From Carpenter to Covid: the zombie history of Pattaya

A zombie hairdresser giving a short back and sides at Ripleys.

Like much else in Pattaya, Halloween is not a native tradition. The celebration took off as soon as somebody realized you could make a profit out of ghouls and the undead. Supernatural historians say that the first recorded reference in Thailand was on 31 October 1994 when the satellite TV company Thai Sky offered John Carpenter’s Halloween slasher movie as its midnight fare. Pumpkin pie has never been the same since.

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By the turn of the century the celebration of Halloween was firmly established in Pattaya’s bars and clubs. Night Owl columnist Bernard Trink urged his readers to “mosey on over” to a Dollhouse venue in Walking Street where a party for the undead was in full swing. Admission was free if you looked like a zombie which was absolutely no problem for many of the sozzled customers.

The welcoming committee awaits you.

In 2005 popular writer Duncan Stearn, in his Nightmarch column for the now defunct Pattaya Today, devoted a whole half-page to the Halloween celebrations up and down the resort’s wineries. Duncan, who sadly died last year in Australia, also popularized the zombie cocktail which is a rum-based fruit juice concoction although he himself was a tee-total guy. To this day, there’s a nightclub on Walking Street which offers an alcohol-free zombie alternative named after him. Or there was until Covid-19 closed the place down.

By 2010, Halloween was in full swing in Pattaya. The first horror beach party was held opposite Sexy Soi Six and foreigners were advised to look as awful as possible which again posed no problems for the majority. By now the supermarkets were offering costumes and paraphernalia commemorating witches, Boris Karloff and werewolf transformations to name but three. One store got the dates mixed up and zombie masks were on display alongside artificial fir trees, Christmas cards and a notice wishing everyone the compliments of the season.

The Halloween capital of Pattaya is surely Ripleys Believe It or Not in the Royal Garden Plaza. It’s just the place for haunted houses, blood soaked corpses and the walking dead emerging from their coffins – all supervised by those masterful undertakers Grimsby and Streaper. The sales assistant in the horror shop said that zombies are far more popular than Frankensteins or Draculas and wondered why that might be. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that zombies are really us (the human race) as we mindlessly and greedily munch our way through the planet’s diminishing resources. Just a theory.

The zombie pandemic long predated Covid-19.

Of course, this year is a bit different. The internet is full of stern advice about Halloween and the coronavirus pandemic. Mixing is risky. So we are told that it’s just as much fun attending a Zoom virtual party or playing hide and seek with the kids in a one room flat. If you must go outside to party, then try not to scream or cough in public in order to limit the spread of those dangerous droplets. Grabbing an apple with your mouth in a tub full of water or tricking-and-treating are also out of the question for obvious reasons. Furthermore, it is evidently unwise to wear a zombie mask over an authorized cloth one as you may suddenly find you can’t breathe. From undead to stone dead in five minutes. Personally, I’m going to settle for watching John Carpenter’s movie on the DVD player. Missed it in 1978.