SENOIA, Ga. — The zombies are missing. That psychotic cycloptic Governor is nowhere to be found. And yet a serious creep factor lingers in this small burg 40 miles south of Atlanta, a major location shoot for The Walking Dead, the AMC hit that wraps up its third season Sunday. Maybe it's those signs, eerie in their bureaucratic normalcy, on Senoia's solemn Main Street:
WOODBURY TOWN HALL
BANK OF WOODBURY
Or maybe we're just freaked out because we're giant nerds.
We are on a rogue do-it-yourself tour of Walking Dead locales. The gore-dripped drama — about survivors battling the undead and each other in the wake of a zombie apocalypse — films all over the Peach State during the warmer months. The current plot revolves around our heroes, led by cop Rick Grimes, battling the militia of Woodbury, ruled by that no-good Gov.
Out of Hollywood makeup, Woodbury is Senoia (actual, not-kidding-you town motto: "The perfect setting. For life.")
Finding an official "tour" of Dead spots is tough, a surprise considering the show's raging popularity. So we've been Googling and gossiping our way through the adventure, using tips from townfolk and two key Internet sites: walkingdeadlocations.com and "The Walking Dead Television Show Filming Locations Google Map" (use that exact wording for your search).
Some stuff is easy to find. We started in Atlanta, checking out Rick's house at 817 Cherokee Ave., across from Grant Park. Several key scenes from the first-ever episode were filmed in the area — for fellow geeks: Morgan's house, the infamous "bicycle girl" mercy killing — but alas, we were headed south, hunting bigger Dead game.
On the corner of Senoia's Main Street is Senoia Coffee & Cafe aka Woodbury Coffee House, which, in show terms, was in the zombie zone and tattered up for filming. Now it's the main hub of Dead chatter here, an unofficial welcome center. Have a cup of Zombie Dark Brew and Instagram a shot of the giant prop sign inside.
A few doors up is Woodbury Town Hall, built exclusively for the show. Check out the building's regal front — then sneak around the back and gawk at the Hollywood sleight-of-hand: It's barely a building at all.
Exploring Main Street is a hoot; on the top of the hill is the Governor's place and a host of familiar-looking buildings usually featured in some scene where Andrea is pursing her lips and looking concerned. (If you've never seen the show, just know that most of us despise Andrea.) And just for non-zombie kicks, check out Southern Ground Social Club, a local bar and eatery owned by none other than beloved Georgia boy Zac Brown.
Before leaving Senoia, we buzzed down Chestlehurst Road to visit the Southern Country Steakhouse aka Big Jake's, the site of anti-hero Merle's last drink. We also heard that the Prison (!) was on Chestlehurst, which is technically true. But alas, the Prison is within the walls of Senoia's Raleigh Studios, slyly buried in the woods. You can drive up to the studio's guard shack, and get a quick glimpse of inside the set, but lower your expectations, kids.
And as for Hershel's Farm, also in Senoia — you're on your own. We tried for an hour, up and down dirt roads, but that jewel remains very much a deeply forested mystery. Good luck.
My favorite find of all? Twenty-four miles southwest of Senoia is downright ghost-towny Grantville, the site of the greatest Dead episode EVER: "Clear," in which Rick goes crazy-to-crazy with old pal Morgan, who is hoarding guns, ammo and insanity. Driving into Grantville, we saw the faded brick wall of Morgan's makeshift crematorium, which totally messed with our heads; it's even more unsettling in real life. A block away is the downtown (a relative term) site of Morgan's rooftop shooting rampage and his zombie traps.
We snapped a few pics then sped out of town. The giant nerds were terrified — and loving it.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.