The zombie has risen in popularity over the years, much in part to The Walking Dead series. These zombies are depicted as humans who, after death, rise to feast upon the living. The zombies in The Walking Dead maintain the slow, shuffling walk from earlier incarnations of the zombie, but before The Walking Dead, there were the franchise remakes of George Romero’s Living Dead series, Directed by Zack Snyder. The zombie I’m going to focus on is the one that comes out of Haitian folklore.

In Haitian folklore, zombies are created by voodoo witches: bokor (male) or caplata (female). The reason zombies are created is for their labor. The voodoo witch enslaves the dead body to perform whatever tasks they desire. To create a zombie, they would take the toxin from a pufferfish and poison their victim. This would induce a death-like coma where the body was buried and then the witch would come back and unbury them.

This belief was so ingrained in Haitian culture that the bokor was used as a weapon, Bokor ZOmbiezombification would be threatened upon any slave or worker that wished to commit suicide. And the practice of abducting people with pufferfish venom became a convenient way of procuring workers. This article Harvard Magazine tells such a story:

FIVE YEARS AGO, a man walked into l’Estere, a village in central Haiti, approached a peasant woman named Angelina Narcisse, and identified himself as her brother Clairvius. If he had not introduced himself using a boyhood nickname and mentioned facts only intimate family members knew, she would not have believed him. Because, eighteen years earlier, Angelina had stood in a small cemetery north of her village and watched as her brother Clairvius was buried.

The man told Angelina he remembered that night well. He knew when he was lowered into his grave, because he was fully conscious, although he could not speak or move. As the earth was thrown over his coffin, he felt as if he were floating over the grave. The scar on his right cheek. he said, was caused by a nail driven through his casket.

The night he was buried, he told Angelina, a voodoo priest raised him from the grave. He was beaten with a sisal whip and carried off to a sugar plantation in northern Haiti where, with other zombies, he was forced to work as a slave. Only with the death of the zombie master were they able to escape, and Narcisse eventually returned home.

Legend has it that zombies are the living dead, raised from their graves and animated by malevolent voodoo sorcerers, usually for some evil purpose. Most Haitians believe in zombies, and Narcisse’s claim is not unique.

At about the time he reappeared, in 1980, two women turned up in other villages saying they were zombies. In the same year, in northern Haiti, the local peasants claimed to have found a group of zombies wandering aimlessly in the fields.

But Narcisse’s case was different in one crucial respect; it was documented. His death had been recorded by doctors at the American-directed Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles. On April 30, 1962, hospital records show, Narcisse walked into the hospital’s emergency room spitting up blood. He was feverish and full of aches. His doctors could not diagnose his illness, and his symptoms grew steadily worse. Three days after he entered the hospital, according to the records, he died. The attending physicians, an American among them, signed his death certificate. His body was placed in cold storage for twenty hours, and then he was buried. He said he remembered hearing his doctors pronounce him dead while his sister wept at his bedside.

The article is very fascinating; like always there is a link below.


Night of the Living Dead



Harvard Magazine



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