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Zombie CSU:: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead

Zombie CSU:: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead

by Jonathan Maberry
Zombie CSU:: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead

Zombie CSU:: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead

by Jonathan Maberry


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In the tradition of bestsellers World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, an irresistible, tongue-in-cheek guide to the forensic science of the walking dead.

Since Night of the Living Dead, zombies have been a frightening fixture on the pop culture landscape, lumbering after hapless humans, slurping up brains and veins and whatever warm, fleshy matter they can clench in their rotting limbs. But what if they were real? What would happen if, tomorrow, corpses across the nation began springing up out of their graves and terrorizing the living? Employing hard science and solid police work--not to mention jaw-dropping (literally!) humor--Zombie CSU is the only guide available to staying alive and avoiding the undead. At last readers can:
  • Investigate zombie crime scenes, collecting and analyzing evidence of zombie attacks
  • Examine the psychology of the zombie and develop a perp profile
  • Observe medical science pros as they probe felled zombies for forensic clues
  • Devise a zombie apocalypse survival scorecard and more!
  • Complete with lists of must-see zombie flicks from around the globe and tons of tips for kicking undead butt, Zombie CSU features hundreds of interviews with real zombie experts, forensics experts, detectives, filmmakers, and more.

  • "An indispensable tool for anyone tackling a festering corpse onslaught."

    "Candid, eye-opening, cutting-edge, startling."
    --Rue Morgue

    "Great fun...There are plenty of surprises in store for the reader and more than a few chills.."

    "Forewarned is forearmed. Buy it now before reanimated corpses come knocking on your door."
    --Mysteries Magazine

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    Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9780806541402
    Publisher: Kensington
    Publication date: 06/29/2021
    Pages: 416
    Sales rank: 1,046,603
    Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.20(d)

    About the Author

    Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling and five-time Bram Stoker Award–winning horror and thriller author, editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator, and writing teacher/lecturer. He was named one of the Today's Top Ten Horror Writers by Horror Novel Reviews. His award-winning young adult novel Rot & Ruin is an American Library Association top pick. His novels Extinction Machine and V-Wars are in development for TV, and Rot & Ruin is being developed for film. His books have been published in more than two dozen countries. He lives in Southern California. Readers are invited to visit him on Facebook and at

    Read an Excerpt

    Zombie CSU

    The Forensics of the Living Dead

    By Jonathan Maberry


    Copyright © 2008 Jonathan Maberry
    All rights reserved.
    ISBN: 978-0-8065-3461-9


    The Murder Book

    Investigating an Alleged Zombie Attack

    In police parlance a "Murder Book" is a three-ring binder in which all the pertinent facts of a case are kept. This book, also called a case file, includes autopsy and forensic reports, crime scene photographs and sketches, transcripts of investigators' notes, and logs of witness interviews. The Murder Book starts as soon as police begin investigating a homicide and concludes with the arrest of a suspect.

    Let's start building our Zombie Murder Book together ...

    Just the Facts I

    The Scene of the Crime

    To understand how police handle a crime, we'll use the following scenario, which will help us set time, place, and other details necessary to create a platform on which the police will build their case. For the most part, and especially in the early stages, the police procedures will be the same for any kind of serious crime (even those that don't involve the living dead).

    Zombie Attack Scenario

    Time: Early evening on a weeknight.

    Location: A medical research center in the suburbs of a large city. A two-lane blacktop road runs past the truck delivery gate of the research center. The research center has a chain-link fence, an electric gate, and a small guardhouse. The lot is big, with delivery trucks of various sizes parked and locked. The building is locked and dark, closed for the evening. Several light poles cast some light, but large portions of the parking lot are in shadows.

    Traffic on the road is infrequent.

    Witness: Sheila Wilson, 49, a new accounts manager for a local branch of a regional banking chain. Ms. Wilson drives a 2006 Ford Explorer and receives a cell phone call from a realtor. She pulls to the side of the road opposite the research center fence in order to write down some information. She hears something that sounds like firecrackers and then turns to witness what she believes is a violent attack inside the fence. One man falls, and a second staggers off, apparently injured, crosses the road, and vanishes into the woods across from the research center. Ms. Wilson disconnects her call and dials 911.

    Just the Facts II

    The 911 Call

    The transcript that follows is from a 911 call received by Romero Township Emergency Services at 7:16 A.M. on Wednesday in late August.

    DISPATCHER: 911, state your emergency.

    CALLER: Oh my God, I just saw this man come out of nowhere and attack someone. He looks like he's hurt. I think he's dead. God! Please hurry. Okay? This man just came out of nowhere and attacked him!

