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Social networking unites ‘zombies’ in SCV

Local fans of the living dead use Web sites to stage spectacle at mall in Valencia

Posted: August 12, 2009 10:03 p.m.
Updated: August 13, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Dan Watson/The Signal Participants in the "SCV Zombie Invasion" post photos on Facebook, the social networking Web site used to organize the event. Hundreds of teens and 20-somethings dressed up as zombies and walked through Valencia on Monday evening.

 
The zombie hordes have moaned and shambled across Eastern Europe and Australia. They’ve begged for brains in cities and towns across America.

This week, the living dead mobbed Westfield Valencia Town Center — hundreds of teens and 20-somethings in ghoulish garb coordinated the spectacle using Facebook.

As social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter become more accessible and widely used than ever, kids and young adults have used their computers and mobile devices to coordinate massive gatherings in malls and on main drags and college campuses throughout the world.

The new trend has been dubbed “flash mobbing”: People plan to suddenly appear at a predetermined spot, often to do something peculiar.

Or, more simply, “You get a bunch of people to cause a scene,” said Mike Marsalisi, a Santa Clarita-based social networking consultant.

“Zombie walks” are exactly what they sound like. A group of like-minded people meet, put on some torn clothes, pale makeup and fake blood, and stagger from place to place. They moan, grunt, wail and occasionally call for brains and flesh.

“Think about it: We’ve had some pretty big zombie movies come out, we’ve had two books on zombie survival,” Marsalisi said. “It’s a part of popular culture. How cool would it be to replicate what happens in the movies?”

On Monday, the zombies invaded Santa Clarita Valley for the first time.

“I love sci-fi and I’m more of a geekish person, so I just thought people gathering up would be fun,” said Chris Velarde, 23, who went as a zombie hunter.

Sean Kiner, 21, went after hearing about the flash mob from his 17-year-old brother.

“We just walked around and made noises and took pictures with people,” Kiner said.

Kiner was among hundreds of residents who showed up near the corner of Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway around sunset, donned zombie garb and makeup and stalked their way down to the mall.

The whole event was organized and executed by an anonymous resident who made expert use of Facebook to corral the zombies.

“Because of the Internet and social-networking sites, you can directly target niche markets,” independent filmmaker Lotti Knowles said. “And (those people will) tell two friends and so on and so on.”

Knowles attended the Valencia zombie walk to film a promotional video for her upcoming vampire convention. The video is available on YouTube.

Newhall-based Brave New World Comics co-owner Atom Freeman said he hopes such a large number of Internet denizens can be put to good use. He is organizing a separate event in October that will benefit the Newhall Food Pantry.

Freeman was quick to distance himself from Monday’s event, as some residents have complained about it and one 17-year-old suffered some minor bumps and bruises after being hit by a car.

“I think it’s great that these kids got out of their house and did something to entertain themselves and the community,” Freeman said via e-mail. “But the fact that someone got hurt and I’m getting calls about pets that were injured during the event is not so great.”

Freeman believes that pop culture-inspired events such as these serve the greater purpose of bringing people together, rather than isolating them behind computer screens.

“I think it’s a completely natural extension,” Freeman said. “People want that physical connection as well as the intellectual connection that social media gives you.”

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