PBS Delivering All-New Specials Chronicling the History of Zombies

Zombies have had their ups and downs over the years, with some decades relegating them to being comedic relief as opposed to an actual threat, while The Walking Dead brought the ghouls back to their rightful glory, with the series going on to become a massive pop-culture phenomenon. To celebrate the history of the creatures, PBS is delivering audiences a number of new episodes of the digital series Monstrum chronicling the monsters' journey, which will culminate in the broadcast debut of Exhumed: The History of Zombies just in time for Halloween. Both Monstrum and Exhumed were written and hosted by Dr. Emily Zarka.

“We can learn a lot about our culture by exploring the monsters we invent,” Zarka shared in a statement. “Looking at the portrayal of zombies over the past two centuries, we can witness the evolving issues and anxieties Americans have faced.”

In the special, Zarka interviews experts, spiritual practitioners, and academics, uncovering the historical roots of zombie folklore, including African spiritual practices, the Transatlantic slave trade, and Haitian Vodou and Voodoo beliefs. She also explores popular culture to witness how the monster has evolved to reflect different eras of American history as it became a staple of films, television, and video games. Zombie stories over the decades represented a range of fears, including nuclear weapons, overpopulation, and political uprisings.

“We’re excited to bring another PBS Digital Studios success to our broadcast platform,” Brandon Arolfo, Head of PBS Digital Studios, added. “This ghoulish special will entertain and expand minds with great educational information in the unique way that only PBS can.”

Check out the descriptions of the new episodes of Monstrum below, as well as the description of Exhumed:

The Origins of the Zombie, from Haiti to the U.S. - Premieres Wednesday, October 14th on PBS Storied

  • In the first episode of our three-part special series, we explore the complex history of the zombie — from its origins in the spiritual beliefs of the African diaspora to the development of Vodou in Haiti. Learn how one of the most enduring monsters in popular culture evolved in the midst of slavery, racism, and prejudice.

How Night of the Living Dead Changed Zombies Forever - Premieres Wednesday, October 21st on PBS Storied

  • One of the most influential movies in the zombie canon is George A. Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead. We’re examining the impact of the iconic “Romero zombie,” how it took shape in the racially charged civil rights era, and why it altered zombie history forever.
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Why Modern-Day Zombies Are So Terrifying - Premieres Wednesday, October 28th on PBS Storied

  • Most zombies today are fast, strong, travel in hordes, and continue to terrify us in new ways. In this final episode of our zombie trilogy, we look into how racism along with current fears of pandemics and bioterrorism in our society significantly change the characteristics of the modern zombie in video games, Hollywood — and beyond.

Exhumed: A History of Zombies - Premieres Friday, October 30th at 10 p.m. ET on PBS

  • There are few monsters more recognizable or popular than the zombie. The reanimated corpse has been a staple of folklore, film, literature, and popular culture for nearly 200 years. In this new one-hour special, Dr. Emily Zarka, who studies literature and film through the lens of monsters and is the host/writer of PBS’s popular Monstrum digital series, will deconstruct some of the most significant moments in zombie popular culture over the last two centuries to reveal what these creatures say about us.

Tune in to Exhumed: A History of Zombies on PBS on Friday, October 30th at 10 p.m. ET and watch new episodes of Monstrum about zombies beginning on Wednesday, October 14th.

Are you looking forward to the upcoming specials? Let us know in the comments below or contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter to talk all things Star Wars and horror!