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Monroeville zombie attraction stumbles from mall

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Aaron Loughner | For The Times Express
Meredith Horton, a sales associate at the Zombie Museum in the Monroeville Mall, gets one last look at an autographed movie poster of George A. Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead' before the closing of the store.
Aaron Loughner | For The Times E
Meredith Horton, a sales associate at the Zombie Museum, takes one last look at the exhibits before the museum closes its doors for good.
In this file photo, zombies returned to Monroeville Mall in recognition of George Romero's 1978 film 'Dawn of the Dead.'
In this file photo, zombies returned to Monroeville Mall in recognition of George Romero's 1978 film 'Dawn of the Dead.'

The zombies are leaving the mall.

Zombie fans for the past five years could count on the zombie attraction at Monroeville Mall — a filming spot for George A. Romero's 1978 film “Dawn of the Dead.”

Mall officials asked owner Kevin Kriess, who holds a temporary lease, to move to another storefront for a fourth time. Instead, he hopes to move the museum outside the mall to a spot that will rebuild ties with the Romero movie series.

Shoppers this week were disappointed.

“Not only was Monroeville Zombies an awesome place to get rare merchandise, but walking through the museum was such a treat,” said Kreg Farr, 29 of Rockland, N.Y. “You could pass anyone and instantly strike up a conversation. There aren't a lot of places that embrace horror movies, and there really wasn't a better place to do it.”

The store harbors zombie replicas, the lights originally hung in the mall during “Dawn of the Dead,” rare zombie merchandise and even a zombie version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame with “bloody” handprints from cast members including the lead, Ken Foree.

Kriess hopes to reveal the new location at the Zom-B-Rama III “That's Mall Folks” on April 27 from 2 to 9 p.m. The bash will feature movie screenings, a costume contest, music and zombie games.

Once the mecca of zombie fans, the mall has changed over the years with the removal of some film locations including the indoor ice rink, clock tower and original JC Penney department store. The store moved to another spot in the mall.

Kriess tried to set up tours for visitors who can be found wandering the walkways for something recognizable.

“It is ridiculously sad that most of the iconic parts of ‘Dawn of Dead' are gone from the mall,” said Martine Allegro, 27 of Herminie. “Times have changed. Malls used to be a more important economic and social places than they are today.”

Kriess opened the store because of an interest in zombies that started when he was a boy.

He was 5 years old when “Night of the Living Dead” was filmed in the Pittsburgh area. As a teenager, he learned that part of the film took place in the Evans City Cemetery, where his grandparents were buried. That movie, filmed in 1968, gave rise to sequels that further fueled the popularity of zombies in popular culture.

“There is always just something somewhere if you trace back your history that made you do something,” said Kriess, who grew up in Butler County. “What made you go somewhere or watch something for the first time and that's just how it chronologically laid out (for me).“

He opened the museum and store in 2007.

“I'm working on a timeline that explains how ‘Night of the Living Dead' started everything and how different things happened in pop-culture,” Kriess said. “Zombies changed. Somehow it changed culture and weird things like that happen in culture with just how certain things catch on. It's an interesting step to try and dissect that.

“It's not about just wherever the rents cheap or wherever there's traffic. I might put it somewhere where there is no traffic and be the focus. Create the traffic. I think Pittsburgh needs it, deserves it.”

Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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