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A thrilling experience at zombie dance in Revere

Instructor Heather Murphy (left) sets the example for nearly 60 dancers in Saturday’s “Thrill the World’’ record-setting bid in Revere.

Photos by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Instructor Heather Murphy (left) sets the example for nearly 60 dancers in Saturday’s “Thrill the World’’ record-setting bid in Revere.

REVERE — It wasn’t anywhere close to midnight, but evil was indeed lurking in the twilight.

Mouths agape, eyes hollow, clothes filthy and ratty, zombies lumbered and shambled through the city’s streets.

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But these weren’t of the raving, rabid, brain-munching kind.

They only craved one thing: to dance.

Gathering in a mob — as zombies are known to do — they hoped to break the record for the largest simultaneous, synchronized global dance to Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller.”

“Why not?” said zombie danseuse Eleanor Clements, 57, of Revere. “I always loved ‘Thriller.’ ”

At exactly 9 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — which correlated to 5 p.m. here — on Saturday, thousands of the “undead” rose up in unison all over the world to shuffle, stomp, and roar along to Jackson’s homage to the unknown as part of the annual “Thrill the World” event.

‘I thought it would be a blast. Who doesn’t love Michael Jackson?’

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According to organizers, an estimated 6,451 dancers from 134 groups in 22 countries on six continents followed the same steps for the same six minutes. Revere’s gathering, which took place in the park adjacent to Harry Della Russo Stadium and drew 59 zombies ranging from preschoolers to baby boomers, was sponsored by Agnes Strecker Dance Studio. Heather Murphy, one of the school’s instructors, led the local gore-a-thon.

“I thought it would be a blast,” said Nicole Nichols, 40, of Revere, a curly, garish black wig — complete with Elsa Lanchester-like “The Bride of Frankenstein” streaks — framing her face, smudged with white and black paint. “It’s festive for the holiday. And I love ‘Thriller.’ Who doesn’t love Michael Jackson?”

Created by Canadian Ines Markeljevic, “Thrill the World” started in 2006, when 62 dancers in Toronto set the first Guinness world record for “Largest Thriller Dance.”

The mark was beaten in a big way in 2009 — the year of Jackson’s death — when 22,571 people in 33 countries performed moves from his groundbreaking 1983 music video simultaneously, according to the United Kingdom-based Record Holders Republic.

As the annual event has grown, demonic Princess Leias, flamenco dancers, cowgirls, flappers, and bullfighters have shown up to perform stiff-limbed tributes to the late King of Pop, and the event — always held on the Saturday before Halloween — has evolved into a fund-raiser. In Revere, $10 voluntary donations went to support Boston Children’s Hospital and Alzheimer’s disease research.

To prepare for the synchronized spectacle, www.thrilltheworld.com provides videos breaking down the moves — with names like “hip n’ roar” and “shuffle ha slide” — and offers costume and makeup tips (sample: It’s good to have a bad hair day as a zombie).

The Strecker studio offered dance clinics for the last month at its locations in Revere and Groveland.

“It’s repetition and memory,” said Jennifer Close, 38, of Groveland, who performed the stiff, rote moves but described herself as “not at all” a dancer.

Andrea Faria is a dancer, though, and she noted “definitely, taking jazz helped with this.”

The Groveland 14-year-old came with face painted white, lips tinted black, and tattered plaid shirt ripped at the shoulders. Her twin, Bethany, meanwhile, zombie-fied herself by tinging her cheeks and forehead red, and scuffing up a turquoise sweatshirt with chalk and crayons.

Nearby, a group of girls prepared for their rigor mortis moment of stardom, working on one another with brushes and palettes of silver and black eye shadow.

“Can I spray you with blood?” one asked, to which her friend replied of her obliterated white collared shirt, “This is my dad’s. He doesn’t even know I took it.”

Others came with black stitches — a la Frankenstein — painted on cheeks and necks; fake blood dripping from lips or spattered across clothes; black, hollowed eyes; and dead leaves bobby-pinned in hair. Shirts, pants, skirts, leggings, and fishnets were ripped, tattered, torn, and full of holes.

Clements, in a white dress with a gemstone bodice and swathed in tulle, appeared like a bride whose wedding night had taken a decidedly bad turn.

As she explained, “I hated the dress, so I decided to use it.”

After assembling on the field and going through roll call, the assorted zombies got into position — lying on the ground — until promptly at 5 p.m. “Thriller” started blasting from a sound system.

They rose, stiffly marched forward and back; shoulder-stepped; clapped, slid, and stomped; shoulder-shrugged; and hop-stepped. (And repeat.)

At the end, after Vincent Price’s campily ominous rap, recorded with MJ in 1982, they threw their hands up and mocked his maniacal laughter.

The crowd lining the park’s chain-link fence hooted and clapped; the zombies hugged and high-fived, then posed for photos and celebratory selfies.

“Mezza mezza,” Clements said of her performance. “I did better than I’d hoped. Not as good as the others. But I had fun.”

Taryn Plumb can be reached at tarynplumb1@gmail.com.
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