The Walking Dead may seem like a show just about zombies – but some fans have applied the survival skills they have learned in real life. This was true for a 25-year old woman named Terra Newell, who was featured on The LA Times’ break-out hit podcast Dirty John. Terra used lessons from her favorite zombie show to survive an attack from her mother’s estranged husband, John.
LA Times writer and Dirty John podcast host Christopher Goffard described Terra’s interest in TWD on the podcast: “Terra watched and rewatched every episode of The Walking Dead. She spoke of the series less as entertainment than as a primer on how to survive apocalyptic calamity…She made careful note of why some characters lived and others perished. It had to do with vigilance and quick reflexes and the will to fight.”
Terra was 25. Everyone described her as “sweet.” Her voice, a soft singsong, forced people to lean in. As a kid, the smallest on the team, she was so uncompetitive in softball games she didn’t bother swinging at pitches. Early on, before John became her stepfather, she had sensed he was dangerous. One day, Terra got a warning from her sister: Keep your pocket knife handy. John’s in town. . . This is the last chapter of our Dirty John series. Swipe up through our Insta Story today to read or listen to Part 6: “Terra.” latimes.com/dirtyjohn.
Goffard went on to say, “She absorbed the first axiom of combat with zombies: They will keep trying to kill you until you destroy the head, by blade or screwdriver, machete or gun. She regarded the show as a fount of survival tricks. When a favorite character extricated himself from a bad spot by biting into an attacker’s jugular, she thought, ‘My teeth are a weapon.’ More than technique, she said, she took a certain mindset from the show: ‘Kill or be killed.’”
We suggest you listen to the incredible narrative in Goffard’s 6-part podcast to get the full story (Part 6 is above), but in essence Terra, who had been stalked and trapped by John, her mother’s former lover, finally put her Walking Dead skills to the test. John, who was a sociopath conman that manipulated his way into Terra’s family, attacked her at her apartment building – stabbing her repeatedly.
Goffard describes the final moments of the harrowing event better than we could: “The blade flew from his grip. It fell to the pavement. It fell with the handle pointed toward her. It fell inches from her right hand. She was right-handed. She didn’t think. She began flailing, looking for targets. She connected, again and again.
His shoulder. His shoulder blade. His triceps. His shoulder blade. His upper back. His shoulder blade. His upper back. Between his shoulder blades. His forearm. His triceps. His shoulder. His chest. His left eye — and through it — into his brain.”
Terra’s love and meticulous study of The Walking Dead helped save her life. Of course, other factors saved her too – like her dog and her 14-year old neighbor Skylar who was a lifeguard at the right place at the right time. But in Terra’s case, she’s glad she watched enough of The Walking Dead to be a survivor herself. Although we gave away some of the ending, the journey the Dirty John podcast takes you on is absolutely worth the listen.