How do you make a zombie?
Posted by c. wagner on November 9, 2009
Zombies have been all over the place lately and not just because it’s near Halloween. Zombie movies. Zombie books. Zombie, zombie, zombie.
But, in Haiti, zombies are another thing altogether. In Haiti, zombies aren’t just fiction, they’re real. There’s even a law against creating zombies.
Article 246 of the Haitian legal code explicitly condemns zombification, specifically the “use of substances whereby a person is not killed but reduced to a state of lethargy, more or less prolonged…. If, following the state of lethargy the person is buried, then the attempt will be termed murder.”
How does one go about making a zombie? You start by feeding the victim TTX, the same poison found in the infamous fugu. That temporarily paralyzes the soon-to-be zombie. But the real damage is done later, according to Wade Davis, who researched the phenomenon.
The Haitian zombie, Davis argues, is the product of a series of terrifying experiences, all specific to the cultural context of rural Haiti. First comes the overwhelming trauma of having been buried alive. Clairvius Narcisse reported total lucidity through the entire ordeal. Upon removal from the coffin, the would-be zombie is fed a hallucinogenic drug from the plant Datura stramonium, locally known by the suggestive name concombre zombi. At the same time, the victim is given a ferocious beating by his captors. The final touch is the total rejection of the zombie by his own community. The cumulative effect is the destruction of the zombie’s will — what the Haitians call the “ti bon ange,” or the good little angel, the unseen thing that gives personality and resolve to each individual soul. The victim is now a zombie, and he knows he is now a zombie: He has fallen into a well-known trap from which no man or woman escapes.
His soul collapses.
The zombie is now like a living corpse.
This is more believable than I thought it would be. Especially after doing a little research about psychological methods used to break people’s resistance (sensory deprivation, sensory overload, and isolation are three common techniques). Even so, proof of real zombies is very, very limited. I’ve been inspired to read Davis’ book on the subject, Passage of Darkness to learn more.