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Encyclopedia > Zombies

A zombie is a kind of undead, or figuratively, a very apathetic person.


Zombies in Vodun

According to the tenets of Vodun (voodoo), a dead person can be revived by a houngan or mambo. After resurrection, it has no will of its own, but remains under the control of the person who performed the ritual. Such resurrected dead are "zombies".

In 1937, while researching folklore in Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston encountered the case of Felicia Felix-Mentor, who had died and been buried in 1907 at the age of 29, yet was found wandering the streets in a daze thirty years later. Hurston interviewed Felix-Mentor's husband and children, and met Felix-Mentor. [1] (http://mywebpages.comcast.net/scottandrewh/zombie.html)

Hurston pursued rumors that persons were given powerful drugs, but was unable to locate anyone willing to offer much information. She wrote "What is more, if science ever gets to the bottom of Voodoo in Haiti and Africa, it will be found that some important medical secrets, still unknown to medical science, give it its power, rather than gestures of ceremony."[2] (http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~gallaher/hurston/hurston.html)

Several decades later, Wade Davis, an American botanist, was the main person to present a pharmacological case for zombies in two books - The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis travelled to Haiti in 1982 and as a result of his investigations claimed that zombies could be made by the ingestion of two special powders. The first, coupe poudre, induced a 'death-like' state, the key ingredient of which was the pufferfish (Tetraodontiformes) toxin tetrodotoxin (TTX). The second powder of dissociative hallucinogens held the person in a will-less zombie state. There was considerable skepticism to Davis's claims; he was widely accused of fraud and opinons remain divided as to the veracity of his work.

Others claim zombies are sufferers of various psychiatric disorders such as catatonic schizophrenia whose symptoms are misinterpreted as a return from the dead.

Zombies in fiction

Zombies are regularly encountered in horror- and fantasy-themed fiction, films, video games and role-playing games. They are typically depicted as mindless, shambling, decaying corpses with a hunger for human flesh, most famously in Night of the Living Dead. Often, the zombies will have supernatural strength and constitution, and sometimes (more often in comedy zombie films) will be able to run, or even still possess the ability to hold conversation. Some films (such as 28 Days Later) feature living but otherwise zombie-like humans, usually as the result of disease.

In fiction zombies can generally be disabled by either dismemberment or the destruction of the brain and/or upper spinal column. In a few cases the entire body of the zombie must be destroyed as individual limbs or even fingers continue to move after being severed from the body (The Evil Dead, Return of the Living Dead).

The Resident Evil series of video games makes particular use of zombies.

Other causes of zombies in fiction include radiation acting on the brains of the dead, evil magic or Vodun, extraterrestrials, the use of drugs, viral infection (see T-Virus, Solanum), telepathic control or the substitution of the brain for some sinister artifact.

Many works of fiction feature zombies, who spread their affliction from one to another, in a viral fashion. More often than not, the condition is spread through means of a bite, or scratch, and the victim will most likely die and mutate soon after. In others, however, the condition is only acquired after death.

Zombies in philosophy

A "philosophical zombie" is a hypothetical person who only appears to think and feel (technically, who doesn't have qualia), as opposed to a "real" person who actually does think and feel. A philosophical zombie cannot be told apart from a real person in any way.

Zombies in history

In the Middle Ages, the idea that souls of dead return to earth and haunt the living was commonly believed. These revenants (someone who has returned from the dead) are well documented by contemporary writers of the time.

See Also

List of zombie movies

External link

  • Triple J's Dr Karl explains the pharmacological way to make a zombie (http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s1260445.htm)

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