Michael Jackson tribute brings zombies to North Oakland

Zombies gathered in North Oakland to dance with 23,000 people all across the world.

With additional reporting and videography by Paige Ricks

Michael Jackson devotees dressed as zombies and assembled in North Oakland on Saturday as part of Thrill the World, a yearly event when thousands of people around the world dance to the song “Thriller” at the exact same time. There were 169 undead dancers at the Oakland event, and about 23,000 participants worldwide, dancing simultaneously in 32 countries across the world.

According to Kathleen Kelley, organizer of the Oakland event, the weekend zombies now hold the world record for the most people to ever perform “Thriller” at the same time.

The event is at once a tribute to the late King of Pop, a charity event (Thrill the World raised over 100 thousand dollars this year for charities), and a celebration of zombie culture that signals the coming of Halloween. Dancers ran the gamut of style, ranging from sixty-something zombie punk princesses to leather-clad, afroed elementary schoolers. All gathered at the Studio One Arts Center on 45th street to prepare for the dance on Saturday afternoon.  Some came to Studio One already knowing the dance, having practiced over the past few weeks, but many came not knowing a step. They learned quickly, though–dance rehearsals began at 3 pm, and by 5 o’clock all 169 dancers were ready to perform.

If you missed out on the dance, fear not: there’s still time to get your zombie on. A flashmob has been planned for Halloween Day at 1:15 pm at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland.  “Full zombie costume is preferable, but if not, please wear red and black,” event organizers said in an e-mail.

For more information on Saturday’s flashmob, e-mail to cjohnstone@macworld.com. For more information on Thrill the World and all things Zombie, e-mail Kathleen Kelley at ttw09oakland@gmail.com.


  1. What an Awesome video! I love the mix of “behind the stage” clips with shots of the dance itself. It gives a piece of humanity to these high-spirited undead. ~ Oakland Zombie 2009 #57/169.

  2. Sara

    everyone’s so cute…especially the little kids…i mean zombies. wish i was there…i look forward to doin’ it next year!

  3. This is hands-down the best video created of our TTW09 Oakland event! It does such a great job of capturing the essence of the day, complete with Michael Jackson tributes and behind the scenes sneak peeks. Thanks for your work on this video – it’s great for promotion of the event!

  4. You can check this out, with its sibling zombie dance videos from other cities, on YouTube. Nice to see North Oakland making its undead mark upon the world.

  5. Absolutely fantastic, this video captured all the dimensions of the event.

  6. Ron Zeno

    This was an incredible event for Oakland. I was one of the volunteers. My wife Sally rehearsed but got sick days before the performance. She made me go work in spite of her being ill. Having this video made her feel like she was there. Thank you OaklandNorth! One comment. My responsibility was getting the press at our event. Two cameramen from channels 5 and 11 said that they were happy to be covering such a positive event in Oakland instead of a murder or H1N1. What a wonderful thing to say about our town! Peace. See y’all next year.

  7. Good pic. Had a great laugh.
    MJ was a legend and so are the people who are keeping his memories alive.

  8. This is It is…
    Insight into a Multi Talented Entertainer.
    Michael Jackson knew what it meant to “entertain” his audiences. Let’s all get together and pay a tribute again…

  9. I lived n Oakland for many, many years, but, I have not lived there for the last nine. Man how times have changed. I have never seen that many white people….being fun & relaxed in North Oakland or any other part of Oakland for that matter in my life, EVER! GOD BLESS MICHAEL JACKSON…HEAL THE WORLD MIKE!!

  10. Rasky

    LOL (Is that how you say laugh out loud?)Kudos Oakland North. That was a great video and a fitting tribute to both Michael Jackson and Oakland.

  11. Leslie Curry

    What a great event!!! Ya brownin’ Oakland….ya brownin’ :O)

  12. Mark

    It defies logic, for people to celebrate a guy who willingly dangled one of his children out of a window, and admitted to sleeping with young children. Satan will truly be busy with you freaks come judgement time.

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