    DISPATCHER: Slow down, ma'am. Tell me your location.

    CALLER: I was just driving home —

    DISPATCHER : What town are you in?

    CALLER: Um ... Hinzman, I think.

    DISPATCHER: Are you in Romero Township?

    CALLER: Yes. In Hinzman. On Argento Road, near Liberty Street. You need to (inaudible).

    DISPATCHER: Is this a private residence?

    CALLER: No, it's that big research center on Argento Road. The one by the canal.

    DISPATCHER: Can you see a sign?

    CALLER: Um ... yes, Martin Medical Research.

    DISPATCHER: Please remain calm, I have police and an ambulance already on the way.

    CALLER: Hurry, please! He had a gun —

    DISPATCHER: Tell me what happened. Has anyone harmed you?

    CALLER: No, not me — the guard. I think I heard a shot? Maybe a couple of them. And then this man came staggering across the —

    DISPATCHER: I need you to try and calm down, ma'am. I need you to tell me what happened.

    CALLER: He's just lying there on the ground. I really think he's dead. Or (inaudible).

    DISPATCHER: I didn't hear what you said. Your cell phone's cutting out.

    CALLER: The guard's just lying there. I can see a lot of blood. I can't tell if he was shot. Oh my god! What should I do?

    DISPATCHER: Ma'am, are you hurt?

    CALLER: No, I just pulled over to make a cell call and I saw —

    DISPATCHER : Are you in any immediate danger?

    CALLER: No, I'm still in my car.

    DISPATCHER: Did you see a gun? Did you see anyone fire a gun?

    CALLER: N-no ... but I heard some sounds. Like pops. It didn't sound like a gun, not like on TV.

    DISPATCHER: Do you see the person who attacked him?

    CALLER: No ... he ran away.

    DISPATCHER: He's not anywhere around your vehicle?

    CALLER: No ... I don't think so. He went the other way. Into the woods. Is the ambulance coming?

    DISPATCHER: Can you tell me what he looked like? Was he white or black —

    CALLER: Um, he was white. Really pale, with dark hair. Short hair.

    DISPATCHER: What was he wearing?

    CALLER: I don't know. Maybe a T-shirt and light pants. Like doctor's pants. Scrubs, like that. He was barefoot, too.

    DISPATCHER: Was he alone? Was there anyone else?

    CALLER: No, he was alone ... just him and the guard. That poor man —

    DISPATCHER : Ma'am, is the assailant anywhere in sight?

    CALLER: No ... he went across the street into the woods. I can't see him at all. I think he ran away.

    DISPATCHER: Ma'am I want you to get out of your car and go over to the guard. Can you do that for me?

    CALLER: Okay ... I'm with him. He's really bad. There's so much blood.

    DISPATCHER: Now listen closely, and I'm going to tell you what to do —

    At this point a lot of things have happened. As the dispatcher takes the information from the witness, she's doing several things at once. The questions she asked gave her a snapshot of the events and the location of the crime. She has a physical description and an idea of the direction in which the suspect fled. While talking to the witness, the dispatcher would be typing the information into her computer and requests would be sent to patrol units and emergency medical teams. Often they'll arrive while the 911 call is still in progress.

    The next thing she did was to assess whether the scene was safe — relatively speaking — for the responding officers and EMTs. This will determine how those professionals perform upon arrival.

    While these units are rolling, the dispatcher may also have the witness go to the victim to assess his apparent condition.

    Expert Witness

    Fredericka Lawrence, a 911 operator for Bucks County, Pennsylvania, says, "We talk the witness through an assessment. We ask about the types and locations of the injuries, and whether they're actively bleeding. We ask them if the victim is conscious and responsive. If they are not immediately responsive, we ask them to try painful stimuli, which means they pinch the back of the upper arm. If the victim is conscious on any level, they'll react to that. Sometimes the witness is asked to provide first aid. For a badly bleeding wound, we'll ask them to apply direct pressure with a clean cloth; and I can't tell you the number of times I've talked a witness through CPR. Sometimes the witness is a real lifesaver."

    "When calling 911, it's essential that you cooperate with the dispatcher," insists Cass Brennan, who worked dispatch in three different Ohio counties in the 1980s and 1990s. "That means that you should be as calm as possible and listen to their questions and provide the best answers you can. Don't argue, and don't make a fuss if they insist that you answer their questions, even if it means having to repeat information. 911 operators are trained to ask very specific questions and to keep the caller as calm as possible. They also want to keep witnesses in place so they don't leave, don't panic, and don't compromise the crime scene."

