Niagara Gazette

August 4, 2013

Undead rampage through downtown Niagara Falls for Food Bank of WNY's benefit

Undead rampage through downtown area for Food Bank of WNY's benefit

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Gnashing teeth. Wandering eyes. Legs turned sideways as a feral former human attempts to eat the brains from your skull.

Sometimes, there’s no substitute for a good zombie experience. But imagine it in real life. Well, real-life makeup and fans of the living dead acting out a part.

Take Niagara Falls native Marcus Ganci-Rotella, for example. Growing up, he was a fan of horror movies. He loved Halloween. The thrill of being scared was addicting.

He turned the adrenaline rush into a desire to scare others, and he’s good at it. He took full advantage of his skills Saturday as he and about 30 others took to the streets of downtown Niagara Falls for the first two zombie walks, thanks to Terror Technologies.

“It’s fun to chase tourists,” he said, explaining his rich experience last year rampaging through Niagara Falls State Park with the same group of freak fans. “We’d sneak up behind people. I jumped turnstiles last year chasing after people. The people who are just walking down the street give the best reactions.”

There were plenty of those Saturday, as the costumed dead sauntered as quickly as their broken feet and decaying legs allowed them along Old Falls Street, Rainbow Boulevard and Third Street as part of the Niagara Tattoo Expo this weekend at the Conference Center Niagara Falls. Later in the day, they blitzed into the park in an organized event to play with the unsuspecting crowd as the sun hung overhead, expanding on what Ganci-Rotella and a friend tried last year.

During the 2012 expo, Ganci-Rotella and some of his friends walked in full makeup inside the conference center, scaring the guests. Some ventured into the streets, but nothing was organized.

This year was a different story. Greg Hinaman, owner of Terror Technologies, said he wanted to formalize a walk of undead proportions as a way to expand the company’s presence at the expo and to have some fun at the expense of the unsuspecting tourists passing by.

Hinaman’s company draws its makeup’d miscreants from across the area for the purpose of raising money or other goods for charity. Every penny of the money taken in is donated directly to charity, with Saturday’s proceeds going to the Food Bank of Western New York. He also collected canned food for donation, which helped secure discounted entry to the expo inside.

But it wasn’t long ago fandom of horror films, television and comic books wasn’t considered mainstream. People like Ganci-Rotella, who now calls Grand Island home, weren’t engaging in popular recreation but rather the fringe of society. Now, with “The Walking Dead” doing so well on television and Hollywood blockbuster zombie movies being made, the outsiders aren’t entirely outside the box anymore.

“Zombies are so in right now,” he said. “I’ve been a horror fan for forever. I think it’s weird I’m no longer the weirdo for liking this stuff though. It’s an escape from reality, which is why I think it’s so popular now. I guess I’ll have to find something else to make me weird.”

Shelly Muehlbauer and her daughter, Hope, also made the trip to the walk, though they had less distance to cover. The Falls residents felt their love of Halloween and horror experiences would be great to celebrate while in their hometown. They knew they needed to be a part of the excitement.

“And it’s always fun to scare people,” Hope Muehlbauer said.

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.