As clear as the zombie process is on an external level, much of the internal workings remain clouded in mystery.  ZRS Member, Marcus Barber, argues that we may be able to learn all we need to know about zombie physiology by doing a single, simple experiment.

In 1982’s horror classic The Thing, a band of arctic scientists are plagued by an unseen monster that infects the blood of its victims.  Although clearly not the zombie virus, this alien life form holds many striking similarities, not the least of which is its proactive desire to continue to spread by infecting new hosts.

Barber wonders if zombie blood acts in a similar manner.

“I’m not suggesting that it can grow legs and run around like The Thing, but what if zombie blood courses through the zombie body, not because its being force-pumped by a beating human heart, but because it is empowered by the same willingness to live that causes zombies to seek out and bite the living in the first place?”

In The Thing, Kurt Russel, playing pilot R.J. MacReady, draws a sample of blood from each of his surviving team members.  Because the invading organism occupies every living cell, one touch of a hot metal poker to the dishes of blood reveals who is still human, and who isn’t.  Human blood just sits passively and accepts the burning, but the tainted, alien blood actively tries to get away from the heat, jumping out of the dish and scrambling across the floor.

If Barber is correct and zombie blood has this same desire for survival on a cellular level, then the MacReady Test could blow the lid wide open on what we know about how zombies work.

Now all we need is a zombie to test it on.



  1. this is true zach but sam’s point is that they’d be much much easier to kill. With this, the apocolypse would never actually happen because they’d be dead before they spread. Although it really depends on if their bodies can repair itself. If the zombie needs blood, then i’d assume that i could. In this case, it would make it harder to kill the zombie, however given how easy it is to kill someone, then my edge would more to a less apocolypitc outbreak, but hey, with zombies you never really know. 🙂

  2. Not necessarily, Sam. We have to remember that zombies typically (in theory) do not react to or feel pain or fear- they are driven solely by the need to spread the infection. They’re basically berserkers. Say, especially in the case of fast zombies, you shoot one in the arm. He’s not going to drop dead or bleed out anytime soon. He’ll keep coming. Shoot them in the leg or foot. Sure, they might stumble, but they’ll keep coming. Add the element of the horde- your only sure chance is an instant kill shot, which would have to be the head. Even a shot to the chest probably wouldn’t stop them until they actually bleed out- maybe still just enough time to get to YOU.

  3. If the zombie blood moved , regardless of what caused it to move it would dictate that they require moving blood to remain animated and a zombie requiring blood at all throws out all the traditional headshot theories. If they need blood you could just shoot them in the foot and let them bleed out. In fact if you injured them anywhere they would just bleed out. I dont think the apocolypse would be much of an apocolypse if this were the case.

  4. i don’t really think this idea is plausable. The zombie is (or was) still human and had human blood. A transmutation of that degree would be far too extreme, turning something dead into something living, then it controlling it’s host. bypassing the brain like that is just too extreme to be believable.

  5. this is very similar to the ” what if somebody genetically modifies a parisite of fungi that takes over its hosts mind” theory

  6. You’ve already proven your coolness by talking about Kurt Russel (ultra badass), and a great monster movie in your post. I like the idea that you’re looking to lore outside the traditional zombie genre in order to improve your overall zombie knowledge. Very impressive.

    Keep it cool. Remember, when in doubt; grab a weapon.

  7. Also, regarding the ladder and fence climbing behavior, I agree with the poster who said that fresher zombies would probably still have some muscle memory or just vestigial memories stored in their still-intact brain matter. It makes sense that such memories could be more-or-less accidentally accessed by the fresh zombie under certain circumstances, but this this does not indicate intelligence, it’s just a learned reflex behavior activated by whatever circumstance the zombie encounters. As the zombies “age”, the unused portions of their brains would become more and more degraded, making it less and less likely that these learned reflex behaviors could be accessed.

  8. We know from the Walking Dead TV show that the zombies breathe (recall the scene in which the blond chick’s sister first wakes up after being killed by zombies… one of the first signs that she is coming back is that her chest starts to move up and down, and her sister listens for and hears her breathing… also, they make noise, which they couldn’t do if they weren’t drawing in breathe to subsequently expel through their vocal chords) . We also know from the “TS-19” episode that the zombie pathogen reactivates the brain stem of the victim, allowing it to get up, walk around, and eat people. If the neurons in the brain stem are active, they have to be receiving oxygen and nutrients from somehwhere, but having only the brain stem active means not nearly as much oxygen or nutrients are needed, compared to a normal brain. So, it is conceivable that a zombie’s heart actually does beat, only very, very slowly (like once every few minutes). Along with the breathing, this slow heart beat could provide enough blood flow to keep the brain stem active at a minimal level. This might also explain why the zombies continue to decay. The slow heart beat provides only minimal oxygen and nutrients which are mostly routed to the brain stem with only a small amount routed to muscles for movement. There is not enough left over to support skin or major organs, and these tissues continue to decay. So basically, the walking dead aren’t totally dead, they’re just mostly dead, with only enough systems kept active to keep them walking around, biting people and allowing the virus to spread itself to new hosts.

    • We don’t know whether the zombie infection in real life will work the same way as the one in The Walking Dead. It could, but it could also work completely differently.

  9. Hmmm that is a tough one. if they do not live, then they do not die. but in a zombie apocalypse, WHO CARES??? My main concerns, as well as my three friends, are to survive. if we do survive, THEN we could study them. find a cure. see what kind of disease it is. if they can be cured, then they are still alive and blood is flowing.

  10. I am with Thomas. If a zombie’s blood was able to get away because it didn’t want to get burned by the heat, then wouldn’t the zombie get the hell out of the way of a 12 gauge pointed at its head? I mean after all the blood doesn’t want to get hurt, so then why would it allow the mindless zombie to walk towards the guy with the machete and rifle? It does need a host to keep living right? If so then why would it want its host to be incapacitated?

    • I don’t think that’s what he meant. For the blood to react to a shotgun, it would have to recieve information from the eyes and then process it based on something it would have to know.(meaning a human brain would understand that a gun is a threat, the tainted blood would have to learn it is a threat) Something like fire or heat would be felt, and instict would tell it to get away. Even plants will move away from heat if it is too great or constant.

  11. thomas goff zombie expert

    a zombies blood would not move other wise it would not decompose and would not be pale and would be classified as living but verynice theory

    • If it has the intelligence to avoid heat, and recognize it as a threat to it’s own survival implies that it thinks, which means it would presumably learn to defeat this test by mimicking human blood, in order to further it’s species survival. Provided it’s not a weapon, but an alien organism.

  12. But might I add that a zombie may not react to the pain, so why would the blood?
    I don’t think the blood has any desire seeing as though it is probably trying to keep alive in a movie ‘corps’.

  13. The implications for the question of zombie tumescence are staggering…

  14. nice theory. similar to that of the sentient virus in marvel zombies 4. by use of a supposed vaccine the virus no longer needed human hosts.

  15. Nice theory. I like your site. Whats your favorite zombie flick?

  16. You just blew my mind!

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