Bloodied, corroded, and teeming with infection from tiny cuts and lacerations, the hands and fingers of the undead are almost as lethal as its teeth. Often overlooked, the digits on a ghoul’s hands are a leading cause of human infection; second only to that of a bite. It is for this reason that close combat with a ghoul has an extremely high probability of infection, even if the human avoids being bitten. A single scratch that comes in contact with undead fluids will ultimately result in infection, death and reanimation, albeit at a slower rate than from a more pronounced wound. For this reason, female zombies can be as dangerous, if not more so, than males. Long, polished fingernails, like the claws of a feral animal, can easily tear into flesh, potentially causing infection.
The grip of a zombie is another commonly misunderstood element of its attack. Victims who have survived the clutches of the living dead have described their attacker having a “vice-like grip” of seemingly superhuman strength. Does this mean that a zombie’s strength is greater than that of a normal human? Studies that have measured the pound-for-pound compressive strength of the undead have found that, like its bite, a zombie’s grip is no greater or more powerful than that of its average human counterpart.
There is, however, one difference in undead physiology that may explain this phenomenon. The muscles in our hands and forearms behave like all fast-twitch muscle fibers in the body - they contract powerfully but quickly fatigue, causing our grip to eventually fail. In the living dead, these same muscle fibers contract, but do not fatigue, and will continue to grip with the same level of intensity and power as when first grasped. In greater numbers, this grip becomes even more lethal. Anecdotal records show that as few as three zombies can pull a human being limb from limb in a matter of minutes.
Although most people are aware that destruction of the zombie brain is the only known method to terminate an undead attacker, the public at large is confused as how to actually go about accomplishing this task. Many people mistakenly believe that it is ‘just like cracking an egg.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Many victims have engaged in undead combat believing that destroying the brain would only require a rap on the head, only to have the attacking ghoul finish the battle.
The protective case known as the human skull is one of the hardiest structures on the human body, and can withstand a significant amount of abuse. The hair, muscles and scalp covering the skull provide an additional cushion for the brain, which is itself covered by a fibrous, protective layer known as the dura mater. It is also unknown at this time whether the infection and subsequent reanimation alters the skeletal or pericranial composition of the ghoul, making its skull hardier or more impervious to blunt force trauma.
Nevertheless, the skull is the zombie’s primary area of vulnerability, and a sufficient blow will immediately neutralize the threat. In order to inflict a wound severe enough to stop a zombie its undead tracks, you need to literally “bash in the skull.” This act, however, is much easier said than done.
Not only must you fracture the skull, your blow needs to cause a severe depressed or compound fracture, where shattered pieces of bone are driven into the brain. Ideally, your strike should be forceful enough that your weapon fractures the skull, penetrates the dura mater, and enters the brain cavity. Such a wound may still require a follow-up blow to ensure adequate brain trauma.
Besides basic ambulatory functions, reaching and grasping, and pushing or pulling of objects, the zombie is a relatively uncoordinated creature.
It is not able to utilize tools or weapons, nor is it able to employ its limbs in a defensive manner against an oncoming attack, such as blocking oncoming strikes. There is a small likelihood that, in the midst of battle, a ghoul will grab your weapon and pull it away from you. This seems to occur most often when long-distance or obstructive weapons are employed. The zombie does not, however, perform this action to undermine your attack. It does so in order to ultimately achieve better access to its prey - you.
A zombie will not kick or punch its victim, and its attack is limited to a fairly predictable sequence: achieving enough proximity to grab its target, pulling in close, and finishing with a bite to the flesh closest to its mouth.
It is fairly easy to outmaneuver one or several undead attackers, but do not take this weakness for granted. Never understimate the ability for an individual ghoul to accomplish a coordinated maneuver that other ghouls could not. Much is still unknown regarding the full extent of a zombie’s muscular coordination, and until further research is complete, it is best to overestimate their abilities.
The bite is the primary mode of attack for the living dead. As research has discovered, the teeth of a zombie are not anatomically identical to those of its formerly human self (see Combat Reports, Joseph Gartner.)
It is for this reason that a zombie showing considerable decomposition throughout the rest of its physical structure after years of weathering will still have most of its teeth intact. Analysis has shown, however, that the bite strength of the zombie is approximate to that of a normal human being - 170 pounds of pressure per square inch. Attempts at developing chemical or biological weapons to specifically address the zombie’s primary attack method have thus far been unsuccessful.
As such, the mouth of a zombie is clearly its most dangerous asset. Once within an effective attack range, a ghoul will attempt to bite any human flesh in closest proximity to its open maw. Any bite from a zombie that pierces human flesh, regardless of size or lethality, is a mortal wound, and will result in infection, death, and eventual reanimation into a member of the living dead.
There is a common misconception that the walking dead are only interested in devouring tissue originating from the human brain. This is inaccurate. Do not make the false assumption if you are wearing a piece of defensive headgear that you are insulated from the threat of a zombie bite. All undead ghouls crave living human tissue regardless of origin or location including, but not limited to, the epidermis, muscle tissue, internal organs and cerebral grey matter.