We’ve all seen the scene in “Shaun of the Dead” where Shaun and his buddies are able to walk right through a huge horde of zombies by pretending that they’re members of the undead. If you’re anything like me, you immediately determined that this was bullshit and that if you tried to walk through a room full of zombies moaning and faking rigor mortis, it would only draw their attention to you more quickly.
So how does a zombie know that you’re human – and that they want to eat you?
We know that zombies don’t bother eating each other. This makes sense. Sharks are mean and hungry, but they don’t eat each other, and they don’t eat things that are already dead and rotting. A zombie is about as appetizing to a zombie as a rock is to a shark.
First of all, this ties in closely to the various theories about why zombies eat people. My favorite, which hypothesizes that zombies want to eat us because they’re trying to reclaim their brains and therefore their personalities and their humanness, would explain why a zombie would want to eat me and not the dead guy next to him. But the big mystery has always been how he could tell which was which.
Secondly, I’ve already declared that a freshly-deceased zombie will have about the same strengths, abilities, and senses as he did when he was alive. So he could see me, hear me, and taste me as well as I could see, hear, or taste him. But what about the zombies whose eyes and tongues have fallen out, and whose ears are full of mud?
It’s my belief that a zombie can sense a human, just like a human can sense someone looking at her, or a deer can sense danger. Since the urge to consume humans is the only thing driving a zombie, it makes sense that all of the ability he has left would be working together to find humans any way he could. I think if you were near a blind zombie, he would chomp on you. I think even if you were being perfectly quiet and still in a perfectly dark house, if a zombie could find his way in, he would head right towards you. I think they can just sense life.
HOWEVER. I do not think a zombie would bother waiting around outside this house if he couldn’t get in. If he actually heard or saw a human across the street, I think he would head towards the guaranteed bait instead of trying to get at you. This is what allows me to sleep at night.