If you can’t beat them, join them | AspenTimes.com

If you can’t beat them, join them

Hannah Condon, left, and Olivia Caro of Grinnell College get detained by a ghoul on the fringe of the 16th Street Mall in Denver during Saturday's 9th Annual Zombie Mall Crawl.

I still remember approaching the 16th Street Mall in Denver from the north last year and being confused by the ghoulish figures we encountered on the fringe and by the racket rising from the crowd dead ahead.

"Dead" is the operative word. My party of five unwittingly walked into the mall at about 5 p.m. on a Saturday in mid-October for the annual Zombie Crawl. It's disturbing what people will do for a little fun.

It wasn't just the usual suspects — bored teenagers amped up on power drinks, cigarettes and Lord knows what else. There were young parents dressed in tattered clothes with little junior wearing makeup that made it appear he had blood running down the side of his face. Adult women rampaged as a zombie Girl Scout troop. Roving gangs wore full, white biohazard suits, complete with gas masks. Zombie hunters were popular, a la the TV show "The Walking Dead." Most people threw on some makeup or special masks and called it good. Some went to elaborate lengths to create spine-tingling outfits, such as a man restrained by a straight jacket with a cage over his head.

It's nearly impossible to relate how many zombies, ghouls and gawkers pack the mall. The buses that typically zip up and down are grounded for the afternoon and night. Zombies shuffle up and down moaning, "Brains." Denver authorities estimate that the event attracts between 25,000 and 30,000 people, depending on weather.

Last year, we stumbled into the melee by accident. This year, we went by choice. Our daughter Hannah and her friend Olivia traveled back from the Midwest by train while on fall break from college. We met them at Union Station, dined and shopped and then headed back to our hotel in the midafternoon to prep. We didn't do anything elaborate — just enough eyeshadow to give us that newbie zombie look.

We started our crawl at 5 p.m. — different year, same creepy crawl.

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The truly scary part was finding a place to eat. Everywhere we tried was packed, usually with people who didn't dress up. We were about ready to give up when we stumbled into the Denver Chop House and Brewery. By that time hunger gave us a truly ghoulish look. We were greeted by a hostess who smiled and said, "We were hoping for zombies."

Who says there's no place for the undead?

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