Q & A with Ottawa’s Zombie Family

Incident at the Bunker Poster


Over the past 6 years, we have been very fortunate to have close to 1,000 volunteers help bring our “Incident at the Bunker: A Zombie Adventure” to life. Three zombies have been a part of our horde since day one. Megan is a Senior Performance Analyst in the Global Issues and Development Branch at Global Affairs Canada. Dan is a Senior Audit Advisor with the Canada Revenue Agency. Rowan is now in grade 6. She first participated in the zombie adventure when she was is in grade 1! This undead family has been helping us scare people ever since.

Why do they do it? Any advice for beginners playing the undead? What other amazing things do they do? We sat down to chat with Ottawa’s First Zombie Family.

What is it about the zombie genre that you like so much?

We like the zombie genre for a couple of reasons: (#1) Most of the really good zombie movies are not over-the-top scary or all that gory, neither of which appeal to us; (#2) We’re drawn to the genre because good zombie movies and books are, ironically, very human. Disaster movies are very similar in nature: a well-made zombie movie or disaster movie is really a study of humanity, more than anything else. The zombies (‘Train to Busan’), the earthquakes (‘San Andreas’), the diseases (‘Contagion’), etc., are just stand-ins for “the other”, for some force that threatens us as individuals or which threatens society, and over which we have no control. The real focus of the genre is to watch what happens to society and the individual – to our norms and values – when things go wrong. We like Stephen King’s “The Stand” and “The Mist”, and del Toro’s “The Strain”, and all sorts of other apocalyptic fiction for the same reasons: it’s all about watching what happens when “the centre cannot hold” and society collapses. Of course, we also have a very morbid sense of humour, so watching everything fall apart in horrible, horrible ways is pretty entertaining, too.

The Family’s 2015 X-Mas Card

Why did you start volunteering at the Diefenbunker?

We started volunteering at the Bunker because Rowan and Dan enjoyed the tour so much, way back in 2011, and because it gave us a chance to be part of something really fun that also served a good purpose. How often do you get to put on make-up and scare people for charity? Ironically, other than our volunteer experience, our first few visits to the Bunker were for the “Cold War Cinema” nights, where we watched the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” (we came as zombies, because they were having a costume contest that night), and then “Dr. Strangelove”.

What brings you back year after year?

The people! We love working with The Haunted Walk, the Bunker staff, and the other volunteers, and we love helping create a fun experience for the guests on each tour. It’s something we know that we’ll be able to do together as a family, so we look forward to it.

Why is it important for you to volunteer as a family?

Rowan, Dan & Megan in 2017

Rowan, Dan & Megan in 2017

All sorts of reasons! Life gets so busy that it’s really important to find things that we can do together and that we all enjoy. We also want Rowan to appreciate the importance of charity and volunteer work and how giving back is a core part of being a member of any community. Finally, we really appreciate how much Rowan has learned about drama and stage production from our experiences at the Bunker. Being behind the scenes in this kind of production has given her a real understanding of timing, suspense, atmosphere, and of course, jump scares. She’s developed an interest in the horror genre from a production point of view, and has taken to analyzing how the movies she watches and the books she reads create and manipulate emotions.

Does your family have a favourite memory/moment from the zombie tours?

We always love it when we get screams (or tears, as the case may be)! Some of our favourite memories include: the infamous Cub Scout incident; watching a group of women dissolve into hysterical tears as they encountered our back-to-back jump scares at the CANEX; and the time Rowan scared a grown man so much that he jumped backward, nearly knocking his girlfriend over.

What advice would you have for someone portraying an authentic zombie?

We’d recommend that people do their research first. Watch some movies (everything from the original “Night of the Living Dead” to “28 Days Later”). Then, think about what kind of zombie you are portraying.

Is your zombie a living body infected with a plague that increases aggression? If so, you might be fast, strong and flexible, but incredibly and inhumanly aggressive and impervious to pain. Is your zombie an actual dead body, animated by some supernatural or chemical power? If so, you will be stiff, awkward and slow, but powered by an insatiable hunger.

Think about your zombie’s story. How were you infected? How did you die? The answers to both these questions will have an impact on your costume, and on how you move. Add some inhuman mannerisms and movements: be predatory, switch from vacant to focused in a heartbeat, move when they don’t expect it.

Outside of being in the mindless horde, we understand that you enjoy competitive obstacle racing. Can you tell us a bit about the sport and why you enjoy it?

Would it surprise you that the first obstacle race Megan ran was a zombie-themed race? That was the inaugural Run For Your Lives, way back in October 2011, near Darlington, Maryland. From there, she somehow convinced Dan to join her at other Run For Your Lives events in June 2012 (held near Butler, Pennsylvania…while we were down there we drove through the Evans City Cemetery, where the original ‘Night of the Living Dead’ was filmed) and September 2012. Then we started branching out and finding non-zombie-themed races, like Tough Mudder, Mud Hero, Warrior Dash, Spartan, and then in October 2016 and October 2017, we competed at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships at Blue Mountain, near Collingwood, Ontario.

Megan, Rowan and Dan, Another Course Bites the Dust

Obstacle racing is all about functional fitness and being able to adapt. It’s trail running, hill running, carrying heavy things up and down mountains, and a whole slew of obstacles that require a variety of skill sets to complete – strength, endurance, speed, agility, and sometimes a bit of everything. You can’t rely on just one thing to get you through a race. You have to be able to run and do monkey bars and climb walls, etc. Some of the better races are constantly innovating and creating more dynamic and technically challenging obstacles. You always have to learn to do new and different things with your body and figure out techniques for completing obstacles that don’t leave you exhausted.

Join us this Saturday (Nov. 4th) for our final “Incident at the Bunker: A Zombie Adventure” of the season and see Megan, Dan, Rowan and all our incredible zombie volunteers in action!