Do people that have been dead but preserved, like an ice man, reanimate if they were thawed out of the ice in the TV show The Walking Dead?

I have seen many episodes and read many FAQ's but have not found any information so far.


The Walking Dead television show hints very strongly that a scientific explanation exists for the zombie phenomenon, even if this explanation is something no character on the show discovers.

A cadaver frozen solid in a block of ice would undergo massive cellular damage... you've seen the little pointy spikes in ice and frost yourself when it forms. Well, cells have quite a bit of water in them, and when they freeze those same crystals form inside of them. This ruptures the cell and kills it once thawed.

If this were to happen to a potential zombie, it seems unlikely that any pathogen or parasite could hope to animate it afterward.

However, many other events occur that would also kill the zombie or prevent it's post-death animation, but seem not to affect it in the show. Without blood, human tissue quickly becomes oxygen/nutrient depleted... muscles would fail to contract. Yet we see many zombies that are completely exsanguinated.

Therefor, I suggest that despite the hints that there is a scientific explanation, they are playing fast and loose with the sciences of biology and chemistry and even physics. Whether or not freezing a zombie solid would prevent zombification (or end it) depends on the whims of the shows' writers.

  • On the blood point: Even assuming the disease/pathogen slows the necrosis of its host, They've been fighting these things for a couple of years now (at the very least 2, I know they skipped an entire winter). In the humid/temperate environment the show is set, the bodies should've rotten away long ago. – Robotnik Feb 17 '14 at 6:01
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    Not to mention that the Dead's main source of reproduction is also it's main source of food AND it's major predator - I don't think the writers care much for biology at all – Robotnik Feb 17 '14 at 6:02
  • @Robotnik: At that level it makes sense if you think of it in terms of parasitism, with the added twist that the parasite conveys a big survival advantage-- the infested host (i.e. walker) no longer needs food or shelter to survive. – Beta Feb 17 '14 at 7:19
  • @Beta - Even if they don't need food they still seek it out. It'd be more believable if they simply bit someone, detected they were infected and moved on, but instead we see people bit, and the walker continues to try and eat them. If the walker succeeds in eating the person, then that person doesn't become a walker. If that person escapes, they do. Like I said it doesn't make sense to try and eat the thing which is carrying your offspring - the infection wouldn't have spread far from Patient Zero if that was the case. – Robotnik Feb 17 '14 at 7:26
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    @Robotnik: In the real world, species don't care about "making sense". A disease can mutate into a form so virulent that it rapidly kills off all the hosts in a given area. At that point the disease organism itself dies out. (Unless of course it can become dormant until new hosts arrive, or live on another host species without killing them.) That's natural selection for you. – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 17 '14 at 10:13

As far as I know there are no canon references -- the entire series is set in Georgia, which doesn't experience temperatures below freezing for any length of time, so the issue has never come up.

Looking for a scientific prediction is not much use. We see walkers which have no heart, lungs, or other vital organs but are still animate; even disembodied walker heads seem to remain active indefinitely. In the real world this would be totally impossible. Basically the walkers violate the laws of physics and biology whenever it is dramatically convenient.

That said, the writers have included pretend-scientific handwaving about the walker condition, in order to add atmosphere. Some animals can survive being frozen for weeks at a time, for example the Alaskan wood frog. The frog can do it because of an antifreeze-like chemical in its blood. So the writers could claim that walker blood has similar properties, allowing walkers to revive after being frozen.

[On a related note, but totally outside the Walking Dead canon, the zombies in Max Brooks' excellent book World War Z do revive after being frozen. So in colder latitudes, the winter is a time to rest and recover before spring arrives and the zombies reanimate.]


I assume that, by "iceman", you mean someone who was frozen in ice a long time ago, perhaps even thousands of years ago. If this is what you had in mind, then no, thawing the iceman out would not lead to him reanimating as a zombie.

This iceman would have been dead for many, many years, since long before the outbreak began. There are no known cases, in the TWD universe, of dead people who died prior to the outbreak, reanimating; this seems to be a deliberate decision by the franchise's creators and the show's producers. If you died before the outbreak began, you stay dead. If you died after the outbreak began, you reanimate.

If the iceman had been infected before he died, then yes, he would thaw out and become a zombie. Assuming that this is not the case, there is no reason why he would turn into a zombie.

However, if he had somehow been frozen after the outbreak began, he would probably be a zombie when he thawed.

The rules of The Walking Dead are pretty clear:

  • Everyone is infected, although we don't know when they became infected; however, it certainly happened some time after the outbreak began.

  • If you die with your brain intact, you become a zombie.

  • If you are bitten by a zombie, you die (with the obvious exception of being bitten on a limb and having that limb amputated in time to stop the infection from spreading throughout your body).

  • This hasn't been stated explicitly, but it also appears to be a rule that, if you were already dead before the outbreak began, you stay dead. Corpses which were never infected before death do not reanimate.

So, again, no, the iceman would not become a zombie unless it was infected prior to being frozen.

On the other hand, if a zombie freezes, then thaws out, it regains its mobility and is none the worse for wear.


I read the question as being about someone that died and was frozen long before the outbreak reanimating when they thaw out. the use of preserved implies that we're talking about something more advanced than just basic freezing so we can take things like cell damage out of the equation and assume that after the 'thawing' process we have a perfectly preserved body. would it turn?

as long as the person died and was frozen long before the outbreak and therefore hadn't contracted the dormant virus(i.e the one that everyone carries that activates upon death) before they were frozen i would say, no they wouldn't re-animate. they would stay dead.

there's no evidence of already or long time dead re-animating. someone would need to be living to contract the virus in the first place.

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