Though I’ve covered creatures before, I thought that zombies deserved a bit of special attention, partly because they have a special place in my heart as my first movie-monster love. Other creatures may be pretty good, but nothing quite says horror to me like a shambling reanimated corpse.
Those of you who have seen the original Dawn of the Dead will remember that the movie opens in the projects in north Philly. The movie then gets away from Philly (though staying in PA), but let’s just imagine that rather than following survivors to a mall, we stay in the city. Where would be safest? Where would an initial outbreak be likely to spread?
When I consider the prospect of a zombie outbreak in Philly, I think time and again that the most secure place stay, at least for the short term, would be Eastern State Penitentiary. Certainly it’s creepy as all get out in there, but the place is built like a castle. Yes, the primary purpose was to keep people in, but it was also important to keep people out of the place. Another advantage is that the guard towers are good vantage-points from which survivors can track zombie movements on the surrounding streets and, if worst comes to worst, a decent location for a heroic last stand.
There are other places which would be fairly secure spots throughout the city. The federal detention facility on 7th and Arch is another such location, although it does have the disadvantage of being full of prisoners, for it is an active facility.
When considering places where an outbreak would spread quickly, it’s a bit hard to know where to start. Cities are terrible places for surviving a zombie outbreak because you’re at such close quarters most of the time. This does give some clues as to the places to avoid most if you or one of your characters is trying to avoid the living dead. The subway, especially the concourses around Suburban Station and Market East Station, is a really good place to become zombie food because there are relatively few options for escape.
Abandoned buildings, especially those which play home to vagrants, are another likely place for an outbreak to spread, and they’re one of the places where an outbreak is likely to go unnoticed for a time. In general, anyplace which is generally ignored by much of the city except when it becomes a problem is a good place for the outbreak to spread.
One final place which is a likely breeding-ground for an initial outbreak is any of the wooded regions of Fairmount Park. There are miles of trails in the city limits alone which run through wooded areas where someone could easily disappear or be attacked and bitten, and the woods are a good place for zombies to hide. Remember the initial outbreak in the outskirts of Raccoon City (which, according to some versions of the back-story, is somewhere in central PA)?