Zombies dance for the 'Thriller' of it

A group of Long Islanders dressed in ghoulish

A group of Long Islanders dressed in ghoulish zombie rags joined the global effort Thrill the World as they danced to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in Islip, along with thousands of people from all over the world. (Oct. 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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It was not close to midnight when zombies in Islip arose to their time: 5 p.m.

Like their global counterparts, Long Island "Thriller" enthusiasts replicated movements of Michael Jackson's iconic video, released in 1983, hoping to set a record for largest simultaneous dancing.

The LI group, set up in 2010 by Islip High School student Bryan Ramirez, joins the international "Thrill the World" dancers to organize the event in six continents usually on a pre-Halloween Saturday.

For Ramirez, 17, a senior, organizing the dance with its complex choreography takes a toll. To qualify, the group must be in sync with their global dance comrades.

"I have the mantra: Go big or go home," Ramirez said.

Outside Islip Town Hall West, neat rows of more than 30 students and adults in face-paint, ages 5 to 70, began the 5-minute, 58-second routine on the lawn promptly at 5 p.m.

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With hundreds in attendance, the enactment brought out hard-core M.J. fans, plus a few who were simply into zombies or impromptu dancing.

"I just love his music," said Jackie Pecker, 12, dressed like Jackson from head to toe, including a felt fedora. She came from Ridge with her mother and siblings, ages 8 and 10. She said it has been difficult finding peers who share her passion for Jackson, who died in June 2009. "I've finally found people who do like his music," she said.

Her mother, in clothes tattered and spotted with fake blood, said her participation was out of the ordinary. "I usually don't," said Jessica Pecker, 46.

For Krystal Stetson, 14, a ninth-grader at Islip High School, the draw was "finding it socially acceptable to walk around as a zombie."

Ramirez said the group will donate nonperishable food to Island Harvest in Mineola, and give funds to other charities.

Ramirez admitted he was not a rabid Jackson fan when he first learned of the international movement. Since devoting his falls to "Thriller," he has gained new appreciation.

"There's something about him," he said. "It's not every day you see 35 people dressed in zombie costumes dancing."

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