In the first episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, the survivors avoid using their guns for fear of attracting large groups of walkers. They take steps to ensure that everyone has hand-to-hand weapons, so they don't have to fire a shot.

Yet later in that same episode, they find a church that has church bells broadcast over loudspeakers connected to a timer, that play several times a day and can be heard from a long distance off.

Is there some reason that walkers would be attracted to gunshots, but not to church bells? What determines what sounds draw their attention?

  • 1
    Perhaps it's sounds of death VS sounds of life? E.g. gunshots = sounds of death, church bells = sounds of life. It seems to me that zombies wouldn't want to go close to "holy" stuff either. Oct 19, 2011 at 2:29
  • @PeterDC actually, there were 3 zombies sitting quietly in pews inside the church, so they weren't avoiding the church altogether.
    – Beofett
    Oct 19, 2011 at 2:54
  • @PeterDC: In modern cinematic history, there's pretty much no instance of zombies disliking holy ground. Hell, even in Hocus Pocus, the zombie could walk on hallowed ground (which the witches couldn't)
    – Jeff
    Oct 19, 2012 at 19:13

3 Answers 3


In the comics, and presumably in the show, we learn that zombies can acclimate to certain stimulus when they learn it doesn't indicate food. It takes a while, but they ARE able to do it.

In the comics, we meet a character named


She has been traveling on foot for a long time, shielded from detection by keeping

her zombiefied boyfriend and his best friend with her. They lack the ability to bite, having no jaws (or arms), and their smell overpowers hers.

The other zombies are typically unable to detect her because of this.

Her boyfriend and his friend "haven't tried to bite [her] for a long time." They learned that she couldn't be eaten, and have stopped trying. They ARE seen to try to hunt others, with absolutely no success, due to the lack of jaw and arms.

It is likely, therefore, that the walkers in and around the church initially clustered around it when the bells sounded, but have since learned to ignore them, as they don't indicate food being near.

  • 1
    Most of the people who lived in that vicinity may have learned to ignore the church bells before the plague got them.
    – Beta
    Oct 21, 2011 at 1:24

Attracting The Walking Dead

In the series, the Walking Dead, the Walkers are infected humans whose cognitive abilities, after being infected by an unknown bio-weapon, are significantly impaired. It appears the higher brain functions are no longer active and the Walkers (the show's term for Zombies) are driven by very simple survivor strategies such as the acquisition of food or water.

The Walkers are driven to seek out prey and have become aware (albeit in a rudimentary fashion) certain sounds indicate the existence of human prey. Human prey uses guns, human prey make noises of fear and distress, all of those sounds are likely indicators of injured or dead humans and/or dead walkers.

Though it has never been shown, I suspect Walkers will feed upon each other if prey gets harder to find, the strongest feasting on the weakest or slowest. the recent herding behavior indicates the Walkers are capable of learning and changing. Since the learning capacities of the Walkers is likely to be a very simple one, they would be likely to respond to in order:

  1. Movement - our eyes are our first major sensory organs; still that way for Walkers
  2. Sounds - our secondary sensory suite most likely to reveal the existence of prey
  3. Sense of Smell - not one of our primary sense organs but Walkers seem to use it as a targeting sense. Perhaps the lack of regular hygiene makes it a bit easier to use.

The bells, while are a sound that carries well, it is likely a sound that does not have significance to the poorly functioning mind of the Walkers. The few sitting in the church were likely church-goers who before losing their complete cognitive function found their way to the church and maintained some sort of connection/association to the place.

  • Survival strategy? Food and water? Has there ever been evidence that Walkers seek food (other than prey), or can digest what they eat?
    – Beta
    Oct 21, 2011 at 1:23
  • The television series implies they are not dead. They are simply nearly "brain-dead." This implies they are still prey seeking, food, eating animals of a sort. A recent episode had one having recently eaten a woodchuck. Only if they are hunting for food does this make sense. Oct 21, 2011 at 17:15
  • In the episode TS-19, they show the infection as it attacks the body shutting down its vital systems and brain activity. Then the infection restarts the body, what he called the "Second Event," when the infection restarts the body's operation and the brain-stem. "A shell driven by mindless instinct." None the less, this would still constitute a form of living subject to similar drives for food and sustenance. Oct 22, 2011 at 2:18
  • You are arguing from a scientific verisimilitude that doesn't exist. The Walkers can remain active when completely exsanguinated, therefore they cannot have a normal animal metabolism. The words "dead" and "living" do not apply, and deductions based on those words are not valid.
    – Beta
    Oct 22, 2011 at 15:39

Evidence from other zombie media should be taken into account, in that while they tend to vary, one thing they agree on is that the Walkers or this type of "slow" zombie are entirely dead - even if they were just brain-dead they would need to breath, and sleep and they wouldn't be able to shamble for days without food.

The virus is merely using them as a puppet to spread itself to new hosts. Of course, it would bring back the optical and temporal lobes to help that endeavor.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.