In modern television and cinema, few things are more popular than zombies. Frequently popping up in both television and movies, zombies are the go-to horror character for modern directors. However, in the 1960s, zombies were little known to horror movie fans. That is, until the 1968 release of Night of the Living Dead.
Because the film was one of the first true horror films, it was made on a very tight budget. Pittsburgh filmmaker, George A. Romero, scouted a location close to his home to save money and came across a dilapidated house on the outskirts of Evans City in Butler County. Because the home was slated to be torn down, the cost to film there was minimal.
In many ways, Evans City was, and still is, a perfect setting for a horror film. The small borough of less than 2,000 people is located in a rural area of the county. The spacious, old homes that are set on large lots on the outskirts of town seem like the perfect setting for a horror film.
The film’s release in 1968 started a zombie craze that has only grown stronger over the years. The film itself spawned five sequels and two remakes, as well as a whole host of zombie-related productions. However, despite the popularity of the movie, the town of Evans City has continued to stay under the radar.
However, thanks to The Living Dead Museum and Gift Shop, that is starting to change.
Housed in a small building near the center of town, The Living Dead Museum is a tribute to the film, George A. Romero, and the entire zombie genre. The building is split into two parts, with the front third dedicated to all manner of zombie merchandise, and the back two-thirds devoted to The Living Dead Museum.
The museum features a great collection of movie photographs and life-size zombie dioramas that do a great job setting the mood. There is even a Maul of Fame, which features red handprints from many of the cast and crew of Night of the Living Dead.
However, the museum doesn’t just chronicle The Night of the Living Dead. It also has a large section about the sequel, Dawn of the Dead, much of which was filmed at a nearby shopping mall (that has since been torn down), as well as information on other famous portrayals of zombies in media.
I was a bit surprised how few actual movie props the museum has, but there are a few on display that visitors can check out. The museum also has the original elevator doors from Dawn of the Dead, but at the time of my visit, they weren’t on display for visitors to see yet.
Visitors to the museum should also take the time to visit the nearby Evans City Cemetery, where the opening scene of The Night of the Living Dead was shot. It’s the only set from the movie still in existence, and fans of the movie can walk amongst the graves and pretend they are being chased by zombies.
Overall, I found The Living Dead Museum and Gift Shop to be very well done. I’m personally not a fan of the horror-movie genre, but I can certainly see how this would be a great destination for any fan of the film or genre.
The museum is open year-round, but gets a lot of attention in mid-October when they hold their Living Dead Fest, which features a zombie walk, as well as cast and crew panels and autograph sessions.
So, if you love horror movies, or are just looking for a unique destination for Pennsylvania cinematic history, do your best zombie walk to The Living Dead Museum in Butler County.
Note: My visit to The Living Dead Museum was hosted by the Butler County Visitors Bureau. However, the opinions expressed in the article are my own.
The Living Dead Museum
Hours: Wednesday-Friday & Sunday: 12p-5p
Cost: Adults: $5, Children: Free
Address: 121 E Main Street