What do Jamestown + 28 Weeks Later have in common? BRRRAINS.

I thought about zombies a lot yesterday. All day and all night.

First, I heard this really great segment on Weekend America that counters some of the bogus history around Jamestown, one of the first European colonies in North America.

Why is colonial Virginia in the news? This week marked Jamestown's 400th anniversary. A 300-year-old broad from Britain came to celebrate (btw, check out this related LOL headline, published in all seriousness by at a Caribbean newspaper).

So, the Weekend America segment blows apart hokey Thanksgiving dinner myths with a reminder that those pilgrims were starving to death, and living in absolute horror. It got so bad, some were reduced to subsisting off old shoes, rotting corpses, pools of blood left behind by the sick and dying, the salted flesh of murdered spouses, and — BRAIINNNNNSSSSSS! The story of Jamestown and Pocohontas and Thanksgiving was not so much a Disney movie, explains radio producer Nate DiMeo in the voiceover — it was more like a Wes Craven movie.

Later on that day, I went to see the {quasi-}zombie movie 28 Weeks Later with some friends. Super scary, super smart. It's Iraq meets Ebola meets Hurricane Katrina meets Children of Men meets [pick any zombie movie]. One friend was upset about the ending, though — he said it made the whole film feel like sequel-bait. But because that sequel will be set in Paris, it'd be alright for this line alone: BRRRRRIIEEEEEEEEEE!*

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Link to "The (Kind of Gross) Story of Jamestown," for American Public Media's "Weekend Edition" by Nate DiMeo.

Link to 28 Weeks Later official website, here's Wikipedia, and here are reviews and stuff. (* someone funnier than me thought of this).

Reader comment: Luke Hildebrand says,

I just thought I'd comment on the irony of this Jamestown exhibition that you mentioned on BoingBoing, back in 1907 (300th Anniversary of Jamestown) they did something to the same accord. They celebrated the "Disney" type story instead of the true gruesome events that took place. The irony comes in when your realize that the 1907 and this current exhibition are both failing financially.

The 1907 one lasted only half of the month long celebration; it got so bad that ones running it had to start charging the family's of the workers who were supposed to get in for free. The workers family's made up about 60% of the entire attendance.

I learned most of this through reading through the minutes of the 1907 exhibitions executives meetings. Here are some interesting facts about the 1907 exhibition:

It had a ride called "Shoots of Danger" where the rider would have to paddle his/her way through an enclosed, man made swamp that had many crocodiles, Poisonous snakes and other assorted dangerous creatures.

The land on which it was held was sold about 1/5th of its original value and turned into the current Norfolk Naval station.

Many workers would show up and ride the rides due to the lack of customers.

Ed. note: A bunch of readers wrote in to say "But Thanksgiving happened in Plymouth, not Jamestown!" I know about Plymouth, and I know these are two different places. But there's more than one "Thanksgiving" in America's myth-history — the Jamestown settlers celebrated a "First Thanksgiving" when British ships arrived with grub. Various iterations of the myth tend to merge into one bogus story, the sum of which isn't based in much fact at all, and that's my point. Here's one reference to the Jamestown part, and click along the timeline for others.

About the Plymouth version, which of course is the direct source of America's official Thanksgiving lie, BoingBoing reader Will (a "lifelong New Englander") says,

Here's an interesting point-by-point comparison of the two colonies.

If you still want to link it all back to zombies, of course, it's well worth noting that the native American population of Massachusetts was decimated by a succession of plagues before and just after the arrival of the colonists. Here's a short and tragic history of the Massachuset tribe. The Speckled Monster gives a nice, horrifying account of the symptoms of smallpox.

Matt Hassett adds,

Thought you would also like to know it was Zombie March Day in Boston yesterday (May 12th). Flickr Pictures.