloween costumes are acceptable, (though Halloween will probably fall by the wayside after a zombie outbreak) but dressing up as a zombie for random events may very well become an act that puts your life at risk. Right now there are Zombie Walks and Zombie Marathons and other events that encourage imitation of the undead. Though relatively harmless currently, despite the fact that an outbreak at one of these events may be extremely difficult to track, it is important not to get in the habit of putting yourself at risk.

In case logic does not set in and this trend continues by teeny boppers and adrenaline junkies after the zombie outbreak, here are some tips on how to distinguish a brain-eater from a mindless imposter.


Ideally, you will be able to spot a zombie – imposter or otherwise – from a large distance. This gives you an advantage, as you can be prepared to act appropriately. The first thing to note about any passerby is their behavior. Are they walking normally? Do they have a vacant expression? Do they drag themselves along, unable to stand straight? Admittedly, these questions could be used to identify teenagers as well as zombies, but they are a good start.

Zombie impostors will have an exaggerated walk, while the true undead will not be consistent with their movements. If you note a pattern, then the intruder is most likely a fake. If you see any breaks into normal behavior, this is probably not a zombie that needs to be shot. Though, you may want to scare the misguided soul so that they don’t make such unfortunate wardrobe choices in the future. After all, you may be saving their life.

If there are multiple beings approaching, note how they interact with each other. Conversation is a sign of intelligent life, so you are safe. The group separating into smaller groups is also a human behavior. If the zombies are not interacting and are spread out and clustered randomly, then get your shotgun ready.


Along with noting behavior, it is important to observe wardrobe and appearance. If you’re prepared, you will have at least one pair of high-powered binoculars, so you can note details in appearance from a safe distance. Zombies don’t worry about being fully clothed. They will most likely look gory, covered with blood and body parts of themselves and others.

Faux-zombies are more fashion conscious. If the outfit looks at all trendy, you’re probably dealing with impostors. Fake blood is often applied more consistently than real blood spatter. Look for signs of makeup and lack of rotting flesh. After seeing a few hundred undead, you’ll be able to spot a fake in no time.


Hopefully you’ll be able to avoid getting close enough to a zombie to smell them. But if you are unfortunate enough to be within sniffing distance, hold your weapon if you note any perfume or cologne. Zombies smell like death- rotting flesh, lack of hygiene; If you hate B.O, imagine that times a thousand.

In the post-zombie apocalypse world, it will be important to be ever vigilant. You must act swiftly to protect your life. However, by learning to make acute observations, you can avoid the needless death of misguided humans who simply look like zombies. Though their life choices may not be the best, every live human is one less potential zombie. Are there any other signs of a zombie imposter that you can think of?