"This is a big risk even talking to you," said Alexander Iaccarino. "I'm afraid of being prosecuted for this. 'Cause I'm not absolutely sure that any of this is legal."
It was October 16, more than three months after it all started and two weeks before its finale: the Zombie Pride Parade on Halloween night in downtown Davenport.
Looking back with that information, it's easy to see what Iaccarino was up to, and easy to laugh at it.
But when he told me that he was concerned about getting arrested, he sounded sincere and serious. And when he launched ZWatch.org on July 10, things were less cheeky. The Web site talked about a man named Zacharia Furio who was missing, and it alluded to a secretive organization called the QC Department of Biological Sciences.
Iaccarino and a small group of friends then produced videos, photos, and faked documents to tell the story of the H1Z1 virus and a local cover-up, slowly revealing a zombie narrative. The story was supported by some conspirators, such as local author Brian Krans (http://bit.ly/4erGco), and missing-persons posters. (Incidentally, the "H1Z1" idea was not original with Iaccarino; the name and concept of an H1N1-related zombie plague showed up several months before ZWatch: Google.com/search?q=h1z1, http://bit.ly/eiZhp.)
How convincing was it? On August 7, the Rock Island Argus/Moline Dispatch ran a front-page article titled "In Search of Zach: Is Story of Missing Man Just an Internet Hoax?" The story (http://bit.ly/1kq4nV) certainly suggested that ZWatch and Furio weren't real, but it also allowed for the possibility that they were authentic. There remained a seed of doubt, which is all it takes.