    The operator enters all the pertinent information into the computer so that a permanent and easily accessible record of the incident is always available. All 911 calls are recorded, and every call is given an incident number. It's useful to ask for the incident number in case you lose your connection or have to call back for any reason. The dispatcher will generally not offer this number but will provide it when asked. Tapes and/or transcripts of 911 calls are available on request — they're not confidential and are a matter of public record. If you're involved in an incident, you can request a copy of the tape. If you've witnessed a zombie attack, then that tape will probably get you on Larry King (but it is illegal to try and sell it on eBay).

    Once the 911 call has been made, the central dispatch will contact the specific unit whose patrol route covers that location. "In rural counties," Brennan says, "one dispatch center is often used for all of the surrounding towns. Computers and radio reports track the general movement of available units. If the car that would normally respond is handling another complaint, at lunch, doing transport or any of the thousand other jobs that police officers routinely handle, then the request for responding units is broadened. In very serious crimes this might result in units responding from several neighboring towns."

    For violent crimes, like the one reported here, and one where the suspect is believed to still be at large, a fair number of cars would roll.

    According to Greg Dagnan, CSI/Police/Investigations Faculty — Criminal Justice Department, Missouri Southern State University, "The dispatcher will keep the caller on the phone while emergency responders are in route. This process also encourages the caller not to hang up in case police can't find them or some other unexpected event occurs. Police are usually the first to enter a scene like this even if others (fireman, ambulance) beat them there. Police must ensure that responders will be safe while lifesaving measures are performed."

    911 operator Fredericka Lawrence adds, "The constant contact between operator and witness not only saves lives, but it keeps the witness on the scene, which means that the officers and detectives will have someone they can interview. That speeds up the entire process."

    The Zombie Factor

    The scenario we're using to make our examination of the zombie outbreak is one seldom ever shown in the films. We're working with the actual patient zero, the central or "initial infected person" in an epidemiological investigation. If patient zero is stopped in time, then there will be no plague to spread; if he's stopped too late, then every person he bites becomes a potential disease vector.

    The good news is that in the real world these things often start small. One zombie out there and a whole police force against it, with all the might and technological resources that can be called to bear, should be able to do the trick. It would be less dangerous than, say, a group of hunters trying to subdue an escaped lion or tiger. Dangerous, yes, but doable.

    The bad news is that the zombie has to be seen and identified as a disease-carrying hostile vector. That's not going to happen quickly or easily, and probably not at all during this phase. Diseases are invisible, so the police will likely react as if the assailant is either mentally unstable or whacked out on drugs. Or both. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because suspects demonstrating odd and irrational behavior are treated as if they are very dangerous. Extra caution is used, more backup is called, and greater safety protocols are put in place. On the level of one (or at most a few) of the slow, shuffling zombies, the police department is more than ready to meet the challenge.

    In our scenario, our witness has seen a strange and apparently drunk or stoned individual attack someone else and then stagger off in to the woods across the street. We don't yet know why the zombie fled leaving a victim still alive. We don't know if the sight of the witnesses's car, or the smell of its engine frightened off the zombie. Can we even use the word frighten in connection with zombies? We don't know if something attracted it; or perhaps called it. All we know, based on the eyewitness's testimony, is that the zombie attacker has fled.

    The novels The Rising and City of the Dead by Brian Keene, Dead City by Joe McKinney, Dying 2 Live by Kim Paffenroth, and The Cell by Stephen King explore the possibility that some other force, being, or hive consciousness was able to control large groups of zombies. In Land of the Dead the chief ghoul, Big Daddy, seems capable of directing the actions of his fellow "stenches." However in Romero's original zombie films, Night, Dawn, and Day, the zombies were antonymous, their actions being directed by whatever constituted their postresurrection set of instincts. As such (and although they do seem to gather wherever one or more humans are hiding), they do not appear in any way organized, any more than flies are organized even though masses of them gather around a corpse. Even if we grant a certain degree of unpredictability due to the police initially having insufficient evidence, we are still looking at a situation in which the suspect will not be actively hiding (and will, by nature of its reduced intelligence, be incapable of this), and a suspect who will take no effort to prevent the leaving of evidence. There will be a lot of evidence to collect — fingerprints, footprints, blood spatter, trace DNA, witnesses, possible video surveillance from the location of the attack, and more. Once the police and crime scene unit arrives and the evidence collection begins, the hunt for our undead suspect will begin in earnest.

    Help is on the way.

