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By now, if you’ve come along this journey with me thus far… You KNOW I am a fan of everything horror… One of my favorite horror movie genres… Is Zombies. They are so fascinating! The storylines never differ too much, scientists experimenting on humans or some uncontrolled virus spreads through humankind.

And we can’t forget how zombies become brain-eating fiends. In the 20th century, the undead attack the living, eating their brains or flesh. For example, you have the 1968 masterpiece, The Night of the Living Dead, a George Romero film that was partly inspired by a novel titled, I Am Legend, written by Richard Matheson in 1954. Though in the movie Night of the Living Dead, the word zombie was not usedFans applied this to the movie after its release. 

So many more amazing Zombie movies were brought to us throughout the years. It even became a pop culture feature for music videos, such as Michael Jackson’s 1983 release, Thriller.

By the mid-1990s we were given Resident Evil and House of the Dead, both would later become zombie video games and overall well-known movies. By the 2000s we all were such HUGE fans of zombies that we were brought, the popular franchise, The Walking Dead

Yes, I am a super fan of The Walking Dead!

OH, and we can’t forget animated movies, like The Corpse Bride. My more recent favorite movie featuring zombies romanticizes them… If you haven’t seen the movie, Warm Bodies,  I highly recommend it.  

This horror genre is so much fun, but the real question is… Where did Zombies come from? Was it from someone’s imagination or was there something more… Lets do a deep dive into the world of Zombies!

The word Zombie is first recorded in 1819. The word was used by a poet by the name of Robert Southey. He was a romantic poet and a poet Laureate until his passing. When Robert Southey used the word, he spelled it Zombi and was referring to the Afro-Brazillian rebel leader named Zumbi. The leader Zumbi was a Brazillian leader and one of the pioneers of resistance to African slavery. At the time the Portuguese were enslaving Africans.

I know you’re wondering why this is relevant, but you’ll see if you keep listening. The word zombie has a similar meaning in any culture…

In Haitian Folklore, the word meant spirit but Haitians didn’t use the word Zombie, they used the word Zonbi which had a slightly different meaning.

Zonbi’s were not corpses raised from the dead. They were comatose bodies that had their free will taken from them by a Vodou priest.

The Vodou priests intended to enslave these zonbi’s into forced labor and other tasks… 

Much like… A slave. 

Haitian Vodou includes two types of zonbi. Zonbi Corps cadavre is the physical version, this would be those that had their free will taken. Meaning, that they never died they were simply under a Vodou sorcerer’s evil plans, to make them appear to be dead, but instead sold them into slavery somewhere far away. To make them appear dead, the sorcerer would use a poisonous mixture made partly from the toxin that comes from a blowfish. They would then bury the victim once they were in a near-death state, but remove them from their grave later, revive them, and sell them into servitude. 

The Zonbi jardin is the spiritual version, it’s considered a more powerful zonbi as the Vodou priest, can control the spirit and make it inhabit the living as well as creatures to do its bidding.

In 1915, the Haitian president was assassinated. The U. S. President, Woodrow Wilson sent United States Marines into Haiti to assist in restoring order and maintain political and economic stability. This occupation lasted till 1934. 

Haitian zombies then became known to the United States when a book written by William Seabrook, titled, The Magic Island was released in 1929.

The book details the experiences of the former American soldier who resided in Haiti under the U.S. Occupation. He would go on to describe zombies as he encountered them. He wrote that zombies had, “the eyes of a dead man, not blind, but staring, unfocused, unseeing.”

Within Seabrook’s book, he cited the Haitian criminal code, article 246. In 1864, Haiti recognized that people were being turned into zombies and officially tried to put it to an end by enacting Article 246.

This is a photo of the original article. It would need to be translated, but here is what it means in English:

  • Is considered a poisoning any attempt on the life of a person through the use of substances which can cause death more or less cleanly, regardless of the manner in which these substances were used or administered, and regardless of the consequences.
  • Is also considered attempt on life by poisoning the use made against a person of substances which, without giving death, will cause a more-or-less prolonged state of lethargy, regardless of the manner in which these substances were used and regardless of the consequences.
  • If the person was buried as a consequence of this state of lethargy, the attempt will be considered a murder.

Researcher Zora Neale Hurston learned of rumors in 1937 that individuals were being given a psychoactive drug to keep them in a zombie state, but was never able to confirm this. 

After Seabrooks’s book was released in 1929, the movie White Zombie was produced by Edward Halperin, directed by Victor Halperin, and the screenplay written by Garnett Weston was based on William Seabrooks’s book, Magic Island. The movie was mostly filmed on the Universal Studios lot. The plot: A young man turns to a witch doctor to lure the woman he loves away from her fiance, but accidentally she’s turned into a zombie slave. While our culture turned zombies into a slave for their desire to eat human flesh, true Haitian zombies were slaves within their flesh. 

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