For the last three years during the month of April, Philadelphia comes alive for ten days with science fun for the whole family. The Philadelphia Science Festival incorporates the scientific community to involve the general public with lectures, debates, hands on activities and special exhibitions.
One of these special science activities was held at the Laurel Hill Cemetery with the presentation of “The Morgue the Merrier.” With the many programs offered by Laurel Hill, you no longer have to be dead to join in on the fun. What kind of find? Find out more after the jump.
On April 27th, one of my ghost hunting friends and I headed to the cemetery to hear Dr. Steven Schlozman, M.D., a Harvard Professor and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, give a presentation on zombies and how from a medical point of view, we can tell one of the stumbling dead from a living person. Dr. Schlozman loves zombies, loves them so much that he wrote a book about them. It’s called The Zombie Autopsies, Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse. The book tells the story of Dr. Blum’s attempt to find a cure for the man-made zombie sickness (Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency) by applying forensic techniques to captured zombies.
As soon as Rita and I entered the gates of the cemetery we were greeted by members of the medical staff who asked us questions like, where do we live and what public places have we been to in the last week. The medical staff then did some primary testing and then assigned us to our group. Rita and I were in the early stages of infection and were led to an area where others like us, were kept. The groups were split into three sections with the people having red tags (not infected) helping the medical staff search for body parts throughout the cemetery. The advanced staged infected people (Blue and black tags) were led away to another area; actually, they sort of blindly stumbled away. I’m not sure, but I think this group had their brains collected for future studies, as I never saw them again for the rest of the night.
Dr. Schlozman, with the help of an end stage victim, showed the group how to tell the difference between a real zombie and a human, who for example had to wait hours and hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles to get or renew their driver’s license. This one was tricky. I’ve been to the DMV and yes indeed, by the end of the day, as Dr. Schlozman suggested, I was stumbling about and ready to bite someone.
Dr. Schlozman had a fresh brain for the autopsy. Was it from a member of the blue or black tagged groups? I’m not sure, but the good doctor explained what parts of the brain would be immediately affected by ANSD and how we, the non-professionals, could identify the different levels and symptoms of a zombie in enough time to either run away or stay and fight.
The only problem, each description given reminded me of my teenaged grandchildren. This may explain the lack of communication I run into whenever I ask the grandkids about their daily lives; they’re in the final stage of ANSD. But, now that I think about it, my husband also fits the end-stage requirements, especially when he’s watching sports.
Body parts were scattered about the cemetery and the participants had to judge if the parts found were from a zombie or living person. Don’t worry, no real people were chopped up for this experiment, but we did have realistic props for us to work with.
The Franklin Institute had several experiments for us to observe. Doctors Paul and Bud showed us the different stages of decomposition and how Victorian people (afraid of being buried alive) developed several interesting safeguards to prevent this Edgar Allan Poe nightmare from happening. But my favorite part of the night, had Doctors Paul and Bud using a dead frog to perform an experiment done originally by Luigi Galvani. The results from Luigi Galvani’s experiments on dead humans and animals, may have influenced Mary Shelley when she wrote her book, Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus.
The night ended with drinks, food, music and a chance for me to get my copy of Zombie Autopsies signed by Dr. Steven Schlozman. I learned from the good doctor that his book is being made into a movie by one of my favorite directors, George A. Romero (Godfather of everything Zombie).
If you make science fun, then people will come out in hoards to participate. Sometimes cemeteries are really neat places to hang out, not only for the dead, but also for the living. And speaking of the dead, Laurel Hill is where my group does a lot of their ghost hunting and while I was at the cemetery for the zombie autopsy, I sensed a presence at a nearby grave and even saw a misty shape. Apparently ghosts are interested in zombies too.