    Just the Facts III

    First Responders

    A crime scene is a tricky thing. It seldom has clear boundaries like you see on TV. In some cases the crime scene expands to include the planning and staging areas, the routes taken to and from the "primary scene," and even a recovered vehicle associated with the crime. Clues and evidence may be found at any or all of these.

    The primary scene, however, is where the real action takes place. (For us it's the research center on Argento Road in Romero Township.)

    The first police unit to arrive at a crime scene has a lot of responsibilities to handle, and even a two-officer car will be kept very busy. As the first responder unit rolls up, the officers have to assume that the situation is still active and dangerous. Assuming otherwise could be highly dangerous to everyone involved. Just because a witness says that the assailant has left, that doesn't make it so. And there is the consideration of the wounded victim. All of this is in their minds as they pull up to the scene.

    But their first task is to observe the situation, noting the physical layout, the presence of objects (buildings, trees, vehicles, etc.) that could provide cover for a suspect or limit their assessment of the scene. They have to note whether any vehicles or persons are entering or leaving the scene. This includes identifying the presence of all persons (living or dead) and making very quick judgments about each person: Are they stationary or fleeing? Are they injured or dead? Are they actively engaged in a struggle? Are they lucid, raging, crying, etc.?

    The first responders have to locate the scene, which isn't always as easy as it sounds. Witnesses, especially phone-in callers, are seldom clear and concise, and these callers may be unfamiliar with the location of the incident. Once they find the right spot, they have to secure the scene to prevent contamination of evidence. Much will depend on how well the first responders handle this.

    As the officers get out of their unit, they have a chance to take sensory impressions of the scene. What do they hear? What do they see? What do they smell? Often these first impressions are crucial to the development of an effective investigation of the crime.

    If the suspect is in view, he needs to be contained and detained, then cuffed and placed in the back of one of the responding vehicles.

    The officers have to locate and assess the victims. Backup and ambulances are typically called at this point, even before the officer gets out of his car. In our scenario the victim is comatose and badly injured with what looks like bite wounds and other lacerations. While waiting for this, the officers provide any necessary first aid the situation requires. Police officers are trained to do this and, sadly, very often have way too many opportunities to practice it. Prophylactic measures, such as latex gloves, are now standard for most police departments in the United States, which significantly reduces the risk of infection from welling blood and open wounds. In zombie attacks, of course, first aid can get dicey, since the infection rate from fluid exchange is estimated at 100 percent.

    The first responders have to establish a beachhead for the invasion of other specialists who will collect and process the evidence and investigate the crime. Witnesses need to be located, identified, and detained so that they don't slip away with the words "I don't want to get involved" ringing in their heads. Safe and easy access for emergency vehicles has to be established and identified.

    As they get a handle on the situation, the first responders contact dispatch, which in turn notifies the correct follow-up detective unit so that detectives can make the scene. Detectives from the violent crimes division are requested. In violent crime, especially when there is an injured victim and the perpetrator is not only at large but also possibly armed and still in the vicinity, a lot of police support is sent. The idea is to put enough feet on the ground so that the presence of overwhelming force neutralizes any further criminal activity, and because the more eyes there are on a scene the more can be discovered.

    The first responders also have to look for obvious evidence (a bloody knife, footprints, shell casings, etc.). Again, in our scenario, the officers also find the victim's gun, a Glock 23C automatic pistol. They look for and identify ejected shell casings and determine that at least three shots have been fired.


    Excerpted from Zombie CSU by Jonathan Maberry. Copyright © 2008 Jonathan Maberry. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

    Table of Contents

    Acknowledgments ix

    Introduction 1

    Reading This Book 7

    But First a Word About Zombies 9

    1 The Murder Book: Investigating an Alleged Zombie Attack 27

    2 The Crime Scene Unit: Collecting the Evidence After a Zombie Attack 68

    3 On the Slab: Medical Science Examines the Living Dead 119

    4 The Predator Compulsion: Zombie Forensic Psychology 191

    5 Drop Dead: Police, Military, and Civilian Tactics for Destroying Zombies 214

    6 Spirits of the Dead: The Spiritual and Philosophical Implications of the Walking Dead 241

    7 Law of the Dead: Legal Ramifications of a Zombie Plague 258

    8 Dead Aim: The Zombie Fighter's Arsenal 281

    9 Zombie Self-Defense: A Guide to Kicking Undead Ass 298

    10 Live Feed: Reporting the Apocalypse 312

    11 To Die For: The Rise of Zombie Pop Culture 331

    12 Closing Arguments 372


    A Zombie Apocalypse Survival Scorecard 376

    B Artist Index 390

    C Answers to Gregg Winkler's Decaying Zombie Quiz 401

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