Originally, the zombie was a fixture of voodoo lore in Haiti. A zombie wasn’t always a walking corpse. A zombie could be referred to as someone living under a Haitian trance with the help of various chemicals, toxins and hallucinogens. However, this belief was also used for the undead who were awoken to toil away while their master merely told them what to do. This phenomenon was researched by ethnobotanist, Wade Davis, as he had traveled to Haiti to look into this strange culture to see if he could find the proper herbs and plants in order to stimulate a body before death. In other words, he was researching how to stop someone from dying or quickly bringing them back from death.
What initially brought Davis to Haiti was the story of a man named Clairvius Narcisse, who was poisoned, thought dead and buried. The poison was some mixture of neurotoxins (among other chemicals) that made him merely appear dead and he was buried alive. Narcisse had been able to dig himself out of his shallow grave and those around the area were witness to what they thought was a zombie coming back from the dead.
Davis has written a book of his experiences, titled “The Serpent and the Rainbow”, which was also turned into a film but does not follow the book to the letter. Most scientists have been extremely critical of Davis’ work and his lack of being able to reproduce the facts that he had given. After first hearing of Davis’ work, the SASR traveled to Haiti to try to find a proper mixture that would reproduce the same results Davis had apparently found. To this day, we have yet to reproduce any sort of chemical that would stave off death or bring a recently departed human back to life. The local voodoo priests have been uncooperative to share their beliefs with those who do not practice voodoo themselves.
I will discuss what most people would consider the modern zombie in the next update.