Bangor Zombie Walk organizer talks the undead, the spirit of community

Phil Smith, 22, shown here in full zombie mode.

Bangor Zombie Walk organizer Phil Smith tells participants in his yearly public gathering of wannabe-undead lurchers and staggerers to BYOB — bring your own blood. The free and open to the public Bangor Zombie Walk, the third edition of which kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 on the Bangor Waterfront, has quickly grown to be one of the signature Halloween events in the Queen City, drawing nearly 200 people last year. This year the event will include a free, all-ages after party from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Tantrum on Broad Street.

Smith, 22, is its fearless leader, fake blood and all, at the front of a pack of one-night-only zombies, from whole families to groups of college-aged friends. Smith, a Houlton native who has attended the New England School of Communications and is now studying automotive technology at Eastern Maine Community College, has a lot of drive for such a young guy. Even in his regular daytime gear, he’s got a flair for the dark and grotesque that comes through. Smith answered some questions about zombies, his own love of the zombie genre, and being a part of the greater Bangor community.

All photos courtesy of Steven J. Gray Photography.

So, what prompted you to start the Bangor Zombie Walk in the first place? Why are you so fascinated with zombies?

Well, what prompted me to start the walk was the fact that nothing like it was in the Bangor area. I had seen other walks online and wanted to do something like it. So when I first moved to Bangor from Houlton I set out to do just that. At first I was just going to make it a campus wide activity while attending NESCom, but the interest seemed to go deeper than that. So I chose to make it city wide… I have always been fascinated by all things dark and macabre, and zombies are no exception. Halloween is my favorite holiday and autumn is my favorite season. So naturally I’m drawn to this time of year, and as it turns out other people are too.

What’s your favorite part about the walk?

My favorite part of the walk is that so many others share in my love of zombies. It’s great to see the community come together. I’ve only lived here for a few years and I feel more at home here than anywhere. I also love being a part of something bigger. That’s why last year I accepted donations on behalf of NF (Neurofibromatosis) Northeast and this year I will do the same as well as the Sarcoma Alliance. I do this because both of these affect my family, and my family is everything to me. My Dad and younger brother both have NF, a medical disorder in which nerve tissue grows tumors. My grandmother was diagnosed with Sarcoma shortly before last year’s walk. Sarcoma is a cancer that attacks soft tissue.

What are some of the craziest costumes or things you’ve seen people do during the walk?

The craziest costumes that I have seen are, in no particular order, Zombie Ronald McDonald, Newlywed Zombies, Billy Butcherson, Zombie Response Team, and a Zombie Clown! It has definitely grown in size over the years. I don’t know the exact numbers but it more than doubled from the first year to the second year. I have a feeling it will continue to grow this year as well, the hype is building every day! As far as elaborate costumes yes and no, the people who have been there since the beginning are definitely stepping up their game! But it’s all in good fun, remember that.

In terms of zombie pop culture, what are your favorite examples of it? 

Everything zombie starts with George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” Romero is a God in the zombie world. Without Romero there may never have been a zombie uprising. Other films of note include “28 Days Later,” and “Shaun of the Dead” and of course “Evil Dead.” More recently “The Walking Dead” [the TV show] has spun the zombie craze into a whirlwind. If you yourself don’t watch this show, you know someone who does.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.