Oddities Origins - Zombie Hoax of 2005
Do you remember the viral CNN Zombie Hoax back in the mid 2000's? This recounting is the tale of how I, Cyrus, was duped and how the scenario also helped lead to the formation and expansion of the original Oddities Observed page.
I was battling one of the worst bouts of insomnia in my entire life during the wintry months of 2004-2005. I was in college at Appalachian State, rooming with my original Oddities Observed co-creator, John, back in Cannon Hall. I would get a total of 2 hours of sleep per night, usually between 6:00 AM and 8:00 AM, and in the meantime I would either lay quietly listening to music or silently roam the halls of the dorm.
On this one particularly chilly night in late January of 2005, I was laying still with my eyes closed and I heard a soft ping from my instant messenger. I had forgotten to turn my speakers all the way off, so I slowly got up, turned my computer monitor away from John's side of the room so as not to cast light on him, and tried to see who was messaging me at such an ungodly hour. To this day, I do not remember who sent it, but there was a message on screen stating....
It took me a moment to register what was happening, I messaged back to see what all the panic was about, but after a few minutes with no reply, I clicked on the link. Since I had my messenger set up that only my trusted friends list could reach me, I was not worried about viruses or spam of any kind. The page took a moment to load and I noticed that the URL looked to be some sort of a re-direct but included something about a CNN backup server, so I kept watching as the page loaded
The article was titled, The Dead Walk. It was listed as Breaking News and the banner at the top as a clear CNN logo. The finer details are lost to time as this page was forcibly taken down long ago due to a CNN cease and desist order, but from what I could find in forums and from my own memory was as such: The article appeared very clearly to be a legitimate CNN article, detailing an event that had just happened somewhere in Africa. Several people had recently died of something like the Ebola virus, and as autopsies were being preformed, or when the bodies were taken in to the morgue, they would begin to thrash around as if trying to get up. One or two were reported to have actually stood up and walked a few paces before falling down again dead in the middle of the streets. One of the doctors on site had claimed that as time went on, the bodies seemed to stay animated longer and longer. The indication, if not otherwise stated, was that this virus was getting stronger and was learning how best to infect its host.
I have heard of unusual things happening to the human body, postmortem. Small electrical impulses charged up or chemically released in the muscles can cause spasms, contractions, the exhalation of breath, etc. I have heard stories of bodies convulsing to a degree where the would fall off a gurney, but nothing more significant than that. So the general concept of a body reacting after death was not too foreign; but the reports of corpses continuously moving and having the semblance of intentional mobility was uniquely frightening.
I shot up out of my chair and slid over to the television, which was resting virtually on the floor between our two beds. I kept the volume off and sat watching intently with my knees under my chin and my arms wrapped around my legs. I monitored every news network I could find, over and over, watching the crawls on the bottom of screen for any matching reports. This went on for quite some time, as I ran through scenarios in my head if this were to be true. You see, John, our good friend Matt, and myself had already made a "what if" plan in the fantastical scenario that zombies were real. We each had our own objectives to meet, coordinating our efforts to safeguard Cannon Hall. I was tasked with getting supplies, such as batteries, weapons, camping gear, and any sort of fuel. John would quickly take from the library any books that would help with first aid, wilderness survival, and so forth. Matt would begin to fortify the building, gather what supplies he could and barricading certain floors and entryways so we could best defend ourselves. We planned to be able to wait out a moderate amount of time, even months if we had to, until governmental help could arrive. But that was only a fairy tale, a fiction, right???
My brain was overclocking and I was resisting the urge to panic, awash in endorphins as I awaited the first breaking news to alert me that it was time to switch from evaluating the situation to executing our plan. It had been over two hours of flipping back and forth between networks when John awoke and asked me what was going on. I did not know what to say, so I said that I was just catching the morning news. He felt satisfied with the answer and went back to sleep. No need to alarm him, not yet anyways.
The sun was now rising as soft light began to shine through the blinds. I stood up a moment to stretch and it was as if my brain had finally begun to catch up with both the seriousness, and also, the ridiculousness of the situation. So I sat back down at my desk, and reviewed the website once more. I refreshed the page, and began to scroll down. I do not know if I hadn't scrolled down far enough the first time, or I had been spared the automatically timed jump scare, but it turned out to be a screamer page. You know, the kind where the scary face jumps up on screen with a loud screech; all designed to scare you senseless? I had avoided this simple prank the first time around, which lead to an even greater prank that had me on the edge of sanity for almost 3 full hours. As frustration and relief washed over me, I felt the urge to sleep. That morning I slept through my first and only class of my college career.
It wasn't until later that afternoon that I could fully explain the story to John, which he thought was appropriately hilarious. We shared the website around with our friends and got some good laughs out of the deal. Apparently this hoax/prank went viral very quickly, being re-posted on dozens of websites and forums. Shortly thereafter, came the CNN cease-and-desist order, and the page has been removed ever since.
Just before publishing this blog I did another extensive search, utilizing the Wayback Machine, and was able to find part of the original posting. Below is a screen capture of the main page, which was what first appeared on my screen. I am assuming every link on this page was the same. Then, I believe these clickable links lead to the other page which featured a fuller article and which also had the jump-scare.