Obviously we’re always learning about the undead and how their bodies, brains, and senses decay over time. But our research almost certainly contradicts the assumption that masking your scent would somehow allow you to quietly pass unnoticed among the zombie hordes. The very idea is based on the faulty premise that zombies can actually smell anything at all, not to mention the fact that their own putrid death stench would overwhelm everything else.

To describe why the Whisperers wore human skin, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman explained that “it masks their smell, and makes them smell a little dead, which allows them to move among the dead.” Unfortunately, this is a common misconception often repeated in the zombie genre. But the truth is that our sense of smell is actually one of the first senses to go!

Scientists from Stockholm University have shown that losing your sense of smell can predict an early death. Even after filtering out cognitive, demographic, and health-related factors, researchers found that people who suffered from a complete loss of smell had a 19 percent chance of dying early. Put simply; the more dead (or undead) you are, the less you can smell.

Poor odor identification and poor self‐reported olfactory function are associated with greater likelihood of future mortality. Dementia does not attenuate the association between olfactory loss and mortality, suggesting that olfactory loss might mark deteriorating health, irrespective of dementia … In our future research, we will try to pinpoint the biological processes that can explain this phenomenon.

The focus on dementia in their findings is based on previous research that suggested it was a primary factor associated with a diminished sense of smell. But it’s become apparent that this symptom is directly linked to mortality itself. You will lose your sense of smell long before you die and turn into a zombie. And that’s not the only reason to dismiss this dangerous myth!

As we previously discussed, the death stench of the living dead would be overwhelming. In addition to unchecked enzymes, intestinal bacteria, and various gases, a dead human body releases around 30 different chemical compounds; each with their own distinctive odors.

The idea that covering yourself in dead human flesh, slathering your clothes in entrails, or pouring blood over your head to survive is futile, pointless, and frankly grotesque. According to our research, zombies can not smell. And even if they could, their own fetid stench would mask anything else around them; including humans. So, please consider this myth debunked.

But don’t take our word for it! Just read “Smell Loss Predicts Mortality Risk Regardless of Dementia Conversion” as published online by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Or check out these articles from Newsweek and WebMD for a brief overview on the research between our sense of smell and mortality; because what you don’t know can eat you!

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