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Zombies Ahead

A hacked electronic sign warns motorists of an undead invasion Monday morning in Madison.

Rest easy, Madison. Zombies aren't invading the city. And if they do, the authorities won't decide to notify you via road construction signs.

Drivers on Highland Ave. at Old University got a surprise Monday morning when a road construction sign announced "Zombies Ahead." A photo of the sign quickly made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, with the UW-Madison police department jokingly reassuring its Twitter followers that the sign was a hoax.

"I promise you there are no zombies on campus," UW-Madison Police public information officer Marc Lovicott insisted Monday.

The culprit, according to city traffic engineer Mark Winters, was an unknown prankster who hacked into the electronic message board and changed the message. The sign originally was there to warn motorists that construction on Highland Ave. was starting Monday, reducing traffic flow to one lane.

The board is owned by the construction company contracted to do the road work, and often construction companies will forget to change the default password, leaving the sign wide open for potential mischief, Winters said.

Winters said he's not sure if the sign tampering constitutes a crime, and in any event, it would be nearly impossible to find the culprit. The sign has since been changed.

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"Everything's operating fine now," Winters said. "They are operating fine, and they put in a good password."

Madison isn't the only city to have zombie-minded pranksters tamper with road signs; similar pranks have occurred around the country.

And it wasn't the only such prank to take place in town in the last few days; over the weekend, an electronic sign on University Avenue was changed to read: "Whatchu lookin at?"

Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.