I live in the greater Pittsburgh Area. This means I say things like “Yinz goin’ dahn SahSide to watch da Stillers?”, I’ve got a crush on Kris Letang, and I worship George A. Romero.
When I was younger my friends and I made a drinking game out of Night of the Living Dead. We’d get a case of Iron City (Arns) and we’d wait until the people in the farmhouse finally turn the television on. For every safe zone at the bottom of the screen in a town you’d been to, you’d have to drink. It was such a cool thing to be able to pick things out in a film that you knew from home; the hunters at the end of the movie drinking cans of local brand beer, Chilly Billy Cardille from Chiller Theater on WPXI, and, of course, the nearby towns – the whole movie was made right in our backyard.
Every year for my birthday, we go ride roller coasters because I’m an adrenaline junkie with no shame. On our way back to town from Kennywood, I saw the sign on the highway for Evans City and I took the opportunity while my boyfriend was in a good mood and I had that ‘it’s my birthday’ clout going for me to remind him that we’d been meaning to go anyway.
Of the main attractions on the George Romero tour of Western Pennsylvania, I’ve got to say that Evans City Cemetery is the best. It’s instantly recognizable as once you pass the small chapel, the iconic graves featured in the film are only about 250 feet away. The caretakers don’t seem to mind visitors as long as you’re respectful, it’s clearly well taken care of, and as I watched the sun set over the horizon with my boyfriend and sister, it struck me just how beautiful of a place it is, relevant to my morbid interests or not. If you’ve got the time, there’s a Living Dead Museum in downtown Evans City about a mile away that’s definitely worth a look as well.
The Monroeville Mall, while still involved in all things zombie and clearly proud of their place in cinema history (they’ve done a few zombie walks over the years), is no longer the mall it was in Dawn of the Dead. The major landmarks that made it what it was in 1978 – the clock tower, water fountain, ice rink, and the footbridge – have all since been removed leaving it unrecognizable.
Luckily for horror geeks and anyone involved in local history, in July of 2015 after campaigning to save it, some local zombies showed up to the mall to take the disassembled footbridge to it’s new home at Heinz History Center for a future ‘filmed in Pittsburgh’ exhibit. We’ve got Kevin Kreiss, the curator of the Living Dead Museum in Evans City, to thank for saving it.
The Wampum Underground just outside of New Castle, however, hasn’t aged at all. Simply driving by is enough to trigger that feeling of familiarity, the vague “I know that place somehow”, like when you see a stranger at a coffee shop that you were introduced to at a party years back but never caught the name of.
It’s a storage facility for things like cars, which I suppose makes all the sense in the world when you look at the size of the place. From 2011 to 2015 they held an annual 5k race, open to the public, that ran you through the halls of the mines, giving you a good look at the setting for Day of the Dead while you jog along. Here’s hoping they bring the race back in 2017 and that Bub is there to salute me as I cross the finish line.