When Rick Grimes first opened that door that warned Don’t Open, Dead Inside in a seemingly abandoned hospital on Halloween night, no one had any idea how The Walking Dead would infect our pre-apocalyptic society.
Robert Kirkman’s dystopian comic that mutated into a TV series has legions of live and undead fans seven years and eight seasons (and almost as many Walker Stalker cons) later. When hordes this massive have caught the plague, it must tell us something about ourselves, as Museum of American History arts and culture curator Eric Jentsch believes.
“These items from one of the most watched shows in cable television history represent America’s fascination with horror as a genre that has crossed into mainstream family viewing,” said Jentsch, who wanted to add some gruesome artifacts from the show to the museum’s collection for more than just shock value.
Jentsch is convinced that our horror obsession “can help us to better understand the American experience” through the often controversial themes of disease, violence, looming terrorism, irreversible climate change, and even the threat of life as we know it being dehumanized—even if the phenomenon isn’t as literal as rotting corpses that reanimate and stalk the living.
So what is crawling in this horrorshow?
If you remember Summer, the bloody little girl clutching a teddy bear who was the first walker Rick ran into when he emerged from his coma, her entire gore-splattered costume—bunny slippers included—is in there, along with the disembodied head of “Bicycle Girl,” the first walker Rick actually kills.
Also donated to the collection are the costumes Carl and Glenn dodged and destroyed dead things in, as well as Herschel’s decapitated head, Daryl’s crossbow, Michonne’s katana, and Merle Dixon’s arm rig that was ingeniously designed to stab walkers right in the brains.
The museum’s Walking Dead swag is expected to creep out from the shadows of its restricted area and be displayed as part of a larger exhibit in 2020. Here's hoping they pull the old "Don't Open, Dead Inside" out of retirement for this one, though you'll definitely want to open it.